Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Steep seaside cliffs and rolling forestland at Cape Breton Highlands National Park remind visitors of the Scottish highlands. Boasting some of the maritime provinces' most stunning scenery, these 370 square miles (958 square km) encompass valleys, low mountains, sandy beaches, and old-growth woodlands. Cape Breton Highlands National Park features the world-famous Cabot Trail. Named after the explorer John Cabot, this road runs along three edges of the park, allowing visitors to drive a rugged route calculated to show off the coastline and interior beauty of Cape Breton. What to see and do: Though open year-round, full services at Cape Breton Highlands National Park are only available from mid-May to mid-October. Begin your tour of the park at the Cheticamp Information Centre, located on the western side of the park. Here you may see look-through exhibits of the natural features of northern Cape Breton, watch a slide show, browse in one of Atlantic Canada's largest nature bookstores, and purchase your park entry permit (required mid-May to late October). This permit allows you to use the Cabot Trail sightseeing services in the park, including lookouts, picnic areas, roadside exhibits, and trails. At Cheticamp you also find a campground offering full facilities, including an outdoor theater and wheelchair-accessible sites. If you enter the park from the eastern side, stop at the Ingonish information center or camp at a large, fully serviced campground. The park staff recommends spending two to four days in northern Cape Breton, which gives plenty of time to drive the Cabot Trail, explore some side roads, hike a few trails, take in some traditional music, and feast on seafood. Consider purchasing a copy of the Cabot Trail Tour CD (available in English and French). Plan on spending six to eight hours leisurely driving 66 miles (106 km) of sometimes-steep, safe, modern road that climbs through passes and dips into valleys. Roadside exhibits, lookouts, and short walking trails pepper the Cabot Trail. When you reach Ingonish Beach, take a swim in salt or fresh water; this beach offers both. Enjoy daily summer interpretive events, night hikes, concerts, and much more. Tennis courts and a world-class golf course complete the full course of recreational opportunities in the Ingonish area. Hikers take advantage of 25 trails snaking through the park's interior and running along the scenic cliffs. Ask staff to recommend trails or refer to the flip side of the Park Welcome Map. Follow the four-and-half-mile (9 km) Skyline Trail along a headland cliff or climb to the top of Franey for a breathtaking view of the Atlantic coast. Strike out into the interior, where you have an excellent chance of seeing some of Cape Breton's wildlife in the park: moose, eagles, snowshoe hares, and occasionally black bears. If you'd like to see maritime wildlife, take one of the whale-watching excursions offered by most villages adjacent to the park. Bicyclists encounter challenges going over the hilly roads but are rewarded at each summit with the views. When snow covers the park, cross-country skiers glide along both groomed and ungroomed trails, while alpine skiiers streak down the slopes at Cape Smokey, just outside the Park. The park is open year-round, with reduced services off-season. The information centers are open from mid-May to mid-October.
- Ingonish Beach, NS B0C 1L0
- 46.72096600, -60.35152100
- Visit Website
- (902) 224-2306