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Exploring the landscape and experiences of this scenic gem is an essential part of a visit to Canada's Atlantic province of Nova Scotia.

Photo: Nova Scotia Tourism

Only a six-hour flight from the UK, the Atlantic Canada province of Nova Scotia is a jamboree of stunning natural beauty, diverse cultures, rich heritage, and warm, friendly people.

Roughly the size of Scotland – Nova Scotia is Latin for New Scotland - and home to just a million people, it's home to an abundance of culinary and outdoor experiences, characterised by a rich maritime culture and circled by 13,000km of coastline. Known for its world-class experiences, spectacular beaches, seaside hikes, whale watching, coastal inlets, six UNESCO-designated sites, charming seaside towns and bustling city nights, Nova Scotia is an iconic destination for any road trip, boasting spectacular seaside and inland driving routes, including the world famous Cabot Trail, one of the most scenic drives on the planet, and the highlight of any visit to Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Photo: Tourism Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is proud of its three cherished national parks. From helping to share Mi'kmaw heritage to showcasing and carrying out modern day conservation efforts, these national parks offer cultural experiences, exciting outdoor adventure, and special places to stay.

Where is the Cape Breton Highlands National Park?

The park lies on Cape Breton island, occupying 950 square kilometres of rugged wilderness on the unspoilt far northern tip of Nova Scotia. Where the mountains meet the sea, its magnificent highlands and coastal wilderness are bordered by the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean.

Photo: Destination Cape Breton_Adam Hill

Why visit the Cape Breton Highlands National Park?

The natural landscape of the park is beautiful, but also rare terrain. Several dozen species of rare or threatened plants and animals can be found here, as well as internationally important old-growth forests.

Along with hiking, camping, swimming, cycling, golfing and fishing, Cabot Trail sightseeing is one of the most popular activities offered by the national park. One-third of the celebrated route runs through the national park and for picturesque views, it is one of the most visited regions in Canada.

Numerous viewing points provide plenty of opportunities to admire the striking beauty of the landscape - from the lush flat-topped mountains of the highlands to the waters of the St Lawrence and the Atlantic, where whale-watching is a popular tourist attraction. In particular, the look-offs at French, North, and MacKenzie mountains offer unforgettable coastal vistas, fishing boats in the Gulf of St Lawrence, and purple-hued Cape Smokey. A park pass is required to tour this section of the Cabot Trail.

This national park is the ideal destination for the outdoor enthusiast. It features 26 hiking trails, eight campgrounds, and six beaches. Whether you prefer heading out into the wilderness, taking in the wonderful fall colours on an Autumn hike, or enjoying a summer picnic at a beach, a visit to Cape Breton Highlands National Park is likely to be a highlight of your trip to Nova Scotia.

Photo: Tourism Nova Scotia

Outstanding hiking trails in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park

To make the most of the incredible landscapes, the park offers 26 hiking trails (from easy strolls to challenging climbs). Three of the most popular hiking trails include:

Skyline Trail

Distance: 6.5km (return); 8.2km (loop)

Rating: Easy

Time: 2-3 hours

The Skyline Trail offers hikers a choice between an out-and-back route or a level circuit with a dramatic headland cliff overlooking the rugged coast. You can enjoy a panoramic view of the Cabot Trail as it winds its way down the mountain through the stunning landscapes below.

For wildlife lovers, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, as well as moose, bald eagles, bears and numerous boreal birds that also live in this habitat. Be sure to give the moose a wide berth if you encounter them and also keep in mind that the headland plants are very fragile and easily damaged by trampling, so walkers should stay on the boardwalk.

For more info about the Skyline trail, go to

Franey Trail

Distance: 7.4km

Rating: Difficult

Time: 2-3 hours

A bit of a challenging climb on this circular trail, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Large flat rocks provide a comfortable vantage point from which to enjoy 360º views of the entire Clyburn Brook canyon and the Atlantic coastline from Cape Smokey to Ingonish. You can gaze at the sheer rocky face of Franey Mountain, or let your eye follow the river winding through the valley, 425m below. Keep an eye out for wildlife – moose like this area too.

For more information about the Franey Trail, go to

Acadian Trail

Distance: 8.4km

Rating: Moderate

Time: 3-4 hours

On this loop trail you climb 365 metres above the Chéticamp River to drink in the panoramic views of the Acadian coastline, the Chéticamp river valley and the park's highland interior. You'll be grateful for the numerous benches along the way where you can rest and enjoy the scenery. Note, too, how the forest changes as you climb steadily to the top and be on the look-out for black bear and moose.

For more information about the Acadian Trail, go to

Photo: Tourism Nova Scotia

Cycle, fish and go camping in Cape Breton Highlands National Park


Cape Breton Highlands National Park offers superb opportunities for the keen angler, in season, on its many beautiful lakes and streams. You can sit back, relax and soak in the peaceful surrounds as you try your hand at making a catch. The most sought after species is the native brook or speckled trout. Permits required in advance, so be sure to plan ahead.


Due to the sprawling coastlines, Cape Breton's Highlands are home to a variety of excellent beaches. You can choose between salt or freshwater, or even enjoy both at one location if you want to experience something really special. The Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of St. Lawrence and the tannin-rich brooks and lakes offer a wonderful variety for the water enthusiast.


The cabot trail is not just for motorists! Rated one of the world’s top ten cycling destinations, it's a must-do for experienced cyclists. The Park also offers cycling on several designated trails, including Clyburn Valley, Salmon Pools, and Le vieux chemin du Cap-Rouge.


For those who want to sleep under the stars, without the fuss, Cape Breton Highlands National Park offers oTENTik units at Cheticamp Campground, Broad Cove Campground and Ingonish Beach Campground. A new addition is the Mkwesaqtuk/Cap-Rouge Campground, which features two camping options – traditional walk-in tenting sites and oTENTiks. Located on the west side of the park just off the Cabot Trail, campers will enjoy stunning highland and ocean views, trails for hiking and biking, washrooms, fire pits, access to a cobblestone beach and an electric vehicle charging station!

You can plan your own Nova Scotia adventure with Freedom Destinations. Check out their suggested itineraries or call 0333 234 0943 to speak with a Canada Specialist.

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