This Cabot Trail itinerary in 2 days is perfect if you only have a short amount of time to explore this beautiful area of Nova Scotia.
You’ll get to see some of the most popular sights, including Lakie’s Head, Black Brook Cove Beach, Pleasant Bay and more.
Plus, you’ll be able to enjoy the stunning scenery along the way.
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About the Cabot Trail
What is the Cabot Trail?
The Cabot Trail is one of the most scenic road trips that Canada has to offer.
This iconic route winds its way around the northern tip of beautiful Cape Breton Nova Scotia and is just stunning at every turn.
It’s one of 11 scenic travelways that the Province of Nova Scotia has designated to showcase the best that the province has to offer in terms of natural beauty.
How long is the Cabot Trail?
The Cabot Trail is 298 km (185 miles) long.
While it doesn’t seem that long (for Canadian standards at least), the many twists and turns, along with the scenic stops, make for a leisurely drive that takes about a few hours to complete without stopping.
However you’ll probably want to stop and take in the sights, hike some of the trails or take in the local culture, so plan on at least two days, if not more, to complete the drive.
Where does the Cabot Trail start?
Many people begin driving the Cabot trail in the town of Baddeck, NS, which will ensure you drive the full loop.
However you can also join the Cabot Trail in Cheticamp or Ingonish, depending on which direction you choose to drive the Cabot Trail.
How long does it take to drive the Cabot Trail?
Without any stops, you can drive the Cabot Trail in about 4 hours.
But there are so many things to do on the Cabot Trail that you won’t want to do the drive without stopping!
You’ll probably want to stop and take in the view from one of the many lookouts, hike some of the trails or take in the local culture.
I’d recommend at least spending 2 days driving the Cabot Trail, but to be honest, you could easily spend 3 to 5 five days exploring the trail and all it has to offer.
Which way should I drive the Cabot Trail?
You can drive the Cabot Trail either clockwise or counterclockwise and honestly, whichever way you choose, you’re in for an incredible experience.
But if we had to recommend one way, we would say to drive the Cabot Trail counterclockwise.
This way, you will have the ocean on your right-hand side for the majority of the drive.
It also means that you will have an easier time pulling off the road to the lookouts, as well as an unobstructed view of the coastline as you drive.
And this will also put you in Cheticamp near sunset so you can catch the most incredible views of the sun setting over the water.
But like we said, whichever way you choose to drive, you’re in for an amazing experience!
Tips for Driving the Cabot Trail
– Stop at as many lookouts as you can! There are over 30 along the trail.
– Hike at least one of the trails – there are plenty of options ranging from easy to difficult.
– Keep an eye out for wildlife! You may see bald eagles, moose, whales and more.
Cabot Trail Itinerary in 2 Days
Since there’s so much to see and do, to make the most of this Cabot Trail itinerary in 2 days, we’re assuming you’re already arrived in Cape Breton and ready to start driving the Cabot Trail in the morning. If you’re travelling from elsewhere in Nova Scotia, be sure to factor in some extra time for driving to Cape Breton.
Day One: Baddeck to Ingonish and on to Pleasant Bay
Start Cabot Trail road trip by driving from Baddeck to Ingonish.
On this first part of the drive, you’ll pass a few artisans, including the Glass Artisans Studio & Gallery, where you can shop for hand blown glass from different local Cape Breton artisans.
And just across the road, is the Clucking Hen Cafe & Bakery. Stop in for a coffee and delicious baked good or pick one up to take with you for the next part of your drive.
As you near Cape Smokey Provincial Park, the road begins to climb and you may want to be prepared in case your kids are prone to motion sickness!
Ingonish is one of the entrances to Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Here you’ll have to get a day pass from the visitor centre unless you have the Parks Canada Pass.
If you’re up for a hike, there are great hiking trails in the area. Middle Head and Franey are two of the more popular trails and both are rated moderate. Middle Head Trail is 3.8km and takes about 1.5 hours to hike, while Franey is a longer hike at 7.4km and takes anywhere between 2 to 3 hours to hike.
But since there’s so much to see in these short 2 days, we recommend doing the Broad Cove Mountain hike, which is 2.3km and can be done in around an hour. At the top of the trail, you’ll have fantastic views of Ingonish, Warren Lake and Middle Arm.
After leaving Ingonish, continue driving north on the Cabot Trail towards Pleasant Bay. This section of the drive is really scenic and there are plenty of lookouts along the way.
One of the first lookouts you’ll come to is Lakie’s Head, which is a great spot to stop and take some photos.
Next, you’ll come to Black Brook Cove Beach. It’s one of Cape Breton’s most popular beaches and well worth a stop. Take a dip in the ocean, have a picnic lunch or walk along the beach. At the northern end of the beach is a pretty waterfall that can also be seen from the road.
After Black Brook Cove Beach, you’ll reach the town of Neils Harbour. This quaint fishing village is actually off the Cabot Trail and just outside of Cape Breton Highlands National Park, but it’s still worth a stop. Stop in at the lighthouse for an ice cream during the summer months!
Continuing on the Cabot Trail, you’ll turn away from the coast and drive inland towards Pleasant Bay. Although there aren’t any coastal views for the next while, it’s still a scenic drive. And keep an eye out for wildlife, as we spotted a moose on the side of the road in this area.
