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Three Days in Cape Breton

What to see and do on your ultimate Cape Breton getaway? We’ve planned a sample 3-day getaway for you from your home base at the Silver Dart Lodge. Pack some good walking shoes, extra layers (it can get chilly here even in August), a copy of our Cape Breton Treasure Hunt Guide and let’s go!

Day 1: Cabot Trail
Day 2: Hiking Adventure
Day 3: Century Fortress

Day 1: Cabot Trail

11_Cape Breton Highlands National Park - Middle Head view of Cape Smokey
Cape Smokey

After an early breakfast at McCurdy’s (try Margie’s French Toast with a hot blueberry compote and fresh whipped cream), grab a cup of coffee and some oat cakes for the road — it’s time to set out on the legendary Cabot Trail. The Trail is a true Cape Breton must-see; consistently topping international rankings as one of the most scenic drives in the world. First decision: Whether to explore it clock-wise or counter-clockwise? Both are completely enjoyable!

On today’s journey, we recommend heading north, travelling for 15 minutes on Route 1 until you come to Cape Smokey. This 275-meter look off provides a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean, just a teaser of what’s to come.

You can take the St Ann’s Loop or the Englishtown Ferry (cost: $7 Cdn) which takes you across the channel. There may be a bit of a delay while waiting to board, depending on traffic. This area provides kayak, boat and other excursions so check with us at the Silver Dart for some suggestions.

Insider's Tip: Be sure to get your Friends of Silver Dart Lodge discount card before heading out!

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World Class Golf

While driving through scenic St Ann’s, be sure to visit the local artisan shops along the North Shore before traveling to the village of Ingonish, home of the grand Keltic Lodge and Highland Links Golf Course. This is the first of several world-class golfing destinations, as Cape Breton has caught the eye of international golf publications and golfers from around the world. This area features waterfalls, beaches, and amazing hiking trails. The entrance to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park is $7.80 CAD per person.

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The "Top of the Island"

At this point, you will likely find yourself close to what the locals call the “top of the Island.” Have you ever ordered an ice cream in a lighthouse? Check out the Lighthouse Ice Cream Parlour in Neil's Harbour.

Head up to this remote and pristine area, not officially part of the Cabot Trail but worth the trip — especially if it’s not “marking rain.” Raw, unblemished and definitely memorable, this area features everything from the Cabot’s Landing Heritage Site to Meat Cove (where the pavement ends, and the scenery is breathtaking).

Early afternoon you’ll re-enter the National Park. Keep an eye open for the Lone Shieling, a replica of a Scottish crofter's hut. Here, you can hike one of the oldest growth forests in Nova Scotia.

At this point you should be getting close to Pleasant Bay — watch out for moose! In the summer, you can tour the Western Buddhist monastery called Gampo Abbey.

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Lunch Break

By the time you hit Chéticamp you might be ready for lunch or a sweet treat. Try the Harbour Restaurant's homemade apple cake with caramel sauce to fill the craving. The French fishing village of Chéticamp is the home of Flora’s Gift Shop; a must-see when in the area. It also features a spectacular Catholic Church – Église Saint Pierre / St Peter’s which many visitors find inspirational. Wind your way along the Margaree River, and experience the beauty of this majestic waterway.

Insider's Tip: If you hadn't stopped for a sweet treat earlier, drop in at The Dancing Goat for the lemon squares in Margaree.

The Rugged Coastline
Wind Down

Drop into the Red Barn to browse their gift shop or simply turn left of the sign, wind your way back to Baddeck and relax for the evening at the Silver Dart Lodge.

 

Day 2: Hiking Adventure

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Skyline Trail

The second day of your Cape Breton excursion can feature a full-fledged hiking adventure. Plan a morning hiking the Skyline Trail, a seven-kilometre trail in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The trail lies near French Mountain's summit and features stunning ocean views, a dramatic headland cliff, and frequent whale, moose and bald eagle sightings. Where else might you spot a moose and a whale from the same vantage point? It takes about an hour and a half to get to the trail and 3-4 hours to hike it.

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Lunch Break

By now, you’ll likely be more than ready for lunch. You don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy a meal at the world-renowned Cabot Links Golf Resort and their dining room, Panorama. Or, you could keep going to charming Mabou, home of the award-winning family musical group The Rankin Family and have lunch at their Red Shoe Pub.

Insider's Tip: Drop into the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre, and you just might find a square dance in progress. If so, jump in!

23_Glenora Distillery - Single Malt Whiskey tasting
Distillery Tour

At this point, the Glenora Distillery is a great way to wrap up a great day. No tour of Cape Breton is complete without exploring the Distillery — home of Glen Breton Rare, North America's first Single Malt Whisky.

The Rugged Coastline
Wind Down

Make your way back to the Silver Dart Lodge to cap off your day with a glass of wine, supper, and a late-night dip in our outdoor heated pool.

 

Day 3: Century Fortress

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Put the Kettle On

If you have time for a little detour before the Fortress, drop by for tea — a real Cape Breton tradition — at Rita’s Tea Room in Big Pond. While there, you can find out more about Cape Breton’s first lady of song, Juno Award-winning singer and songwriter, Rita MacNeil.

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Fortress of Louisbourg

Explore The Fortress of Louisbourg, an interactive 18th century fortress — the largest reconstruction project in North America. Watch French colonial soldiers fire cannons, try fresh-baked bread straight from the oven and walk the cobbled streets as townspeople and soldiers wander by in 18th century costume. There are a few different ways to get here: back towards the Causeway, the Little Narrows Ferry, or head North on highway 105. Whichever way you choose will feature gorgeous coastline views and quaint villages.

Insider's Tip: Wear something red and see what kind of reaction you get from the French soldiers at the gates (red was the colour of the English soldiers’ uniforms). You can pick up something from our gift shop before you head out.

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Lunch Break

Meal options while at the Fortress vary. For those with an adventurous palate, you can experience an authentic, 18th century meal based on recipes that are over 250 years old! The Beggar’s Banquet in Louisbourg is also great for those with more modern tastes.

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Evening Attractions

From the Fortress, head to Sydney at the heart of Industrial Cape Breton. There, you’ll find more modern attractions like a casino and bustling waterfront boardwalk. Then, it’s just an hour back to Baddeck, across the Seal Island Bridge and Kelley's Mountain. Cap off your day with a visit to the Gaelic Collage of Celtic Arts & Crafts and the Great Hall of Clans in St Ann's.

18_Alexander Graham Bell Museum - Hydrofoil
Wind Down

Continue your history lesson with a visit to the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, take a last look at the magnificent Bras d’or Lakes and end your day with dinner at McCurdy’s — where you’ll take in the view that inspired the great man himself.