Cape Breton Island Things to Do

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Best Rated Things to Do in Cape Breton Island

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    Coastal Trail

    by GentleSpirit Updated Dec 5, 2012

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    This was a nice hike! we got bored with the Jack Pine Trail, it just wasn't scenic (or challenging) so a few of us took the well marked Coastal Trail. We had plenty of time and it was well worth the effort.

    If you hike this trail you will get a wonderful taste of Cape Breton's shoreline, the magnificent vistas over the water. the boulders, You will be going through a lot of forest since a lot of the rocks are too rough.

    Be careful to wear proper hiking boots, some of the rock can be slippery

    Length- 11.3 km loop
    Elevation- minimal
    Difficulty-moderate
    Terrain- pine forest, boulders, granites
    Trailheads- Black Brook Cove (same as Jack Pine), Halfway Brook

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    I finally saw a moose!!!

    by GentleSpirit Updated Oct 31, 2012

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    When we rode into the Cape Breton highlands park we were told to look out for moose, they would be there and in good numbers cause it was breeding season. Everyone started oohing and aaahing when we first caught sight of a moose walking in the forest, we were probably only 5 minutes inside the park at that point. So yeah, maybe we would get to see the moose! Neat.

    We drove up some more and parked and headed off for the Skyline Trail. After walking a little bit (not more than 15 minutes) I turned into a clearing and whammo! the moose was right there! Just relaxing, getting something to eat, apparently not too concerned about our presence! He let me get pretty close without flinching. Exhilarating!

    It seems seeing a moose is really not that uncommon at all in the Highlands Park, but getting this close to one can't be that common.

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Photography
    • Hiking and Walking

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    Hop on/hop off bus tours

    by GentleSpirit Updated Oct 31, 2012

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    There are two companies that run hop-on/hop-off bus tours that go through Nova Scotia. I can tell you both companies are good. You usually will have a bus with about 10-15 others. Most of the people on these tours are young(ish) backpackers. On the tours I took I was the only American and the oldest in any of the groups. Neither was a factor really.

    With both companies you will see a lot of things, especially in the wilderness/outdoors. For example, if you want to take some time to see Halifax or Baddeck (for example) you can jump off the bus at a certain stop. You arrange with the company where/when you would like to rejoin. In my experience, the best use of hopping off and staying in a town/city is to engage in the usual tourist activities. On the tours you tend to have relatively few of these (visiting museums, sights etc)

    The people on the tours are mostly pretty nice. This sort of tour is really not for people that prefer to stay in hotels and luxury. The hostels are all clean and comfortable. You can ask for a private room at the hostels, many of them have at least one or two.

    1. Moose Network- Moose operates throughout Canada. However, the only tour they offer that goes through Cape Breton is quite expensive (Schooner) A good company with a solid reputation.
    website-- http://www.moosenetwork.com/content.php?id=60

    2. Salty Bear- http://www.saltybear.ca/
    This is a local Nova Scotia operation. Coincidentally, it is run by a guy that used to work for Moose elsewhere. I found their service to be excellent. We had a lot of fun, got to do a lot and everyone on the tour seemed to really have had a great time. Since its only Nova Scotia/PEI it will come out much cheaper than Moose. Guides are all locals that know Nova Scotia very well.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Budget Travel

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    Cape Dauphin - Fairy Hole Trail

    by Aafia Updated Jun 4, 2006

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    Back in the early 1700's, the French intended to build their main fortification here instead of at Louisbourg. The cape retained the name Dauphin after the oldest son of French royalty.
    This 4km return hike is somewhat demanding, partly because of the rugged terrain and partly because it's not as well marked as it used to be. There are several areas where ropes have been placed to facilitate your trek. What's rewarding about this hike is the Fairy Hole cave, a hollow in the face of the cliff and waterfalls just beyond the cave.
    For this hike and many others I recommend, I strongly suggest a good hiking book to do some of these hikes safely. Two suggestions are Hiking Trails of Cape Breton by Michael Haynes and Explore Cape Breton by Pat O'Neil. They are my bibles.
    This website may help as well: http://users.syd.eastlink.ca/%7esmithdl/hikemenu.htm. (Not quite as thorough as books.)

