Friday, September 18, 2020

End of Summer Cape Breton Road Trip - Route 19 to the Cabot Trail and Back

 While many see September 1st and back-to-school time as the end of summer, I refuse to acknowledge that the end is here until the official start of fall on September 22nd.  Currently, I'm still going for almost daily dips in the ocean, I'm still wearing shorts and tank tops no matter what the temperature and I'm still embarking on road trips to explore beautiful Cape Breton Island.  The best thing about this time of year after school goes back is I have the beaches, trails and attractions almost to myself! 

When I looked at the long-term forecast on September 6th, I noticed a series of hot, sunny days coming up.  On September 9th, I embarked on what would turn into a two-day journey through four counties and dozens of little villages in the western and central parts of the island.  

As I made my way along the Trans Canada Highway headed for the turn-off to the Cabot Trail near Baddeck, I was looking forward to a nice big breakfast at one of my favourite restaurants. I intended to stop at The Cedar House Restaurant near the Seal Island Bridge. This is something I do at least once before they close for the season.  All I could think about on the way there was the tasty breakfast with sausage, eggs, toast and hash browns. 

I arrived in the parking lot at around 9:30 and was disappointed to see a "CLOSED" sign in the window.  I contemplated waiting around until 11:00, which was the opening time indicated on the sign, but I wanted to get on the road early.  Fitzgerald's, which is almost next door and has equally delicious breakfast, was also closed.  I settled for a Tim Horton's breakfast sandwich, hash brown and chocolate chip muffin which I bought at the Tim's near Baddeck and ate on the scenic boardwalk in the pretty little village on the Bras d'Or Lakes. 

I love Baddeck. There's just something about that quaint little village that draws me in.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to spend a whole lot of time in the town this year so my little visit that morning, despite being quick and unplanned, was a welcome little rest before heading out on the day's adventure.  

At the Red Barn, I turn onto the world-famous Cabot Trail. I love driving along this part of the Trail through Hunter's Mountain, Middle River, Lake O'Law and onto Margaree Harbour.  It's a relaxing, beautiful drive, especially when traffic is light as it was on this day.  Road construction annoys me but I admit I was happy to see a road crew working on a stretch of this road that was getting very bad over the last few years. 

I made it to Inverness Beach at 11:30, which was about the time I expected to arrive.  The forecast was calling for showers and clouds were moving in.  Despite a few dark spots in the afternoon, the rain never came, at least not where I was.  I heard it rained in other places but I enjoyed a refreshing dip in waters so clear that even without the sun shining down, I could still see straight to the bottom.  I swam for about an hour in those warm, clear waters. 

To dry off, I walked almost the entire length of that four-kilometre beach before coming back to my chair to relax in the sun, which, by that time, was shining.  I wasn't expecting it to get hot enough to want to go back in the water but by the time I completely dried off, I was craving another dip. This time of year, I never know if a dip in the ocean will be my last of the season.  I thought to myself "to heck with it, I only live once" and spent the next two hours in the water.  


 

As I floated in the calm sea all by my lonesome, the thought that great white sharks could be lurking nearby didn't even cross my mind.  After all, how scary could a bunch of Ocearch-tagged sharks with names like Jane, Hal and Luna be anyway?

 It was late afternoon and starting to cloud over when I came out of the water the second time so I didn't dry off as fast. But it was worth it even if it meant a wet car seat, dripping hair and a car full of caked sand.  

I had planned to stop at some of the beaches along the way to Cheticamp - Chimney Corner, Whale Cove, Belle Cote - but my extra-long visit to Inverness Beach meant I had little time to reach the little Acadian village in time for supper at Le Gabriel Restaurant.  

I did, however, take my time driving along the coast between Margaree Harbour and Cheticamp. This is one of my favourite stretches of road on the island. Ocean on one side, mountains on the other, windy two-lane road stretching through quaint little villages in front of me.  


 

It only took about five minutes for the fantastic staff at Le Gabriel to prepare my veggie nachos and gluten-free chocolate cake, which I enjoyed overlooking the ocean at the bottom of Lapointe Rd. at the edge of town.  The meal was, as it always is, delicious.  As usual, the portions are always too big for me so I was unable to finish all the nachos.  


