Cabot Trail Counterclockwise Ride Preview

Cabot Trail Counterclockwise Ride Preview

This 227 mile ride has great views as the road curves atop cliffs along the Cabot Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This ride differs from the clockwise ride in a couple of key ways. First, the views and curves seem different in this direction. Second, this ride visits Meat Cove, Bay Saint Lawrence, and Cabot Cove Park and skips Dingwall, White Point, Keltic Lodge, Black Brook Beach, and the Skyline Trailhead. Highlights are Lakie’s Head Look-Off, Black Brook Beach, Neil’s Harbour, Cabot Cove Park, Bay Saint Lawrence, Meat Cove, McKenzie Mountain – Whales Look-Off, MacKenzie Mountain – Gulf of St. Lawrence Look-Off, Veteran’s Cove Look-Off, and La Bloc Look-Off.

Alexander Graham Bell and Mabel statue

Alexander Graham Bell and Mabel Statue

The ride starts by taking Route 105, Route 205 (Shore Rd) and Water Street to Baddeck Harbour. Notice the statue of Alexander Graham Bell and wife Mabel on a bench in the park that bears his name. Water Street has great views of Baddeck Harbour and Kidston Lighthouse.

Continue on Route 205 and then rejoin Route 105 heading north. At St. Ann’s Bay, turn left on Route 30 (Cabot Trail.) Ride past the Gaelic College and follow some nice curves north along the bay. The Trail travels inland a bit before joining the coast near the French River Wilderness Area. If you got an early start, the Clucking Hen Café and the Dancing Moose Cafe are good breakfast choices. Just after the Dancing Moose is the Wreck Cove General Store that sells Cabot Trail Biker t-shirts.

Lakie's Head Look-Off on the Cabot Trail in NS, Canada

Lakie’s Head Look-Off

The road starts climbing and twisting as it approaches Cape Smokey Provincial Park. The Pathend Brook Lookout is a great stop for expansive views of the Cabot Strait. Shortly after this lookout is the turn for the Cape Smokey Trailhead. This trail has great ocean views.

Ride around Ingonish Harbour and notice the Atlantic Gondola on the left. The gondola is part of Cape Smokey Ski Area and offers sightseeing rides in the summer. Ingonish is the last full service town before entering Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Consider getting gas here and using restrooms since these will be harder to find once you enter the park.

Stop at the park admission kiosk and pay for entry (8.50 CAD, 7.25 CAD age 65 and older – valid until 4pm the day after its purchase.) The nearby Ingonish Visitor’s Center has restrooms, park information, and a gift shop. Across the street from the visitor’s center is the trail to the Freshwater Lake Look-Off.  This 0.2 mile steep trail offers a great panoramic view at the top. A good rule of thumb for the park is that trailheads will often have a portable restroom nearby. There are very few signs so you have to know this and/or look at the ride gpx route or the ride Google map.

Stop at the Irving in Ingonish for gas. The next major town with gas is Chéticamp in 107.5 miles. Continue north and stop at the Lakie’s Head Look-Off for a fantastic view. Next are MacKinnon’s Look-Off and the Black Brook Beach Look-Off. The MacKinnon Look-Off has a nice view of rocky MacKinnon Cove with a lone pine tree standing sentinel. The Black Brook Beach Look-Off overlooks a rocky beach with wildflowers and a view across Black Cove of Still Brook Waterfall.

Around the bend is the turn for Black Brook Beach (restroom.) This is a stop during the Cabot Clockwise Ride, but not this ride unless a restroom is needed. Next is Neil’s Harbour with great views and a lighthouse selling ice cream. Leave the Cabot Trail and ride north on New Haven Rd to stay near the water. You will pass a fire station on your right with public restrooms. This road becomes a fun curvy ride with nice ocean views.

Rejoin the Cabot Trail and ride northwest to Cape North. Turn right on Bay St. Lawrence Rd to begin the journey to Meat Cove. This part of the ride is not part of the Clockwise Ride. Stop at Cabots Landing Provincial Park on the right for a great sand beach, views of Aspy Bay, picnic tables, and a portable restroom. The Park features a National Historic Site cairn commemorating the landfall of John Cabot. This spot was a launching site for Mi’kmaq to paddle to Newfoundland.

