Atlantic Canada is blessed with the unsurpassed beauty and unique character of Cape Breton Island.

When world-renowned telephone inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, elected to build a summer estate on Cape Breton Island in the early 1900s, he chose the place over any other spot on the planet. He justified his choice by saying, “I have travelled around the globe; I have seen the Canadian and American Rockies, the Andes, the Alps, and the Highlands of Scotland, but for simple beauty, Cape Breton outrivals them all.”
Quite an endorsement for the small island first settled by Scottish immigrants in 1629.

It has been more than a century since Bell praised the tiny island lying off the northeast coast of Nova Scotia, yet Cape Breton continues to elicit rave commendations for its striking natural beauty, friendly people and unique character. In fact, the results of a survey conducted by National Geographic Traveller magazine named the island the second best travel destination in the world for sustainable tourism.

Surrounded by the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the west and the Atlantic Ocean in the east, the only road to the isle is a paved causeway. For its modest size Cape Breton is richly endowed with mountains, forests, highland valleys and pastoral lowlands that give way to 1600 miles of ruggedly beautiful seacoast. The island is further defined by enchanting small towns, tiny fishing villages and, at its heart, the Bras d’Or Lakes–Cape Breton’s inland saltwater sea.

What makes the island particularly unique is its culture which has been shaped by an ethnic mélange that includes a strong Scottish influence combined with First Nations aboriginals, Irish, English, French, German and Welsh. This melting pot of backgrounds has served to produce an intriguing blend of music, cuisine and dance.
For instance, the music of Cape Breton ranges from traditional Celtic tunes to passionate coal mining songs, bag piping, fiddle playing and folk and country tunes. In fact, the island without its music would be like France without its wine or the Caribbean without sunshine. Throughout summer visitors can tap into the island’s truly special brand of cultural entertainment where every day, somewhere on Cape Breton, there will be an evening Ceilidh, a step dancing performance, summer festival, theatre or a good old fashioned square dance.

Happy trails

Cape Breton is an island of scenic driving trails including the famous Cabot Trail, a route often called the most beautiful drive in eastern North America. Named after the explorer, John Cabot, it embodies dramatic coastline, rugged coves, headlands, inland mountains and forests. It also runs through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, one of Canada’s most renowned parkland preserves where moose are often seen grazing in the quiet shallows of lakes and streams. The park has 26 hiking trails ranging from low-impact to challenging and there’s also a full range of visitor services including excellent camping.

The Ceilidh Trail is a west coast drive where beaches are sandy and the water is warmer than on the east shore. This drive weaves through fishing villages and small harbours where visitors can buy fresh lobster and fish or stop at a small, family-run restaurant. The Fleur-de-lis Trail winds along the southeast portion of the island and has much the same scenery as the Ceilidh drive whereas the Bras d’Or Lakes trail is much different.
It circles Cape Breton’s inland sea which is dotted with beaches, picnic sites, pretty villages, island craft shops and numerous opportunities for hiking, boat tours, scuba diving and other water-based activities. Only by taking one or more of these island drives can visitors hope to capture the essence of Cape Breton and its engaging nature.

Hit the links

In addition to its distinctive culture and unspoiled environment, the island has some of the best golf courses in Canada. Although they are by no means the only links on Cape Breton, a quartet of courses called the Fab Four–Highlands Links, Bell Bay, Le Portage and the Dundee Golf Club–are perhaps the best known tracks on the island. Together, they offer a diversity of spectacular and challenging layouts that incorporate either breathtaking views of the Atlantic or remarkable vistas of the island’s picturesque landscape. Most famous of the foursome, Highlands Links, is frequently named the top course in the country and has been ranked 57th best in the world. This fabulous foursome, together with others, designates Cape Breton as one of Canada’s principal golf destinations.

Island highlights

-Alexander Graham Bell Museum and Historic Site

. Here, visitors can explore the amazing world of the famous telephone inventor and learn how he bridged the world between sound and silence. The museum that’s located in the charming waterfront town of Baddeck (where there’s a Celidh ever night during summer) on the shores of the Bras d’Or Lakes, films, artifacts and photographs depict how ideas also led the telephone inventor to create man-carrying kites, airplanes and the hydrofoil boat. The Bell museum is an important repository that reveals the life and legacy of a world-renowned genius.

-Fortress of Louisbourg

. The early history of the island comes alive at this 18th century fortress, the site from which the French once hoped to reign over North Atlantic navigation in the 1700s. Located on the island’s east shore, this reconstructed fortress is one of the largest national historic sites in Canada. Here, visitors step back in time to 1744, mingle with scores of period-costumed interpreters and view displays and re-enactments of early military life.

A special kind of place

Cape Breton’s diverse landscape and its maritime environment support a mother lode of interesting pursuits. Notwithstanding the island’s abundance of hiking and walking trails and world-class golf, the place is awash in water-based activities: saltwater sport fishing, canoeing, cycling, tremendous surfing and some of the best bird watching in North America. Bell was right to praise the physical beauty of the island even though he failed to mention Cape Breton’s myriad of other attributes. It’s a place where islanders treat visitors like relatives and where music seeps into the souls of all who come to experience its inimitable character.

For Cape Breton travel information call 1-800-565-0000 or go online at or