Cape Breton Island

After our colorful stay in Lunenburg, we moved to the northern side of Nova Scotia to Wolfville for a few days. Wolfville brought us back to the Bay of Fundy which meant we were back in the area of high tidal ranges and chocolate colored water. Since Opie was such a great sport about staying home while in Lunenburg, we headed to Cape Split for a nice rewarding hike that ends overlooking the Bay of Fundy. The internet suggests hiking Cape Split a few hours after low tide when the tide is starting to come in and the sound of rushing water reverberates throughout the forest. Unfortunately that would mean hiking during the middle of the day. Since Canada decided on a heat wave, we decided a cooler morning walk would be far superior to a hot walk with the sounds of water crashing around us.

Cape Split trail is located inside the Cape Split Provincial park and it’s a popular hike although it was pretty quiet at 9:30am. The trail meanders through a dense forest and opens into a meadow at the very end of the cape. If it was 20 degrees cooler and 50% less humid, this would be an enjoyable hike through a quiet and lush forest. Unfortunately at 80+ degrees and 95% humidity, our hike felt more like a death march through a rainforest and poor Opie had no streams or lakes to cool off. We quickly went through our water supply to keep Opie hydrated and damp to prevent him from overheating. On the positive side, the popularity of the hike means the trail is well-maintained and easy to follow.

After walking a couple of hours in the forest, the trail opens into a wide meadow with gorgeous views of the cliffs and Bay of Fundy. The cliffs are actively eroding and there are no barriers or warning signs which meant this was the perfect place for the squirrels to implement their revenge against Opie, the infamous squirrel chaser. A squirrel popped out of the high grass right in front of Opie, causing his brain to shut off and mindlessly chase the squirrel perilously close to the edge of the cliff. Worse, Opie dragged me right behind him while I frantically yanked on the leash. Fortunately I fell on my behind which halted both of us and put a kibosh on the squirrels’ best-laid plans.

With the exception of the evil squirrels, the cliffs are gorgeous and the view of the outgoing tides is intriguing to watch. We had a picnic lunch at the meadow, enjoyed the view and headed back. Round-trip is just under 8 miles but with the well-maintained trail and relatively easy incline, it’s a good trail for all ages.

While in Wolfville, we met up with an old co-worker and had a great time catching up. We hadn’t seen each other for probably 12 years or so but stayed in touch through Facebook. We caught up on family and business but also had a fascinating discussion on Canadian politics and government. Like the US, Canada has federal and provincial (state) governments, but unlike the US, the provincial governments hold more power than US state governments. Canada is the 2nd largest country in the world made up with 10 provinces and 3 territories and each region/province has very different priorities. Their federal government is responsible for national issues like defense, postal service, and international issues while the provinces are responsible for social/health services, transportation, public education, criminal justice, and local government. My friend summarized Canada as 10 sovereign nations under one commonwealth. Intellectually, I realize there are other forms of democratic government out there and it’s intriguing to discuss the differences and how it affects a country.

After our quick trip to Wolfville, we made the trek to Cape Breton Island, the Northeastern most portion of Nova Scotia. Cape Breton is known for the Cabot Trail, a 185 mile loop, which travels through Cape Breton Highlands Park and loops around most of the island. Since the trail skirts the edges of the island, we could see spectacular ocean cliffs, plateaus, and even glacial valleys when the trail moved inland. To really experience the trail, a few days would be preferable since there are a lot of great hiking trails within the Highlands Park. Since we hit some freak heat wave during our stay, we bypassed the hiking opportunities and just enjoyed the scenic drive and overlooks. Even with just driving, it takes at least 5 hours to complete the trail so bring food or cash. The Cabot trail does also pass by small restaurants and stores so there is some food opportunities during the drive.

We also took a day trip to Louisbourg Fortress, the largest reconstruction project in North America. Originally built in 1713 by the French, it became a bustling center for fishing and trade.  The fortress was attacked twice by the British and destroyed in the 1760s. Archeologists, using detailed records, reconstructed 1/4 of the town and fortress. The fortress reminds me of Williamsburg in VA, a recreation of US colonial times. At Louisbourg, there are re-enactors around the town working and available to answer questions. We saw blacksmiths in action, military exercises involving muskets and cannons, women doing lace-making, and servants grinding spices (those smelled SO good). We walked through the armory, stables, prominent homes, and small shops around the town. The visitor’s center provides a self-guided tour with map and blurbs of each building. Since Louisbourg is a French fortress, every actor spoke both French and English.

After a very full three weeks in Canada, we tiredly made our way back into the US. We did get boarded briefly by a customs officer who confiscated our tomatoes and mini peppers but let us keep our lettuce and half an apple, I guess so we wouldn’t starve? Otherwise a very uneventful border crossing and we made it to Bangor ME to resupply and relax.


  1. Julie Dahmer   •  

    We just returned from our first trip to the Maritimes, just following the heat wave, apparently, and missing the heat wave in southern Maine where we live now. We spent 6 nights at Broad Cove campground in the Cape Breton Highlands and loved it. We hiked a couple of the easier but scenic trails, including White’s Point (just outside the park). Warren Lake, near the campground, has a 3-mile trail around it and is OK for dogs to swim. I planned swim myself but it was too chilly that day! En route to Cape Breton we stayed two nights at Whycocomagh Provincial park which has a steep but short trail to a view from Salt Mountain, plus lots of blackberries if you are there at the right time, which we were.

    • Kat   •     Author

      Sounds like you two had a blast at Cape Breton! I’m jealous you smuggled your tomatoes back into the US. :-D I was surprised how warm Maine and Canada were during our stays but I guess we were just “lucky” to follow that heat wave north. Any plans for your next trip?

  2. Julie Dahmer   •  

    p.s. our tomatoes slipped past the boarder guards.

  3. Denisa   •  

    We are reading your blog, as we are planning a trip to the Maritimes for summer 2020. We’re just curious which campgrounds you stayed in at Wolfville and on Cape Breton Island. We are also in a Tiffin motor home, and beginning the process of booking campgrounds. We love to get advice from people that have traveled there ahead of us.

    • Kat   •     Author

      In Wolfville, we stayed at Highbury Gardens and at Cape Breton, we stayed at Bras d’Or Lakes Campground. The campgrounds are definitely made for the older rigs that are a little shorter and most are 30amp but they worked for us. Good luck and have a great time!

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