Touring Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail

All these amazing vistas are beginning to run together— one beautiful area after another.  We want to come back to spend more time and not rush so much. We feel like we need to take more time to soak in all we are seeing.


We stop at an RV camp at the foot of Kelly’s Mountain on Boulardere Island looking out on the Bras d’Or Lake.  This lake is an inland sea with channels that connect the Cabot Straight to the Atlantic Ocean. Up to 31 miles wide and 62 miles long, we stayed at the foot of the dramatic Seal Island Bridge, connecting our chunk of land to New Harris, Cape Breton to the north.  White an red lighthouses stand sentry at the waters edge all over the area.


We were here on September 17th 2011 and we were treated to hundreds of motorcycles roaring by as they participated in Canada’s Gord’s Race for the Cure.  The 185 mile ride on the Cabot Trail and began early in the morning in a cold rain.  Great cause in nasty conditions.


We decided to take a down day and hope for better weather before driving the Cabot Trail ourselves.  I headed out to Beddeck to see the local area.  (I was hoping to find some displays from the Mi’kmaq First Nation.  No Luck.  Their only shop was closed and covered with addiction information.) 

Instead, I found a real treasure, Beddeck.


Beddeck has quite a history.  It is the birthplace of Canadian aviation—and the first powered flight in the British Empire– with the flight of Alexander Graham Bell’s AEA Silver Dart.  This was Bell’s summer home and the site of his laboratory and much of his experiments, including those on the tretrahedral kite.


I visited the monument built to Bell’s many legacies and found a celebration of Celtic music and an afternoon Ceilidh (story and music party). 


This place is a tribute to Bell’s life; his quote from 1922 seems particularly ahead of its time…


The peaceful Beddeck Harbor centered around another lighthouse.  I stayed a while just to enjoy the serenity.


The next day we had great weather as we headed out on the Cabot Trail.  The breathtaking views just keep on coming!  The Trail rings the northern tip of Cape Breton Island and our drive begins overlooking the Bras d’Or and Ingonish from St. Ann’s Lookoff.


We travel down the mountain to begin our drive.


Soon we got a bird’s eye view of the spectacular countryside at Camp Smokey Picnic Park.  We hike, absorb the view and pick blueberries.


Then we arrive at Ingonish


Continue on to Lakies Head.


Further on, Neil’s Harbor and Whites Point are big lobster fishing areas.



Smelt Brook gave us another great view of the meeting of land and sea.


The road stretched out forever through the Cape Breton Highlands until we reached the Gulf of St. Lawrence at Pleasant Bay.



On a rocky beach heading toward Chéticamp, we found a cairn that looked much like the Inuksuk stones we saw on Hudson Bay north of Winnipeg.


And, yes, another amazing glacier carved landscape combining the earth, water and sky that has mesmerized us here.


We finally reach the Arcadian village of Chéticamp.  One of the houses really caught our eye.


 The Arcadian culture grew from 17th-century French colonists who settled in the eastern Maritime provinces and part of Maine.  British and New England legislatures organized the “Great Expulsion” carried out in the late 1750’s.  During this time, these people of the colony of New France were brutally moved to Louisiana.  Their descendants are the current day Cajuns.

The Arcadian St. Pierre Church stands over the town.


Our  final stop on the Cabot Trail was Joe’s Scarecrow Village at Cap le Moine.  What started as an effort to keep crows out of a garden has become an elaborate Cabot Trail landmark.  Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Regan, Nixon, and all manner of over 50 other scarecrows now watch over a very odd open field. 



No one there, just the scarecrows created by Joe, the owner, who was fascinated by Mi-Careme, the francophone mid-Lent celebration where revelers party in grotesque costumes.


We joined the fun.


Tomorrow, we’ll pull up stakes—actually pack up the RV—and head to New Brunswick and try to catch the 60 foot tides at the Bay of Fundy.  This will be our last Canadian stop before we head back to the States.




Through much of Canada we saw signs warning of moose on the roads. Going 60 miles an hour in a RV, this would be a problem so we did keep watch. All we saw were the great signs…guess that;s a good thing.


One other thing we noticed across Canada was the length of the trains used to transport goods across the country.   We counted ourselves lucky we rarely had to wait for a train to pass, they mostly ran parallel to us.   I counted over 70 at one crossing.