Beulach Ban Falls is an impressive waterfall that’s worth a quick stop. The falls are about 21 metres (68 feet) high and it’s just a few steps from the parking lot to the base of the falls.
A few more minutes along the Cabot Trail is the Lone Shieling. Another spot that’s worth a quick stop, the Lone Shieling is one of the first structures in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It’s a replica of a Scottish sheep crofters hut, also known as a shieling, in reference to the traditional heritage of the local inhabitants.
The Lone Shieling is only a short walk from the parking lot, but the trail takes you through 400-year-old sugar maple trees and is one of the most protected areas of the National Park.
Back on the Cabot Trail, and not even a 5 minute drive, you’ll find the MacIntosh Brook Trail. This is a short, family-friendly trail through the forest that leads to a waterfall. It’s an easy hike and takes between 30-45 minutes to complete.
The last stop on today’s Cabot Trail itinerary is Pleasant Bay.
After driving inland for the last half of the day, you’re now back on the coast. Pleasant Bay is on the western coast of Cape Breton Island and has some spectacular sunsets.
Pleasant Bay is also one of the best spots in Nova Scotia for whale watching.
You can book a tour with Pleasant Bay Whale Watching, or visit the Whale Interpretive Centre, where you can learn about whales or pick up some souvenirs in the gift shop.
Be sure to keep an eye out while you’re in Pleasant Bay and you may even see some whales from the shore!
As it’s probably close to evening by now, stop at the Rusty Anchor for some seafood or hamburgers and watch the sunset from the deck.
Pleasant Bay may be a small town, but there are still plenty of accommodation options, from motels to cabins and B&B’s. It’s best to book ahead, as it’s a popular spot to stay when driving the Cabot Trail.
Where to Stay: Mountain View Motel & Cottages is a great choice, offering rooms and cottages, as well as a on-site restaurant
Day Two: Pleasant Bay to Cheticamp and back to Baddeck
After breakfast, begin your second day of driving Cabot Trail and head towards Cheticamp.
About 5 minutes into the drive, you’ll reach MacKenzie Mountain Look-off, which is one of the best stops along the Cabot Trail.
The lookout offers stunning views of Pleasant Bay and the coastline.
It’s also a great place to spot some whales if you didn’t get a chance to see any in Pleasant Bay.
Just before reaching Cheticamp, you’ll want to stop at the Skyline Trail. The Skyline Trail is one of the most popular trails in Cape Breton Highlands National Park and offers some stunning views.
It’s an easy hike that you can either do as an 8km loop or a 6.5km out and back hike. Both routes offer an eagle’s view of the Cabot Trail below and stunning views of the coast.
It’s common to see moose along the trail here, so be alert and be safe! Be sure to keep your distance and take photos only when it’s safe to do so.
The Skyline Trail hike takes about 2-3 hours to complete, but even when you only have 2 days, it’s one that’s worth fitting into your Cabot Trail itinerary!
After completing this iconic hike, continue on to Cheticamp.
Cheticamp is a small Acadian fishing village with a rich history and culture.
There are plenty of shops to explore, as well as several restaurants where you can try some traditional Acadian food.
Cheticamp is also home to Les Trois Pignons, an interesting museum with a view into Acadian culture and the history of Chéticamp, as well as a stunning collection of hooked rugs and antiquities.
There are plenty of great spots to eat in Cheticamp. If you’re looking for a quick snack or some delicious baked treats, Aucoin Bakery is the place to stop. But if you’re in the mood for a heartier meal and maybe even some live Celtic music, the Doryman Pub is the place to go.
After exploring Cheticamp, it’s time to start making your way back to Baddeck. Margaree Harbour and Margaree Forks make good spots to stop or you can continue back to Baddeck and explore a few sites in the town that you didn’t have time to see before.
Just outside of Baddeck, Uisge Ban Falls is a beautiful spot to stop and take some photos.
Or visit the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, see the Kidston Lighthouse and go for a walk along the Baddeck Boardwalk.
There’s plenty to see and do in Baddeck, even if you only have a few hours. If you’re planning to stay the night in Baddeck before continuing on to explore Nova Scotia, check for available accommodations here.
That’s it for our two day Cabot Trail itinerary!
While there’s plenty more to see and experience on the Cabot Trail, this itinerary is a great way to see some of the highlights in just two days.
If you have an extra day or two to spend on the Cabot Trail, there are plenty of other great hikes, beaches and sites to explore.
3 Day Cabot Trail Itinerary
If you have the time to extend your Cabot Trail itinerary to 3 days, I suggest following the same route as above, but breaking up your trip as follows:
- Day 1: Baddeck to Ingonish – Spend some time at Ingonish beach or hike another of the trails in the area.
- Day 2: Ingonish to Cheticamp – Take a whale watching tour or have a leisurely lunch in Pleasant Bay.
- Day 3: Cheticamp to Baddeck – Hike the Skyline Trail and then spend some extra time in Cheticamp.
Alternatively, after leaving Cheticamp, instead of heading back to Baddeck, you could follow the Ceilidh Trail and head to Mabou and Port Hood. This area of Cape Breton has plenty of culture to experience and is known as Canada’s musical coast. It’s also home to some of the best beaches on the island and makes for a great spot to spend an extra day or two!
Have you done the Cabot Trail drive? If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below!
For more family travel tips and inspiration about travelling in Nova Scotia, be sure to check out these posts: