Nova Scotia truly has some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. In addition to its spectacular beauty, the locals are some of the friendliest people I have ever encountered. If you’re planning to trip to this magnificent Canadian province, here is your guide to making the most of your vacation.
Part of the fun of a vacation in Nova Scotia, is the adventure of getting there. You can fly into Nova Scotia’s international airport in Halifax, or you can drive to Saint John, New Brunswick and take the ferry over. When I traveled to Nova Scotia, there was a ferry from Bar Harbor, Maine that went directly to Nova Scotia, but due to budget cuts it has been discontinued.
You can drive your car onto the ferry, and save the hassle of renting a car once you get there. During peak season, Bay ferries current fares are $61 for an adult, round-trip, and the cost to bring a vehicle that is up to 20 feet in length, is $139, also round-trip.
The ferry will take you to Digby, Nova Scotia, on the west side of the island, about a two and a half hour drive from the province’s capital, Halifax.
Destination: Cape Breton Island
Cape Breton Island has been rated the number one island destination in continental North America. You’ll find some of the most incredible scenery on the island, including a wide variety of wild life and plenty of outstanding recreational activities, including hiking and adventures on the water.
The drive from Digby, Nova Scotia to Cape Breton Island is about seven and a half hours, and I would recommend spending your first in Digby so that you can rest and prepare for an early start in the morning.
In Digby, Harmony Bed & Breakfast is an excellent value with some rooms offering views of the Bay of Fundy, with rates starting at $114 a night during peak season. If you’re on a tight budget, consider the hostel, Digby Backpackers Inn. Rates here are $28 a person for dorm style, or $60 for a private room.
Where to stay on Cape Breton
Baddeck is the gateway to the famed Cabot Trail, one of the most scenic highways in the world. The northern section of the drive will take you through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, while the eastern and western sections of the drive wind around the rugged coastline, along the edge of the dazzling blue waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
St. Ann’s Motel offers spectacular ocean views from every room. It is the best value in Baddeck, and the highest-rated on Trip Advisor, starting at about $93 USD.
If you like to hike, the Skyline trail offers views so amazing, it is hard to put into mere words. Stunning, spectacular, astonishing, none seem good enough to describe this area. Pick up a visitor’s map when entering Cape Breton Highlands National Park at Cheticamp, on the west side of the park, about an hour’s drive on Cabot Trail.
The hike is noted as trail #7 on the map, and is a loop trail totaling about 5.7 miles. This is a fairly easy hike, and although the map states that it takes two to three hours to complete, I found that one and a half hours was all it took at a moderate pace. Part of the trail includes a boardwalk path that leads to breathtaking panoramas of the ocean in front and the mountains behind.
Wildlife abounds in this spectacular area, and there is a good chance that you’ll spot a moose, which is actually the world’s largest living deer. Beware, these animals are impressive, and mother’s with calves will do anything to protect their young. You might spot whales down below in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, or a bald eagle soaring above. This area is also home to the black bear, and you’ll want to maintain your distance from both the bears and the numerous coyote that live on the island.
Another outdoor adventure that I highly recommend, is a sea kayaking tour with North River Kayak Tours out of Baddeck.
This outfit will take you on a half-day or full-day kayak trip starting at less than $70 a person. North River Kayak Tours also offers extended trips of two to five days for the especially bold adventurer.
Experiencing Cape Breton from the sea is incomparable. Glide along the water while you view bald eagles, watch a killer whale swim by, and feel the tranquility of waterfalls gently flowing from the edge of the rugged coast into the ocean below.
Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia is a must for outdoor adventure lovers. You’ll find it has worked its way into your heart and soul, and by the time you return home you’ll probably be planning your next vacation here.