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Travel: Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail


Six-thousand miles from Hawai'i on a beach in Nova Scotia, I spotted a man wearing a Honolulu Fire Department T-shirt. I'd been traveling with my husband and friends on Canada's famous Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, and the man in an HFD T-shirt was just one of many unusual sights. Our day's adventure had started near Mabou at the Glenora Distillery, home to North America's only single malt whisky, Glen Breton Rare. We'd driven North on the Ceilidh Trail, Route 19, joining the Cabot Trail at Margaree Harbour and stopping at Cheticamp for a tour of St. Peter's Church and lunch at Le Gabriel seafood restaurant.

Cabot Trail is named for John Cabot, the first European to land on Cape Breton Island in 1497. The trail winds 185 miles through the north highlands. We had elected to start from Cheticamp and end up in Baddeck, about 124 miles and a four-hour drive. Rain fell as we entered Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where the ranger informed us about the road conditions ahead. Fog and rain.

Photo Courtesy : Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture and Heritage

The bad weather made the highway's hairpin curves even more treacherous. Visibility was only 10 to 12 feet. Slowly, we traversed French Mountain and North Mountain, listening to the mournful Cape Breton ballads on the car's CD player. As we neared Cape North, motorcyclists came around the bend. One skidded out. Our Canadian pal Lowell swiftly maneuvered the van into a spot on the road and grabbed his first aid kit. Perched precariously on a foggy road, we watched him bandage the biker and impart instructions to his buddies who had returned for him.

Perhaps we were rewarded for playing Good Samaritan, because the fog lifted and we could see down the valley into Neil's Harbour. As the sun emerged we pulled over at a scenic area, showing the crescent-shaped Black Brook Beach down below.

The white sand beach was rocky, with stacks of driftwood carried in by the tide. My husband dipped his foot in and confirmed the water was cold. I laughed, thinking of tourists doing the same thing at Waikïkï. I walked further down and that's when I spotted the HFD T-shirt.

One of Honolulu's finest on a beach in Cape Breton-what were the odds? The haole man was ruddy-cheeked and appeared puzzled as I walked straight up to him. But he was from Alberta, the T-shirt a souvenir his wife had brought back with his daughter's soccer team.

With a stick of driftwood I wrote ALOHA in the sand then returned to the van. Back on the road with conditions clearing we could see the sheer cliff drops on the side. Imagine a more treacherous Häna Road.

The road looped south and we passed Ingonish, Wreck Cove and Indian Brook. We left the Cabot

Trail briefly, hopping aboard the Englishtown cable ferry that took us across the beautiful Bras D'Or lakes and picking it up again at South Haven. When we finally reached Baddeck a long and winding road had been completed and we were ready to claim our reward: a lobster dinner.

Cabot Trail and Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Glenora Inn and Distillery:
Glen Breton Rare single malt whisky
Le Gabriel Restaurant
Don’t miss their seafood chowder!
E-mail: legabriel@ns.sympatico.ca
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Honolulu Magazine May 2020
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