The Cabot Trail is one of Canada’s ultimate scenic highways. Located on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, the Cabot Trail is a 298 km (185 miles) scenic drive through Cape Breton Highland’s National Park and the Atlantic Coast. It is considered one of the best road trips in the world.
We drove the Cabot Trail in a counter clockwise direction starting in Baddeck and ending in Cheticamp. The Cabot Trail can be driven in a day but we recommend four days to really explore everything there is to see and do.
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Cabot Trail Stops Map
Make sure to give plenty of time to see all the sights. There is a lot to see and do on the Cabot Trail including spectacular coastal hiking trails, cultural experiences, and great adventures. So, are you ready to explore the best stops on the Cabot Trail? Let’s go!
Cabot Trail Stops You Cannot Miss
These are the stops along the Cabot Trail in order as we saw them driving counterclockwise from Baddeck to Cheticamp.
We set off from Halifax early one morning to spend five days exploring the famed coastal. After the nearly four-hour drive north from Halifax, our Cabot Trail road trip started in the town of Baddeck where we continued in a counter-clockwise direction. The next few days were spent exploring the entire loop through the Northern half of Cape Breton Island.
- Want to explore more of Nova Scotia? Check out Best Things to do in Nova Scotia – The Ultimate Travel Guide
Baddeck was the summer home to Alexander Graham Bell and there is an excellent museum built near his cottage named “Beinn Bhreagh”, Gaelic for “Beautiful Mountain.”
The Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site is an excellent history lesson of not only the invention of the telephone but other achievements by Bell. He was an avid inventor working on everything including the first aircraft to fly in the Commonwealth (it also flew farther than the Wright Brothers).
He also developed many medical machines including the iron lung to help polio patients breathe and he developed techniques for the hearing impaired, becoming good friends with Helen Keller. Alexander Graham Bell also founded the National Geographic Society.
2. The Uisge Ban
Just outside of Baddeck is one of the most pleasant hikes we took during our drive. The Uisge Ban (pronounced Ishkaban) hike is an easy 1 1/2 km stroll to a beautiful waterfall. It goes through a mossy forest meandering along a running stream.
Roots stick out of the ground twisting around fallen tree trunks and rocks create small rapids in the running water.
Watch our Uisge Ban Waterfall Hike
The waterfall itself is beautiful. Its size surprised us. We were expecting a much smaller set of waterfalls, but it’s a tall three-tiered cascade where you can swim or soak in the bottom pools.
Many trees have grown over, blocking sight of the top and keeping it from being the ultimate photo stop, but for a day in nature, it’s wonderful. T
3. North River Kayaking
North River Kayak Tours is an excellent stop for all levels of kayaking. Located on the North River, your excursion starts in easy flowing water out to the bay where you’ll witness the Cape Breton Coast from a different view.
Expect to see several bald eagles flying overhead. We even saw a nest with babies sticking their heads out, waiting for mom to arrive.
Fresh tea and baked goods are served during a tea break on a picturesque beach where paddlers can take a short hike to another pretty waterfall.
Dave and I love kayaking, but I must say, this was one of the most pleasant kayaking excursions we’ve ever had.It was a relaxed, easy-going half-day excursion that offered beautiful views and great conversation.
- Enjoy our other Kayaking trip of Nova Scotia’s South Shore.
- When traveling around the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia, you must get out on the water. Watch our kayaking video
4. Glenora Distillery
Technically on the Cleideh Trail, The Glenora Distillery is still a great stop on your Cabot Trail Road trip. Glenora is the first single malt whisky distillery in North America. Tours occur daily to see how the whisky is made and there are tastings as well.
We bought a bottle to take home. It’s our favourite souvenir whenever we travel.
Read our favourite Canadian Road Trips.
5. Clucking Hen Cafe and Bakery
A quirky bakery along the Cabot Trail between North River Kayaking and Ingonish Beach is the Clucking Hen Cafe and Bakery. It not only is a good stop for delicious coffee and pastries, it’s a fun photo opportunity.
There aren’t a lot of lunch stops along this route of the Cabot Trail, so be sure to bring some snacks and plenty of water. But make sure to stop and enjoy the few cafés along the way, the best part of the Cabot Trail drive is meeting the people.
The people of Nova Scotia remind us a lot of the people of Ireland. They are so friendly and open, you’ll end up having conversations with everyone you meet.
6. Ingonish Beach
The excitement of the Cabot Trail really begins once you reach Ingonish Beach, located in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. This is a great place to make a base for a day or two as the beach is beautiful and there are plenty of hikes in the area.
