Posts tagged cape breton

Cape Breton Highlands

Exploring Nova Scotia’s gorgeous Cape Breton Island where we spent a day doing the Cabot Trail through Ingonish and Chéticamp before sea kayaking around Port Hood, Nova Scotia.

Although it’s been up for debate and later concluded that John Cabot did not, in fact, make his first Canadian land break on Cape Breton Island, the province still loves to name things after him while embracing an increasingly prevalent Scottish heritage. Why bother fact checking when the place is this beautiful?!

Generic Van Life Cape Breton Highlands Road
There’s the money shot!

After crossing the causeway in the AM, we decided to do the Cabot Trail counterclockwise and start off heading from Baddeck to Ingonish. The few mountain lookout points were lovely, but just weren’t as spectacular as the photos and magazines lead us to believe. As usual, we took our time and stopped at just about every vista point where we soaked in the sun and questioned if we were really in Canada. By the time we reached Pleasant Bay, we finally got to see what all the hype was about. The Western part of the island put all the magazines and postcards to shame – it was even more beautiful than we had imagined. If you’ve ever seen photos of the coasts of Ireland and Scotland and thought you’d never get a chance to see them in person, just hop on a plane to Nova Scotia instead!

Generic Van Life - Cape Breton Ingonish
The National Park has some pretty beautiful spots

We stopped at La Bloc Beach within the Cape Breton Highlands National Park for some lunch where we had an amazing view of the cliffs and a constant battle with the wind. There’s something pretty amazing about a place that is so rugged and powerful making you feel so peaceful and calm. You really need to take a minute to admire the natural beauty of the area and rejoice that it’s protected land.

Generic Van Life Cape Breton La Bloc Beach
Lovely lunch spot on La Bloc Beach

As we finished the loop, we drove through some of the small towns outside of the National Park, like Chéticamp, and thought about how amazing it would be to wake up to that view every morning. Luckily for us, we can wake up to a different view every morning and have the freedom to abandon ship when the weather is bad. We stopped in Belle Côte for some fish and chips and set out to find a sleeping spot for the night. We had stopped at a lookout point not far from the restaurant that gave us a glorious view of the winding coastline but decided to seek out a spot that was a little more sheltered from the emerging winds. We kept on through Mabou, where we found a nice riverside spot right across from the harbour.

Generic Van Life - Cape Breton Lookout Point
Home for tonight? A lookout point near Belle Côte

After a good night’s sleep, we headed toward Port Hood where we’d be meeting with a friend’s mom in Judique. One of the best parts about travelling is phoning in all of the local connections you’ve got around the country. It’s so nice to catch up with family and friends and be shown around by a local. In this case, we got to experience East Coast hospitality at its finest by being taken sea kayaking from someone we had never even met before. The gesture for people to open up their homes and their schedules to share their town with you is pretty special.

Generic Van Life Cape Breton Highlands Port Hood
Hanging out beachside in Port Hood

While Justin had some kayaking experience, I had never been in one before so we took a casual cruise around the ocean-fed pond where we skimmed over thousands of fresh mussels and oysters. Just like in PEI, we scooped them right out of the water and ate some of the freshest oysters around, #spoiled. After a lovely day on the water, the eastern hospitality continued with a delicious home-cooked meal and an apple crumble made from apples as local as they get – hand picked right from the backyard. With our bellies full and an early morning reservation looming, we packed up and set out for North Sydney, where we’d be taking the ferry to Newfoundland the next morning.

Generic Van Life - Cape Breton Kayaking
Kayaking like damn pros

With everything from white sand beaches to a roaring rocky coastline, Nova Scotia slid right into my favourite provinces list pretty quick. The East Coast of Canada in general is super underrated and is somewhere every Canadian and tourist alike should add to their itinerary. Next stop is Justin’s homeland where we go just about as remote as it gets with a 7 hour boat ride as our next commute.

Mainland Nova Scotia

Basking in white sand beaches on Nova Scotia’s south shore in Hubbards and Chester before exploring the beautiful historic town of Lunenburg. We also watched the sunset over Peggy’s Cove and spent a night in Antigonish before hitting the Canso Causeway in mainland Nova Scotia.

