from the road

Days 5-6: Along the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton

Well, we planned to go camping the past two nights, but the weather conspired against us.

Yesterday, we made a very long trek across Nova Scotia to the northernmost section: Cape Breton Island, full of small Celtic seaside communities. I have to admit that I did almost no planning for WVT; that was Harrison’s job. (I’m in charge of trip documentation.) As such, I had no idea where we were going in Canada, so everything has been a delightful surprise.

Like Canadian money having a transparent panel? Delightful!

Canadian $20 bill

And the amazing views along the Cabot Trail? Delightful surprise!

cabot trail view


This scenic overlook on Cape Smokey? Delightfully surprising!

Cape Smokey view

Once we arrived in Ingonish, we nixed the camping plan. Rain on the forecast and driving around with a very wet tent did not sound wedding victorious, so we opted for a “motel” in Ingonish. Along the Cabot Trail, there are no big hotels. All the accommodations are either small cabins/cottages for rent or “motels”–basically, long-ish trailers with small, no-frills rooms.

Last night, we stayed at Sea Breeze Cottages & Motel. The room was spartan, to be sure, but it was clean and much preferable to huddling in a dripping tent all night. Also, check out the view from our room (for $79/night!!):

Ingonish view

And this was the view from the Sea Gull restaurant where we ate dinner last night. Unlike most waterfront dining and lodging, the businesses in Cape Breton are cheap and small. Last night, we ate at a plastic picnic table, overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence, on a screened-in porch that threatened to slide into the water. It was tasty and thrilling.

Sea Gull restaurant view


Today, we got our park pass to enter Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Unsurprisingly, I made sure to peruse the information about wild animal safety. The brochure [PDF linked–highly recommended as general knowledge] helped you understand the difference between defensive and predatory bear attacks. The former, you play dead, and the latter, you fight back to the best of your abilities, make yourself “large,” and engage other offensive maneuvers. (My plan was to stand on Harrison’s shoulders, while pelting any predatory bears with rocks and sticks, while singing showtunes at the top of my lungs.


(Bears, you best start runnin’!)

Inside the park, we drove along the Cabot Trail, stopping at scenic overlooks or taking short hikes into the forest or along the coastal cliffs. I am sorry to say that the photos don’t do anything justice; it’s hard to capture natural beauty and wide landscapes on camera.

At Green Cove, I was on the lookout for extra large waves:

Looking out for extra large waves

Looking out for extra large waves….

Fortunately, none swept us away:

Green Cove, Cape Breton

Look at how relevant I am! Even in Canada!

Green Cove informational sign

After failing to find an open establishment at midday, we stopped for a picnic lunch by the water. Meanwhile, John Cabot‘s bust judged my consumption of large quantities of hummus.

John Cabot bust

As you can see, it was very cloudy today. In fact, we drove through a lot of clouds. Nothing gets the adrenaline pumping like driving or walking with 0% visibility, knowing that you are a few yards away from the edge of a cliff.

Skyline trail, Cape Breton

I insisted that we stop at the Bog trail based on feelings of nostalgia for Maine vacations with my parents to peat bogs.  I was delighted to find that the green frogs were in the middle of procreation season. Here I am, trying to get as close to the tadpoles as possible without falling into the pool. (I attempted to scoop one up in my hand for closer inspection, but he pooped on me.)Looking at tadpoles

 We walked the 5.7-mile Skyline Trail loop in the hopes of seeing moose or whales. The fog was too dense to see much of anything except for the 2349802384032 slugs on the trail.

slug, Cape BretonWe did actually see a moose today along the side of the road. We turned a corner…and there he (she? Couldn’t see a beard) was. I tried to get a picture, but it ran away, so you’ll have to believe me.

I did get a picture with this pine tree. It did not run away.

pine tree, Skyline, Cape Breton

I’m currently writing from the Acadian Motelin Chéticamp, the largest Francophone enclave (linguistic words!) on Cape Breton. Our (also cheap!) room looks out over Chéticamp Harbour.Chéticamp, Acadian Motel

We ate dinner at the Co-op Artisanale, which serves tasty traditional Acadian dishes. Our meal came with fresh bread, served with butter and molasses. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this combination before?

Bread with butter and molassesAnd while I did not order it, I was intrigued by “unemployment pudding” (pudding [au] chômeur). Maybe once I get a job, I’ll eat some unemployment pudding and then laugh in its face….

Pudding au chômeur on menu

So yes, our séjour in Cape Breton was not what we expected (Well, it wasn’t what Harrison expected. I didn’t have any expectations.), but it has been awesome nonetheless. I keep saying, “Why don’t more Americans come here?” And the answer is probably (1) they don’t know it exists and (2) it’s freaking far away! We didn’t get to see nearly as much as we wanted, but this is apparently the point of the trip: getting previews of cool places so we know they’re worth returning to.

And I definitely encourage you to come check out Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail for yourself. There’s, like, an 85% chance you’ll see a moose!


10 thoughts on “Days 5-6: Along the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton

  1. Jessica says:

    okay, so I have a rough idea of the layout of Canadian provinces, but I had to google map your exact location. you are way the hell out there! it looks beautiful, and if I had all the vacation time in the world, I’d traipse through as much of Canada as I could. well, in the summertime.

    totally jealous of all your moose sightings.

  2. William Swyers says:

    Pat here. Jealous of moose sightings! Beautiful scenery! Your bear attack plan was brilliant! I use too many !!!’s!

  3. “tasty and thrilling” – brilliant!

    I had tea with Charlotte today (she’s in the UK for a conference) and we mused about how awesome your trip is… very jealous!

    Also, I’m 90% sure we have the same raincoat. We have such great taste!

  4. What! Transparent panel! US money is so laaaame.

    I didn’t even think of this as a preview trip to find places to come back to. Derp. Me so slow.

    It does look beautiful there! We have a bog right by my house. Shall I take you? 🙂

  5. Kayla says:

    Beautiful! We can add Cape Breton to our list of places to go on vacation together! First, England, though. 🙂

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