Cabot Trail comprises 185 miles (298 kilometers) of cliff-edge roadway weaving around the northern half of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. It offers epic views of the whale-inhabited waters of the Atlantic and Gulf of St. Lawrence, and access to quaint towns and Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
In theory, Cabot Trail can be completed in five hours. In reality, however, most visitors spend several days here, stopping for hikes, whale-watching tours, or to simply soak up the scenery along the route.
Drive yourself around the route or join a tour so you can focus on the views out the window. Multi-day tours typically incorporate the Cabot Trail into a longer itinerary that also includes other parts of Nova Scotia, such as Halifax and Baddeck, and—in some cases—Prince Edward Island. Many multi-day tours incorporate whale-watching boat trips and stops at scenic coastal villages.
Things to Know Before You Go
Cabot Trail is a must for scenery seekers and nature lovers.
Travel clockwise to stay on the inside lane, which is further away from scary roadside drop-offs.
For those comfortable and confident at the wheel, go counterclockwise and take the trail’s outside lane, where there is typically less traffic.
There are no roads cutting across the center of north Cape Breton Island, so once you start the trail, you either have to finish it or turn back the way you came.
Watch out for moose on the road; if you encounter one, be prepared to stop and wait for it to move on.
How to Get There
Enter the trail via Route 19 (Ceilidh Trail), or via Exit 7, if you’re going clockwise, or Exit 11 of the Trans-Canada Highway 105, if you’re going counterclockwise. It’s also possible to take the Englishtown Ferry across St. Ann’s Bay and enter the trail via Route 312.
When to Get There
Sightseeing tours and whale-watching tours run between June and October, and it’s the best time to go. It’s also when the weather is mildest. If you plan on doing the trail in one day, set off early so you have ample time to explore.
Cabot Trail Wildlife-Watching
As you make your way along Cabot Trail, be on the lookout for some of the most impressive species known to frequent Cape Breton. Moose commonly wander onto the road, bald eagles can sometimes be spotted in the skies overhead, and all kinds of whales—from pilot to minkes to humpbacks—can be seen journeying near the coast from June to mid-October.