Here at Jim Sampson Motors we are very proud to be a part of the Island of Cape Breton. We like to think we live and work in one of the most beautiful parts of Canada, an island with a rich cultural history. And, just like our love of Volkswagens, we are passionate about sharing the island with anyone who will listen! Today in our blog, we are going to talk a bit about driving around Cape Breton. So whether you’ve lived in Nova Scotia all your life, or are just considering taking a swing around the east coast, read on and find out a little bit more about this island we call home.
Cape Breton, Canada’s 18th largest island at 10,311 km² (and 77th largest in the world!), is located on the nation’s Atlantic coast. The island is part of the province Nova Scotia, but separated by the Strait of Canso. If ferries aren’t your thing you need not fret; a 1,385m stretch of rock-fill called the Canso Causeway, constructed in 1955, connects the island to mainland Nova Scotia. This makes the island a perfect destination for those who enjoy a road trip. Just don’t forget to pack a rain jacket or double check your wiper blades — the island’s position next to the Atlantic ocean and near the gulf stream makes for both mild summers and winters but a lot of precipitation.
Cape Breton is a visually stunning island that contains all of the physical features that make Canada such a beautiful and diverse country. While driving the island you will be treated to glacial valleys and rocky shores, rolling farmlands and dense woods, commanding mountains and gentle plateaus, as well as one of the world’s largest salt water lakes, sitting in the centre of the island, the Bras d’Or (or Arm of Gold). Those driving the island should make sure to take the Cabot Trail, a scenic highway that circles the island’s coastal perimeter and receives over 400,000 visitors a year. It would take you about eight hours to drive the whole thing, but you should give yourself a bit of extra time to enjoy the scenery and the wildlife — the island is home to a multitude of animals including but not limited to owls, bald eagles, beavers, minks, bobcats, otters, raccoons, moose, black bears, and more. There is also no shortage of services along the coast that will take you out to watch for seals, dolphins, or whales; or, at the very least, you can stop for fresh fish and chips at a local restaurant.
Culture & History
Geological evidence suggests that the island was once joined to what is presently Scotland and Norway; millions of years of continental drift has separated them, but Cape Breton tourism still relies heavily on its Gaelic history. So while you are visiting make sure to make time to stop for some ceilidhs, traditional social gatherings with gaelic song and dance, or plan your trip around an event like the Celtic Colours Festival that takes place every October.
There is a great deal of history on Cape Breton that you can take in while driving the island. After his financial success due to inventing the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell bought land near Baddeck as it reminded him of his younger years in Scotland. On this land he did a great deal of research, worked with Helen Keller, and collaborated with the Aerial Experiment Association on what would lead to the British empire’s first powered flight when the AEA’s Silver Dart took flight from the sheet of ice that covered the Bras d’Or. On December 17th, 1902, after utilizing the island’s geography and constructing a station at Table Head in Glace Bay, Guglielmo Marconi sent the first trans-Atlantic radio message — ushering in modern radio technology. Arguably the most famous historical site on Cape Breton would have to be the Fortress of Louisbourg. Partially rebuilt by Parks Canada in the 1960s, this National Historic Site of Canada was the location of multiple turning points in the Anglo-French war for Canada; since 2009 it has averaged over 90,000 visitors a year.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our little overview on some of the things there are to see and do while driving around the beautiful Cape Breton Island. Of course, here at Jim Sampson Motors, we are happy to lend a hand when it comes to all things Volkswagen (and Cape Breton) related.