Visiting Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada with kids – recommendations on where to stay and what to do on a family trip to Cape Breton Island.
One of our family’s favourite summer vacations was a visit to Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. Cape Breton is a family-friendly island known for its spectacular natural beauty, celtic music, diverse recreational activities and, of course, it’s seafood. We thought that Cape Breton was one of the most beautiful places that we had ever visited and we certainly aren’t alone in that opinion. Cape Breton Island has been selected more than once as one of the best islands by readers of Travel & Leisure magazine’s World’s Best Awards.
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Where to Stay on Cape Breton Island
We drove to the island from mainland Nova Scotia via The Canso Causeway, however, there is also ferry service available from Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. Our home base for the five nights we were spending on the island was Inverary Resort in the picturesque village of Baddeck. The resort is located on the shores of Cape Breton’s Bras d’Or Lake, an almost completely enclosed salt-water inlet known as “the great inland sea”. Two natural channels connect the lake to the Atlantic Ocean and the lake’s unique tidal waters support a variety of species of birds and mammals in it’s brackish waters. The location of the resort is ideal for exploring the island and the resort itself has a wide variety of activities available for active families.
Our family particularly enjoyed playing on the lakefront – kayaking and pedal boats were big hits with the girls.
The kids at the resort (mine included) spent a great deal of time sitting on the dock trying to catch crabs with nets. Staff would also organize crab races for the amusement of the kids. Each of the kids would select a crab and cheer as the crabs raced down the dock before being returned to the lake.
Things To Do in Baddeck
Should the kids grow tired of playing by the lake then It’s just a short walk into town to the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site located on Baddeck Bay where Bell maintained a summer home. This unique exhibit uses models, replicas, photos, films and artifacts to describe the life and work of the inventor. The museum has a kite-making workshop as well as the “Discover” area where families can participate in some hands-on activities.
While in Baddeck, be sure to browse the many boutiques, gift shops and art galleries. Our favourite was Kidston Landing on Chebucto Street which had an extensive selection of Maritime crafts, clothing, and jewelry. It is the perfect place to find a keepsake from your visit to Cape Breton Island. When the shopping is complete then definitely have a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants in the village. Seafood lovers will be in heaven in Baddeck, particularly if they attend one of the world-famous lobster suppers.
Cabot Trail with Kids
Many visitors to Cape Breton are drawn by the desire to drive the spectacular Cabot Trail. The Cabot Trail is one of the world’s most scenic routes running across Northern Cape Breton for almost 300km. We opted to drive the trail clockwise from Baddeck heading toward the Acadian village of Cheticamp before entering the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Approximately one third of the trail is located within the boundaries of the National Park. It takes at least a full day to drive the trail of rugged coastline and precipitous cliffs including a few stops to marvel at the stark landscape, stretch legs and give the driver an opportunity to look around. Wildlife sightings, including moose, are commonplace. There are numerous hiking trails of varying levels of difficulty in the park and many visitors spend more than a day so that they can take advantage of the opportunity to hike the beautiful landscape.
Visiting the Fortress of Louisbourg
Cape Breton also is home to one of the country’s finest (and North America’s largest) historical reconstructions. The Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site is a re-creation of a 1745 era town with homes, gardens, taverns and other businesses. Costumed actors bring to life the activities of the original inhabitants of the Fortress and the two inns in town serve authentic recipes from the time period. It’s the kind of place where kids have a great time without realizing that they are learning as well.
Cape Breton Island is such a wonderful place for families to visit that I’m dreaming of a return trip now that my kids are a little older. We would definitely repeat many of the activities from our first visit, however, there are a number of items on my list that were omitted because of time or because the kids were too young. When we return we will definitely spend a day hiking in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in order to get a better sense of the landscape, delve a bit into the Celtic culture of the island by attending a ceilidh, take a boat tour to the Bird Islands to see puffins, seals and bald eagles and maybe visit an Acadian village or two. I may even be able to convince the kids to eat lobster with me.
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