Plus, there are excursions, boat tours, and kayak rentals. A corner store is located about 10 km away from Igonish Beach where you can stock up on supplies,
7. Glamping at Ingonish Beach
We booked two nights in an Otentik which was absolutely perfect. If you don’t have camping gear, the Otentik is the way to go. Read more at The Most Beautiful National Parks in Canada
These glamping style camps sleep up to eight people and are built on solid foundations offering room to walk around and even play cards at the wooden table inside.
All cooking and cleaning materials are supplied including a small camp stove, or you can use the barbecue out front. We love this style of camping. It’s a great introduction for those who aren’t keen on sleeping in a tent, but who want to try something rugged and new.
There are a few different campsites for the Otentik, we stayed in the Ingonish Beach camp which was a great location.
Pick up a copy of The Lonely Planet Nova Scotia to help you plan your trip.
8. Lantern Walk
When staying near Ingonish Beach, be sure to go on the Lantern Walk. We were surprised just how much we enjoyed it!
Starting at dusk, the tour is run by Parks Canada and they put on a great show. It begins with your guide lighting lanterns for everyone that will direct your way as you walk through the forest.
There is a lot of history in these parts, and our guide told us of all the tales of the early settlers. There are plenty of ghost stories too. The mood is set with people chanting in the forest and shadows walking through the path.
We found this thoroughly entertaining and informative. It’s one of the most unique things you’ll ever do in a National Park!
9. Hike The Middle Head Trail
If you drive through the Keltic Lodge (which we highly recommend staying at if you want to splurge or have it in your budget) you’ll find the entrance to the Middle Head Trail.
The 3.8 km route takes you through forests and fields leading out to high cliffs for beautiful views of Ingonish Beach to the right and the Cabot Trail winding north to the left along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The walk takes about two hours and is well maintained.
Looking for Nova Scotia Adventures? Enjoy our time Tidal Bore Rafting on the World’s Highest Tides.
10. Lakies Head
One of the most striking parts of the Cabot Trail is the rocky coast of Lakies Head. The shore is amass of rocky boulders where visitors can walk out to explore the coast. There’s a bridge and boardwalk that will take you out to a viewing platform and you can stop there.
But half the fun for us was hopping over the rocks in search of that perfect tourist shot.
11. Zodiac Tours at the Pier
As you continue farther north you must take a turn onto Wharf Road of the Cabot Trail. This takes you out of Cape Breton highlands national National Park for a little bit, but it is a charming fishing village.
Here you’ll see that classic Canadian East Coast view of Cape Breton fishing boats lining the pier. Walk along the beach and if you are up for some excitement, you can take a zodiac tour to do some whale watching.
You can take whale watching tours and boat tours on the Cabot Trail to see the coast from a different perspective. See our zodiac tour of Antarctica
12. White Point
Our next stop on the Cabot Trail took us to White Point, located outside the National Park. One of the most beautiful hiking trails on the Cabot Trail is the White Point Hiking Trail at Neil’s Harbour.
There are excellent hiking trails taking you out to overlook the high sea cliffs offering beautiful panoramic views.
13. Grave of the Unknown Sailor
Out on the point, there is a cemetery where you’ll encounter the grave of the unknown sailor paying tribute to the fisherman lost at sea.
The grave of the Unknown Sailor is marked by a wooden plaque and large cross. Beside the Unknown Sailor is the grave of Dan Dixon. When looking up who this man was, I found out that Dan hiked daily to Point Hill and took great pride in maintaining the cemetery of the unknown sailor.
14. Neil’s Harbour
Neil’s Harbour is a tiny fishing village with colourful fishing boats docked in the water. There are only 300 residents in the village but the population soars in the summer with people stoping along the Cabot Trail. There’s the Periwinkle cafe, the lighthouse ice cream parlour and whale tours leave here by zodiac.
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the scenes of Nova Scotia featuring White Point in the video below to really get a sense of its beauty. watch our video here
15. Coffee a the Pumpkin Patch
We had some of the best coffee on our entire trip at the Pumpkin Patch in town. Everything in the store is organic and the coffee is delicious, but the homemade fudge is to die for.
The owner even sells organic beauty products that you can buy online. Don’t miss stopping here to get a coffee to go (and to stock up on sweet treats). When driving in a counterclockwise direction, it is located between Red River and the Skyline Trail.
16. Pleasant Bay
Another stop off the Cabot Trail is the fishing village of Pleasant Bay. It was here that we met many friendly local fishermen who chatted with us as we took photographs and flew our drone over the spectacular coast.
There’s a great spot at the top of a hill located beside the parking lot where the fishermen hang out. You can sit on Muskoka Chairs (Adirondack chairs if you prefer) to take in the view. This might be a great spot to have a picnic lunch.
