Cape Breton is an island located at the North Eastern end of Canada’s Nova Scotia province and is a magical spot to visit when exploring Canada’s Maritimes. From rugged coastlines to scenic lakes and colorful forests, it is a place of breathtaking natural beauty. The Island is home to one of Canada’s most beautiful National Parks – the Cape Breton Highlands and is also steeped in heritage, with Acadian and Scottish roots. One could spend weeks exploring tiny fishing villages, hiking, Whale watching, sampling local fresh seafood and learning about Canada’s history, but if you are only on the island for a brief period of time, here are the must-see highlights:
Walk the Skyline Trail in the Cape Breton Highlands
Located just off the Cabot Trail, this walking path is a great way to see the Highlands without a lot of effort. The easy trail cuts through forest and over boardwalks before opening up to a stunning view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Cabot Trail below. The entire loop is about 7km, but if in a hurry, you can take the counter-clockwise path to the main lookout and back to save time, this is the best section of the trail. There is negligible elevation gain, so this section of the trail can be done in under an hour and is an absolute must-see.
Relax on Inverness Beach
One of the nicest beaches on the island, beautiful Inverness Beach is a great place to relax or enjoy a leisurely walk the boardwalk. This lovely seaside spot is not to be missed. On a sunny day, the sand is soft and the water is blue. Bring snacks and enjoy a picnic on the beach or spend your time collecting sea glass.
Visit Cape Breton’s Buddhist Monastery
Find peace and harmony while overlooking the sea, at Campo Abby, Cape Breton’s Buddhist Monastery. Located just outside Pleasant Bay, Buddhist monks live here year round and offer tours of in July and August (on weekdays only). The complex is open to the public and there are several short trails to walk in the peaceful forest or visit the Stupa of Enlightenment. As respect to the monks, it is requested to not speak while in the Monastery, as the monks live in silence. If you bring some snacks, there is a lovely green patch overlooking the water, which is a beautifully peaceful spot for lunch and admire the ocean views.
Watch Sunset & Campfire on the Beach
Enjoy the ultimate Canadian experience with a campfire, drinks and s’mores on the beach under the stars. Find a patch of beach just before sunset, to watch the sun disappear over the ocean. Then collect driftwood and enjoy a bonfire. Nothing beats a few cold beverages and some s’mores in the moonlight.
Go Whale Watching
From Pleasant Bay, it’s possible to hire a boat tour to go whale watching. We went with Captin Mark on a zodiac tour and had a phenomenal time seeing minke whales, seals, and harbor porpoises. The captain shared great stories and information about the sea life and life in Cape Breton. It was a nice way to learn more about the area and the marine life.
Tour Fortress Louisbourg
Take in some Canadian history at Fortress Louisbourg, a National Historic site on the Eastern side of the island. The 18th-century French fortresses was an important center for trade and the site of major two sieges in the Anglo-French struggle. Do one of the many tours to learn more about Canada’s beginning and explore this unique fortress.