 

I left room for cake and took the nachos home for a snack later that night. I grabbed a coffee for the road and drove a little ways along the Cabot Trail through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park before turning around at the construction zone near Corney Brook. Evening was approaching when I turned off on the Cheticamp Back Road.  I always take this road when heading back towards Route 19. It's a nice change of scenery in the foothills of the mountains.  At the intersection of the main road, I kept going straight onto Cheticamp Island, another short, but scenic drive I like to do whenever I pass through the area.

Back on the highway, I intended to head towards Baddeck at Margaree Harbour. But almost as if my car knows the way, it turned onto the road that goes through St. Rose and Chimney Corner and then onto the Beach Road #2 in Inverness to find a parking spot in the exact same place I parked only a few hours before.  Sunset was approaching.  The water was calm.  The water was clear. The air was still warm.  I couldn't resist another dip in the ocean.

The sunsets here are among the most beautiful I've ever seen anywhere in the world.  Beautiful sunset + dip in warm, clear waters =  an unforgettable summer evening. There's just something about the way those waters glisten in that fading light and the calmness I sense when those gentle waves lull me into a state of sheer bliss.


 

I don't usually like driving home through remote areas late at night because there are a lot of moose and deer around.  I took my time driving along that dark, lonely road through Margaree.  I didn't feel sad when I reached the Trans Canada Highway and headed home because I sensed that the very next day, I would be back again.  This was to be my last trip to Inverness for the season. But, you just never know with me and what the next day will bring.  I have been known to be spontaneous.  So, did I end up back in my happy place one last time? Stay tuned...

 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Margaree Harbour is Central with Plenty to See and Do Nearby

If you choose to start your Cabot Trail Journey near The Red Barn just past Baddeck, early in your journey around, you'll arrive at Margaree Harbour.  While many people just drive on through and keep driving towards Cheticamp, others stop for a while and take in the many things that make this area of the island one of my favourites. The scenic views are just the beginning!

The beach on the other side of the breakwater is sandy and has very warm water for swimming.  It's also one of the best places on the island for enjoying spectacular sunsets.  

If you continue for a little bit along the road to Chimney Corner and St. Rose, you'll find two of the island's best beaches only minutes apart; Whale Cove Beach and Chimney Corner Beach.  If you keep going even further, you'll find the town of Inverness and its beautiful, long sandy beach.  The whole coast is known for sunsets, warm waters and sandy beaches.  This little extra drive from Margaree Harbour to Inverness only takes you about a half hour off track (longer if you grab something to eat, spend time at any of the beaches or golf at the world-class golf courses in Inverness) but it's worth it.  You can always jump back onto the Cabot Trail where you made the turn off at Margaree Bridge.  

Margaree Harbour
A beautiful sunset at Margaree Harbour


Monday, September 7, 2020

Exploring the Area Around the Louisbourg Lighthouse

While the little town of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island is mostly known for being home to the Fortress of Louisbourg, which is a top attractions on the island, it's also home to another popular attraction.  If you travel to Louisbourg to visit the fortress, I highly recommend you make some time to also visit The Louisbourg Lighthouse.  

The Lighthouse itself is active to this day and is the third lighthouse to be located in this location.  The current structure was built on the site that was once home to the oldest lighthouse in Canada which was built in the 1730s.  Ruins from the original and subsequent lighthouses are still visible today.  

Also on site are a picnic area, scenic look-offs and a 2-kilometre hiking trail with ocean views, opportunities to view local wildlife and interpretive panels. 




Thursday, September 3, 2020

Did you Know that the Inventor of the Telephone Once Lived in Cape Breton?

