Discover Cape Breton Island
Cape Breton Island the #1 Island in North America by Condé Nast Traveler readers. Cape Breton Island was also ranked the #1 Island in Canada at the prestigious 2020 Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards.
North America's answer to Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way, with spectacular views that take you along the Island's rugged coast on the road cut into mountains high above the gleaming Gulf of St. Lawrence below. Look to the sky for bald eagles or to the sea for pods of migrating whales from spring through fall, when you can spot fin, humpback, pilot, and other behemoths navigating the waters.
Cape Breton Highlands
An all-inclusive - with Celtic heritage, cliffside villages, and hills overlooking pristine waters. Wind through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where lush, forested river canyons carve into the ancient plateau, edged by rust-coloured cliffs.
Celtic culture and music are features. Like most islands, communities are filled with friendly people, and a typical Celtic heritage connects. Music is at the core; locals are passionate about sharing and celebrating traditional music, dance, and storytelling, with Gaelic-influenced expressions. The Ceilidh. That's Gaelic for "party" and pronounced "kay-lee." - a spontaneous gathering of music with fiddling, dance, and performance.
When to go
July and August are the most spectacular, with great weather and outdoor fun. Many attractions and restaurants are open during the high season. Also, when it's the busiest. But all four seasons will fill your heart: any reason or any season.
Where to stay
Seaside villages with inns, lodges, and hotels to choose from. Overnight on the Ceilidh Trail along the western coast. Or stay in a warm mountainside log chalet: Ingonish, five communities are appealing for sandy beaches, great fishing, golf, and mesmerizing views. You also might want to camp and enjoy the fresh, salty air.
Dazzling views, steep mountains, and a churning ocean below make the Highlands National Park a world gem. Spanning 20% of the Island. Wildlife watching, moose, bald eagles, bears, or pods of Atlantic pilot whales. Savour this special place of nature. The 186-mile Cabot Trail is a must. This legendary twisting and turning coastal highway circles the island, skirting Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Pass by cliffs and mountains to reveal views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Cycle or motor along this drive ranked as one of Canada's most spectacular. Allow five to seven days by car. Stop to explore the villages with eateries, boutiques, and artisan studios along the way.
Top activities. Hiking and cycling
The best place - Is the Highlands National Park. The park offers 26 trails, from easy hikes to strenuous climbs. The highlight? The Skyline Sunset Hike. Follow a mountain top, ocean views, and boardwalks winding down to the ocean: cycle, horseback ride, boat, kayak. In winter, ski and snowmobile.
Celtic culture and music are features
Hear live music and lots of it. The October Celtic Colours festival features musicians, storytellers, dancers, and singers. Or find a pub along The Ceilidh Trail. Follow the 66-mile drive along the west coast. Easily find live music over dinner or pints. In Mabou, the Red Shoe Pub is an iconic spot for fiddlers. Baddeck hosts regular ceilidh gatherings. Take a fiddle lesson at Judique, The Celtic Music Interpretive Centre or learn a few dance steps.
Lighthouses, whales, and beaches
Visit the Louisbourg National Historic Site. See Canada's very first lighthouse dating back to 1734. Then check out the harbour's fortress that features actors in period dress and the coastal and forest trail. Stroll the Inverness Beach, or look for pebbles at La Bloc Beach in the highlands. Black Brook or Ingonish Beach are favourites for warm waters. Whale watching in Pleasant Bay or Cheticamp. Take a boat tour, see puffins, or go sailing.
Atlantic lobster and anything caught from the sea, mackerel, scallops, mussels, oysters, and crab. Sample fresh-caught shellfish at a bar or lobster chowder. The top spots are Downtown Sydney. Bistros with seafood, pub fare and music, and live theatre.
Try organic local Craft beer. Or follow the Good Cheer Trail and sample a bit of it all!