    Cape Dauphin Along the way From inside the Fairy Hole From inside the Fairy Hole Cape Dauphin Water Falls

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    North River Provincial Park

    by Aafia Updated Jun 4, 2006

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    This is a somewhat demanding hike you can do with the reward of beautiful waterfalls at the end, which happen to be the highest in Nova Scotia. It's 18km return, so an early start is a good idea if you want to stop and enjoy the scenery along the way. What amazed me about this hike, is that in the mid 1800's several highland Scot families settled here to make a life for themseles. As beautiful as the area is, it just seems to be an unlikely spot to settle, it's so isolated and the terrain is so rugged. You can still see remains of this settlement.
    As with most hikes I recommend, you really need a good hiking book to do some of these hikes safely. Two suggestions are Hiking Trails of Cape Breton by Michael Haynes and Explore Cape Breton by Pat O'Neil. They are my bibles.
    This website may help as well: http://users.syd.eastlink.ca/%7esmithdl/hikemenu.htm.

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    Walk the Baille Ard Nature Trail

    by Aafia Written Jun 16, 2007

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    You don't have to travel too far to get back to nature in the city of Sydney. This nature trail is just off Cottage Road. What a great place for nature lovers of all ages. I walked 4 of my classes (Grade 8's and 9's) here and they enjoyed this 3 kilometer self-guided nature tour. There are 10 stations that provide interesting information about the flora and fauna of the trail. One section has squirrels running all around and there are lots of birds to see.

    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Budget Travel
    • Hiking and Walking

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    Go to Main-à-Dieu and hike on one of the trails

    by Aafia Updated Jun 4, 2006

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    Main-à-Dieu is a picturesque fishing village that deserves a visit. There is a boardwalk system along the beach outside of town. There are several hikes that can be done from this area with some beautiful views of this rugged coastline. There's the Cape Breton Trail, the Gooseberry Trail and the Main-à-Dieu Trail.
    You really need a good hiking book to do some of these hikes safely. Two suggestions are Hiking Trails of Cape Breton by Michael Haynes and Explore Cape Breton by Pat O'Neil. They are my bibles.
    This website may help as well: http://users.syd.eastlink.ca/%7esmithdl/hikemenu.htm.

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking

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    Spend a day at Fortress Louisbourg

    by Aafia Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    A visit to the Fortress of Louisbourg requires at least a day. The Fortress is a reconstructed 18th century French fortified town. The residents of the town bring it to life. We visit Louisbourg every summer and experience something new every time and I always buy fresh baked bread from the bakery.

    Make sure you wear the right colour for entry

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    Go to the Broad Cove Scottish Concert

    by Aafia Written Jun 2, 2006

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    This is the largest outdoor Scottish concert in Cape Breton. You can hear fiddles, bag pipes, harmonica playing and singing. This is also your chance to see highland dancing and step dancing.
    The concert is always held on the last Sunday of July and starts at 3pm.

    Highland Dancing The master of Cape Breton fiddle: Buddy MacMaster Stanley MacNeil on Harmonica Gerard Beaton: Step Dancing My favourite fiddle player in world: Howie Mac D

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    Go on a Ghost walk of Sydney... if you dare!

    by Aafia Written Apr 29, 2007

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    The Old Sydney Society has volunteers that organize Ghosts walks of downtown Sydney during July and August. This is a fun walk (or is it...?) for both locals and tourists that includes some very interesting history of the area. The walk finishes up at the Cape Breton Centre For Heritage and Science where you can enjoy a cup of tea with your guide and other visitors.

