13 stunning spots on Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail worth stopping for

13 stunning spots on Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail worth stopping for

With dramatic, rocky coastlines, waterfalls, vibrant bays and beaches galore, it’s easy to see why the Cabot Trail is considered one of the world’s best road trips. The 300 kilometre loop around Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton shows off some of the east coast’s best landscapes, while highlighting the history of the area’s Scottish roots.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

The iconic Cabot Trail traces the island’s north shore, and has dozens of vantage points revealing panoramic views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the beaches throughout Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Some sharp-eyed visitors have even been known to spot the likes of whales or eagles, so there’s no telling what spectacular sight one might be lucky enough to come across during a day on the trail.

Regardless of whether your journey takes two days or two weeks, here are 13 stunning spots on the Cabot Trail worth stopping for.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
La Bloc on the Cabot Trail


One of the most developed spots along the Cabot Trail, Ingonish truly has something for everyone. Golfers will enjoy the scenic Highland Links Golf Course, those looking for R&R can relax at the charming Keltic Lodge which includes a pool and spa, families can camp at sandy Ingonish Beach and practice their surfing skills, while outdoor enthusiasts will be in heaven exploring the surrounding trails. Click here to book

The Keltic Lodge, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
The Keltic Lodge
Ingonish Beach, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ingonish Beach

Popular hikes include the Franey loop which takes two to three hours, as well as Middle Head trail. The 3.8 kilometre pathway winds through a shaded forest before emerging along the coastline, and ends at an incredible lookout point where you’re surrounded by shimmering blue water and craggy cliffsides. The trail is not physically demanding, but there are loose rocks so good footwear is recommended.

Middle Head Trail, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Middle Head trail
Middle Head Trail, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Middle Head trail
Middle Head Trail, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Middle Head trail

Don’t miss: Main Street Restaurant and Bakery, which serves up the likes of seafood sandwiches and linguine overflowing with scallops, crab and mussels. So fresh, you’d think the lobster went straight from the ocean to your plate!

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia Insider tip: Head to the charming Keltic Lodge to pick up a delicious picnic before hitting the road again. The adorable set up includes a blanket and basket to take home as a souvenir, as well as sandwiches, drinks, fruit and desserts. Also available at the Harbour Restaurant in Chéticamp.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
A picnic from the Keltic Lodge

Lakies Head

Heading counter-clockwise (which many consider the best route), your next stop will be Lakies Head. Massive reddish boulders are thrown up against the shoreline, creating a natural walkway for visitors to get out and explore the coast. A popular area for lobster fishing boats, it’s also possible to see whales breaching here.

Lakies Head, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Lakies Head
Lakies Head, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Lakies Head

Big Intervale

Just one of many great spots to stop for a picnic, the Big Intervale day use area straddles the serene North Aspy river and isn’t frequented by tour groups, so chances are you’ll get to enjoy the whole place to yourself.

Big Intervale, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Big Intervale

The Aspy Fault

This spectacular spot overlooks a lush valley where the Aspy Fault line runs for about 40 kilometres, and could prove that Cape Breton was once connected to Africa—so it’s understandably a popular spot for the geologists in the crowd. Not only does it hold scientific significance, but it’s also neat to see how tightly the highway hugs the cliffside from the North Mountain lookout point.

The Aspy Fault, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
The Aspy Fault lookout point

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Lone Shieling

One of the more historical spots along the Cabot Trail, Lone Shieling is a stone shepard’s hut that pays homage to the area’s Scottish roots. Farmers often built similar structures in the Scottish Highlands to provide shelter for themselves and their livestock, and visitors to the Canadian version are able to tour the inside before wandering out to the surrounding pathways that wind through the lush Grande Anse Valley.

Lone Shieling, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Lone Shieling

MacIntosh Brook

Remember that picnic you picked up in Ingonish? This is the perfect place to enjoy it. The day use area can be packed with tour groups, but all it takes is a 15 minute walk through the fragrant forest to let you escape the crowds. The shaded, leaf-covered pathways wind past a bubbling brook, leading to quite the spectacle: a gorgeous, gushing waterfall.

