a VirtualTourist member from Providence
I am interested in exploring Cape Breton Island, and wanted to ask these very basic questions:
a) What is the best time(s) of year to check out Cape Breton?
b) What is the most optimal number of days to allot for exploring the Island (to get a decent fill of what it has to offer)? For example, could I get a good grasp of what the island has to offer in an extended weekend (4-day) trip, or should it be a minimum of one week, etc.?
c) What in your opinion are the not-to-be-missed places on the Island?
Look at my Nova Scotia page ([original VT link]. The part on Cape Breton covers your questions.
a) there is no correct answer to that. Depends on how you travel. For instance probably best time is July/August, but then you have to reserve lodgings way in advance. In June and September, you should be able to get away with reserving a day in advance.
b) depends on what you like doing. A 4-day trip will allow perhaps two days driving/hiking in the park, perhaps a Celdiah (however they are spelt), a day at Fort Louisbourg, etc. We hiked six of the 28 hikes. If we had more days, we would have hiked more of them.
c) I would not miss the Skyline trail. Views of the ocean are great, and we saw lots of wildlife on that trail. You should review the trails and decide which pique your interest.
Have a great holiday
if you have the option, i would choose after the september long weekend. crowds will be down but tourist facilities will still be open. i'd recommend at least 2 days to explore the trail and at least 2 days to relax and enjoy some outher parts (louisbourg, beaches, etc.) when i did it, i stayed in cheticamp (well, i was camping so didn't stay in the town but did spend some time there) the first night (would NOT recommend staying in that town - only place in nova scotia that felt unwelcoming to me). drove the cabot trail for the day stopping at many of the outlooks and taking note of distances and places i wanted to return to. returned to cheticamp campground for the night. second day, i left cheticamp early in the morning and spent the day doing hikes along the trail (skyline is very nice and easy - recommend taking the more rustic route in and then the more "tourist" friendly route out - great spot at the end for a picnic). slowly moved my way along to baddeck where i spent the last two nights. on my last day, i left baddeck early in the morning and drove to louisbourg. some people say they needed a full day there. i found about 4 hours enough. then drove to port hawksbury for the night and got back to halifax the next day.
Oh yeah, we spent the last half of a day in Cheticamp as well. Had a lobster supper there which was great, spent a few hours wandering about on the beach just outside of town, and drove to the end of Cheticamp Island and hobnobbed with the cattle there.
The point being there is no end of fun stuff to do. If you limit yourself to four days for all of Cape Breton Island, you miss out on some of the afternoon/evenings like the one we had above in Cheticamp.
Do not miss the Cabot Trail whatever you do. Preferably in good weather.
May through September would be my choice for Cape Breton. The weather is great and you will love visiting this beautiful place.
The cabot trail is unbelievable. It is nearly 50 miles long and covers some of the greatest scenery you will ever see.
I would suggest a couple of places that are a bit off the beaten path. For lodging I would recommend the Ocean View Lodge at Meat Cove. This is at the northern tip of Cape Breton and you must go up a 5 mile gravel roat to get there. It is well worth the time. The place is right on the water with the best views we had the entire trip. Another place to visit is Gampo Abbey which is a buddist monestary on Cape Breton. My wife still has her prayer flag she acquired while learning about the lives of the monks that inhabit the monestary.
In September / October, you get the colours on the Cabot trail as the leaves turn. This is now a particular tourist event, and you can actually get reports
check out: novascotia.com/fall/en/home/... For fall activities
and novascotia.com/fall/en/home/... for the fall leaf watch. The colours are unbelievable.
If you only have four days plan carefully and you'll get lots in. here are some of my favorites:
Louisburg (allow at least 3 hours, this is so much more than just a museum)
The Miners Museum www.minersmuseum.com
Alexander Graham Bell Museum (includes a model of his airplane)
General information: www.cbisland.com
You can go sea kayaking, www.risingtideexpeditions.ca
Or if you're a music buff, you can drop into Rita McNeil's Tea Room in Big Pond. You definitely want to check out the ceilidh schedules, and try to catch one of these. Kind of a big block party with music. It's a real taste of the "real Cape Breton" However, any place you stay or visit should be able to tell you what's going on in the area you are in. Cape Bretoners are very proud of their local traditions, and they love company, so you'll get treated pretty good.