While most people know that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, what many people don't know is that the famed Scottish inventor spent a lot of his time at his beautiful home at Beinn Bhreagh in the pretty little town of Baddeck along the shores of the Bras d'Or Lakes.  Yes that's right...that little device you carry around with you everywhere you go started with a big invention by a man who called Cape Breton home.
The home still stands and can be seen from the village but the Alexander Graham Bell Museum is where you'll learn about the great inventor, his inventions and his life.  Within this museum, you'll see exhibits, artifacts, short films and photos.  The views from the outside observation deck are also something to see. 
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The exterior of the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck, Nova Scotia


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Little Village on the Canal where the Ocean Meets the Bras d'Or Lakes

St. Peters is a pretty little village at a point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bras d'or Lakes.  The town is home to little shops, restaurants, cafes and several museums, including the Nicholas Denys Museum and the Wallace MacAskill Museum.  A campground is also located in the town and there are many walking and hiking trails.  Nearby Dundee is home to a great golf course and there is even a Christmas Shop at the edge of town that is open eight months of the year.  Actually it closes on Christmas Eve so shoppers have right up to the last minute to find that special item to put on the tree.

The main attraction in St. Peters is the canal that joins the ocean with Cape Breton's inland sea, The Bras d'Or Lakes.  The National Historic Site and adjacent Battery Provincial Park are dedicated to the history and workings of the canal and within this park area you'll find picnic tables, trails and a swimming area.  






Monday, August 31, 2020

You Never Know What You'll Find on Cape Breton's Beaches

Beachcombing is a favourite activity of mine and there's no better place to indulge in this hobby than on the long, weather-battered beaches of Cape Breton.  I've found many interesting items over the years, the most interesting being a piece of an old ship that washed ashore at Dominion Beach in a big storm.

While looking out my window one evening, I spotted a blinking green light on the beach across the bay.  Unable to identify it from my house and being driven crazy wondering what the source of the light was, I trekked along the beach one night to the spot where the blinking was coming from.  It was a buoy that had come lose in a storm and washed up onto the dunes.

Almost anything I find on the beach serves a purpose.  Whether it be an old lobster trap that's turned into a makeshift seat from which to watch a beautiful sunset or a giant seashell used as a soap dish.  Many people make crafts with the treasures they find on the beach.  If anything, the often misplaced items found on the island's beaches make great subjects for photos.
An old lobster trap is the perfect subject in this photo.

Some people like to do interesting things with rocks at the beach.
I came across this piece of an old ship washed ashore after a storm at Dominion Beach.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Explore the Cape Breton Regional Municipality

When most people think of Cape Breton, they think of the Cabot Trail and the northern portion of the island. However, the island isn't all that big and the other areas are worth exploring too!  The Cape Breton Regional Municipality, for example, is home to the towns of Glace Bay, New Waterford, North Sydney and the unofficial capital of Cape Breton, Sydney.  This area is also home to many beaches, museums, scenic views and attractions.  Dominion Beach, The Marconi Museum, The Sydney Mines Heritage Museum and Fossil Centre, The Glace Bay Miner's Museum, Cossit House, Fort Petrie Military Museum and Jost House are just some of the attractions you'll find in this area of the island.
Colliery Lands Park in New Waterford is a great place to take a rest, have a picnic and relax in natural surroundings.  Several exhibits about the history of mining in the town are located around the park.  In fact, the park is situated near the site of a former working coal mine.

This monument in Colliery Lands Park features the names of all the coal miners who were killed in area coal mines.  The flags represent the countries that many of the miners came from in search of work. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

If you Love Observing Wildlife, Cape Breton is the Place to be!

While driving, hiking and exploring Cape Breton Island, you'll likely come face-to-face with many of the critters who make their home here.  Most are friendly, such as the red fox, while some are best observed at a safe distance, such as the black bear and coyote.  While it's fun to observe the local wildlife, it's important to respect their space.  Never feed or try to pet wild animals as this can endanger them and you.  Just stand back and watch....if they don't feel threatened by you, they may provide you with some very cute photo ops!
A playful red fox entertaining passerby at a local beach.


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Learn About Cape Breton's Rich Coal Mining History

Cape Breton has a long history of coal mining and that history is showcased at the Glace Bay Miner's Museum.  The unique thing about this museum, besides the interesting exhibits, is visitors can tour a real mine and see what it was like to work underground in those damp, harsh conditions. 
The Glace Bay Miner's Museum
The Men of Deeps is made up entirely of former coal miners.  This world-renowned choir occasionally performs at the museum and in other venues around the island. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Cape Breton is a Bird-watcher's Paradise

Turkey Vultures are not native to Cape Breton Island but they've been spotted on numerous occasions over the last few years.  My answer as to why would only be a guess but I imagine it has to do with the warming climate of the area.  This one was spotted in Mira near Marion Bridge and others have been spotted along the south coast of the island.  But Turkey Vultures are not the only birds that bird watchers can spot around Cape Breton; there are many including:
Bald Eagles
Atlantic Puffins
Osprey
A wide variety of hawks
Piping Plovers
Gannets
Owls
Several species of ducks
Canada Geese
...and many many more!