We bypassed Halifax to meet up with our Canadian friends, the O’Neills, in Mahone Bay and celebrated with the appropriate libations….


Tim gave us a great guided bike tour of the picturesque Mahone Bay countryside and city center…


We got a picture postcard view of three beautiful churches on the water.


A great small, eclectic town with unique shops, colorful buildings


and the Amos pewter jewelry factory.  A very special stop, particularly because our friends introduced us to the area.


From there we took a day trip to Lunenburg, another wonderful old, yet modern, city.  This is where the Bluenose racing schooner was built in the 1920’s.  A great source of Canadian pride, she won the International Fishermen’s Races in that era before diesel engines changed fishing on the Grand Banks.  After being wrecked, the Bluenose II was built in commemoration in 1963. 

We visited the shipyard where a replica of Bluenose II is currently being re-built as an ambassador for Nova Scotia and Canada. 


Walking around the city, we also visited The Ironworks, a totally green micro-distillery housed in an old blacksmith’s Shop.  Using a beautiful German-made still they distill small batches of vodka, rum, brandy and liqueur from fresh natural ingredients. 


A charming place and it was great booze.  We succumbed—several bottles for us and some for friends.  A real treat!


As I mentioned, Lunenburg is modern—and historic. 


The St. John’s Anglican Church is a beauty and dates back to 1753. 


By preserving the original architecture of the town, it is now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America.


Back at the O’Neill’s, we had dinner in an old family house they have “made new” again. 


They suggested we take another side trip the next day to rustic Peggy’s Cove.  This is a coastal fishing village on the eastern shore of St. Margaret’s Bay that is a tourist and artist destination (William deGarth’s Gallery is here).  Peggy’s Cove is situated at the confluence of the Labrador Current from the Arctic and the Gulf Stream bringing an amazing diversity of northern and Caribbean marine life into the bay.  On a somber note, this is also the site where Swissair Flight 111 crashed 5 miles offshore in 1998.

The famous Peggy’s Cove working lighthouse is perched on an iconic granite outcrop that is featured on the Lighthouse Trail scenic drive.  The day we visited, the area was, as they say, shrouded in fog.  We were a bit upset we didn’t have the scenic ocean views, but we got some interesting images.


And the village had an ethereal quality in the haze. 


This is still the home working of working fishermen–and they have the lobster pots to prove it.


As a final take-away, we had delicious “Cornish Pasties” reminiscent to the pasties we first tasted in Michigan’s UP last summer—the U-per’s were better!


At the risk of overusing the words beautiful and scenic—more great views on the way back to Mahone Bay. 


Tomorrow we head for the north corner of Nova Scotia, to Cape Breton Island and the famous the Cabot Trail!


PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND–So much more than PEI mussels!

Continuing our trip across the Canadian Maritimes from Rivière du-Loup, we zipped across New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island.  (We’ll tour New Brunswick and see the Bay of Fundy at the end of the trip.) 


We got our first look of fall colors along the way.


We enter PEI by traversing the Confederation Bridge.  This is the longest bridge in the world over ice-covered waters and links Prince Edward Island to the mainland at Cape Jourimain, New Brunswick.


This is one long bridge—especially in a RV pulling our dinghy car.  And it has a show-stopper toll too.  FYI- When we left PEI the toll was almost $60…all major credit cards accepted.

PEI is a unique area known for its manicured tourist areas and its pink sand beaches. Our first look from the bridge was spectacular.


We headed cross-island to our RV park in Cavendish, home of Anne of Green Gables.  This is a tourist beehive in the summer.  We hit it just after Labor Day and, except for the occasional farm equipment,  we practically had the place to ourselves.


The beaches are beautiful—the dogs has a ball.   The rainbow was a nice addition.


And we found picturesque lighthouses all along the shore.


We immediately drove part of the Prince Edward Island National Park.  This is a magnificent seashore reserve.


We stopped at Dalvay-by-the-Sea, a place where Canada entertained Prince William and Kate during their recent visit.


Dalvay Lake was a peaceful bird haven.


Then we meandered back to North Rustico at sunset.  


The lobster pots on the dock told us our fishmarket sold local…and our fresh fish was great!


We came back to North Rustico many times.  We found a great bakery,


And the famous Lighthouse Cafe.  Plus we hiked the beaches around the harbor and were treated to another eye-popping sunset.




