Ask a local from Cape Breton what their favourite season is and invariably the answer is the fall. Temperatures are comfortable, people are few and far between and the spectacular Highlands National Park scenery is at its best once the leaves begin changing colour.
Here are nine ways to enjoy the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island this fall.
1. Drive the Cabot Trail
Take a drive (or bike) through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. You will be rewarded with eye popping vistas. Leave time to hike the Skyline Trail.
2. Visit the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck
The genius and inventiveness of Alexander Graham Bell is impossible to miss. Allow at least two hours to wander through the museum, watch videos, check out exhibits and appreciate how prolific his interests were. The entrance fee is $7.90 per adult.
3. Take a whale watching tour out of Chéticamp, Pleasant Bay or Bay St. Lawrence
Most companies guarantee whale sightings though often it’s the Pilot whale you’ll see. There are frequent sightings too of fin, humpback and minke whales as well as dolphins, seals, eagles, cormorants and guillemots. Most tours are 2.5 t0 3 hours in length.
4. Play a round of golf at the Highlands Golf Course in Ingonish.
They say it’s golf as its meant to be played – in Scottish fashion – which I think means it rains a great deal. If it doesn’t rain it’s a beautiful course.
5. Hang out on a sandy beach.
Relax on one of the lovely beaches. There are long stretches of beach near Dingwall and the area around Blacks Brook Cove is rocky but very pretty and well worth exploring.
6. Stop at the Clucking Hen
Plan a stop at the Clucking Hen, a roadside cafe and bakery south of Cape Smokey on the north shore of St. Ann’s Bay. It opens at 7 AM so you can pick up coffee and warm cinnamon buns or stay and eat in on the screened porch.
If its lunchtime and you’re in the vicinity, make a beeline for the chowder and lobster sandwiches – all reputed to be excellent. If you’re sick of nothing but fried food at dinner then plan to stop for some fresh fish or lobster stew, favourites on the dinner menu.
7. Go fly fishing in the Margaree Valley
The Margaree Valley is famous for fly fishing particularly in the fall when salmon season is in full swing. Atlantic salmon range anywhere in size from 15 -40 pounds. When they bite it’s supposed to be quite a thrill. Hire a guide and see for yourself.
8. Check out the local artisans
Pick up a map showing the galleries and workshops of the local crafts people. Cheticamp is justly famous for its hooked rugs which I inwardly sneered at until I saw them. Some are incredible works of art that I would be proud to display in my house.
One interesting fellow – Joe McKinnon, who has a small shop just before the turnoff to the Margaree Valley, hand carves folk art. My husband honed in on the typical male piece which would be the perfect gift for the male in your family.
9. Learn some Acadian history
Learn the history of the Acadians at Les Centre de Trois Pignon in Cheticamp. The Societe Saint-Pierre operates the center. They have been working since 1947 to preserve the language, songs and folklore of the Acadians in addition to keeping genealogical records which turns out to be a major draw.
There’s even more to do than what I’ve suggested. I didn’t even touch on all the hiking and kayaking possibilities. Explore this great country on Labour day weekend and if you’re anywhere near Cape Breton try some of the suggested activities.