19.09.2014 - 21.09.2014 28 °C
There was quite a bit of chatter in the hostel in Halifax about the Cape Breton Trail and how unmissable it is. Once I'd worked out it is a trail you drive, rather than walk, I was in. I rented a ridiculous looking car, a Kia Soul, which was OK, actually and off I went. Received wisdom was to drive up the main highway to Cape Breton Island as I was leaving at about 3:00 in the afternoon, but I eschewed that wisdom as I wanted to take the coastal route, up (NS 7), as I was convinced it would be more scenic. It was, but much slower - a three hour zoom up the main road was almost doubled - mind you, I saw lots to stop for and took several detours - I reckon it was worth it.
I headed out through Dartmouth - the road is forced to run inland a bit, as there are all sorts of inlets and harbours that would interrupt its flow, and I'm afraid I've lost track of which particular harbours I stopped at.
The road cuts inland at Sherbrooke - by then it was well and truly dark. I dithered with the idea of staying there, but everything seemed so quiet, I didn't even know if I'd find something to eat. The town itself looked like it is a museum - which later research shows it is: Sherbrooke Village is an open air museum made of 30 odd buildings set up to look like an old main street (something like it was during gold rush days, I imagine). Might explain why the place looked deserted. Anyway, I headed on through the dark to Port Hastings, the first place across the causeway to Cape Breton Island and stayed in a huge, nearly empty motel which faced back across the harbour. At just before 10, my only dining options were McDonalds or Subway. Should have left earlier. My first stop in the morning was Baddeck, which is the gateway town for the Cabot Trail - it is on the enormous inland sea or lake (jury seems to be out) called Lake Bras d'Or - it has multiple islands, ferries, bridges - I could have spent a couple of days just exploring the lake.
I have a separate post about something I did at Baddeck - now I want to focus on the Cabot Trail. After hunting up and down the road for a petrol station (the one in town closed at noon), it was time to hit the trail. It basically runs up the east coast of the northern part of Cape Breton Island, cuts across through the forest (Cape Breton Highlands National Park) rather than going right to the top, then comes down the west coast to Margaree River, and then runs through to its start point. On the east, it is almost uninhabited for miles, until it hits Ingonosh (where things get weird, because the road crosses in and out of the National Park several times, but for about a maximum of a kilometre each time - I think I was a fool for paying the park fee). At Neil's Harbour, it heads west.
There is a road which does go to the very top of Cape Breton, to a wee town called St Margaret, Bay St Lawrence Harbour and then finally to Meat Cover, where I found a closed restaurant and a very windy camping ground on top of a hill which, even in the wind, had a few hardy souls camping. By this time, I was once again in the dark so there are no more photos for the day. I had to head through the forest in the dark to my hostel at Pleasant Bay - luckily enough there was still a place to get some very average food for dinner.
There was nowhere to eat, so I did a quick look back through the forest to see if I missed anything in the dark (nope) then headed south, finally stopping in an odd town called Cheticamp for another average meal - the town was weird because it was so string out along the coast, with no real centre and large distances between each building.
It didn't really take long, and before I knew it, I was heading east from Margaree River, and came across a wonderful cafe, the Dancing Goat - I overheard my fellow guests saying how far they'd come for lunch - not quite from New Zealand, but clearly, people were prepared to put in some miles to come here. I, unfortunately, was still full from my mediocre breakfast, so could only fit in coffee and cake.