The Complete Guide to Enjoying the Best Cabot Trail Experience

A stunning view of Cape Breton Island’s ocean cliffs from the Cabot Trail.

Posted by on 18 Jul 2023

The Cabot Trail is one of the most beautiful scenic road trips you can take not just in Canada, but in the entire world. Located on Cape Breton Island, this 185-mile loop is where nature meets the sea. You’ll find rolling hills, valleys full of stunning foliage and deep blue ocean waves in a single trail.

Exploring this trail is incredibly exciting, but it can be intimidating for a first-timer. We’re here to help you out. Here’s a comprehensive guide on what the Cabot Trail is, how to explore it and what spots you can’t miss if you visit this Nova Scotia route.

Why is the Cabot Trail Famous?

This trail is found on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, one of the easternmost parts of Canada. It passes through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, one of the best national parks in all of Canada.

The reason why this trail is so popular for hikers, cyclers and road trip travellers alike is because it offers a host of diverse sceneries to admire.

Whether you want to see the blue waves of the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Lawrence or are looking to hike up a mountain and see autumn foliage in a valley, you can do so while traversing the Cabot Trail. It’s literally where the land meets the sea. It even has its fair share of quaint fishing villages.

How Long is the Cabot Trail?

This trail is 185 miles long. The road is a loop that goes all the way around Cape Breton Island, passing numerous hiking trails, mountain cliffs and small towns.

If you have no plans of getting out of your car, you can easily drive through the entire trail in one day. But travellers find that the best way to enjoy this scenic trail is to spend a couple of days here. Around 2-4 days is more than enough to take in all the sights and make all the must-see stops before heading home.

What’s the Best Way to Explore the Trail?

Driving a car is by far the most popular way to see the Cabot Trail. By traversing through the winding road, you’ll be able to see breathtaking coastal views.

You can also drive a motorcycle through this loop to feel the breeze on your face as you drive by. If you prefer a slower pace, cycling is a popular way to go around the loop—but it will take you a few days.

It’s not advisable to explore the entire trail on foot. However, if you want to be one with nature, you can always stop at popular hiking trails in the area to stretch your legs and go on a hike on foot to admire Cape Breton Island’s beautiful mountains.

What Should I Not Miss on the Cabot Trail?

Skyline Trail

The Skyline Trail is a popular one within the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Its claim to fame is a boardwalk path that takes hikers to a dramatic viewpoint where you can see a majestic view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It’s perfect for watching sunsets!

This trail might also give you the opportunity to see some wildlife. Hikers are sometimes lucky enough to see moose and all kinds of bird species on land. Meanwhile, the blue waters may give you a glimpse of some whales.

It takes about 2-3 hours to hike this trail back and forth. It’s great for beginners and experienced hikers alike.


Baddeck is a quaint village right by Bras d'Or Lake on the eastern part of the Cabot Trail. If you want to take a break from outdoor adventures and simply want to see how the locals live, it’s a must-see.

This little town is popular for being the summer home of Alexander Graham Bell. It’s home to the National Historic Site honouring this prolific inventor. Here, you’ll see a museum full of replicas of Bell’s most important inventions, from small things like telephones to a huge, full-scale Silver Dart aircraft.

Margaree Valley

Margaree Valley is one of the most refreshing places you can visit while you’re on the Cabot Trail. It has beautiful rolling hills and a breathtaking river valley, but it’s most popular for salmon fishing. It’s a quintessential countryside valley with a serene river. This place looks best in the fall when the foliage turns red and orange.

One of the most fun activities you can do here is tubing in the Margaree River. You can relax and float downstream for a couple of hours.


No trip to Cape Breton Island is complete without setting foot in a charming, picturesque village with European influences. Among the prettiest ones is Chéticamp, a village with a strong Acadian heritage.

You’ll see these French influences in the vibrant art museums, colourful, European-style houses and delectable local cuisine. The homes in this village usually have bright, vivid colours, like yellow and blue. It’s an idyllic little town that makes you feel as though you are in the middle of a French village.

What’s the Best Path to Take When Driving the Cabot Trail

You can take off from many different points to start travelling through the Cabot Trail. The most practical route is to start from Whycocomagh, putting you smack in the middle of the trail. This area is the southernmost part of the trail. So, it’s very accessible from most areas.

From there, you can decide to go either clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on which sights you want to see first. Many travellers recommend a counterclockwise drive to see the best views, as this side is the ocean side.

The Cabot Trail is a Must-See for Nature and Sea Lovers

If you want to see and experience the essence of east coast Canada in just a few days, the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia is perfect for you. This 185-mile loop shows you rugged cliffsides, breathtaking mountains and valleys, charming fishing villages and the refreshing open road.

After your Cabot Trail adventure, make the most of your holiday and explore other parts of Canada. Check out these exciting destinations in Canada.

When experience matters