Your No-Fail Cape Breton Vacation Guide

Skyline Moose Cabot Trail Highlands Nova Scotia

Cape Breton was one of our top destinations for 2013. We visited three times last year! Read on for our No-fail Cape Breton Vacation Guide, and add your favorite Cape Breton spots in the comments.

1. Delve into Sydney’s Growing Culinary Scene:

Gluten Free Tomato Crostini Flavor

The Olive Tree
Walking into the Olive Tree will immediately transport you from Nova Scotia to the Mediterranean.  No detail has been overlooked, from the music to the décor to the beer and wine lists, all of it contributes to making you feel like you’re in southern Europe.  Of course, the food is the highlight of the experience.  We recommend starting with the saganaki, and then treat yourself to the stuffed chicken fettuccine. Check out our full (mouth-watering) post HERE.

Another of Sydney’s restaurants that can hold its own with the best restaurants from anywhere else in the province is Flavor.  A very hip place in downtown Sydney, one of the coolest things is how much Flavor engages their patrons to shape their menu.  Check out our full post HERE.

Governors Pub
What was once a peanut bar (don’t see those anymore, eh) has transformed itself into a great place to have a ceilidh.  During the summer there is music seven days a week, including impromptu jams with local musicians.  The thing about local musicians is that this is Cape Breton, where it seems everyone can play at least four instruments, and play them all well.  Enjoy a pint of Big Spruce’s Kitchen Party or Cereal Killer along with some great pub fare prepared by one of the chefs behind Right Some Good. Read our full review on our Governors Pub kitchen party experience HERE.

2. Experience the Cape Breton Lifestyle:Places to stay Baddeck
There is an exciting new project going on in Cape Breton, a whole new style of accommodations that is breathing new life into the area and pumping up the economy. Cape Breton Lifestyles sell and rent fully furnished luxury vacation homes in Baddeck and Ingonish.  Your purchase comes with a four season recreation package.  We stayed at their Baddeck accommodations, which are ideal for a golfing family as not only are they spacious and relaxing, but they are a mere 20 steps from the Bell Bay Golf Course.

3. Festivals for Food, Fun and Music:

Dulche du Leche panna cotta with oreos and blueberry marshmallows!

Right Some Good:
Each August, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia hosts the ultimate Canadian foodie adventure. Right Some Good started in 2011 and brings culinary talent from all over the world to Cape Breton to create one-of-a-kind menus in unexpected locations.  Local food is prepared by Michelin Star award-winning chefs, members of association of the Bocuse d’Or, consultants in the Chaine des Rotisseurs, Rosette appointed and celebrity chefs. Read about our experiences at their Halifax pop-up HERE.

Louisburg Events Louisbourg300

4. Take in Some History

The Fortress of Louisbourg:
Louisbourg is a must if you are headed to Cape Breton. Last year was the 300th anniversary of the founding of Louisbourg. From Victoria Day until Thanksgiving visitors can step back in time and experience a day in the life of a colonial in New France. Events for the Louisbourg300 included archaeology lessons with Parks Canada archaeologists from across the country, and a series of concerts each with a memorable finale of cannons, muskets and fireworks. Read more about the Fortress and Louisbourg300 HERE.

Graham Bell Museum:
The Alexander Graham Bell Museum is one of our favourites in the whole province. Most think of the telephone when they think of Bell, but the museum highlights his groundbreaking work in optical telecommunications, hydrofoils and aeronautics.  He was also one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society, received numerous (i.e. double digits) honourary degrees, taught a dog to “speak”, and was granted the title of Honorary Chief, a rare honour where he was invited to don a Mohawk headdress and dance traditional dances.  Read about our adventures at the Bell Museum HERE.

Dingwall Beach Quarry Road Cape Breton

5. Go to the Beach:
Nova Scotia is home to hundreds of popular and hidden beaches, and Cape Breton is no exception. On a recent trip, we took in three.  You can view photos and a virtual tour of each beach by clicking on the name of the beach below!

North Bay Beach
Ingonish Beach
Dingwall Beach

Tears Of Glass

6. Shop From Local Artisans

The Artisan Trail: Cape Breton is home to one of the most unique shopping experiences I have ever had. The Artisan Trail guides you on a breathtaking journey through the highlands where you can visit the studios and view the work of over 70 local artists.  Once of my favourites is Tears Of Glass. These beautiful pieces have traveled to the Golden Globes, TIFF, and have been invited to Cannes. Read the story behind this successful local company HERE.

Mabou Farmers Market:
Another great place to find local art and other goodies is the Mabou Farmers Market. It opens in June and runs until mid October each year. Visit on Sunday between 11 and 2! The market is located at 186 Mabou Harbour Road. Thanks to Sandra for recommending this great spot to buy local!

7. Or Learn From Them…

Firehouse Ironworks
One of our favourite adventures to date has been our lesson in blacksmithing at Firehouse Ironworks.  Firehouse Ironworks is a fully operational traditional smithy located in Whycocomagh. In addition to their introductory and advanced blacksmith workshops, they do restoration and repair, custom ironwork, and ready-to-purchase forged gifts!

Sunset Love Nova Scotia Highlands Cabot Trail

8. Hike the  Highlands:
Last year we hiked the Skyline Trail for the first time. We watched the sun set over the highlands and saw not one but two moose.  This is another must-do activity. It is a great hike with stunning views that you wont soon forget.  Read about our up-close encounter with a moose HERE.

Whale Sighting Cape Breton Adventure Tours

9. Play with the Whales:
My trip to Cape Breton last year was a world of “firsts” for me. I hiked the skyline to watch the sunset, saw two moose, tried snow crab and stayed in a Canadian hostel. And while all of those ‘firsts’ were exciting and memorable, my favourite part of the trip was going whale watching. We went with Captain Marks but there are a number of options all guaranteeing a whale siting. We were lucky enough to get up close with some Humpback Whales.

10. Don’t Forget the Beer:

Big Spruce is Nova Scotia’s first (and Canada’s second) certified organic on-farm brewery. They are located on a beautiful stretch of property near Baddeck. The brewery carries four regular beer, but they release seasonal and special brews on a regular basis.  All of the beer at Big Spruce is unfiltered (and oh so delicious!). Read about our experiences at Big Spruce HERE.

This is only a small sample of the rich experiences you’ll find in Cape Breton. Click here for more of our Cape Breton adventures.  We would also love to hear your favourite Cape Breton Must-See’s.  Leave us a comment below!

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About the author

The Local Traveler

Two travellers' tales of finding adventure on the East Coast. This blog is dedicated to the best parts of travel, and to discovering, celebrating and promoting things to do in our corner of the world, and sometimes beyond. We especially love craft beer, day trips, romantic escapes, local food & hidden gems. Join our community on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and share tips and photos of your favourite East Coast adventures.

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