MacIntosh Brook, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
MacIntosh Brook
MacIntosh Brook, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
MacIntosh Brook

Pleasant Bay

Known as the island’s whale-watching capital, this village was settled by Scottish immigrants back in the early 1800s. Today, visitors can head out onto the water in search of ocean life, watch the fisherman come back into the harbour, or simply relax and soak in the views.

MacKenzie Mountain

Didn’t have time to stop in Pleasant Bay? Just a couple minutes down the road, you’ll head up a hill and come to a fantastic lookout point with MacKenzie Mountain on one side and the shimmering Gulf of St. Lawrence on the other. Not only does this stop have a great view of Pleasant Bay, but pilot, minke and fin whales can be spotted in the gulf between May and November.

MacKenzie Mountain, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
The view of Pleasant Bay from MacKenzie Mountain

Fishing Cove

It’s only a quick pit stop unless you’re up for the eight kilometre trek that winds down MacKenzie Mountain into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but this viewpoint is a gooder.

The roadside stop looks down on Fishing Cove, which is nestled in a bay 335 metres below and was once home to a thriving farming and fishing community. Today, it’s a gorgeous vantage point where leafy green forests contrast the piercing blue water, making it impossible to not want to run down and take a dip.

RELATED: 25 pictures that will put Nova Scotia on your travel bucket list

Fishing Cove, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Fishing Cove

Skyline Trail

If you’re going to do one hike along the Cabot Trail, make sure it’s the Skyline Trail. Located about 20 minutes away from Pleasant Bay the 7.5 kilometre pathway hugs the coastline around the Gulf of St. Lawrence, affording a spellbinding view of the famed roadway. Moose sightings are frequent, and other wildlife in the area include bears, whales and eagles.

Skyline Trail, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
The Skyline Trail
Skyline Trail, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
The Skyline Trail

While the well-groomed Skyline Trail is mostly flat, it can be a bit of a grind due to the distance, and takes more than two hours to do even at a quick pace. However, the hard work pays off when you get to the viewing platforms perched 250 metres high on French Mountain, where you can enjoy the iconic view of the Cabot Trail winding along the steep cliffside.

The scene is particularly spectacular at sunset, and Parks Canada also offers guided walking tours during the summer months.

Skyline Trail, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
The Skyline Trail
Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
The Skyline Trail

Insider tip: Tight on time? Head straight to the viewing platforms which are on the left side of the trail at the fork, since the rest of the lookout points along the loop aren’t much different than what you’ll see on other parts of the Cabot Trail. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the platforms from the parking lot, and once you’ve had your fill of scenery you can hightail it straight back—saving yourself at least 45 minutes.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
The Skyline Trail
Skyline Trail, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
The Skyline Trail

Cap Rouge

Those who aren’t up for tackling the Skyline Trail can enjoy the next best thing at the Cap Rouge lookout point, located just a short distance farther along the road. Be sure to have your selfie stick ready for this pit stop!
Cap Rouge, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia


One of the larger towns along the Cabot Trail, Chéticamp has lots of accommodation options, restaurants and offers sightseeing cruises. The Acadian fishing village is also the gateway to the Chéticamp campground in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where visitors can pitch a tent or relax in an equipped camp site or oTENTik.

During the summer, Parks Canada also offers a learn-to-lobster boil right on the beach—an experience which is not to be missed!

Cheticamp lighthouse, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
The iconic lighthouse in Cheticamp


Since no visit to Cape Breton would be complete without hitting the water, carve out some time in Baddeck for a cruise around the Bras d’Or Lakes with Amoeba Sailing Tours. Canada-Nova-Scotia-Baddeck-CollageTheir beautiful sailboat glides through the piercing blue water as you keep an eye out for Alexander Graham Bell’s mansion, admire the shoreline, and squeal with delight as massive bald eagles circle the boat. Click here to book
An eagle in Baddeck, Nova Scotia

Anyone else get concerned when your captain starts reading this book?!
Anyone else get concerned when your captain starts reading this book?!

Insider tip: Have a bit of time to spare? Head to Big Bras d’Or which is about half an hour from Baddeck, and book a Bird Island Boat Tour to get a glimpse of some adorable puffins.