The next morning we made a mandatory stop–we drove by Avonlea and the House of Green Gables—we couldn’t leave without a visit.



In the afternoon, we biked another part of the Prince Edward Island National Park.  It’s a fairly flat trail along the water and we found some great areas where we wanted to explore.





Taking off in the car the next day, we made it down to iconic pink beaches along Cape Turner. 




 A found a large cormorant colony as we hiked.


Poison Ivy is a big deal here.  And there were signs to keep dogs nearby  because coyotes swim or walk on the ice from the mainland.


Driving farther, we found a mussel farm in Spring Brook.   Now that we know, we have seen PEI mussels featured on several local US restaurant menus. 


 Sea birds were everywhere and some cormorants gave us a great show.




We had another great seafood dinner at Carr’s Oyster Bar in Stanley Bridge.  This was a wonderful chance find.  We spent over an hour trying to find Richard’s Seafood in Stanhope.  Turns out it was a nondescript place on the side of the road we drove past several times…it closed for the season on Labor Day and we totally missed it!  We’ll try again if we are back in PEI—but will definitely call before heading out.  This community lives on its tourism. 


After dinner, we found a heron at the oyster farm at Raspberry Point. 


Our final day on PEI we head back across the Confederation Bridge and stop at the best gift shop ever.  Run by the provincial government, it’s located at the foot of the bridge at Cape Jourmain and features work from local craftsmen–fantastic things at reasonable prices.  A must stop!


From there we hope to catch up with friends who have a home in by Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia.


Rivière du-Loup, Canada…Sunsets and sea life on the St. Lawrence River

After an easy trip, we settled in to Rivière du-Loup (Wolf’s River) quite easily.  This is a small town in a spectacular location. Right on a portion of the St Lawrence River where the fresh and salt waters meet. 


The little town is a beautiful.


And the location means they have fantastic fresh seafood restaurants and, because of its position on the river, some of the most amazing sunsets we’ve ever seen.  Also, another raging Parc des Chutes (the Sentier waterfall).


The basin was complete with rainbow… 


Our first day was complete with a lovely sunset…a harbringer of things to come.


The next day, locals told us whale watching is a MUST here because this is where salt water from the ocean and and fresh water from the river meet.  We decided to go out and frankly we didn’t have big expectations.  We were so surprised!   We actually saw the different waters during our trip!


The trip began with a dolphin pod escort.  Next we me a large pod of seals.  Native tribes once called them sea wolves so they may have been the source of the name of the area.


We got some fun shots–and a bit of history– of the lovely Île Verte Lighthouse as we made our way out into the main channel. 


 The island lighthouse has had a large role in Quebec’s maritime history beginning as an encampment for Canada’s First Nations (native Indians).  Later the French used it to to monitor their fleet, then as a hub to escort trans-Atlantic ships to Quebec City.  In the War of 1812, the British used it to watch for incursions from the American fleet.  And in WWII, troops stationed on the island assisted in securing the St. Lawrence and the Gulf from over 20 German U-boat attacks on Allied ships. Lighthouse keepers now help control poaching and smuggling. 

Past the lighthouse, we saw large and small boats everywhere watching 20-30 whales.   Boat captains were very careful…the close encounters were when whales came up to us!



From Minke to Right Whales, to Humpback, these leviathans were spouting and diving—showing us their whale tails –sometime two or three at a time.


 Where we could see the line of fresh and salt waters meeting, right in the middle of all the whale activity, the crew explained the krill are especially fond of this mix of waters.  And as we all know, whales love to eat krill.


Back on shore, we saw the beginnings of another beautiful sunset.


As we said, the seafood was outstanding.  We stopped in Restaurant Le Boucanneux for a huge mixed seafood feast.  Jim could hardly move when he was done.


 We we were treated to a remarkable sunset in the process.  I jumped up from the table to catch this shot! It doesn’t get any better than this!


After dinner, we took night pictures of the town of Rivière du-Loup across the bay.  We’ll be sorry to leave here tomorrow. 


This is a place we definitely will go out of our way to come back to visit!  Across from our RV camp was Noel au Chateau, a kids castle with everything Christmas— quite spectacucar at night.


Next?  We’re off to Prince Edward Island, the land of Anne of Green Gables…and much more!