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Often lauded as the top island in North America, the Canadian gem Cape Breton Island certainly lives up to the hype. With its scenic coastline vistas, a plethora of outdoor activities, and a parade of enchanting towns bustling with cultural heritage and natural scenery as diverse as the island itself, this enchanting island is a wonderful way to spend a (long) weekend. Travelers can choose their own adventure throughout this two or three-day epic itinerary that takes the stunning Cabot Trail around the lovely island—and with numerous stops along the way, there’s something for everyone looking to immerse themselves in this not-so-hidden Nova Scotia gem.

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Getting There: This two to three-day itinerary begins at the Canso Causeway, which connects the mainland to Cape Breton.

When To Go: Fall is one of the best times to visit this picturesque island once the summer crowds have thinned out and the weather is still beautiful enough for exploring.

Don’t Miss: The Cabot Trail is the lifeline of Cape Breton and connects many of its small towns and wilderness areas; it’s also the most scenic way to explore the island by car.

RELATED: Cabot Trail: How To Plan A road Trip On Nova Scotia's Most Beautiful Island Roadway

Day One: Inverness And The Cabot Trail

The adventure begins before even setting foot on the delightful Canadian island; here, it’s about the journey as well as the destination, and the arrival via the Canso Causeway is as scenic as it gets—the perfect intro to a Cape Breton weekend.

Before even checking in, be sure to take a leisurely drive on the Cabot Trail, the island’s two-lane highway that connects many of its scenic small towns and natural areas. This is a great way to get a feel for the island and to become acquainted with its enchanting atmosphere filled with diverse histories, cultures, and heritage.

  • Grab a brew and late afternoon bite at Big Spruce Brewing, 64 Yankee Line Road, Baddeck
  • Optional Stop: Celtic Shores Trail (multiple stops from Port Hastings to Inverness) stunning coastline views
  • Continue along the Cabot Trail to the lovely historic town of Inverness. Take a stroll or bike ride around Lake Ainslee, or scope the colorful sea glass at scenic Inverness Beach.
  • Check into the Cabot Cape Breton, home to a variety of accommodations: luxe villas; cliffside residences; cozy lodge rooms; and hillside homes, in addition to a spectacular golf course and some of the island’s most stunning views Rates vary by season but start at $245 and up for lodge rooms in the Early/Late Season, see website for more info
  • Grab a happy hour drink on the Cabot Bar’s patio overlooking the golf course’s 18th hole, then walk to nearby Route 19 Brewing for seafood chowder, delicious lobster roll, and scenic patio dining at 16030 Central Avenue.

RELATED: 10 Epic Multi-Day Hikes In Canada

Day Two: Outdoor Adventures Or Town Tours?

After grabbing an early breakfast at the onsite Panorama Restaurant, it’s time to hit the Cabot Trail once again for an exploration of some of Cape Breton’s most charming towns and attractions.

  • Optional Stop: Le Chemin du Buttereau Trail, located in Cape Breton Highlands National Park; where visitors can retrace the steps of the early Acadian settlers
  • Grab lunch in Chéticamp at the popular L’Abri Cafe, Restaurant & Bar, but be sure to make reservations, as this bustling spot is often booked weeks in advance at 15559 Cabot Trail, Chéticamp
  • Have an outdoorsy afternoon by taking a walk on one of the area’s scenic local hikes: the Salmon Pool Trail, the Bog Trail, and the Acadian Trail are all popular spots. Looking to relax? Then spend an hour (or two) at Chéticamp Island Beach.
  • Alternate Afternoon: Explore the town’s historical side with a visit to St. Peter’s Church, Chéticamp Harbour Range Lighthouse, the Centre de la Mi-Carême, and Le Trois Pignons
  • Continue to Pleasant Bay (about 40 minutes), or stay the night in Chéticamp at La Digue Suites 15403 Cabot Trail Road, Petit Étang.
  • Stay and Dine in Pleasant Bay: Have dinner at The Rusty Anchor Restaurant before checking in at the luxe lodging True North Destinations Eco-Conscious Luxury Dome Lodging 23241 Cabot Trail Road.

RELATED: 10 Scenic Road Trips That Show Off The Best Of Canada

Day Three: An Adventure-Packed Day

Those that stayed the night in Chéticamp will enjoy a freshly baked breakfast at the local favorite Aucoin Bakery before heading back to the Cabot Trail for the scenic drive to Pleasant Bay and beyond. For vacationers starting the day in Pleasant Bay, get an early start before hitting the road to Ingonish.

  • Optional Stop: Take a morning hike on the Corney Brook Trail or the MacIntosh Brook Trail
  • Grab a hearty late breakfast at The Bean Barn (try the Fish Cakes & Beans!) before taking a stroll on nearby Ingonish Beach.
  • Travelers shouldn’t miss the opportunity to whale watch while in Ingonish, and Keltic Express Zodiac Adventures (KEZA) offers a great tour in the waters off Ingonish. Adults $62, Children (under 12) $50
  • Head back to town and stop at the fun family farm Groovy Goat Farm and Soap Company before having lunch at Salty Rose’s and the Periwinkle Café (be sure to try the Crab Sandwich!)
  • Take a drive to Cape Smoky Provincial Park and enjoy the stellar views from atop Smoky Mountain (an optional five-mile hike)
  • Optional Stop: Wreck Cove General Store
  • Hit the road to North Sydney (approximately one hour, ten minutes along the Cabot Trail)
  • Have dinner at the Black Spoon Bistro, enjoy a nightcap in The Cellar Bar, then spend the night at Dove House Bed & Breakfast

A long weekend exploring Cape Breton is the perfect mix of epic outdoor adventures, stunning scenery, cultural and natural attractions, and a top-tier cuisine scene that’s packed with fresh seafood and homey regional classics. And this three-day itinerary is the best way to explore some of the island’s best: relaxation, recreation, and all the scenic beauty that make this Nova Scotia treasure tops when it comes to North American island spots.