Wednesday, October 5, 2011

50 Awesome Things To Do in Cape Breton

I was born and raised in Cape Breton and while I don't live there anymore, for me and my friends who left it will always be the home of our hearts. I usually get home twice a year and when I do, I always make a list of things I want to do when I get there. I decided to put together a list of 50 Awesome Things to do in Cape Breton.

My hope is that if you are a tourist reading this, that this might help while visiting Cape Breton. If you are a local reading is, I hope that the list might inspire you to do something you've never tried, or at if nothing else, say "Cape Breton really is awesome," after reading it.


1. Go to the Miners Museum. A retired miner takes you down an actual coal mine. You get to hear stories from the pit from the friendliest men you will ever meet. It's truly a great experience.

#11. Go down the pit at the Miners Museum

2. Jump off a bridge...literally. Marion Bridge, Albert Bridge or the Mira Gut Bridge. Sure, it's a little bit dangerous, but ton's of fun.

3. Take a picture of the Welcome to Cape Breton sign as you cross the causeway.

4. Attend the Celtic Colours Festival. Since it started in 1997, this festival has become world class, showcasing the some of the best musicians from all over the world - and of course Cape Breton. It starts every year on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend and runs until the following Sunday. It's not an accident that it takes place during the prettiest time of year to see Cape Breton.

5. Spend a day at the Fortress of Louisbourg. It's really something special that Cape Breton can lay claim to.

6. Go Fishing. Cape Breton has some of the best salmon fishing in the Canada. Any fisherman will tell you that there is no better feeling than hooking a salmon in the Margaree River.

7. Visit the Gaelic College. It's a great place located at the start of the Cabot Trail where you can learn everything about celtic culture.

8. Experience the world famous Cabot Trail. When travelling all over the world, people ask me about the Cabot Trail when I tell them I am from Cape Breton. Simply known as "The Trail," to Cape Bretoners, it can be driven in a day, but it's best to take some time and really enjoy it. Stop into gift shops and restaurants in the towns along the way. Take lots of pictures on all the look offs. Hike the Skyline Trail.

9. Check out the Big Fiddle in Sydney. It's the biggest in the world.

10. Eat fricot in Cheticamp. Cape Breton has a big Acadian population and Cheticamp would be the capital of it. You can try many Acadian dishes in restaurants in Cheticamp. While you are there, stop in the Doryman for some drinks and fiddle music.

11. Golf.  Cape Breton has some of the best golf courses in the country. Highland Links in Ingonish, Bell Bay in Baddeck and The Lakes in Ben Eion are just a few of our gems.
#11. Golf

12. Swim in the Ocean. This is one of the many things that locals take for granted. This is a "bucket list" thing to do for a lot of people who don't live near it.

13. Visit the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck. Bell was an incredible man who was about a lot more than just the telephone. He also called Cape Breton the most beautiful place on earth. The museum is a great way to see how fascinating the man really was.

14. Sail on the Bras D'Or Lakes.
15. Take Pictures on St. Ann's look off. It's beautiful.

16. Cycle around the Cabot Trail. People come from all over the world to do it.

#14. Sail on the Bras D'or Lakes
17. Have a beer at the Red Shoe Pub in Mabou. Onwed by the Rankin sisters of the renowned music group The Rankin Family, you can catch live fiddle music there pretty much every day.

18. Order a Combination Pizza. It's the only place in the world you can ask for it and they know what you are talking about. Napoli Pizza in Sydney is my favourite.

19. Play Tarbish. Only on the east side of the island though.

20. Eat a pizza burger. I didn't realize until lately that pizza burgers are a Cape Breton thing. You can always buy a Paul's Food Factory that you heat in a microwave at any corner store or gas station, but for my money, the best pizza burger is at the Pizza Palace in Whitney Pier.

21. See a show at the Louisbourg Playhouse. It's a beautiful little theatre with a really cool history.

22. Float down the Mira River at Mira Gut beach. No boat required. There is a strong current which basically creates a lazy river. Jump in and float down for a good little while.

23. Eat at one of Cape Breton's Mom and Pop restaurants or diners. There is no shortage of places to eat that offer everything from good wholesome home cooked meals, to burger's and fries or pizza. Some of my favourites are: Kay's Kozy Korner in Sydney, Bette's Kitchen in North Sydney, Ebbie's in Sydney Mines, Jane's in Bras D'or.

24. Have a cup of tea at Rita's Tea Room in Big Pond. Cape Bretoner's love Rita and they love their tea. 

25. Drink some whiskey at the Glenora Distillery. It's North America's first single malt distillery.

26. Stroll down the Sydney Boardwalk.

#4. Go to Celtic Colours
27. Check out a lighthouse. While many Cape Bretoner's drive by them on a daily basis and don't even notice them, tourists go crazy for these things.

28. Spend a day on one of Cape Breton's beaches. From Kennington to Black Brook or Inverness to Big Pond, embrace the salt water.

29. Buy some local goods at the Cape Breton Farmer's Market.

30. Skate on Wentworth Park in the Wintertime.

31. Watch a movie at the Cape Breton Drive In. Drive In's are few and far between these days.

32. Have a picnic. Cape Breton has many Provincial Picnic Parks which locals don't use nearly enough.

33. Hike up Coxheath Mountain

34. Hike to the Fairy Hole Caves in New Campbellton.

35. Eat some fresh seafood. Tourists can't believe that you can buy lobster fresh off a boat. It's something that is taken for granted.

36. Square dance in Glencoe.

37. Hike to some of Cape Breton's waterfalls. MaryAnn Falls in Ingonish, Uisge Ban in Baddeck, Gillis Lake falls in East Bay.

