13 stunning spots on Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail worth stopping for

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova ScotiaWith dramatic, rocky coastlines, waterfalls, vibrant bays and beaches galore, it’s easy to see why the Cabot Trail is considered one of the world’s best road trips. The 300 kilometre loop around Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton shows off some of the east coast’s best landscapes, while highlighting the history of the area’s Scottish roots.

The iconic Cabot Trail traces the island’s north shore, and has dozens of vantage points revealing panoramic views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the beaches throughout Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Some sharp-eyed visitors have even been known to spot the likes of whales or eagles, so there’s no telling what spectacular sight one might be lucky enough to come across during a day on the trail. Regardless of whether your journey takes two days or two weeks, here are 13 stunning spots on the Cabot Trail worth stopping for.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

La Bloc on the Cabot Trail

Ingonish

One of the most developed spots along the Cabot Trail, Ingonish truly has something for everyone. Golfers will enjoy the scenic Highland Links Golf Course, those looking for R&R can relax at the charming Keltic Lodge which includes a pool and spa, families can camp at sandy Ingonish Beach and practice their surfing skills, while outdoor enthusiasts will be in heaven exploring the surrounding trails.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

The Keltic Lodge

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Ingonish Beach

Popular hikes include the Franey loop which takes two to three hours, as well as Middle Head trail. The 3.8 kilometre pathway winds through a shaded forest before emerging along the coastline, and ends at an incredible lookout point where you’re surrounded by shimmering blue water and craggy cliffsides. The trail is not physically demanding, but there are loose rocks so good footwear is recommended.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Middle Head trail

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Middle Head trail

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Middle Head trail

Don’t miss: Main Street Restaurant and Bakery, which serves up the likes of seafood sandwiches and linguine overflowing with scallops, crab and mussels. So fresh, you’d think the lobster went straight from the ocean to your plate!

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia Insider tip: Head to the charming Keltic Lodge to pick up a delicious picnic before hitting the road again. The adorable set up includes a blanket and basket to take home as a souvenir, as well as sandwiches, drinks, fruit and desserts. Also available at the Harbour Restaurant in Chéticamp.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

A picnic from the Keltic Lodge

Lakies Head

Heading counter-clockwise (which many consider the best route), your next stop will be Lakies Head. Massive reddish boulders are thrown up against the shoreline, creating a natural walkway for visitors to get out and explore the coast. A popular area for lobster fishing boats, it’s also possible to see whales breaching here.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Lakies Head

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Lakies Head

Big Intervale

Just one of many great spots to stop for a picnic, the Big Intervale day use area straddles the serene North Aspy river and isn’t frequented by tour groups, so chances are you’ll get to enjoy the whole place to yourself.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Big Intervale

The Aspy Fault

This spectacular spot overlooks a lush valley where the Aspy Fault line runs for about 40 kilometres, and could prove that Cape Breton was once connected to Africa—so it’s understandably a popular spot for the geologists in the crowd. Not only does it hold scientific significance, but it’s also neat to see how tightly the highway hugs the cliffside from the North Mountain lookout point.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

The Aspy Fault lookout point

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Lone Shieling

One of the more historical spots along the Cabot Trail, Lone Shieling is a stone shepard’s hut that pays homage to the area’s Scottish roots. Farmers often built similar structures in the Scottish Highlands to provide shelter for themselves and their livestock, and visitors to the Canadian version are able to tour the inside before wandering out to the surrounding pathways that wind through the lush Grande Anse Valley.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Lone Shieling

MacIntosh Brook

Remember that picnic you picked up in Ingonish? This is the perfect place to enjoy it. The day use area can be packed with tour groups, but all it takes is a 15 minute walk through the fragrant forest to let you escape the crowds. The shaded, leaf-covered pathways wind past a bubbling brook, leading to quite the spectacle: a gorgeous, gushing waterfall.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

MacIntosh Brook

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

MacIntosh Brook

Pleasant Bay

Known as the island’s whale-watching capital, this village was settled by Scottish immigrants back in the early 1800s. Today, visitors can head out onto the water in search of ocean life, watch the fisherman come back into the harbour, or simply relax and soak in the views.

