The Cabot Trail is undoubtedly one of the most scenic drives on the planet and should be on the bucket list of every serious road-tripper. But it’s a myth that it’s only appeal is great views.
Wrapping 300 kilometres around the northern part of Cape Breton Island, the route passes through the striking Cape Breton National Park. It takes 5 hours to complete without any breaks, but we don’t recommend that you do this. Along the way you’ll find dozens of paces to stop off – ranging from scenic look-out points to historic sites. Here are ten of the best places to park your car.
Baddeck is the gateway to the Cabot Trail and makes for an excellent base to explore the wider Cape Breton Island.
While the town has plenty to offer every kind of traveller, its most visited attraction is the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. On the site you’ll find The Alexander Graham Bell Museum, the only museum in the world containing actual artefacts and documents from Bell’s years of experimental work in Baddeck.
60km along the trail you’ll find Ingonish, which lies at the eastern entrance to Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The town itself was one of the first settlements on Cape Breton Island and is home to the Keltic Lodge resort, downhill skiing at Cape Smokey, and a public golf course. But the must-visit is Ingonish Beach, where you can jump from saltwater beach to a freshwater lake in just a few, small steps.
The Skyline Trail is one of those beautiful locations that keeps cropping up in holiday brochures. It’s not exactly hard to imagine why, either. You’ll find yourself climbing over the hills of the stunning Cape Breton National Park, while enjoying views that reach far across the Atlantic Ocean.
Lakies Head offers a beautiful view of the rugged on the east side of the island – with views of Ingonish Island, Middle Head, and Cape Smokey in the distance. It’s also a really good spot to whale-watch.
This is a must-visit spot for geologists. The Aspy Fault is a fault that runs through 40 kilometres of Cape Breton National Park (southward from Cape North through the Margaree Valley). Its creation dates back to the Ordovician period and shaped much of the scenery we know as the Cape Breton Highlands Park.
Nova Scotia is famous for its Scottish roots, and there’s no better place to discover that than Lone Sheiling. It’s a stone Shepard’s hut that is identical to the ones built in the Scottish highlands to provide shelter for villagers and their livestock. Afterwards, you’ll also have the opportunity to wander through the Grande Anse Valley.
Known as the island’s whale-watching capital, this village was settled by Scottish immigrants back in the early 1800s and is now the half-way point of the Cabot Trail. More than 16 species of whale roam the nearby waters, including the North Atlantic right whale, blue whale, the pilot whale, and humpback whale.
This is where you need to prepare yourself for some of the best views that the Cape Breton Trail offers. As you descend over the top of MacKenzie Mountain, you’ll find yourself sweeping round shaper 180- degree turns, while enjoying views of the beautiful Gulf of St. Lawrence and the entire west flank of the rugged northern peninsula.
Welcome to the northernmost settlement in Nova Scotia, where you’ll find a craggy untouched coastline. If you’re extending your drive beyond a day, the Meat Cove Campground is home to hot showers, flush toilets, and access to fresh drinking water as well as The Chowder Hut, kayak rentals, and hiking and biking trails.
When you’re nearly at the end of the Cabot Trail, make sure you stop by Margaree Harbour for what is considered one of the most beautiful sunset spots in Atlantic Canada. It is also a major attraction for anglers the world over with it being a hotspot for salmon and trout fly fishing.
Have you driven along the Cabot Trail? Where do you recommend first-timers stop off?