Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, is home to some of the world’s most spectacular, rugged coastal scenery. From dramatic expanses of verdant green oceanfront meadows to the dazzling brilliance of sunlight reflecting off the Atlantic Ocean, this land is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground. Those who experience this remote Canadian destination are in for incredible eye-popping displays of Mother Nature and loads of outdoor action.
With plenty of outdoor options to keep a family active, Cape Breton Island makes a fabulous nature-loving family vacation. From easy peasy hikes to adventurous biking tours, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Not so sure? Here’s a snapshot of our own week of family adventures on fabulous, adventurous, dramatic Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia!
Exploring Dramatic Views on Skyline Trail
Cape Breton Island is a hiker’s paradise, offering splendid hiking opportunities for all skill levels around practically every turn of the road. One of the more popular trails, and a great introduction to Cape Breton’s natural beauty, is Skyline Trail, high atop French Mountain.
Skyline Trail’s multiple viewing decks provide incredible, high-up views of dramatic cliffs overlooking the rugged Atlantic Ocean coastline below, as well as the surrounding lush, green lands. It’s so high, bald eagles appear to being soar past at practically eye level!
Skyline Trail is part of the Cabot Trail system of Cape Breton Highlands National Park and will require a park pass to hike. Plan for 2 to 3 hours to complete the 4-6 mile looping trail. Oh, and watch for possible moose sightings! Though fleeting, we captured a glimpse of one on his way through the nearby woods. Incredible!
Cruising for Whales & Wildlife
Whale watching is a must when in Cape Breton, and the Bay of St. Lawrence plays host to several migratory whales, including minkes, humpbacks, pilot and fin whales. Those who set sail in these waters are likely run into several pods of these magnificent, giant mammals, especially when Captain Fraser is at the helm!
Thar she blows! Set sail for Nova Scotia’s northern-most coastline with Captain Fraser and you are bound for an adventure to remember. In fact, the Captain is so certain he’ll find whales, he guarantees 100% satisfaction! Yep, we saw whales.
Whales are not the only experience to be had in this family run whale and wildlife cruise. Keep an eye out for dolphins, seals, bald eagles, guillemots, cormorants and more. Oh, stunning coastal scenery too!
Experiencing Ocean Kayaking
Time for another amazing marine experience along Cape Breton’s dramatic shoreline. This time it’s by way of sea kayaks. Soak up the scenery as your kayak glides past gypsum cliffs and through pristine salt water marshes. Check out the local oyster aquaculture in a nearby sheltered bay. Stop for a snack and swim along a deserted Atlantic Ocean barrier beach.
Kayaking with a local guide is the perfect opportunity to learn more about these lands, to hear stories of days gone by, and to ensure this adventure is just the right level of family fun. Keep a keen eye open along the way for the more wild residents who live here!
Biking Coastal Cape Breton Island
Experience a different perspective of this wild and rugged island with a bike tour. Cape Breton offers biking opportunities for every skill level, from easy peasy biking tours of coastal lands and local fisheries, to more expert level biking along the highways and the Cabot Trail.
Whether you go it alone or take a cycling tour with the locals, a biking adventure showcases another side of coastal Cape Breton. Our family friendly bike tour cycled along the edges of the Atlantic Ocean, past beaches and through quaint fishing harbors.
Perhaps your biking tour will have the opportunity to watch a local fleet unload their fresh catch of the day! From lobster to cod, mussels to oysters, fishing is a mainstay of Cape Breton life, and is prevalent throughout the region. Witnessing it all up close was both eye-opening, and enlightening.
Hiking the Rugged Money Point Trail
Perhaps our most favorite adventure on Cape Breton Island was hiking the remote Money Point Trail. Located along Cape Breton’s northernmost edge, this rough and rugged trail is not for the feint of heart, but well worth the effort!
The rewards for those who take on this strenuous, steep and challenging trek are incredible, stunning vistas as far as the eye can see. Listen as the wild Atlantic Ocean spills onto the rocks. Gaze upon an expanse of coastal meadows trailing off into the horizon.
Oh, and watch out for horses who might crowd the trail! You are more likely to meet up with a herd of horses than humans out here at Money Point. In today’s modern world, it’s hard to imagine a place so beautiful, so peaceful, with no obvious signs of human habitation beyond an abandoned lighthouse. But it exists here on Cape Breton Island.
Read more about our Money Point hike at Tackling the Rough and Rugged Money Point Trail.
Beachcombing Along The Atlantic Ocean
Whether a kid, or simply a kid at heart, beachcombing for washed up treasure is calming, relaxing, and just plain fun! Who knows what one might find along the water’s edge, what creations might result from an afternoon’s collection of driftwood and ocean-smoothed rocks.
Our favorite beachcombing spot was the desolate beach just beyond our cabin. With long stretches of seemingly untouched, certainly uncrowded oceanfront real estate, it was the perfect place to unwind from a day filled with action. Or to simply capture a relaxing moment, scanning the skies for bald eagles, the ocean for distant sailboats.
Dramatic Sunrises, Moonscapes & Ocean Views
Welcome to the top of Cape Breton Island! What better place to rest a weary body after a full day’s adventure exploring this amazing destination than along the ocean’s edge. This is what you’ll come back to when The Markland is your Cape Breton home away from home!
Every vacation needs an awesome sunrise or sunset to make it complete. Waking up to an eastern Cape Breton sunrise, catching the the sun’s brilliance as it rises over the horizon, is sure to kick off any morning into bright and wonderful motion.
End that adventurous day with an equally stunning moonscape across the water. Out here on the edge of civilization, few lights diminish the moon’s effects. Yes indeed, a cabin at the remote, charming, perfectly positioned Markland sets just the right tone to begin and end ones’ day exploring Cape Breton Island!
Booking Our Cape Breton Island Adventures
Ready to book your own Cape Breton Island adventures? Take your favorite moments from our adventures and create your own Cape Breton vacation. Here’s links to the tours we booked and where we stayed. Each one comes highly recommended from all members of our family.
- Whale Cruise – An amazing experience with Captain Fraser and Oshan Whale Cruise.
- Sea Kayaking, Cycling and Money Point Hike – The incredible guide Jen of Cabot Trail Adventures and Eagle North Kayak.
- Our Accommodations – A wonderful cabin at the oceanfront property, The Markland. Perfect for families.
- Skyline Trail – A self-guided adventure. Easy to do on your own, no need for a guide!
Don’t just take our word for it, though. Each of these operations has received high praise on TripAdvisor, and several Certificates of Excellence. Well, ok, not the self-guided one! We haven’t yet made it onto TripAdvisor! 🙂
Have You Been to Cape Breton Island?
We spent five adventurous days experiencing Cape Breton Island during a twelve day excursion to Nova Scotia. Was it enough time? No, not for us. Though we sampled our way through some of the best activities, we could have used one or two more days to fully appreciate all there is to see and do in this outdoor playground.
How about you? Have you been to Cape Breton Island? What were your favorite activities? Did you feel your time here was adequate, or do you too wish you had a few more days to explore? Do share!
Images by C.Biederman.