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Insider Insights: Articles

Road Trip North America- Cabot Trail

(Martin Cathrae)

(Martin Cathrae)

By Krissy Vann
Presenter, The Weather Network
Wednesday, September 13, 2017, 4:59 AM

Many Canadian roadways take you on a journey around breathtaking sights and cultural landmarks. The Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia is no exception. 

You’ll soar along the mountainous landscapes through Cape Breton Highlands National park and enjoy incredible ocean vistas along the way. Depending on the time of year you may be able to stop and enjoy some whale watching, catch some fresh Atlantic salmon or partake in a little skiing and snowmobiling.

The Route:

Before you start your near 300 km journey you’ll need to decide which direction you want to travel. The Cabot Trail is a loop around Cape Breton Island. If you choose to travel clockwise you’ll be on the inside track. This option is best for drivers that don’t wish to hug along steep drops. The downside is that many travelers prefer this option so you’ll need to pack your patience. There are some steep grades along the route, which tourists, buses and RVs travel slowly and cautiously through. Your alternative option is doing the loop counter clockwise. This option offers some stunning ocean views, but you will be edging closer to those steep drops. This is the route best suited to the courageous driver.

Keep in mind that once you start the drive you have to commit and finish it or turn around and retrace your travels. There are no roads that cut across the centre of Cape Breton Island.

The drive without stops could take you as little as 5 hours, but you will want to allocate at least a day to do the Cabot Trail so that you can enjoy all the sights along the way. Some popular stops you may want to make include:

  • Baddeck - This is deemed to be the start and finish point of the Cabot Trail. This is also home to the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site.
  • St Ann’s - You can stop and explore the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts & Crafts
  • Igonish - The gateway to the highlands. You can enjoy beaches, golfing and ski trails
  • Cheticamp - A fishing village and home to the Western Entrance of Cape Breton Highlands National Park
  • Pleasant Bay- Home to some of the best whale watching in Cape Breton
  • Cape North- You can check out the North Highlands Community Museum

When to Travel:

Weather Network meteorologist Doug Gillham says that drivers should be aware of changing weather conditions depending on the season.

Summer: Summer is by far one of the best times to travel the Cabot Trail, as Gillham says you’ll see the most consistent good weather. He does warn that being surrounded by water you can experience some vast temperature swings. It is best to pack some clothing good for layering.

Spring/Fall: The late fall and early spring can still bring some strong storms your way. Gillham also warns that Cape Breton Island can see some of the highest winds in the country. The fall season also coincides with hurricane season, which should be a consideration when planning your road trip. On the other hand meteorologist Brett Soderholm speaks of the spectacular display of fall foliage in the fall.

Winter: Conditions can change very quickly in the winter and sometimes can also experience a change in weather from one side of the loop to the other. Gillham cautions that nor’easters are a potential threat throughout the winter, which can bring rain snow and sometimes both. Sea effect snow squalls can also be problematic.

Have you ever ventured on the Cabot Trail? What was your favourite part of the drive?

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