A lighthouse in Baddeck
A lighthouse in Baddeck

Cabot Trail accommodations

With towns situated all along the trail, there are many places to stay on the Cabot Trail including hotels, inns and hostels in Pleasant Bay, Baddeck, Ingonish or Chéticamp. However, one of the best ways to enjoy the scenery is to stay outdoors, and do some Cabot Trail camping in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

No gear? No problem! Parks Canada has equipped campsites in both Ingonish and Chéticamp, along with oTENTiks which are sort of like Canadian glamping. The canvas structures have a table and chairs, heater, fire pit, power and enough bunk beds to sleep six to eight people.

RELATED: 10 camping tricks that will make your life easier

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
An oTENTik in Cape Breton Highlands National Park

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Cabot Trail itinerary

Which Cabot Trail route is best? Popular opinion states that driving the Cabot Trail in a counter-clockwise direction provides the best views—plus, the coast will be on your side of the road so nothing can block your vantage point.

How long does it take to do the Cabot Trail drive? As the route is only 300 kilometres, it’s possible to drive the whole trail in about five hours. But what’s the fun in that? The best part about the Cabot Trail is getting out of the car to enjoy the lookout points, hike to waterfalls or relax at the beach, so try to budget at least three nights for the journey.

Cabot Trail map

This map of the Cabot Trail outlines the suggested route above.

This article was originally published in July 2016 and updated in August 2018.



Where to stop along Nova Scotia's Cabot Trail Globe Guide explored the Cabot Trail in partnership with Parks Canada. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.

This post may contain affiliate links, which Globe Guide receives compensation for at no additional cost to you.

56 thoughts on “13 stunning spots on Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail worth stopping for”

  1. Well – we hardly did any of the things mentioned above and still had a wonderful time there. We stayed 2 nights in Ingonish Chalets- checked out the beach and took a trail along a river to an old mining camp. Went to the Keltic Lodge for music(Buddy MacDonald!). Did the end of the Cabot trail by visiting Meat Cove, took a small little trail from the compete up to a cliff over the ocean – breathtaking! Did the Skyline Trail – saw a bear and a little down the road a big bull moose. Then three nights in Mabou. Awesome Celtic music at the Red Shoe Pub which inspired me to start taking fiddle lessons. I think Cape Breton is my favorite spot in the world!!!

    1. Clyburn Valley, that’s where the gold mine was in case you want to recommend it to anyone, it is a great trail. A few others they don’t mention that I think are fantasic trails people tend to overlook are Corney Brook, Vieux Chemin du Cap Rouge and The Acadian Trail for those looking to do a little up hill hiking and a huge view at the summit.

  2. Such a great post and beautiful photos! Once I’ve finished exploring BC, I have to make my way to the other side of Canada. Your post will definitely prepare me for the trip 🙂

  3. I keep adding things to visit in Canada to my to-do list and see no ending to this! What a gorgeous country. The landscapes and trails are really nice and I want to do this myself.

    Thank you for sharing these places!

  4. Wow, I love those cocoons in the trees, what a unique experience. The countryside really looks stunning and I would definitely be up for any type of hike with a magnificent view!

  5. Great recap of some amazing spots along the Cabot Trail! We took a road trip up there last summer, but we were there about a week before the season got into full swing, so unfortunately a lot of the towns were pretty empty. One of our favorite stops was the Skyline Trail! The Main Street Restaurant and Bakery looks delicious, and those cocoons look amazing! Would love to check them out on our next visit!

  6. Great post that summarizes the highlights of the Cabot Trail. It is definitely one of my favorite drives in all of Canada. Your pictures are making me want to go again soon.

  7. What a wonderful journey to a beautiful destination. I’m a huge seafood lover and that picture of the seafood linguine had me drooling. I also liked the idea of sleeping in the cocoon. Although I’m not sure my back would 😉

  8. I so love the view and I love the food! You really showed how beautiful Cabot Trail is. Thanks for sharing. This place is definitely worth a visit.

      1. Good article and pics! We just got home after a second trip to Cape Breton, the most beautiful place I know! We stayed in Margaree center, in a tiny cottage. We love it there, it’s remote and a beautiful experience; tucked away in the countryside! We did the skyline trail this time, what a great experience and beautiful scenery.

  9. I’ve always wanted to visit Nova Scotia, ever since it was mentioned in a Friends episode lol! Your photos are beautiful and I’d love to see it in person. Plus, I think it would be really cool to stay in a cocoon!