38. Take in a Cape Breton Fiddle Session at Rollies Wharf. This is one of the best kept secrets on the Island. You never know who is going to be there. On any given night, there could be 6-15 fiddles playing along with many other instruments. Once the dinner crowd of patrons leave, the musicians often out-number the people in the pub. It is the best live fiddle music on the island.

#23. Eat a Diner
39. Go whale watching in Ingonish

40. Take in one of the many community festivals. Chestico Days in Port Hood, Action Week in Sydney, Crabfest in Louisbourg, Judique on the Floor Days, etc... The smaller towns tend to roll out the welcome mat and people who have left the island often plan their summer holidays around these festivals in their hometowns.

41. Hike into Pollet's Cove. Stay and camp for a few days. It's breathtaking.

42. Kayak in North River. North River Kayak Tours is an awesome way to spend a morning, afternoon or both and kayaking is great fun!

43. Watch an eagle fly around. I've seen many on the Bras D'or Lakes. Believe me that these aren't everywhere in the world.

44. Listen to some live, non-celtic music. People often think that we only play fiddles. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While we are very proud of our celtic music, there are many great artists making great music all over the island. Gordie Sampson, Slowcoaster, Tom Fun Orchestra are a few of the many to check out.

45. Go to a Granville Green concert in Port Hawkesbury. Every Sunday night in the summertime there are free outdoor concerts with well known performers. Bring a lawn chair and take in a great show.

46. Go for a Sunday drive without a plan. At the end of the day Cape Breton is an island and it isn't that big. Even just 30 minutes in a car can take you somewhere really cool.

47. Go to a Screaming Eagles QMJHL game. It's pretty cheap and you'll get to see some future NHL'ers. Sidney Crosby played many games at C200.

#46. Go for a Sunday drive
48. Go to a concert at the Savoy Theatre. The Savoy was built in the 1920's and has a charm that you just don't get in other theatres.

49. Go to a wedding reception. I've been to weddings all over Canada and the most fun are back home in the Cape. Ask someone at the reception who is visiting from away. They will tell you that it is unlike anything they've ever been to.

50. Go to a beach at night and watch a meteor shower in August. On a clear, warm summer's night, there's nothing better.


  1. This is such a great Cape Breton bucket list!

  2. Absolutely love your ideas. I live half the year in Europe and half the year in Cape Breton and I definitely appreciate CB now more than ever. We as Capers really take a lot of things for granted. Nonetheless, anyone who has read your list will finish it with a smile :)

  3. When you leave a comment, please leave your email address with it so can be entered in the contest!

  4. You forgot

    51. "shooting the drag" on a friday night.

    1. Clearly THE thing to do every Friday night! Lol I still get such humor from this quirky ritual!! Truly AWESOME

  5. Loved your post Adam! I wish I read it before I went to Cape Breton last week, although I hit many of your suggestions by chance. It's a great mix of adventure, relaxation and whimsy. If you want to check out my CB blogs please do so on my web site.
    Alison DeLory

  6. Adam, you really hit the nail on the head with this list! I must agree with everything on it as a fellow caper. I can really feel you must love the island as much as I do, and that is just lovely. I must say there are lots of things I have yet to explore on the island, and this will be something great to go by. I especially will use it to recommend tourists who I always tell to visit there. It is the home of my heart, there is no place in the world like Cape Breton. Keep spreading the world of the island of islands,

  7. One day when I get out East I will have to remember to read this post again!

  8. Great job Adam! I really can't think of anything you left out. I was so pumped to read, "Eat fricot in Cheticamp" favorite dish on the island. I love it at the little place where the servers dress up in traditional Acadian costume. I will have to quote your list for friends and family that visit here in the future.

  9. Taking in an afternoon or evening of skiing at Ski Ben Eoin or at Cape Smokey while also enjoying a cup of hot chocolate in the Chalet.

    Hitting up a play at the CBU theatre. Tickets are cheap and it is always great to view the acting talent the island has to offer.

    Check out a show at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre. These shows can range from comics, hypnotists, musicians, etc.

    Go to Wentworth Perk to meet for coffee and a chat with friends. You can sit inside where local musicians are usually playing or sit on the patio while viewing a bit of the Wentworth Park.

    I will be sure to post again if I can come up with more. haha

  10. 51. Get drunk in a kitchen. Ceilidh!
    Also, this "west-coaster" can kick "east-coaster" butt at tarbish.
    Kristen :)

  11. This is awesome Adam!

  12. The Coxheath Hills Wilderness Trails are an extensive community-driven hiking area, and following the trail further up will lead you to Pittman's Lodge and panoramic views of Cape Breton.cape breton cottage rentals

  13. How about a quick stop at Pettipas' market just before you hit the causeway....this cape bretoner will give you $20 bucks if you are able to make it is another one...go see JP Cormier play at the "new" Old Triangle..."Rock the Dock"...Iona Highland Village...check out the Orangedale train about fishing capelin with nets in the middle of the night...or finally pound back a dozen greasy dirty burgers and wash that down with some jalapano chips and pepperoni sticks....

  14. Hit the nail on the head with this list's a couple more...
    I like to head out on the boat in Mira, through the "Gut" for scallops or mackerel!
    Lobster boil on any beach (crack 'em open on the rocks with a cold beer)
    Fossil hunting on the cliffs of Sydney Mines
    Two Rivers Wildlife Park for Fright Night, Summer music festival and stargazing, or a winter sleighride
    Ice Fishing
    Whale watching
    .... just a few more...


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