MacKenzie Mountain

Didn’t have time to stop in Pleasant Bay? Just a couple minutes down the road, you’ll head up a hill and come to a fantastic lookout point with MacKenzie Mountain on one side and the shimmering Gulf of St. Lawrence on the other. Not only does this stop have a great view of Pleasant Bay, but pilot, minke and fin whales can be spotted in the gulf between May and November.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

The view of Pleasant Bay from MacKenzie Mountain

Fishing Cove

It’s only a quick pit stop unless you’re up for the eight kilometre trek that winds down MacKenzie Mountain into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but this viewpoint is a gooder. The roadside stop looks down on Fishing Cove, which is nestled in a bay 335 metres below and was once home to a thriving farming and fishing community. Today, it’s a gorgeous vantage point where leafy green forests contrast the piercing blue water, making it impossible to not want to run down and take a dip.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Fishing Cove

Skyline Trail

If you’re going to do one hike along the Cabot Trail, make sure it’s the Skyline Trail. Located about 20 minutes away from Pleasant Bay the 7.5 kilometre pathway hugs the coastline around the Gulf of St. Lawrence, affording a spellbinding view of the famed roadway. Moose sightings are frequent, and other wildlife in the area include bears, whales and eagles.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

The Skyline Trail

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

The Skyline Trail

While the well-groomed Skyline Trail is mostly flat, it can be a bit of a grind due to the distance, and takes more than two hours to do even at a quick pace. However, the hard work pays off when you get to the viewing platforms perched 250 metres high on French Mountain, where you can enjoy the iconic view of the Cabot Trail winding along the steep cliffside. The scene is particularly spectacular at sunset, and Parks Canada also offers guided walking tours during the summer months.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

The Skyline Trail

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

The Skyline Trail

Insider tip: Tight on time? Head straight to the viewing platforms which are on the left side of the trail at the fork, since the rest of the lookout points along the loop aren’t much different than what you’ll see on other parts of the Cabot Trail. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the platforms from the parking lot, and once you’ve had your fill of scenery you can hightail it straight back—saving yourself at least 45 minutes.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

The Skyline Trail

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

The Skyline Trail

Cap Rouge

Those who aren’t up for tackling the Skyline Trail can enjoy the next best thing at the Cap Rouge lookout point, located just a short distance farther along the road. Be sure to have your selfie stick ready for this pit stop!
Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Chéticamp

One of the larger towns along the Cabot Trail, Chéticamp has lots of accommodation options, restaurants and offers sightseeing cruises. The Acadian fishing village is also the gateway to the Chéticamp campground in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where visitors can pitch a tent or relax in an equipped camp site or oTENTik. During the summer, Parks Canada also offers a learn-to-lobster boil right on the beach—an experience which is not to be missed!

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

The iconic lighthouse in Cheticamp

Baddeck

Since no visit to Cape Breton would be complete without hitting the water, carve out some time in Baddeck for a cruise around the Bras d’Or Lakes with Amoeba Sailing Tours. Canada-Nova-Scotia-Baddeck-CollageTheir beautiful sailboat glides through the piercing blue water as you keep an eye out for Alexander Graham Bell’s mansion, admire the shoreline, and squeal with delight as massive bald eagles circle the boat.

Canada-Nova-Scotia-Baddeck-eagle-6

Anyone else get concerned when your captain starts reading this book?!

Anyone else get concerned when your captain starts reading this book?!

Insider tip: Have a bit of time to spare? Head to Big Bras d’Or which is about half an hour from Baddeck, and book a Bird Island Boat Tour to get a glimpse of some adorable puffins.

A lighthouse in Baddeck

A lighthouse in Baddeck

IF YOU GO:

Where should you stay? With towns situated all along the trail, there are many hotels, inns and hostels to choose from with most visitors staying in Pleasant Bay, Baddeck, Ingonish or Chéticamp. However, one of the best ways to enjoy the scenery is to stay outdoors, and hunker down in one of the campgrounds in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

No gear? No problem! Parks Canada has equipped campsites in both Ingonish and Chéticamp, along with oTENTiks which are sort of like Canadian glamping. The canvas structures have a table and chairs, heater, fire pit, power and enough bunk beds to sleep six to eight people.