A Turkey Vulture near Marion Bridge in the Mira area of Cape Breton.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Spectacular Mountain Views are in no Shortage on Cape Breton Island

Whether you are in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, cruising through the Margaree Valley or enjoying the views from the many scenic look-offs that are located around the Cabot Trail, mountain vistas are a common sight! Some of the most notable mountains on the island include:
-Kelly's Mountain, which is located in the Trans Canada Highway, has two scenic look-offs and stunning views of the Seal Island Bridge. Elevation: 267 metres.
-Cape Smokey Mountain, which is located along the Cabot Trail via Englishtown, is home to a provincial park, exciting hairpin turns and ocean views.  Elevation: 322 metres.
- French Mountain, which is situated between Cheticamp and Pleasant Bay, is mostly-known for being the location of one of Atlantic Canada's most iconic hiking trails, The Skyline Trail.  Elevation 430 metres.
-North Mountain features beautiful mountain views and, in the winter, is known for having giant snow squalls that easily tower over the tallest of vehicles. Elevation: 479 metres
-MacKenzie Mountain features lovely views of Pleasant Bay.  Elevation 355 metres.
-Franey Mountain, which is located in Ingonish, also has a scenic hiking trail and some of the best views around.  Elevation: 430 metres

It's a fairly steep climb to the top but the views from the trail on Franey Mountain are incredible.

My dad and I hiked the Franey Mountain Trail a few years ago and I can't wait to hike it again this fall!

The view from the Skyline Trail on French Mountain.

The view of Cape Smokey Mountain from Ingonish Beach

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Stay in World Class Accomodations

When it comes to accommodations on Cape Breton Island, the options are endless but one thing for sure is you have your pick of world-class options!  Whether you prefer to stay in a fully-equipped hotel, wilderness cabin, quaint B&B, serviced campground or backcountry campsite, you'll find something to suit your taste and your budget. 
The Keltic Lodge is a world-class resort on the Middle Had Peninsula near Ingonish Beach in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  The property features a spa, swimming pool, full-service restaurant, bar and a variety of rooms for various budgets and preferences.  A beautiful hiking trail is also nearby and the views around the resort, which include Cape Smokey Mountain and Ingonish Beach, are spectacular.  The property is also rumored to be haunted which gives it added appeal.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Beauty is Everywhere you Look on Cape Breton Island

It's all around.  Everywhere you look, there is beauty.  Mountains, unique rock formations, valleys, meadows, coves....even washed up ocean debris make for excellent photo ops!







Sunday, August 16, 2020

Cabot Landing Provincial Park - A Little Off the Beaten Path but Worth a Visit

You only have to venture about 20 minutes off the Cabot Trail to enjoy a remote, long, sandy beach. Every time I make the detour to this beach at the Cabot's Landing Provincial Park, I'm usually the only person there so if you're looking to get away from the crowds, this is a great place to do that!  Add in facilities, such as bathrooms and picnic areas, and spectacular scenery and you have a little slice of paradise.  The park is located in Sugarloaf along beautiful Aspy Bay. 
Cabot's Landing Provincial Park, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Events at the Fortress of Louisbourg

While the Fortress of Louisbourg is open every day during tourist season for tours, there are many other events that happen each year at the fortress including guided tours by candlelight, dinner theatres and concerts.  These events tend to book up fast so if you're planning to travel to Cape Breton in the future, make sure to check for events happening at the fortress and book your spot as early as possible!
The first event I went to outside of regular fortress hours was a candlelight walking tour of the grounds.  The fortress is much different under the cover of darkness and this tour was fantastic.  If I remember correctly, there was music and 18th century snacks. 

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