About Northern Cape Breton
“…Where the mountains meet the sea….”. This phrase comes closest to describing northern Cape Breton generally, and more specifically the area north of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The northeastern-most region of Nova Scotia, Cape Breton sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean like a finger pointing to the heavens, and its mountainous northern tip is its crown jewel.
This region, from the village of Cheticamp on the island’s northwest coast north through Pleasant Bay to Cape North and Bay St. Lawrence, and southeast to Ingonish on the northeast coast, is home to some of the most magnificent scenery in all of North America. Here the low mountains of the northern Appalachian chain expose their rugged flanks to the crashing Atlantic, while their flat tops hide wilderness plateaus where moose live in abundance and guided hikers revel in the undisturbed beauty unfolding before them.
Here eagles soar along craggy cliffs, and over miles of near-deserted beaches, looking down at whales at play: minke whales, fin whales, pilot whales and humpbacks, all of whom summer along the rocky northern coastline, and share that coastline with thousands of seals and dolphins.
Here the Cabot Trail, one of the world’s most scenic auto routes, winds over the mountains and down the valleys to the ocean, offering auto-bound visitors a deceptively brief glimpse of the most beautiful scenery many of them will see in their lifetimes. Most of these “tourists” share a common regret….that they’d not planned to spend more time in this seemingly isolated area that offers so many opportunities to surround oneself with solitude and splendor.
Here outdoor recreational opportunities abound: Whale watching tours from the island’s northern tip place admirers of these massive mammals in the midst of the pods. Guided wilderness hiking tours take visitor through miles of moose country, even offering evening van tours to observe these nocturnal giants contentedly grazing. Guided kayak tours take novice paddlers on shoreline outings, with eagles gliding overhead and shorebirds foraging along the beaches. Guided and self-guided cycling tours take the slow lane on the Cabot Trail, with riders smelling the salt air mingled with the scent of forests and wildflowers.
Here, although the Highlands Links, Canada’s Number One rated public golf course, enjoys well-deserved popularity in Ingonish, at the southern limit of the region, knowledgeable outdoors enthusiasts keep to the north, immersing themselves in the beauties of the island’s tip. Staff at popular properties in Ingonish such as The Keltic Lodge and The Glenghorm Beach Resort, as well as at the more northerly Markland Coastal Resort send clients to the northern tip when requested information about the most scenic region on the island. Through four seasons, including during the Celtic Colours fall festival, outdoor lovers revel in the beauty of the joining of mountains and ocean.
It is here that resident artisans, inspired by the beauty around them, create works of art that express their appreciation of this beauty, and then offer this work to the public through Arts North.
Here large accommodations property are in the minority, with smaller family operated Bed and Breakfast businesses, motels, efficiency units and country inns the norm, offering visitors the chance to interact with local residents in their own homes at a much slower, friendlier and cost-effective rate than the visitors are accustomed.
Here seafood is purchased “at the wharf”, from the fishing boats, and taken back to one’s cottage or campsite for a true “fresh from the ocean” meal. Lobster, queen crab, mussels and oysters are all landed here, and in some cases, raised here in our large coastal harbours. The meal of fresh seafood is often topped off with dessert made from the wild strawberries and wild blueberries gathered by visitors whose “relaxation index” has gradually registered higher the longer they remain in the area.
Overriding everything here, however, is the absolute beauty…
…..the absolute beauty of mountains meeting the sea, of the greens meeting the blues meeting the whites;
…the absolute beauty of miles long, near deserted, totally accessible sand beaches, with colors fading from red through pink to white;
…the absolute beauty of wilderness hiking routes where to meet another party is to consider the area to be crowded, and yet to come to believe that the forest, the ocean and the sky are indeed crowded with wildlife;
…….the absolute beauty of a region unspoiled by the environmental compromises of the twentieth century, yet offering all the services sought by travelers of the twenty first century;
……the absolute beauty of communities retaining a way of life and a system of values that others have long left behind, yet working together to avail themselves of the communications and opportunities of the future;
…..and perhaps the most important beauty, the beauty of sense of rejuvenation that comes over visitors to the region after they’ve spent a number of days in northern Cape Breton.
The Northern Cape Breton region is central to the best scenery, wildlife and outdoor activities at this end of the island. For additional information on the northern Cape Breton area, including lots of outdoor images, visit www.northerncapebreton.com.
There are ample accommodations, restaurants, food stores and filling stations. Included among them are:
…all offer a high quality Bed and Breakfast experience at reasonable prices.
…all offer self-contained multi-room efficiency accommodations for couples or families
Northern Cape Breton is the summer home of a wide variety of whales. Captains Cyril and Ray Fraser and their crew treat you to a cliff-side voyage on The Oshan www.oshan.ca, and the excitement of up close encounters with minkes, humpbacks, fin and pilot whales.
Freewheeling Adventures offers what we consider to be among the best guided cycling tours in eastern North America, Europe and the Caribbean, and they offer a wonderful Cabot Trail tour if a guided round-the-Trail tour is to your liking. They are among the nicest folks with whom one could ride, visit the web site at: www.freewheeling.ca