Photo: Sunshine on the Bay of Fundy.
We departed the Wood Islands Ferry from Prince Edward Island on the bright and sunny morning of August 2nd. As soon as we off-loaded at Pictou, NS, on the advice of a fellow ferry traveler, we booked space at a private RV Park just outside of Baddeck, close to the head of the Cabot Trail.
Photo: We took the ferry from Prince Edward Island to northern Nova Scotia. The ferry can be seen in the background, heading for Nova Scotia on the horizon.
After stopping to load up on groceries, we arrived at camp about 2:30 in the afternoon. and, as soon as we were set up, headed for the pool, the location of the strongest WiFi signal. Between blogging and getting our emailing done we took a couple of dips in the pool and, after dinner, took a drive back down the highway a bit where we’d seen a sign for live music. It turned out that the live music was limited to the weekends and the closest Ceilidh, a Nova Scotia-style jam session, was about ten kilometers away. Having already had a glass of wine, we decided to leave the music hunt until the next day.
Our plan to venture out on the Cabot Trail the next morning got soaked by pouring rain so, instead, we went just up the road to Baddeck, Cape Breton Island, where we waited out getting the truck’s oil changed while strolling the sopping streets. Stopping in at a steamy little coffee house, we swapped points of interest with a couple from Oxford, England.
With the proceeds received from his invention of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell purchased his summer home at Baddeck. In 1909, Bell and D.A. McCurdy joined forces to launch Canada’s first powered aircraft from the iced-over Lake Bras D’or at Baddeck. That Lake is also billed as the world’s largest inland sea.
Later in the day we drove through the rain to the beach at Inverness, on the north side of Cape Breton, where two lifeguards were the only people, besides us, to brave the weather. On the advice of a young traveler we had met earlier in New Brunswick, we stopped at MacLeod’s Camp, former home of Canadian writer Alistair MacLeod, expecting to see “The nicest beach in the world.” It was certainly pretty but, perhaps because of the rain, we felt it had been slightly overrated.
Photo: The sodden beach at Inverness, Nova Scotia.
Looping back to our campsite via Mabou, the home of the Rankin Family’s roadhouse, we stopped for veggies and fresh bread at a roadside market. The heavy rain continued so Janice made Puntanesca, (Whore’s Pasta) while I sat under the awning and Skyped with my Mom. It was too wet for a fire so we watched a movie instead. The forecast was for more of the same so we planned to delay our trip to the Cabot Trail, which we had hoped we’d get in the next day.
The next day we pulled up camp and drove to North Sydney, the place where the ferry to Newfoundland departs from, to look for an RV Park close to town and to see if we could stay in the parking lot overnight in order to catch the 5:45 am sailing we had booked two days hence. The answer was yes so we set up at an RV spot just up the highway
As usual, the weather forecast had been wrong. Instead of heavy rain, it had become hot, muggy and hazy, so we decided we had enough time to drive the Cabot Trail if we took a short ferry ride at Englishtown over a narrow channel of Saint Ann’s Bay, which cut off about an hour’s driving.
Photo: The cable ferry at Englishtown, Cape Breton Island, on our way to the Cabot Trail.
I’d have to say the Cabot Trail, after all we’d heard, was a major disappointment. In Nova Scotia, CapeBreton is billed as The World’s Second Most Beautiful Island. No mention is made of whichIslandis first but I can think of a few.
The drive is mostly through trees which, of course, obscure most of the view. The roads are terribly bumpy, narrow and pot-holed, with absolutely no shoulders. Bicyclists attempting the route are definitely taking their life in their hands. Luckily for us we had been forewarned about trying to pull any type of RV through The Trail. There are a few spots on the eastern part of the route where the road is steep, with the drop to the ocean even steeper, allowing one to see the expansive views but, in just forty-five minutes, one could see far more spectacular scenery on BC’s Sea-to-Sky Highway.
The Cabot Trail drive takes about six hours. Granted there was a very nice beach at Ingonish, but that was so riddled with jellyfish that we couldn’t get in the water. The only part of the drive that we thought was really worth the trip was the southwestern part where Acadian settlements start at Cheticamp and run southwards for forty kilometers or so – where the houses have that Acadian charm and where one could actually see where the land meets the waters of St. George’s Bay.
Photo: The Keltic Inn at Ingonish on the Cabot Trail, a former haunt of the rich and famous. It apparently boasted the best restaurant on Cape Breton Island for forty-five years, until it closed last year due to declining revenues.
Photo: The scenic side of Cape Breton, near Petit-Etang.
Ok, maybe I was a little cranky because it was a hazy kind of humid day that didn’t lend itself much to picture taking, but that is apparently pretty common on hot summer days there. I can see that it could be a spectacular trip if you got it on a clear October day, when the trees are in full autumn glory, but otherwise, I doubt we’d do it again.
Back at camp there were no fire pits and the mosquitoes were bad so we watched a little tube and hit the sack early in preparation for the coming early ferry departure.
It poured rain overnight. We had a day to kill before our ferry departure early the next morning so we pulled up stakes and drove to North Sydney where we were able to park the unit for the day at the waterfront Info Centre. When Janice was inside asking for permission to park there, she also asked if there was anything happening around town. The woman happily replied that, “Yes, Rock on the Dock is on tonight, featuring Prism.”
No way! I go a long way back with the front man for Prism, Al Harlow. I played drums in the Al Harlow Band back in the seventies, just before Al moved over to Prism, a band that had a number of international hits.
Photo: Outside the Info Center at Sydney, Nova Scotia, where they told us Prism was playing.
Janice and I walked next door to The Delta and enquired if they had an Al Harlow staying there. “Why, yes we do.” Came the reply, and the clerk handed me the phone. Five minutes later we were having coffee with Al before he rushed off to the radio station for an interview. Too funny. We couldn’t stay for the concert because the ferry was loading at 4:00am but Al had already promo’d us a couple of tickets to the current Prism lineup the summer before in Kamloops anyway.
Photo: Us with Al Harlow outside The Delta in Sydney.
We put our bikes together and toured the historic old town of North Sydney for a couple of hours. We find it most interesting, and a little amusing, that a lot of houses and shops in the Maritimes pre-date theprovince of BC.
They allowed us into the ferry parking lot at 4pm for the early departure the next day. We settled in there and then walked back to town where we stopped in at a pub for a beer. The fish and chips we split there were some of the best ever.
Back at the ferry parking lot, all the visiting and interacting of all the travelers bound for Newfoundland, including of course a lot of Newfies, turned the scene into something more reminiscent of a tailgate party. The Nova Scotians and, even more so, the New Foundlanders are unbelievably friendly. Almost to a person they stop and talk and offer things to see and do. These people are very proud of where they live, but they have a great sense of humour about it too.
We thought we’d heard that we couldn’t take our PEI Potatoes to Newfoundland so Janice cooked them up in the parking lot and passed out small portions to fellow revelers. We discovered later that we were misinformed. We had the information turned around; potatoes are not allowed to come to the mainland from Newfoundland. We turned in about 11:30, leaving quite a few people outside enjoying the rare and unusual sense of camaraderie.
The ferry announcer’s loud voice awoke us at 4am. He was already announcing that foot passengers should start loading. We jumped out of bed real quick and were just in time, Janice running behind, throwing the wheel blocks into the back of the truck as our line of vehicles started to proceed.
To our relief, the ferry ride was calm and uneventful. After trying to nap, we decided to get some fresh air and did some laps around the deck instead.
Photo: The ferry as we depart at 5:45am from Sydney, NS, bound for Newfoundland…