At the Top of Cape Breton Island, first-time visitors find an environment that’s both breathtaking and serene; a place where rugged mountains slowly yield to pounding waves, with long stretches of sandy beaches the result.
It’s in this area of small communities flanked by the largest wilderness area in Nova Scotia on the north, the wilderness of the world famous Cape Breton Highlands National Park on the south and west, and the Atlantic ocean making up the remaining boundaries that the descendants of the early Highland Scots mixing traditional fishing livelihoods with more contemporary service-oriented professions having to do with environmental tourism.
Here services for visitors emphasize modern seafood restaurants and lodging while encouraging exploration of cultural and outdoor attractions involving:
- The summer habitat of plentiful numbers of humpback, fin, pilot and minke whales, as well as their dolphin and porpoise counterparts;
- A resident bird population that swells by the season, and draws bird fancier from all over North America
- A system on self-guided and, better yet, guided hiking routes that allow visitors to escape from crowds and to experience one of North America’s most scenic landscapes in a one-on-one fashion while learning about the people and practices of the area, both past and present;
- Outdoor adventure operators who use sailing and motorized vessels to view whales, guided and self guided bicycle, kayak and canoe touring (as well as snow shoes and skis) to help clients to immerse themselves in a wilderness beauty they may only experience once in their lifetime. Clients of these operators are treated to up close and personal encounters with large species such as whales, moose, eagles as well as the smaller foxes, voles and shorebirds;
- A location mid-way between two of the Fabulous Foursome Golf Courses,Highlands Links in Ingonish and Le Portage in Cheticamp.
- A modern interactive museum that brings the history of the Scottish Gaelic-speaking highland settlers to life, complete with the hardships and rewards of early settlement. Here visitors re-live shipwrecks, snowstorms, quilting bees and a culture of home-produced food, textile, implements, clothing and entertainment.
- Protected pristine sand beaches that stretch on for miles along the isolated coastlines, with cliffs which are gradually being worn down by the pounding surf, changing into impromptu tanning salons for resident seal colonies.
- Juried Cape Breton artists and artisans, who offer their pottery, rug hooking, weaving, silk, jewelry, quilts and prints for retail alongside Scottish tartans, kilts and drums.
Here Scottish céilidh and classical concerts are weekly summertime events, culminating with the Celtic Colours Festival in October, and summertime play production celebrates a vibrant highland heritage, while just to the south evening National Park interpretive programs compliment ones visit.
Here, in the autumn, the region hosts the annual Hike The Highlands Festival, lodging visitors in the heart of the area where the majority of the Festival’s designated guided hiking routes are located.
Here, in the winter, reliable snow conditions make the region’s 50+ kilometers of machine-groomed ski trails a Nordic skier’s delight, while guided snow shoe and ski excursions into the highland wilderness results in encounters with wintering moose populations, as well as with coyotes, eagles and smaller mammals.This is a region ready-made for visitors seeking authenticity in their family vacation. The authenticity of:
- An environment unspoiled by industrial or commercial growth;
- A way of life little changed by “progress”;
- A friendliness known the world over;
- A grouping of artisans interpreting the surroundings in which they’ve chosen to reside;
- Support services designed to enhance one’s experience with the authenticity of the area without modifying it;
We invite you to share our home, to meet our people, to enjoy our environment, and to take home memories of our natural wealth.
What people are saying:
|“Parking our car on the side of the road, we followed a trail marked by a small piece of orange plastic tied on a tree and walked up to the top of a hill overlooking the most spectacular and unspoiled view I have ever seen. You will think you are on the edge of the earth. Desolate and beautiful… Other things we did while there were kayaking where we pulled the kayak up on the river side and walked to the ocean side to a deserted and huge beach and proceeded to strip our clothes and hop in the cold ocean.”
– TeddyF (Minneapolis) on Trip Advisor
|“I have stayed at Burtons last summer. It was a wonderful place to stay! Clean, good beds, great host. He even helped us purchase crab then cooked it for us! Beautiful location. This place does not get enough credit on [Trip Advisor]. Actually anything off of the trail doesn’t get enough credit. We went to the “top of the island” and that area was our favorite. Much less touristy.”
– Travelling Foo (Indianapolis) on Trip Advisor
“This wildly scenic driving loop around Cape Breton Highlands National Park delivers a surplus of dramatic coastal scenery. Take a few days to explore the area. You can hike blustery headlands, scope for whales on a tour boat, and dabble around a cove or two in a sea kayak.”
“[Northern Cape Breton] is a much-recommended detour for adventurous travelers hoping to get off the trafficked Cabot Trail. Folks say that it is much like the Cabot Trail used to be 20 or 30 years ago, before the travel magazines started trumpeting its glories and large numbers of tourists started showing up. It’s worth the extra driving and backtracking.”
The campsites in Meat Cove “may have the most dramatic ocean views of any campground in Nova Scotia.”
“This is one of very few places in Canada where you can pedal and whale-watch at the same time — a terrific daily double, to be sure.”
|“No joke, [Aspy Bay oysters at Hideaway Campground] are probably the best oysters on the half I’ve ever had .”
– bigmackdaddy (Brooklyn, NY) on Chowhound
|“The good part about Meat Cove is that it is so far from things, it just feels special to get there . The bad part is that it is so far from things I can’t get there enough.”
– James Goneaux (Toronto) on Flickr
“The single loveliest, most magical place in Canada… breathtaking at any time of year.”
|“By the time you are [in Meat Cove] you are suffering from chronic scenic overload. It is some seriously awesome driving from Bay St Lawrence to Meat Cove. You are at the northern tip of Nova Scotia and the wind reminds you so.”
– Outbj (Washington D.C.) on Flickr
|” You need to stop in Neil’s Harbour – go to the restaurant out on the breakwater and have fish and chips. If you are health and diet conscious, get over it and have the fish and chips!!”
– DanyBoy on Frommer’s Community Forum
|Praise for the Highland Links Golf Club (just a short drive from us)
” Rustic, razor sharp and as thrilling a golf experience as can be found at any public course in North America.”
|” We highly recommend taking your time to explore Cape Breton as there is far more to experience than just a scenic drive around the Cabot trail. The people, culture and food, food, food… are worth the time! Definitely one of our best trips.”
– Shugnorth (Ontario) on Trip Advisor
|“By the time you are [in Meat Cove] you are suffering from chronic scenic overload. It is some seriously awesome driving from Bay St Lawrence to Meat Cove. You are at the northern tip of Nova Scotia and the wind reminds you so.”|
– Outbj (Washington D.C.) on Flickr