After departing PEI, we were on a new mission to collect a very special antique from a family member in southern Nova Scotia. It was a 150+ year old spinning wheel used by Justin’s grandmother and great-grandmother for years to make yarn. We made our way down to Hubbards to see it, but not before grabbing a bite of donair on the outer rings of Halifax. If you’re American, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about but Halifax donairs are pretty famous and boast a wrap-sandwich-thing like no other – especially in the realm of drunk food. The secret is in the sauce, which has condensed milk in it, giving it a sweet taste as opposed to the usual heavy garlic of a shawarma or gyro. If you’re in Halifax, it’s practically your duty to at least try one. That being said, they’re not my favourite (womp womp woooomp) but at least I did my due diligence as a tourist. Also, do yourself a favour and tie up your hair before eating one – sauce in the hair is inevitable, no matter how proper you are.

Generic Van Life - Mainland Nova Scotia Antique Spinning Wheel
This spinning wheel was used for over 100 years in Justin’s family to make yarn

Saucy hair in tow, we made our way down to Hubbards, about half an hour outside of Halifax to meet up with Justin’s first cousin once removed (we spent way too long studying cousin charts to learn that that’s what your dad’s first cousin is to you to not use the term). We drove by some pretty gorgeous sandy beaches like Queensland Beach that made us question if we were in Nova Scotia or Florida. Seriously, these beaches were very different than the usual rugged and rocky coastal beaches. Another interesting thing is that although these are ocean beaches, most have a freshwater lake beside them. Pretty cool. Once we got to Hubbards, we disassembled the spinning wheels and realized just how big it was; the wheel itself was about the size of our bed. Luckily we didn’t have to transport it all that far.

Generic Van Life - Mainland Nova Scotia Hubbards Beach
Soft sandy beaches in Nova Scotia?! The south shore was a real treat. This is Hubbards Beach

The East Coast hospitality continued as we spent the evening drinking beers on a private beach while the sun was setting and enjoying the last couple weeks of summer. We woke up the next day and checked out Hubbards’ farmers market that was filled with an interesting mix of people of all ages. Although not a place we had ever even heard of, we totally understood why Justin’s first cousin once removed (sorry, had to) has spent 20 years there. A small enough town for everyone to know your name but still with unique events going on all the time.

Generic Van Life - Mainland Nova Scotia Hubbards Farmers Market
Lots of folks hanging out at the Hubbards Farmers Market

After leaving the market, we drove through more beautiful seaside towns like Chester and Mahone Bay that made us lust over south shore Nova Scotia. Sid, Justin’s dad’s cousin, took us to Lunenburg, which is a town out of a postcard. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site and played a big role in Nova Scotia’s history. It’s now the home to the Bluenose II schooner that was unfortunately out at sea the day we were on the wharf. The town is full of colourful buildings and amazing boats from all over, really similar to the coastal towns of Scandinavia in Sweden and Denmark. We walked around all the hills, popping in and out of cute little shops and eventually having a bowl of chowder while overlooking the ocean. Does life get any better than this?!

Generic Van Life - Mainland Nova Scotia Lunenburg Dory
A couple of yellow dories in the Lunenburg Harbour

After another open-ended goodbye, we set out to Peggy’s Cove to see one of Nova Scotia’s most iconic sites. Driving along more of the south shore was absolutely breathtaking and made for some pretty spectacular scenery. The views didn’t stop when we got up to the lighthouse where the rocks turn into smooth almost white boulders and the land opens up to beautiful, open coastline.

Generic Van Life - Mainland Nova Scotia Antique Peggys Cove
Post card Nova Scotia at Peggy’s Cove

As the sun started to set, we did our best to avoid moose on the road by boogying through Truro and New Glasgow to a gravel pit not far from Antigonish. Here we were close to the causeway to cross onto Cape Breton Island the next morning and do the Cabot Trail. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit downtown Halifax but seeing how much we enjoyed the south shore, I’m sure we’ll be back again.