RELATED: 10 camping tricks that will make your life easier

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

An oTENTik in Cape Breton Highlands National Park

For a super unique experience, get on the wait list for one of the cocoons in Ingonish, which debuted in 2016. Nestled high among the trees with a clear view straight to the ocean, it’s safe to say that sleeping in cocoon with nothing more than a thin canvas between you and the great outdoors is one of the most memorable nights you’ll ever have.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

The Parks Canada Cocoon

The Parks Canada Cocoon

The Parks Canada Cocoon

Which Cabot Trail route is best? Popular opinion states that travelling the Cabot Trail in a counter-clockwise direction provides the best views—plus, the coast will be on your side of the road so nothing can block your vantage point.

How long does it take to drive the Cabot Trail? As the route is only 300 kilometres, it’s possible to drive the whole trail in about five hours. But what’s the fun in that? The best part about the Cabot Trail is getting out of the car to enjoy the lookout points, hike to waterfalls or relax at the beach, so try to budget at least three nights for the journey.

Is your favourite viewpoint not on this list? Share your secret spot in the comments below!

YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:

Top 10 things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Tidal bore rafting in Nova Scotia: A wild, salty ride

Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia: More than just a lighthouse

Exploring the wonderful wineries in Wolfville, Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia’s South Shore: Historic Lunenburg and charming Mahone Bay

10 quintessential experiences to enjoy in Prince Edward Island, Canada

SHARE THE PINSPIRATION! CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO PIN:

Where to stop along Nova Scotia's Cabot Trail Globe Guide explored the Cabot Trail in partnership with Parks Canada. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.

You may also like...

43 Responses

  1. Don Dixon says:

    Well – we hardly did any of the things mentioned above and still had a wonderful time there. We stayed 2 nights in Ingonish Chalets- checked out the beach and took a trail along a river to an old mining camp. Went to the Keltic Lodge for music(Buddy MacDonald!). Did the end of the Cabot trail by visiting Meat Cove, took a small little trail from the compete up to a cliff over the ocean – breathtaking! Did the Skyline Trail – saw a bear and a little down the road a big bull moose. Then three nights in Mabou. Awesome Celtic music at the Red Shoe Pub which inspired me to start taking fiddle lessons. I think Cape Breton is my favorite spot in the world!!!

    • Ian McPhee says:

      Clyburn Valley, that’s where the gold mine was in case you want to recommend it to anyone, it is a great trail. A few others they don’t mention that I think are fantasic trails people tend to overlook are Corney Brook, Vieux Chemin du Cap Rouge and The Acadian Trail for those looking to do a little up hill hiking and a huge view at the summit.

    • Oh my goodness Don, it does sound like you had an epic trip! I wanted to see Meat Cove as well but don’t think it’s technically on the Cabot Trail so…

  2. Lies says:

    Such a great post and beautiful photos! Once I’ve finished exploring BC, I have to make my way to the other side of Canada. Your post will definitely prepare me for the trip 🙂

  3. Hugo Cura says:

    I keep adding things to visit in Canada to my to-do list and see no ending to this! What a gorgeous country. The landscapes and trails are really nice and I want to do this myself.

    Thank you for sharing these places!

  4. noel says:

    Wow, I love those cocoons in the trees, what a unique experience. The countryside really looks stunning and I would definitely be up for any type of hike with a magnificent view!

  5. Jenna says:

    Great recap of some amazing spots along the Cabot Trail! We took a road trip up there last summer, but we were there about a week before the season got into full swing, so unfortunately a lot of the towns were pretty empty. One of our favorite stops was the Skyline Trail! The Main Street Restaurant and Bakery looks delicious, and those cocoons look amazing! Would love to check them out on our next visit!