  10. Nova Scotia is one of the few provinces (along with the Arctic ones) I haven’t been to in Canada. Yet I’d love to one day because I’m selling trips there and would love to see it with my own eyes. The Cabot Trail would definitely be on the itinerary!

  11. Hi Tamara, just completed the trail this weekend and did some camping at Baddeck, Cheticamp and ingonish beach. Your picture on the Twitter feed is from the Skyline trail, I took one as well. Great article, too bad I didn’t have time to do it all. Sat in the red chair though on Acadian trail just north of Cheticamp!

  12. You did a wonderful job and I enjoyed it very much.I’m a local and I dearly love my Island.
    A number of years back while heading out for a round of golf at ingonish golf club I was paired up with a young couple from the states who were there on their honeymoon.They planned a one day stop to golf and now this was their sixth day,said they were near broke and had to leave the next morning they had spent most of their money.
    They told me on our parting they were coming back and I bet they did.

    1. Allan, I often think I would love to live there in the summer, everything about the island entrances me! Where we stayed, in Margaree, people who live on the road would wave to us!! I loved it!

  13. Michelle Gillard

    Very nicely done. We Cape Bretoners are very fortunate to be able to hop in the car and “do the trail” at any time. I would like to mention that the Cabot Trail in the Fall of the year (October) is nothing short of spectacular. Your head is constantly swiveling between the ocean view and the incredible palette of colours created by the foliage. It is breathtaking and a very different experience of the Trail.

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  15. My husband, daughter and I just returned from another memorable trip to Cape Breton. We did the McIntosh Brook trail, Lone Sheiling and the highlight – Skyline. It was a wonderful weekend and the park did not disappoint with spectacular views. However, we were very upset to see numbers of people ignoring the signs to remain on the boardwalk to protect the fragile vegetation. I wonder if there is something more that can be done in addition to the gentle reminders. 🙁

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  18. Agness of Fit Travelling

    I have never thought that Nova Scotia is so stunning, Tamara! I would love to go there!

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  23. Just an FYI, hoping for some improvements for others and for us when we return the next time, as we sure would love to. We are seniors, and we headed out to NS this past October, something we have wanted to do since we got married 49 years ago. Finally. We loved it. Foliage colours were out of this world. One unfortunate negative we took away was…….we are seniors, and we need to take washroom breaks much more often than when we were younger. Our first stop, right at the head of the trail was a gift shop/restaurant, as we could not find a gas bar. Pasted right on the door was a sign that washrooms were only for customers. Right off the bat we felt unwelcome in NS. So, thereafter, we did not want to intrude on any businesses to use their washrooms, as we did not feel welcome in regards to that matter. Me, being male, I could stop and run into the bushes, but my wife would not do that. Gas bars are hard to find on the trail. Being that this is a huge touristy benefit for NS, people come from all around the world we discovered, we were surprised there were no public washrooms set up anywhere along the trail. Surely this would much improve the experience of the cabot trail. Surely the gov’t officials responsible would understand? Surely this could be done discreetly without taking up too much beautiful prized land? Anyway, that is our beef. Our experience was fantastic, and we tell our friends and families they need to check it out. Please forward to people who could be influenced, as we don’t know who they are. Thanks.

    1. Very fair comments, and I think the folks at Parks Canada would best be able to assist with that if you’re able to pass along your recommendations to them. Hopefully some changes will be made so it’s easier for everyone in that regard!

    2. Next time take the senic route through the beautiful fishing villange of Neil’s Harbour ,it has a comfort station ( showers /washrooms) along with an amazing beach , walking trails ,boat tours ,gas station , grocery store , pharmacy , hospital and much much more.

  24. Don’t know if this thread is still active, but we travelled The Trail on a trip in 2013 and LOVED it. We’re returning in a few days to experience Celtic Colors and this article and beautiful pictures have made me so excited!!! We also had some great experiences right off the trail. We thought Neil’s Harbour (I think that’s right!) was adorable with wonderful people. We also went on a whale cruise from one of the northern villages that was unforgettable. I love it so much that I thought I would move to the area until I noticed all the residence homes that had woodpiles talker than the houses!😲

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