Canada, How-Tos, The Maritime Provinces

How to Drive the Cabot Trail

September 24, 2013

I realize I’ve only been telling you the good stuff of our trip, but nothing regarding the logistics and details of driving the Trail. It’s always good to be prepared, especially during road trips. So, I’ve summarized what I’ve learned and came up with several points for you to consider should you choose to do the drive.


Allocate more than 1 day

We were crazy – I know. It’s very doable to drive the entire trail in a day; be forewarned, though, you will be utterly exhausted by the end of the night. No joke, you are looking at 10-12 hours of driving for the day. Ideally, I suggest you spend 2 or 3 days on Cape Breton Island, with accommodations booked along the Trail. That way you have plenty of time to hike one of the many trails in the National Park or to attend a trad session in one of the many pubs scattered on the trail.

Arrive early 

If you only have one day, however, arrive early to make the most of your drive. There are lights along the Trail, but they are sparsely scattered, and, come night-time, you will find yourself driving through pitch-black pockets every now and then. All those beautiful scenery ain’t going to do you any good if you can’t see them now, are they?. We went at the end of August, so we had plenty of sunlight available as the sun wasn’t setting until 8 PM. Even so, we still wished we arrived earlier.

Get out of the trail before dark 

As I’ve said above, the trail can get really, really dark once the night settles. Take it from me, it’s certainly not fun driving through hairpin bends and steep hills without enough lighting available; it’s actually really, really, scary. So, if it’s at all possible, make sure you are already in your accommodation and enjoying dinner when the evening rolls around. If not, you’ll just have to be extremely careful navigating those turns.

Have enough gas available in your tank 

We made sure we had a full tank before we even began our trail-drive. Yes, there are gas stations throughout the trail, but they are a few and far in-between. Be prepared. You don’t want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere, do you?

Have your camera ready

I was driving, so there was no way I could take any picture unless we stop at a viewpoint. However, I had Jess on the front passenger seat and she had her camera ready to shoot. The Trail is gorgeous and there is always a beautiful view coming up. So, while I was ooh-ing and aah-ing and wishing I can take the pictures myself, Jess was already busy capturing those shots (like the ones below).

IMG_9435 IMG_9456 IMG_9461

Dress in layers

We went at the end of August and we still found it a little bit chilly for summer attire (i.e. shorts and t-shirt). I’d say bring a light sweater (and a scarf, for the ladies) with you, so you can avoid chattering yourself silly especially on the coastal parts of the trail.

Stop by the Visitors’ Center at Cape Breton Highlands National Park 

They were so helpful and they told us where the most-beautiful views were and what to watch for during our drive. They have the Red Chair Challenge, which sounded so much fun and is something I would definitely do given enough time. You can also purchase your park pass with them.

Photo by William

Photo by William

There you have ’em. If you have ever thought of doing the drive, I say go for it! It truly is a gorgeous drive. Also, just a suggestion, you may want to consider doing an autumn drive in late September/early October. Sure, the weather may be a little bit colder, but imagine the view ! Now, that would be something out of this world! Plus, I’ve heard there are a lot of music festivals happening in the towns of Cape Breton Island during this time. Music and fall colors – if those two can’t make you go, I don’t know what would!


  • Reply Baddeck, Nova Scotia | Tales of a Pilgrim September 28, 2013 at 8:49 am

    […] are prime time to curl under a blanket and sleep indefinitely – don’t you agree? We had driven the Cabot Trail the day before, which means all of us spent a good 10 hours or so in the car. While the scenery was stunningly […]

  • Reply Lisa October 2, 2013 at 7:13 pm


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