Does anyone out there have their eyes set on venturing to "The Great White North" in the future? Turns out, "The Great White North" transforms into miles of green come summer time, making it an ideal choice for a July or August destination. Specifically, the northern section of Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, is worth a visit because of its cliff-side scenery, seaside towns, and if you like to golf, it has one of the top golf courses in the world. Given I married a Canadian golfer, it was on the top of our travel bucket-list. So we booked a trip with my in-laws at Cabot Links -- it was the perfect spot for the boys to swing the clubs and the girls to wine and dine. We loved it so much that we returned the following summer for another round! This summer travel guide to Cape Breton will cover all your bases for exploring northern Nova Scotia -- from golfing, to the best accommodations, and even tips if you plan to take a road trip along the scenic Cabot Trail.
For your Planning Purposes
Getting there: Most visitors will fly into Halifax Stanfield International Airport, which is 3 hours away. There are two closer airports for private planes: the first is Sydney J.A. Douglas McCurdy (2 hour drive), and the other is Allan J. MacEachen Regional Airport (1 hour drive). Both airports offer helicopter transfers. If you're driving from New Brunswick, PEI, or Halifax, take the Canso Causeway to Inverness. Lastly, there is a ferry option from Newfoundland to North Sydney.
Getting around: You'll need access to a car for this trip.
When to visit: The high season in Cape Breton is May-October, when temperatures are at their warmest. However, don't bust out the bikini just yet! August temperatures can still be quite chilly -- highs of 70 degrees. The winter months are cold, and most accommodations and parks are closed.
What to do in Cape Breton
Highlights if you're in a hurry!
- Play a round of golf at Cabot Links: If you’re thinking of heading to Northern Nova Scotia and staying at Cabot Links, chances are you are a golf-fanatic. In full disclosure, I am not a golfer, but both my husband and father-in-law said the golfing was top notch, both in terms of views and quality of the course. My husband called it "the Pebble Beach of Canada."
- Go shopping in Baddeck: It might not be 5th Ave, per se, but I shopped till I dropped in this tiny town! Baddeck is a small fishing village about 40 minutes from Cabot Links, with a Main Street about a half a mile long. At first glance it may seem like you'll finish exploring the town in an hour (or less); however, I managed to hit the jackpot of shopping! The boutiques were well stocked, and carried high quality brands. Before I knew it, hours had passed by.
- Go driving and hiking along the Cabot Trail: Summer travel to Cape Breton is not complete until you've explored the Cabot Trail! Take a day to hit the road and explore the hikes along this highway. The Cabot Trail is a loop along the the northern part of Cape Breton Island, where you can stop in quaint fishing villages such as Cheticamp, Ingonish, and Baddeck. Cape Breton Highlands National Park features 26 hiking trails that hug the coastline and feature stunning views.
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Check out this article detailing more on the Cabot Trail, golfing at Cabot Links, and other activities for your summer travel guide to Cape Breton.
Luxury Accomodations in Cape Breton
- Cabot Links is the hotel to book for both a pampered golf vacation, and a little R&R. Each room has unobstructed views of the golf course and ocean. From your bedroom, you'll feel tucked in behind the sand dunes, but can still hear the waves lapping against the shoreline. And as you relax in your room, you'll be able to watch groups of golfers pass by. If you came to golf, it's an easy and quick walk to the start of the action! An an added bonus, the hotel has the best sunset views in town.
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Would you like to learn more what it's like to stay at Cabot Links? Here's an additional article you may find helpful for your summer travel to Cape Breton:
I Also Considered This Hotel
- Cape Brenton is not exactly the mecca of luxury lodges, but another popular hotel is Keltic Lodge, which is a good choice if you're planning to take road trip along Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
The Best Restaurants in Cape Breton
Northern Nova Scotia may not have a large mecca of restaurants, but foodies! -- do not despair! There are quite a number of delicious spots to put on your must-try list.
