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The Cabot Trail is rated one of the top scenic drives by Lonely Planet. It is a 298 kilometres (185 miles) loop around the west coast of Cape Breton Island. You can travel the Cabot Trail clockwise (inside lane) or counterclockwise (outside lane). Sunsets on the full horizon are along the western coast. The Cabot Trail provides excellent hiking trails, and some are where you may encounter a moose. Several locations have whale watch tours. Englishtown has "puffin" bird tours. Motorcyclists and bicyclists treat the Cabot Trail as a place to conquer. The Cape Breton Highlands National Park is an attraction of its own, located in the northern portion of the Cabot Trail. You travel through areas where settlers arrived and cultures thrive from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, and France in the 1700's.
Travelling along the Cabot Trail is possible year round, though weatherwise it is best to visit between May and September. Also note that trips like whale-watching are also best during this time and boats don't go out on the waters during other times.
Though the Cabot Trail itself is free, you will need to pay an entrance fee to visit the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
Being a loop, the Cabot Trail is accessible from a few different points.
Nova Scotia Trunk 19
Take the Ceildh Trail (Trunk 19) from Port Hawkesbury to Dunvegan and turn left on Route 219. Once past Margaree Harbour you will meet a T-junction for the Cabot Trail. Turning left takes you along the coast towards Cheticamp and turning right heads towards Baddeck.
Trans-Canada Highway 105
Follow the Highway 105 north from Port Hawkesbury to Route 312, the Englishtown Ferry turnoff. Board the ferry which will cross St Ann's Bay and drop you in Ingonish and on to the Cabot Trail.
When travelling to or from the ferry for Newfoundland, you travel a portion of the Trans-Canada Highway (#105) that really is a part of the Cabot Trail, so when anyone makes the trip to Newfoundland, it's very easy to tack on a trip around the Cabot Trail. Either at that Englishtown ferry exit (above) or at Exit 7 just South of Baddeck.
You can find accommodation in the major towns along the Cabot Trail or at the starting points. Baddeck, St. Anne's, Ingonish, Belle Cote, Chéticamp and Dingwall all have options and there are many more along the entire loop.
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