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Kindly help planning 5-6 days trip to Cape Breton Island

Ottawa, Canada
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Kindly help planning 5-6 days trip to Cape Breton Island

Hello everyone!

I and my wife are planning a trip in June to Cape Breton Island for 5 or 6 days. I have no idea of the geography of the island but have seen some maps on the official tourism website.

We will be flying from Ottawa to Sydney and are planning to stay at two places (3 days at each place) to cover maximum sites. But we are confused about which two places we should choose to stay. Kindly help.

Another query I have is, is it possible to rent a car at Sydney and use it to travel between various sites in the island? When I checked Google maps' driving instructions to drive from Sydney to Ingonish, I saw that we have to get on a ferry. Now, If I get on a ferry, what do I do with car. Please pardon if this is a stupid question, but I am really confused because of this.

I am from Ottawa and I can drive pretty comfortably here. Is it difficult to drive inside the island? Any specific thing I need to keep in mind while driving? I plan to rent a car and carry my TomTom GPS.

Thank you in advance to a very helpful community here. Please advice.

Scottsdale, Arizona
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1. Re: Kindly help planning 5-6 days trip to Cape Breton Island

Interesting -- my wife and I are planning a visit to Nova Scotia in June as well. Three days of the week will be on Cape Breton (we'll be flying into Halifax from Boston and then staying in Halifax for three days). On Cape Breton Island, after a bit of research, we chose a B & B in Baddeck. That's about 25 miles or so from Sydney but seems to be a nice location.

One thing on my list is a day trip over to Fortress Louisbourg.

I'd note that June is sort of 'shoulder' season -- which is something of a good news/bad news thing. It means some options might be limited, but it also means less of a tourist throng to cope with (not that Cape Breton gets super crowded).

As to car rentals -- can't help much there -- we're renting from the Halifax airport and returning the car there a week later.

Halifax
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2. Re: Kindly help planning 5-6 days trip to Cape Breton Island

Re Cape Breton I am assuming as you are flying in to Sydney you are also flying out, in which case you should have no problem renting car. I have foubnd Enteprise to be flexible?

Englishtown old cable ferry - worth the experience and you drive on and off.

As far as places to stay usually suggest some time in either Ingonish, Dingwall, Cheticamp area and then Baddeck area. if you go to search box below there are numerous forums for all aspects of CB sight, sounds lodgings, hikes, fishing, celtic music etc

Let us know some of your interests and we can narrow it down a bit with recommendations and suggestions.

Edited: 6:03 am, February 26, 2013
Nova Scotia
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3. Re: Kindly help planning 5-6 days trip to Cape Breton Island

Lulu has it right. You want to stay on the West Coast of Cape Breton and in the Baddeck or Sydney area. Unfortunately 'shoulder season' at Louisbourg means it is not fully open. The restaurants are not open as far as I know and there are few, if any, animators (people in character ready to explain what you are seeing). If you think you will not be back then you will have to make do.

pc.gc.ca/eng/…heures-hours.aspx

Here is one route to look at:

http://goo.gl/maps/jNxKR

However, you will want to come back.

Sydney
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4. Re: Kindly help planning 5-6 days trip to Cape Breton Island

If you tell me the date/time you arrive in Sydney and the date/time you depart I will work out a potential schedule for you that will allow you to get the most out of your trip. If you also tell us where your interests lie, then we can be sure to include those things. On the east side of the Island you are best to stay in the Sydney area from where you can tour the Fortress of Louisbourg, visit the Cape Breton Miner's Museum in Glace Bay, take a day trip around part of the Bras d'Or Lakes taking in the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck and the Highland Village in Iona and taking in some of our local music. The later in June you come the more likely you will find attractions/music etc. The Louisbourg Playhouse starts their evening shows (2 hours of Cape Breton music) on the 28th of June . You will find great music at Rollie's Wharf in North Sydney every Thursday night all year round. If you are hikers, the Louisbourg Lighthouse Trail is one of the nicest coastal walks in the Province. If you are interested, you could also do the Bird Island Boat Tour out to the puffin colonies on Bird Island during this portion of your visit. The Bird Island Boat Tour starts in early May when the puffins arrive. One of the reasons I recommend Sydney over some of the smaller communities is that it is central to most of the local attractions and, particularly in the shoulder season, you can be guaranteed to find accommodation and restaurants open.

After seeing the sites in the Sydney/Louisbourg area you should then head around the Cabot Trail with the aim of staying somewhere in the north or west part of the Trail anywhere from Cape North to Margaree Harbour. Cheticamp would be a good choice as, again, in the shoulder season you will find it more difficult to find places to stay and to eat. There are many outdoor activities available to you in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park - kayaking, hiking, etc. With good planning you should also be able to catch some local Cape Breton music during this portion of the trip as well.

If you have 6 nights available, I would split it with 3 nights in the Sydney area and 3 nights around the Cabot Trail. If you only have 5 nights, I would take 3 nights in the Sydney area if your prime interest is history/culture or 3 nights around the Cabot Trail if your interests are more with outdoor activities.

Whatever you end up doing, you will truly enjoy yourself on cape Breton island.

