Cape Breton is a place where you can't help but fall in love with the natural beauty surrounding you when you visit; from the tops of the mountains to the views of the ocean, you will experience it all on this fantastic road trip. Are you ready to commence on this amazing road trip together?
Our starting location will be Moncton, New Brunswick; we will be driving a total time of 5 hours and 9 minutes if you take the highway route all the way there but, because we love to explore and add a little more adventure to these road trips, I recommend taking the coastal route which is a driving time of 5 hours and 40 minutes. We can obviously do this drive in one day - easily and even with time to spot in the small towns we will pass along the way. So have your bags packed and ready to go, buckle up and let's hit the road!
Now, this road trip is one of the shortest road trips we have written about so far; but it might be the most spectacular views you'll see so far. And for anyone who knows, because they've been will know precisely what I am talking about. Setting off on Highway 15 out of Moncton, New Brunswick, we will be exiting for Trans-Canada Highway 2, where our first stop after a tiresome drive of 45 mins will be Amherst or if you'd like to explore more places, you can stop off at Sackville and Aulac (if you do stop off at Aulac - google Trueman Blueberry Farm, you have to stop in and see what it's all about!) Most of our road trip will be like this - short journeys from one place to another but leading to beautiful towns and villages.
Amherst is a beautiful town with grand old brick buildings standing tall today and the busy main street lined with local businesses - it's a place to stop off and walk around the town center to see all the local businesses thriving. Amherst is a town with a community blooming, and better yet, it is only a 30-minute drive from the Fundy Coastline, where you can go to Joggins Fossil Cliffs and get to walk on the oceans floor to see the fascinating fossils embedded in the cliff rocks. A great place to find one of the many coffee shops in Amherst to get a drink ready for the next leg of the journey.
Going from Amherst to New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, which will be a driving time of 1 hour and 35 minutes via Trans-Canada Highway 104, or you can take NS-6 E that will take you along the coastal route to New Glasgow, which is a drive time of 2 hours and 2 mins. Through the coastal route, you will be passing through small towns and villages like Pugwash, Tatamagouche, Pictou. I would highly recommend pulling into any of these little towns and villages to see what they are all about, especially Tatamagouche, as they have a beautiful town centre located along the Northumberland Strait.
Now we have hit New Glasgow, which might be a great place to grab lunch or an early supper; here are the top three restaurants that you should check out The Bistro with 5/5 stars, East Avenue with 5/5 stars and The Dock Food Spirits & Ales with 4/5 stars - now this research is what I have gotten from Trip Advisor. Still, the best thing to do when you're in town is to ask the locals which restaurant spot you should go to or look for where most of the cars are parked because if the cars are filling the parking lot, that means the food is good!
From New Glasgow to Sydney, you'll drive 1 hour and 14 minutes to Port Hastings, and this is where you will cross over onto Cape Breton Island. There is a lot to explore in Port Hastings, so if you wanted to get out of the car for a stretch of your legs, you can, or you can carry on driving to Sydney, which is just under a 2-hour drive. You can take two routes: 105 Trans-Canada Highway & NS-223 E, a 1 hour and 45-minute drive, or you can go NS-104 & NS-4 E, which is 1 hour and 48 minutes in driving time; both of these routes are just taking you around Bras d'Or Lake. So which either route is calling your soul to drive on- I would take the second option, but it is up to you.
Sydney is the perfect city along the water's edge where you can have your early morning run along the waterfront boardwalk or a beautiful evening stroll to the big fiddle. The nightlife here is small but very family-friendly; a street over or two has plenty of restaurants or bars that you can go check out, plus the cutest little ice cream stand on the boardwalk along the river. But the main reason most people come to Cape Breton Island is for the Cape Breton Highland National Park; this amazing National Park has views that will take your breath away and valleys that will have you bird-watching for hours.
From Sydney to the National Park, it will be 1 hour and 47 minutes in driving time, but along this way, you'll be entranced by the most beautiful scenic views along the drive. Cape Breton Highland National Park is a vast national park, and you can easily drive Cabot Trail road in one day. Still, I would highly recommend getting a couple of different camping spots in the park somewhere because there is a lot to do, from relaxing on the beautiful beaches to the many different hiking trails you can do. You don't want to rush your time here in the park; this time is now your relaxing time where you can not drive anywhere's, stay at the beaches all day and do absolutely nothing- time to relax and unwind.
In Cape Breton National Park, like I just mentioned, there is a lot to see and do, so if you've only got a few days here, try to plan and a nice balance of activities from hiking or driving the Cabot trail to also relaxing on the beaches. I would recommend going to the Parks Canada website and researching the National Park as they will have all the inside information you'll need to plan your trip regarding available campsites, the trails that you can do, and what beaches you have to visit, plus extra activities you can do in the park.
And if you are looking for more things to do in Cape Breton, here are a few places I would recommend going to:
Glace Bay: This small town was once a thriving town before the decline of mining in 1960; they have a museum honouring the town's history and those who worked in the mining industry. With plenty of restaurants in the town, you won't have a hard time finding a restaurant. Glace Bay would be the perfect day trip to explore a new place and learn more about Cape Breton Islands' history.
Gabarus Wilderness Area: This beautiful section of Cape Breton Island protects 3,900 hectares of land and 20KM of oceanfront; with this beautiful section of land protected, we get to research more into nature and conserve the natural habitat. There are a few walking trails that you can do while here- we please ask you to leave no trace, research into the trail you can do and if you can't find information, contact the Gabarus Wilderness Area for more information about going.
Baddeck: The beautiful Baddeck town has so much to offer, from outdoor activities to getting to explore the town centre and harbour. Baddeck has plenty of outdoor activities, from sailing tours to Puffin Boat tours to even Kayaking down the river tours, there's something for everyone one here. And when you are hungry from all the tours you have taken, Baddeck offers plenty of different restaurants in the town.
Arichat: Now, Arichat is a little off the route planned up to Syndey, but that doesn't mean you can't stop through on your way home. It seems more of a drive-through town from the outside, but when you stop and do some research, there are a few things you can explore and adventure around the town. From going to see the landmark of Marache Point Lighthouse; with a beautiful pebble beach right next to the lighthouse that can be a beautiful place to stretch your legs or burn some energy off, or if you want more of a sandy beach, you can stop off at the Pondville Beach Provincial Park.
These are just a few things that you can do and explore on Cape Breton Island- if your vacation is longer, I'd highly recommend going to the Cape Breton Island website to research more activities and places you can explore.
Thanks for joining us on our third road trip in this series, which is a lot closer to home; next on the road trip series: The East to West Canadian Road Trip! So have your bags packed and your car gassed up, ready to go because we will soon hit the road once again.