Transit to Cape Breton Island and Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Several of our readers emailed us since we storm evacuated from Saint John’s and wondered if we were OK…we’re fine and the storm was pretty much a non event for us except for the rain and fog on our first day from Saint John’s over to Grand Falls-Windsor. But we were tired after working hard in Saint John’s to get all we needed to get done there done and after the 2 day 520 mile drive to Doyles on the west side of Newfoundland…so we just stayed home all weekend and dindunuffin as they say…well, nuffin ‘cept laundry cuz our hamper was full.

Monday we were up early for our transit to Cape Breton Island…and even though it was only 110 towing miles we were out of the campground at Doyles by 0730 or so for the 30 mile transit down to the ferry terminal at Port aux Basques. We arrived on schedule…Connie stopped at Tim Horton’s for breakfast…Maple Pecan Danish, yum…and more coffee…and got quickly checked in with the ferry folks…we were the second RV in line which meant pretty early boarding. We really didn’t care about early boarding…but early boarding means early disembarking and since we had about 80 miles to go after we got off the ferry early disembarking is what we know in the bidness as a Good Thing© for reasons which will become clear shortly. 

We loaded about 1030…and while the first two liner-upers let Connie get right behind Neil with Little Red so we would disembark together…separate means we have to meet up on the road and while we had planned for that ahead of time not having to link up is mo’ bedda ya know…anyways, the guy actually parking us on the ferry made her get out of place behind him and she was 2 rows over and 2 vehicles back. 

We got up to the seating deck and had lunch…then read books on our iPads ad took a nap…there was nothing to do as the entire trip over was in reduced visibility due to fog…it was rarely more than a half mile or so of visibility and the Blue Puttees was sounding fog signals the whole way over. We got into the pier about 1800 and headed down to the vehicle deck. Luckily…we were exiting out the bow of the ferry this time instead of the stern that has a wider door…so instead of offloading 1 column of vehicles at a time they offloaded one row across the ship at a time…Neil got out first as he was in the middle lane and Connie got out just about 5 or 6 vehicles behind him. She took one wrong turn as we headed west on the TCH or Trans Canada Highway…which is NS-105 in this part of the country…but quickly got things sorted out and we made the speed limit of 100 kph all the way to our turnoff onto the Cabot Trail…we had another 60 miles or so to go on there to get to Broad Cove Campground.

The first 40 miles were pretty nice…some curves and up and downs but the road was good and the speed limit was 70 or 80 kph most of that part. Unfortunately…we ran out of good road the last 20 miles…many more sharp curves and short but steep hills…and even a bunch of switchbacks to contend with. Yuck! Luckily sunset isn’t until 2045 so even though we arrived about 2050 it was still pretty light as we got checked in and headed to our selected site 7 for 5 nights. Turned out it’s a pull through…we thought we would have to back in when we made the reservation. However…since it was getting dark by the time we unhitched and we were tired…all Neil hooked up was power and left water and sewer for Tuesday morning. We did have to clean up our second kitchen disaster in the past 3 weeks…first it was the milk carton that tipped over and dumped milk all all over the inside of the fridge. Today it was a jar of jelly that fell out of our pantry…the glass was all busted up but fortunately most of the jelly remained in a single blob that he picked up for her…then we scrubbed the floor to finish cleaning up. The 30 minutes that took was the real reason behind not doing water and sewer last night. We had a cheese omelet for dinner and went to bed.

With 4 full days here in Cape Breton Island…and with rain forecast for all day and night Wednesday…we headed out to do the Cabot Trail on Tuesday about 0900. The Trail is about a 180 mile loop around most of the northern half of the island…with the top 1/3 of the loop mostly along the shoreline and the lower 2/3s of the loop mostly inland. Folks have suggested to us that it should be done in both the clockwise and counter clockwise directions for best viewing but that the counter clockwise direction is the better of the two. So that’s what we set out to do…circumnavigate the Trail counter clockwise. We quickly figured out after our first 2 stops that the entire east side of the island was fog bound…we talked about whether we should give it up for another day but decided to continue at least until we got to the west side of the island before giving up.