Ottawa, Canada
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5. Re: Kindly help planning 5-6 days trip to Cape Breton Island

Thank you everybody for taking the time out to help me. In fact, my schedule is open so I think I should come in around 28 June for 7 nights.

I am still not sure whether we should fly directly to Sydney. If we fly to Halifax and take a shuttle to Sydney or Baddeck from Halifax, we are able to save about 400$. So, that seems to be a good option. What do you all suggest? I think we should fly to Halifax, take a shuttle to Sydney or Baddeck and rent a car from there. Will rental car be available in Baddeck or I should rent a car from Sydney?

Once my travel plans are in place, I can tell you my preferences of activities / places I want to see. Thanks again everyone. I am overwhelmed by the quick and detailed responses.

Cheers!

Halifax, Canada
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6. Re: Kindly help planning 5-6 days trip to Cape Breton Island

Driving from Halifax to Sydney non-stop is about 4 hours, 30 minutes at around 105-110kph. If you haven't been to Halifax, you may want to modify your trip to spend a day or two there before setting out in your rental car or shuttle. The rental car would mean a 4-5 hour return trip, though. The shuttles are quick and economical, but you'll need to make sure they have room for your luggage.

Once you're on Cape Breton Island, from Sydney to the Canso Causeway is only an hour or so via the 104 (below the lakes) or the 105 (above them). Driving will be a cakewalk if you're from Ontario. The only exception is the road to Meat Cove, right on the northern tip of Cape Breton. VERY narrow, and not for the faint of heart. The wife's family lives in Sydney Mines, so I make the trip 2-3 times a year. One interesting and scenic drive was off the beaten path. Once you cross The Causeway, you make a bee-line for the big lake via the County Line Rd. Then, follow Marble Mountain Road all the way around (parts are gravel, but fun!) until it intersects the 223, which you can follow, or take the 216 the rest of the way. Granted, these are largely unmarked country back-roads. I have a good sense of direction, but got turned around once without a map or GPS.

The Cabot Trail and Fortress Louisburg are the two real 'must-sees', and I'd also recommend the coal mine tour at the Miner's Museum in Glace Bay is nice... Then it's 'drive around and meet the people'.

Sydney
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7. Re: Kindly help planning 5-6 days trip to Cape Breton Island

My wife and I operate a B&B in Sydney on Cape Breton Island and have been helping guests plan their trips for the last 13 years. Most of our guests fly into Halifax, rent a car and drive to Cape Breton. After their Cape Breton tour they return the car to the Halifax airport. You could take the shuttle but with two of you the return trip would be about $320 return. It would be much more economical to rent a car for the whole time. Driving time from Halfax airport to Sydney is just over 4 hours via Hwy 102 then the Trans Canada (104) on mainland Nova Scotia, then Hwy 104 and 4 through St Peter's and along the south east side of the Bras d'Or Lakes once on Cape Breton Island. After visiting the tourist attractions on the Sydney side of the Island for a few days our guests would then head around the Cabot Trail spending at least a night and generally more in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and the west coast of the Island. Some of our guests will do the Cabot Trail as a day trip from Sydney but it's not what I would recommend, particularly if you want to do any outdoor activities in the Park.

The main roads in Cape Breton are good and none of our guests have ever experienced any problems. As someone already mentioned, the small ferry at Englishtown provides an interesting diversion on the Cabot Trail. It is actually an "alternate route" and cuts off about 20 minutes of the drive. It runs constantly and you rarely have more than a 5 minute wait. It costs $5.25.

As an aside, there will be a "Nova Scotia Kitchen Party" in Ottawa Friday the 8th of March at the Lunenburg Pub, 14 Waller St Byward Market from 4-7 PM with entertainment provided by "Cape Breton Sessions" a group of Cape Breton musicians from the Ottawa area. Why not attend and get an early taste of Cape Breton.

Cheers

Nova Scotia
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8. Re: Kindly help planning 5-6 days trip to Cape Breton Island

Excellent advice from pfound!

Cape Breton Island...
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9. Re: Kindly help planning 5-6 days trip to Cape Breton Island

Think of Cape Breton as an island first , so you are surrounded by seas/ocean. So you aim to stay on the coast . You next see that CB is like an egg , and the west side is the sunset side, the beaches side , the music side . The top is basically all nature . Louisburg requires you travel to the Eastern side . So then stay in Sydney or Louisburg . Baddeck is on a lake and inland and is a tourist town so not the same as being on the coast .

You are always best to travel Cape Breton First and Halifax last so you have wiggle room. You rent cars in Halifax, you are loosing a lot of time with shuttles as they only leave Halifax in the afternoons . I bet the extra air cost to Sydney is over $ 100 each, each way and you'll have a 1 -3 hour layover in Halifax.

That trip to Marble Mountain is nice , but you need the time, slow driving . Same as driving inland along the Margaree River, which is beautiful trip but you need at least an hour just for the driving part and some can spend a whole day along the Margaree to Belle Cote for a swim at night.

Start asking around, as there used to be a Cape Breton Club that gathers in Ottawa once a month.

Edited: 9:18 am, February 27, 2013
Canora, Canada
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10. Re: Kindly help planning 5-6 days trip to Cape Breton Island

we are planning to be heading to cape breton island via lunnenburg on sept 23 is bad deck a doable first day destination

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