    Let me tell you about the eerie side of Sydney....
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    • Historical Travel

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    Celtic Colours International Festival 2007

    by Aafia Updated Jul 7, 2007

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    Cape Breton is a beautiful place to visit when the leaves are changing in the fall. Add to that 9 days of Celtic music and culture celebrated all over the island and you may just have a hard time leaving this place when your time's up.
    The Celtic Colours International Festival takes place every October and includes ceilidhs, concerts, dances, exhibits, tours and workshops that are held in every nook and cranny on the island. Many of own top artists are featured, like Buddy Mac Master, the Barra Mac Neils, Howie MacDonald, Mary Jane Lamond and J.P. Cormier, and that's just scratching the surface. Our local performers are joined by Celtic artists from Ireland, Scotland, the U.S. and Nordic countries.
    Last year, a highlight for us was the Celtic Thanksgiving Dinner and Concert. This year, the opening concert, to be held in Port Hawkesbury, featuring the Chieftains, Ashley Mac Isaac, Mary Jane Lamond, Wendy Mac Isaac and Fiona and Ciaran Mac Gillivray is not to be missed.
    The line-up can be overwhelming when you first peruse it, you simply can't do it all. Keep in mind though, that the tickets sell out quickly.

    Related to:
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    • Festivals
    • Arts and Culture

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    Cabot's Landing Provincial Park

    by Redlats Updated Nov 27, 2004

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    North of the Cabot trail is the Cabot's Landing Provincial Park. There is no proof, but it is assumed that Cabot landed on Cape Breton at this beach. The spot is marked by two or three plaques.

    Note the nose on the statue. You would think that whoever is in charge of statues would have done a little more than give him a coat of white paint. Only in Canada.

    Part of the reason it seems logical that Cabot would have landed here - it is the only boat-friendly cove at the end of Cape Breton, plus the hills on either side of the beach fit Cabot's description.

    The park is a normal provincial park with picnic tables, washrooms, etc. -- a good spot to stop for lunch.

    John Cabot memorial
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • National/State Park

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    Skyline Trail

    by GentleSpirit Written Dec 7, 2012

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    The most well known, and most popular, trail in Nova Scotia is the Skyline Trail. Why? Well one reason has to be that it is so accessible. In 2001 the redid the trail to protect some of the fragile ecosystem, building boardwalks. For the first part of the loop a wheelchair would probably be able to handle this trail. Its generally nice and flat and easy to negotiate.

    The views are breathtaking! For us it was even better because we started early in the morning and while some of the group was grumbling that it was so early and they were a bit cold, we ran across the moose (see my wildlife tip). The first part of the trail has wide paths, often gravel, and goes through some neat forest, no problem. You will see the deep crevasse of the mountains and the highway carved into the sides of the mountains and you get to see this amazing coming together of mountains and the water! It is said you can sometimes see whales swimming from some of the lookouts. (we didn't unfortunately).

    In all the 9.2 km Skyline Trail took about 2-3 hours to finish. The return part is a little rougher, and more challenging, but you are more likely going to be so amazed at the scenery that you won't care much one way or the other. Definitely do this one!

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    • Hiking and Walking

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    Meat Cove

    by Redlats Updated Nov 20, 2004

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    Meat Cove is at the end of the road going north on Cape Breton. The last 10-15 km of road is unpaved. Once you get there, there is nowhere to park, but you can pay the camp ground owner to park and walk around or have your picnic.

    We stayed and had our lunch on one of the picnic tables. It is a special place -- the northern end of Nova Scotia -- LOTS of ocean. It was the only place we saw whales on our trip. They were off in the distance - visible only with binoculars, but definitely whales. Even in mid-September, there were quite a few tourists - parking on the road and looking out at the ocean. It must be mad in mid-summer

    Meat Cove
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    The oldest house in town: Cossit House Museum

    by Aafia Written Apr 29, 2007

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    Cossit House is reputed to be the oldest house in Sydney, built in 1787 by the first Anglican priest to live and work in Sydney, Rev. Ranna Cossit. Your guides are dressed in period costume and will take you through this New England colonial style home to view the period furnishings. If you go in the evening as part of the ghost walk, expect to be as scared stiff as I was when wandering through in the dark.

    The oldest house in Sydney Might be cosy...might be scary... Colonial furnishings circa 1700's
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