17. Mackenzie Mountain Look off
Mackenzie Mountain is another great lookout viewpoint. From the highlands plateau, the Mackenzie Mountain Lookout offers grogeous views of Pleasant Bay. If you didn’t have time to do any whale watching while touring the Cabot Trail, you can take you time to keep an eye out for minke whales and pilot whales migrating through here.
18. Skyline Trail
It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The Skyline Trail is the most famous stop on the Cabot Trail and with good reason.
This 7.5 km loop is one of the longer hikes on the trail, but it is very easy and the scenes are worth every minute. We hiked at sunset which is highly recommended.
The sunsets over the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the crowds are much lighter at this time of day. We saw about 10 other people on the boardwalk during our time on the Skyline Trail, but it is so spread out, we barely noticed them at all.
There are several tiers for watching the sunset and if you really want some privacy, you can hike down further off the boardwalk to view the scenery from the tip of the trailhead on a narrow dirt trail.
- To see more about the Skyline Trail, check out our post about our experience there.
19. French Mountain
The Cabot Tail has some of the best scenic stops in Canada. If you have the time, pay attention to road signs and stop at all the lookout points. This is the classic view of the Cabot Trail from the Veterans Monument half way down French Mountain when driving counterclockwise.
There are easy hikes into waterfalls and even easier hikes out to lookout points. There are so many stops along the Cabot Trail, you could easily take a week to explore them all.
We popped in at many of the turn-offs to take in the panoramic views of the Cabot Trail. Another popular view along the way is Cap Rouge exhibit.
20. Beaches of the Cabot Trail
There are beautiful secluded beaches on the Cabot Trail. We stopped at one on our way to Cheticamp just after the Skyline Walk that makes for a gorgeous stroll and a perfect vantage point of the iconic winding road view of the Cabot Trail.
Stopping at the beaches along the Cabot Trail lets you see the scale of the massive sea cliffs and rolling hills. It’s rare to find beaches that are so pristine in this world.
Few people stop to take a look so you will often have them all to yourself. Or perhaps, it will be just you and an artist capturing the scene before their eyes.
The Best Beaches on the Cabot Trail are:
21. Epic Views
If you love taking road trips, you’ll love exploring the Cabot Trail of Cape Breton Island. The road winds through the Highland Plateau surrounded by green rolling hills. It is truly one beautiful view after another.
The Acadian Village of Cheticamp is a great base for hiking the skyline trail. It’s just 20 minutes from the trailhead. Make sure to visit the Elizabeth LeFort Gallery and Museum at Les Trois Pignons to see her rug hook portraits.
The Island Sun Resort is a great place to stay at the mouth of the Margaree River. This is where you can also try your hand at fly fishing at the Margaree River. It is considered one of the most beautiful rivers in the world and was appointed as a heritage river.
And end your day with fresh Nova Scotia Lobster. And once you’ve had lobster in Nova Scotia, your bucket list is complete.
And that my friends is a tour of Cape Breton Island’s Cabot Trail. Isn’t it amazing?
About the Cabot Trail
While the Cabot Trail can be driven in one short day, we suggest 3-5 days to drive the Cabot Trail. There are so many things to see and do, you’ll really be missing out.
Driving it in a counter clockwise direction puts you on the outside lane offering better views of the coast. But the real views happen when you get out of the car.
Boook your accommodation in advance. It is even recommended to make a base for a day or two to explore and do day trips from your campsite or hotel.
What to Pack for the Cabot Trail
Pack extra water and snacks in advance. Surprisingly, there are not a lot of places to stop for food along the Cabot Trail.
Be sure to pack hiking boots. There are a lot of trails along the coast and you’d be missing out if you didn’t get out to explore them.
We suggest packing water-shoes for your Cape Breton trip. The shores can be rocky, but water shoes let you hop in and out of kayaks, wade in the shallow waters, and take short hikes inland.
Accommodation along the Cabot Trail:
- Inverary Resort for the start of the route on the West side of the Cabot Trail.
- Island Sun Resort (for the Eastern side of the Cabot Trail.
- Camping or Otentiks in the National Park for the Northern portion of the route.
Map of the Cabot Trail, Canada
Click on the Interactive map for all the stops on the Cabot Trail that we mention.
Planning a Road Trip? Check out our list of the Best Songs to Get You Through the long Drive
Have you driven the Cabot Trail? What is your favourite road trip in the world?
Our trip around the Cabot Trail was in partnership with Nova Scotia Tourism who we went on assignment with to capture adventures and photography around Nova Scotia.
Find out more about traveling around Nova Scotia at VisitNovaScotia.com. All opinions are our own.