ST. ANN'S HARBOUR, CAPE BRETON ISLAND, NOVA SCOTIA -- For years, the Cabot Trail has been one of the world's most famous roads to drive. It runs about 300 kilometres, looping around the edges of the island settled centuries ago by French and Scottish immigrants. Many travellers approach the trail with a single-minded strategy: To spin around it in one day, allowing six to eight hours to cruise through the vistas and stop along the lookouts carved out by engineers. As too many who venture onto the road have discovered, however, the trail is deserving of much more time than what a simple day trip affords.
Here is an itinerary you should follow when you trek to Cape Breton this summer to see the glorious sights on the Cabot Trail. This is the first of an ongoing series called The Great Canadian Weekend that is produced by Vacay.ca.
DAY 1 ON THE CABOT TRAIL
FRIDAY, 2 PM, FIREHOUSE IRONWORKS, WHYCOCOMAGH
Owner Grant Haverstock, Canada's leading artisan blacksmith, moved from Vancouver to Cape Breton two years ago to build a workshop and devote himself to rejuvenating this antiquated craft. His plan has gone from a spark of inspiration to a roaring flame of creativity. His ironworks are stunning and an eye opener of the artistic change happening in this part of Nova Scotia that's traditionally only been known for its music culture. One of the most fun and entertaining characters on the island, Haverstock is among the new wave of entrepreneurs heading to the region to take advantage of the low cost of living and high quality of life.
Cost: Although your visit to his blacksmith shop on this weekend visit will likely be brief, you will be enticed to return for one of his two-day workshops ($350), where you can learn the art of blacksmithing, and perhaps bring home an ornament of your own creation.
FRIDAY, 5 PM, CHECK-IN, CHANTERELLE INN, ST. ANN'S HARBOUR
The Cabot Trail officially starts here, in this beautiful, lightly populated harbour town where owner Earlene Busch has operated her inn for more than a decade. She relocated from Colorado, having used the funds received from the sale of her high-tech firm to start this inn that is focused on leading the way in environmental practices in hospitality. The main inn is spotless and neatly decorated with wood antiques and Busch's personal art collection.
Cost: Nightly room rates start at $145. There are several packages available, including culinary and foraging deals. Check the inn's website for details.
FRIDAY, 7 PM, DINNER AT CHANTERELLE INN, ST. ANN'S HARBOUR
Chef Bryan Picard has elevated the Chanterelle Inn to star status since coming aboard a year ago. Picard, who recently completed a stage at Michelin-starred Kadeau in Copenhagen, delivers beautiful plate after beautiful plate of east coast cuisine prepared with only local ingredients, including the chanterelles found within the expansive property of the inn. All of the food suppliers and their distances from the inn are listed on the menu. With a quality wine list and an extensive scotch selection, you will want to linger in the homey dining room that seats 34. The inn has been serving a chocolate potato cake for years and Busch continues to keep it on the menu. There's a good reason for that, it's delicious, without being either sweet or heavy. The inn was named the 93rd-best restaurant by Vacay.ca judges earlier this month.
Cost: Entrees are $25 or less; opt for whichever fish is in season. Picard's tasting menu is highly recommended and changes daily. Inquire at time of check-in for the number of courses and the price. Note: The inn serves water from its well. It may or may not agree with you, so you should bring your own bottled water.
Read the rest of The Great Canadian Weekend: Cabot Trail Edition on Vacay.ca.