- Splurge for one meal at Panorma, which is the formal dining restaurant at Cabot Links. They feature delicious and creative dishes highlighting Nova Scotian cuisine. It's not a bad view as you devour your meal -- the floor to ceiling windows provide unobstructed views of the golf course and the Gulf of St. Lawrence
- If you prefer a more causal option, check out Cabot Public House. Also, for early risers, Cabot Bar is available for breakfast and also serves lunch.
- Located 15-20 min further south from Cabot Links is the Glenora Inn and Distillery. This distillery is famous for North America's oldest single malt whiskey! Although many visitors venture here for a distillery tour, there's also an onsite restaurant that has great food, and even caters to vegans with some tasty menu items.
- Along the Cabot Trail, you'll find The Rusty Anchor, which has delicious lobster rolls. It's a casual restaurant, but has great food and panoramic views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
- If you find yourself venturing to Baddeck on the other direction of the island (about 45-60 min away from Cabot Links) make sure to check out Baddeck Lobster Suppers for steamed lobsters and mussels. It's a very casual (but delicious) family friendly option. For about $40 you can order either salmon, lobster, crab, or steak with an endless supply of steamed mussels, New England Chowder and a dessert. If you're looking for something a little more formal in Baddeck, check out the Telegraph House.
Restaurants For A Future Visit
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Would you like to learn more insider info about my favorite spots to eat and food experiences? This guide has more information for planning your summer travel to Cape Breton.
Tips for traveling to Cape Breton
- Canadians think a 3 hour car ride is short: Note to self...next time husband plans a small portion of trip, review his section of the itinerary. After we landed in Halifax, my husband told me the hotel was a "short" 3 hour ride from the airport. My jaw dropped, but he didn’t seem to think twice about this “dilemma.” The views are worth the drive, but I’m giving you the head’s up now as you plan your own getaway. While there are two closer airports, these are only available for private planes. The first is Sydney J.A. Douglas McCurdy (2 hour drive), and the other is Allan J. MacEachen Regional Airport (1 hour drive). Both airports offer helicopter transfers.
- Non golfers- embrace the time to read: Cabot Links is located in Inverness, which is a very small town. Although golfers flock from all over the world to play the course, non golfing guests may want to plan to curl up with a good book, as there aren't many shops to visit nearby. If you're up for an adventure away from the hotel, you can take your car along the Cabot Trail (highway) for access to nearby hiking trails. In case you missed it above, read The Best Activities to do in Cape Breton this Summer for more itinerary inspiration.
- Be careful on the drive: Moose are to Canada what squirrels are to Connecticut. Be very careful as you drive along the Cabot Trail. In addition, the hairpin curves may creep up on you, so drive slowly.
- Prepare for limited cell service: There are sections of the drive with no cell service. You may want to download any Google Maps ahead of time. Altneratively, you can purchase a Canadian SIM card for an extra boost of coverage.
- Singin' in the Rain: It's pretty common for some cloudy and rainy days to roll through, even during the summer. My husband (a Newfie) once told me his memories of summer BBQ'ing involved a hat and gloves. Eeeek. However, don't despair if there's some clouds and rain in your predicted forecast. Oftentimes it's raining in one spot of Cape Breton and sunny somewhere else on the island. Or, it may pass quickly. It's part of the charm of Canada, so just embrace it and have fun. On that note, it's a good idea to pack layers too
That's a Wrap
If you're a golfer, Cabot Links is a once-in-a-life-time trip, with an oceanside course that rivals any in the world. Alternatively, if you're heading there as a non-golfer, you can look forward to some lazy reading, and beautiful hiking trails. Although we did this trip before kids were in the picture, I know we will return with them one day to explore more of the Cabot Trail. It's a green gem in the Great White North!
I hope this article has inspired your own adventurous getaway to Cape Breton. If you have any questions, or your own travel tips, please leave them in the comments below. Also, don't forget to sign up for the monthly newsletter, packed with travel tips, upcoming news, and access to FREE destination itineraries.
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