Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail

Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail Claimed

5 days -- October 2019 -- Three females in their mid-twenties -- Road Trip

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Trip Overview

Three female friends in their mid-twenties living in DC, hoping to catch some peak foliage on the Cabot Trail in early October. The Cabot Trail is often called one of the best road trips in the world for seeing leaves in the fall. Sadly, a hurricane a few weeks prior meant the foliage was not quite as good as it could have been, but overall the trip was incredible! Especially if you live on the East Coast and your city has direct flights to Halifax, getting to Cape Bretton Island and the Cabot Trail is doable in a four-day weekend.

Full Itinerary

Some general tips/notes:-The Trail (by which I mean the road) is well-signed throughout and Parks Canada (the United States equivalent of the National Parks Service) does a great job aligning the map that they give you with the signs you’ll see for trails through the hike – there were so many more hikes I wish we’d had time to do!-You will have to pay an entry fee for the park – it was less than $20 USD for the day we spent in the park, and we bought our pass in Ingonish. We paid with a card, but it doesn’t hurt to have some Canadian money-The one time you will need Canadian money is for the bridge tolls around Halifax-Tourism infrastructure around the park (food, hotels, etc) isn’t quite as robust as the park infrastructure itself, so make sure to be careful about gas and food. Some of the gas stations close on the early side, as do the restaurants (more on this below)-I’d especially recommend this trip to people who love the cadence of visiting Iceland. Like Iceland, it’s almost impossible to get lost and the ring-road nature of the trip makes pulling over to see attractions, or detouring off road, incredibly easy. I also loved that we only needed to use a paper map, even though our car came with GPS!-For less weather-hardy travelers who aren’t making foliage a priority, I’d recommend going in the summertime when it’s less likely that you’ll have a freezing cold and rainy day-If you do make leaf peeping a priority, like we did, there is a big festival that happens in mid-October, so make sure to keep this in mind for availability of accommodations

Day 1Flew into Halifax.

My friends arrived in Halifax earlier in the day (from DC, with a layover in Philadelphia), and had great meals and drinks at Bar Kismet, Edna, and Good Robot Brewing. I got in from a work trip in Boston after dinner, and picked up the rental car at the airport. We stayed at an Airbnb over near the Public Gardens.

Day 2

Headed out of town and to Dartmouth, across the bridge. We had a delicious breakfast at Two if By Sea Cafe and picked up some snacks. We then headed East to the start of the Cabot Trail on Cape Bretton Island, an easy 3 hour drive from Halifax, and saw some good foliage along the way. Stopped for lunch and beer at Big Spruce Brewing in Baddeck, which had amazing salads and fish tacos and flights of beer. It was drizzling so we hung out there for awhile, in a heated room with live music and views of Bras D’Or Lake. We’d heard of a great little waterfall hike nearby, Uisag Ban Falls, but didn’t do it due to the weather. Continued to drive along the water, and even took a car ferry across a 200 foot-wide channel. Made a pit stop at the Dancing Moose Cafe for snacks right as it was closing, and then got into Ingonish around 4.That night we stayed at Salty Rose’s and the Periwinkle Cafe in Ingonish, the cutest bakery/shop with 3 rooms available to stay in (we booked through Airbnb). After walking around Ingonish Beach (which would’ve been lovely in slightly better weather) and the Keltic Lodge, we had dinner at Coastal Restaurant and Pub. Be warned that all the restaurants in and around Ingonish (except for the Keltic Lodge) close early and there are only a few of them, so make sure you show up with plenty of time.

Day 3

The day of many hikes! After an amazing breakfast at Salty Rose’s (included in the cost of our room) we hit the road for hours of stunning views including on a detour to White Point, Cabots Landing Provincial Park (the beach where explorer John Cabot first landed in Nova Scotia), and the amusingly-named Meat Cove. Both my friends thought Meat Cove was a highlight of the trip! There’s an awesome mile-long hike that takes you out to some bluffs looking back at the cove and the ocean, and a cat followed us most of the way up.Back on the trail, we stopped for lunch at Rusty Anchor, where we had some of the best lobster of the trip and incredible apple pie. It’s the main food spot on this part of the Trail, so it was packed when we were there. A few minutes later, we arrived at the Trail’s most famous hike, the Skyline Trail. Judging from the massive number of parking spots, it gets crazy in the summer. We’d been hoping to witness a beautiful sunset, but it was mostly cloudy. And moose mating season had caused a portion of the trail loop to be closed, so we ended up doing an out-and back. Still, the views were incredible and definitely gave us California Highway 1 vibes, despite being a totally different ocean.Out of the park, we drove through Cheticamp, which we heard has a lot of cute cafes and shops. But the little beach bungalow that we had booked was somewhat further down off the Trail, in Port Hood, so we kept driving. In hindsight, I’d recommend staying in Inverness, which had a little more going on than Port Hood did, and was closer to the Trail. We had dinner at the Clove Hitch Bar and Bistro, a few minutes from the Lighthouse Cottages where we stayed.

Day 4

Woke up to stunning views of the ocean right outside our cabin, and picked up some breakfast at a bakery nearby before retracing a bit from the day before. The foliage was particularly good along this stretch. I’d done some research on hikes in the area, and pulled off the road when i saw a sign for Sight Point and the MacKinnons Brook hikes I’d read about. Little did we know getting to these hikes would be 30 minutes down a bumpy dirt road, but it was well worth it for one of the most beautiful hikes I’d ever done. It was perfectly sunny, and the trail took us up a ridge with amazing views of the water and nearby canyons. Squint and you could have been in Malibu. I could have kept hiking there for hours, but we needed to start heading back toward Halifax.At Margaree Harbour, the Cabot Trail cuts inland. We stopped at the popular Dancing Goat Cafe (yes we went to both a Dancing Goat and a Dancing Moose) for coffee, delicious sandwiches and salads, and dessert. Post-lunch, we drove through the valley to where we’d started the trail a couple of days prior, and from there it was a straight shot back to Halifax. We did make one pitstop in Antigonish to buy some goodies at Peace By Chocolate, a chocolate shop run by Syrian refugees. Apparently Justin Trudeau gives their candy as gifts to foreign leaders! After getting to Halifax, we checked in to a hotel right near the Citadel and then headed to dinner on the harbor, at an Italian place called the Bicycle Thief. Although the service was slow, it was a delicious meal and the ambiance was amazing.

Day 5

In the morning, one friend and I went for a lovely run down to the waterfront, through some cute neighborhoods, and up to the Citadel. I hadn’t seen much of the city the first morning, so it was a good way to get a better feel for it. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, my friends dropped me off at the airport, then headed back to Dartmouth to explore for a few more hours before their flight.Despite a connection in Montreal, I was back in DC by mid-afternoon. All in all an amazing trip!



Time of year


Type of Trip

Adventure/Active, Nature


quick getaway/weekend

Who Went

Girls trip

Accommodation Type

Hotel, AirBnB/VRBO


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