  6. Christina says:

    Great post that summarizes the highlights of the Cabot Trail. It is definitely one of my favorite drives in all of Canada. Your pictures are making me want to go again soon.

  7. Sue Reddel says:

    What a wonderful journey to a beautiful destination. I’m a huge seafood lover and that picture of the seafood linguine had me drooling. I also liked the idea of sleeping in the cocoon. Although I’m not sure my back would 😉

  8. Dave says:

    I so love the view and I love the food! You really showed how beautiful Cabot Trail is. Thanks for sharing. This place is definitely worth a visit.

  9. Mansoureh says:

    Such a great place to take a road trip. I would love the idea of sleeping in a cocoon. It is a pure adventure

  10. I’ve always wanted to visit Nova Scotia, ever since it was mentioned in a Friends episode lol! Your photos are beautiful and I’d love to see it in person. Plus, I think it would be really cool to stay in a cocoon!

  11. anto says:

    Nova Scotia is one of the few provinces (along with the Arctic ones) I haven’t been to in Canada. Yet I’d love to one day because I’m selling trips there and would love to see it with my own eyes. The Cabot Trail would definitely be on the itinerary!

  12. Paul Hamilton says:

    Hi Tamara, just completed the trail this weekend and did some camping at Baddeck, Cheticamp and ingonish beach. Your picture on the Twitter feed is from the Skyline trail, I took one as well. Great article, too bad I didn’t have time to do it all. Sat in the red chair though on Acadian trail just north of Cheticamp!

  13. We just made this drive last week. Just breathtaking views. Well worth taking the time to do. Hope we can go back someday. Would love to stay & golf at the Keltic Lodge.

  14. Edster says:

    Great Places indeed…but you missed ‘Meat Cove’ A little off the Trail but well worth the Drive!

  15. Allan Steele says:

    You did a wonderful job and I enjoyed it very much.I’m a local and I dearly love my Island.
    A number of years back while heading out for a round of golf at ingonish golf club I was paired up with a young couple from the states who were there on their honeymoon.They planned a one day stop to golf and now this was their sixth day,said they were near broke and had to leave the next morning they had spent most of their money.
    They told me on our parting they were coming back and I bet they did.

    • Hahah wow Allan, that’s adorable about the couple! I think they made a great choice extending their stay in the area 🙂

    • Karen Curtis says:

      Allan, I often think I would love to live there in the summer, everything about the island entrances me! Where we stayed, in Margaree, people who live on the road would wave to us!! I loved it!

  16. Michelle Gillard says:

    Very nicely done. We Cape Bretoners are very fortunate to be able to hop in the car and “do the trail” at any time. I would like to mention that the Cabot Trail in the Fall of the year (October) is nothing short of spectacular. Your head is constantly swiveling between the ocean view and the incredible palette of colours created by the foliage. It is breathtaking and a very different experience of the Trail.

  17. Lori O'Brien says:

    My husband, daughter and I just returned from another memorable trip to Cape Breton. We did the McIntosh Brook trail, Lone Sheiling and the highlight – Skyline. It was a wonderful weekend and the park did not disappoint with spectacular views. However, we were very upset to see numbers of people ignoring the signs to remain on the boardwalk to protect the fragile vegetation. I wonder if there is something more that can be done in addition to the gentle reminders. 🙁

  18. Dennis Murray says:

    Maryanne falls. Well worth the drive in to this beautiful waterfall.

  19. I have never thought that Nova Scotia is so stunning, Tamara! I would love to go there!

  1. September 3, 2016

    […] MIGHT ALSO ENJOY: 13 stunning spots on Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail worth stopping for Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia: More than just a […]

  2. October 3, 2016

    […] 13 stunning spots on Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail worth stopping for […]

  3. January 2, 2017

    […] hospitality, celtic music and lobster (so much lobster!) before spending a few days driving the iconic Cabot Trail and glamping in the national parks. Everyone should add that trip to their bucket list! We finished […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

16.1K Shares
Share12.6K
Pin3.5K
Tweet6
+14
Stumble