About an hour after we left we headed inland across the top portion that isn’t on the coast…and an hour or so later we arrived over on the western side of the island where it was pretty clear. There was still some haze out on the horizon so it wasn’t all the way to beautiful…but it was a heck of a lot better than the east side was. Our first stop on the west side was for lunch at the Rusty Anchor Cafe right on the beach…lobstah roll for Connie and deep fried haddock sandwich for Neil…both were good although the fish sandwich was too tarted up really…it had bacon, shrimp, garlic mayo on it and he left the guacamole and tomato off…it was decent but really didn’t need all that extra stuff. We had a couple cans of Breton Brewery Red Ale to go along with it and then continued our journey west and south along the island for another hour or so. When we got to Cheticamp right at the southern border of Cape Breton Islands NP…Connie said that she was Cabot Trailed out…so we pulled over and regrouped. It was about 100 km back the way we came but that would be mostly along the water and we would be doing it the other direction. Continuing on around the way we were going it was about 200 km back and almost all inland…since we like the water views better we turned ‘round and headed back. We got stuck in the same 4 or 5 construction/flagman/single lane sections that we had on the way over…but there would surely have been some on the southern half anyway. We stopped by a grocery store on the way home in New Haven…right north of Neil’s new favorite village…then headed the last 15 km back to the rig, arriving home about 1610.

Ok…let’s get on to the photos for the day.

Our first stop just a couple klicks north of the campground revealed this.

Straight out of the camera shot…it was actually more foggy than this visually.

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Cleaned up a little in post…too blue but the best I could do with it.

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We headed north a few more minutes and found Neil’s favorite new village.

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It even had his very own lighthouse…the ocean is visible…well, it would be except for the fog…right behind the light.

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Connie got a shot that shows the maple leaf on the top of the light…Neil didn’t even notice it there…and her version shows both it and gives a more realistic idea of what the fog was like.

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And some rocks outside the lighthouse.

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Connie found some flowers…Neil’s got to teach her to either find ones away from the fence or to select an appropriate wide open aperture so that depth of field is less and hence the background gets blurred out…the technical name for that is bokeh.

Really cool withy the fog that condensed out into droplets on the flowers though…

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Here’s another version of the first one…Neil did some Photoshopping on it to simulate what bokeh would be like…it’s not exact but as you can see it makes the subject stand out a bit more.

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And Neils Harbor has…naturally…his very own harbor. He thought about going down and showing this guy his license to prove his name and extract a lobstah royalty from him.

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After continuing around to the west side of the island…these were taken from our table on the veranda at the Rusty Anchor.

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After lunch we drove up over the top of Kelly Mountain…well it was actually a ridge…as we headed south along the shoreline.

Right at the center of this shot the white area near the shore is the parking lot of the Rusty Anchor…the next shot is a zoomed in one from the same location so you can see where we ate.

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Looking the other direction from the top of the ridge…here’s a pano of the Cape Breton Island Highlands for which the National Park is named.

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Another very far away shot…the little cove at the bottom is named Fishing Cove and is where the Celtic people that first populated this island went to fish…it’s the least developed area in the park…the only way in is about a 10 mile hike downhill from this point to the beach there. There’s a small primitive campground with a limited number of permits issued to go there…but there are no services. No water, toilets, trash, or anything else…you must pack in your water and pack out all your trash. The next shot after this is a zoomed in shot of the camping area at the beach. This is very similar to the Kalaulau community on the north shore of Kauai that we took some photos of years ago when we visited that island…again a very primitive campground at the end of a long hike down a valley from the top of the ridge to the shoreline.

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Some more shots as we headed south down the coast.

The road just up from the beach you can see is the Cabot Trail.

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A rock formation known as La Bloc…no idea why.

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Looking the other way from La Bloc.

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Just south of La Bloc are these two small…well, probably 40 feet high…rocks sticking up out of the water. Just on the other side of the cove is the town of Cheticamp where we ended up turning around.

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After stopping by the grocery store in New Haven just north of Neils Harbor…we did stop for one more shot of our new favorite village…you can see the lighthouse and the harbor is just in between the top topmost rocky points in the photo. About 90 degrees to the right from this shot is a nice beach…located naturally on Neils River as it empties into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

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So that’s it for photos.

I can say that the Cabot Trail is probably worth it…but you need a really pretty day weather wise or else you get crummy views and pictures. Apparently fog is pretty common this time of the year…so perhaps coming a little later in the summer or earlier in the spring would be better. As to doing it both directions…sure, we saw different views on our way back home and that’s probably worth doing…but we would stick to the northern 1/3 of the Trail as that’s the only part with coastline involved…everything south of where we went is inland and the mountains aren’t really tall enough to be impressive…all the ones we saw were tree covered to the summit like most of the Appalachians are…and that’s just not as dramatic a skyline.

Tomorrow we’ll probably stay home…since it’s forecast to rain. There’s a ranger talk at the outdoor theatre in the campground at 1900…assuming it don’t get rained out.

Author dedication in an ebook we saw.




Dogs have owners…cats have staff.

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We know some RVers like this.

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And finally…

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About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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