Meat Cove Road - Dirt

Meat Cove Road – Dirt

Return to Bay St. Lawrence Rd and turn right. Continue north past the road to Meat Cove. Ride along Deadman’s Cove to land’s end at Bay Saint Lawrence. There are great views from the pier and from the the Sea Shack. The Sea Shack is supposed to have good lobster rolls and crab rolls. It is part of the GPX ride file and on the custom Google map. Return to Meat Cove Road and turn right. The first few miles are curvy pavement, but the last 4 miles are dirt. How good or bad this stretch is depends on weather and how recently the road was graded. It is well worth the ride if you are OK with dirt and the weather is good. The views from Meat Cove are awesome.

Meat Cove Views in NS

Meat Cove Views in Cape Breton, NS

Lawless Lobster at Meat Cove, NS

Lawless Lobster Seafood Trailer at Meat Cove, NS

Lawless Lobster Seafood Trailer is a great place for seafood chowder, lobster roll, crab roll, and crobster (half lobster and half crab roll.) They are Cash Only or e-transfer. Hours of operation are Thursday to Monday 12pm-6pm. The views from the trailer are great. Watch for whales.

Return on Meat Cove Road and turn right on Bay St. Lawrence Rd. Ride south to Cape North and the junction with the Cabot Trail. Morrison’s Restaurant is a good place for lunch. Next door is the North Highlands Community Museum (free, restrooms, donations accepted.) The museum showcases the history and heritage of Northern Cape Breton, and serves as a local gathering place for the community. There are many great little museums like this scattered around Nova Scotia.

Resume riding west on the Cabot Trail. This next 20 mile section crosses the Highlands in the interior of the park. At Big Intervale (restrooms) the road starts climbing. Stop at the North Mountain Look-Off for a nice view of the Aspy Fault. Next is the Lone Shieling that has a replica of a Scottish sheep crofter’s hut. A bit further is the MacIntosh Trailhead (restrooms.)

McKenzie Mountain Look-Off on the Cabot Trail in NS, Canada

The MacKenzie Mountain – Whales Look-Off

At Pleasant Bay, the roads curves right and suddenly the ocean appears. The Trail then hugs the cliff and passes the Rusty Anchor Restaurant. This is another good place to eat. The road begins to curve, crosses a bridge over the MacKenzie River, and then climbs steeply. The curves and the ocean views become spectacular. This is a great part of the Trail. Stop at the MacKenzie Mountain – Whales Look-Off for great views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Watch for spouts of mist from whales below. The interpretive signs tell the story of the whales and the fish that they eat.

Wreck Cove Look-Off, Cabot Trail, NS

McKenzie Mountain – Gulf of St. Lawrence

Next is the MacKenzie Mountain – Gulf of St. Lawrence Look-Off with more great views. The panels explain about the rich fishery in these waters.

The road straightens out a bit and passes the Fishing Cove Look-Off. This spot has an awesome view of a small cove and grassy clearing 1000 feet below. Here, Scottish settlers fished and traded with the French.

Veterans Cove Look-Off on the Cabot Trail in NS, Canada

Veterans Cove Look-Off

The Trail travels inland for a bit and passes the Benjie’s Lake Trailhead. Benjies Lake is a great place to see moose. Next is the French Lake Look-Off and then the Skyline Trailhead. The Skyline Trail offers spectacular views and is a popular hike. There are restrooms in the parking area near the trailhead.The road now snakes on top of a rugged ridgeline and passes Skyline Look-Off. Stop at Veteran’s Cove Look-Off for one of the better views from the Trail.

La Bloc Look-Off on the Cabot Trail in NS, Canada

La Bloc Look-Off

This section is my favorite. The Trail hugs the ocean and gives amazing views from elevation. The La Bloc Look-Off may be my favorite of all. Stop, get off your bike and look back. If you ride through you will miss the best view on the trail. This view of the road snaking along the gulf and over the distant highlands is used on brochures. It is definitely one to savor.

Buttereau Look-Off on the Cabot Trail, NS

Buttereau Look-Off

Continue to the Buttereau Look-Off. Walk all the way to the front (south) end of this Look-Off for a killer view of the curving roadway and Petit ETANG beach below. This is the last great view in the park and it is a good one.

Leave the park and pass the Chéticamp Visitor’s Center (restrooms.) Aucoin Bakery has good French baked goods. Gas up at the Petro Canada and admire the view of the Chéticamp Lighthouse from the parking lot of the Harbour Restaurant. This restaurant is a good choice if you have not stopped for lunch.

The next stretch to Margaree has some nice ocean views. The road then turns inland and crosses the island back to Bras D’Or Lake. Turn left on Route 105 and ride back to the hotel.