Nova Scotia: Cape Breton Island

Cabot Trail Bike Tour
A classic 6-day bicycling adventure on a paved 200-mile loop.
E-bikes available!

Explore now

“The Cabot Trail on bicycle was simply amazing – the incredible views, sounds of nature, and the smell of fresh air and ocean all combined to make this the most exhilarating and personally rewarding holiday. I wholeheartedly recommend Freewheeling Adventures.” – Beth J

“This truly is one of the best rides in the world. We liked the several alternative sections that took us off the main roads.” - Cliff G


Why this trip?



  • It’s a must-do trip for touring cyclists. The loop nature engenders a wonderful satisfaction, and this is one of Freewheeling’s most popular rides.
  • The simple beauty of cycling between mountains and sea, in a remote island setting not on the way to anywhere.
  • Margaree River Valley – a pretty salmon-fishing river.
  • Acadian culture in Cheticamp. Learn about the 1755 expulsion of Acadians and their re-settlement.
  • You may see whales from the shore. Moose in the highlands, and eagles in the sky.
  • Cape Breton Highlands National Park - a natural treasure.
  • The Markland Inn – a spectacular place far from crowds.
  • Abundant fresh seafood.




Is it for me?




This is a spectacular ride, moderate most of the time, but with some black diamond challenges including two climbs of about 400m. on day 3. Electric bikes are available if you prefer to make things easier. Road bikes are suitable. Hybrid/fitness bikes are the most popular. The riding surface is almost entirely paved and traffic-shared, with very few short gravel sections.

The best time to enjoy this tour is mid-June to mid-October.

- Spring daytimes warm up to 10 to 20 °C (50 to 70 °F) by mid June. Note that seasonal businesses may still be closed, or on off-season hours, until late June.

- Summer, mid June to mid September, is normally 20 to 25 °C (70 to 80 °F). Freshwater and saltwater swimming is encouraged.

- Autumn, mid September to mid October, daytimes 10 to 20 °C range (50 to 70 °F). Nights can be chilly, but rarely down to freezing. Mid-October is the best time to see spectacularly colorful fall foliage.




Map & Elevations





Click here for the elevation profile

Day # Daily distance
2
Short ~ 27km
Long ~ 54km + options
3
Short ~ 48km
Long ~ 77km
4
Short ~ 26km
Long ~ 54km
5
Short ~ 45km
Long ~ 60km
6
Short ~ 36km
Long ~ 77km





Itinerary



Day 1

Introductions

An optional transfer departs Halifax at midday. Otherwise, meet late this afternoon in Port Hawkesbury, or at your first inn (a good place to park your vehicle for the week if you’re driving yourself). Live music often follows dinner - an introduction to the musical culture of Cape Breton Island. D (Meal inclusions provided for guided trips only)

Normaway Inn; or
Blackbird Retreat, Northeast Margaree


Day 2

Short: 28.4km +155m/-235m; Long: 53.6km +344m/-422m

Ride down the East side of Margaree River Valley to its mouth, where you can stop for lobster on the beach. Short option riders will transfer to Cheticamp from Belle Côte. The long option follows the ocean through the Acadian region to Cheticamp. If you arrive early enough, you can spend the remainder of the afternoon exploring this very Acadian town and its surroundings. You can sometimes whale watch from the bluffs at Cheticamp Island, and can hike or ride off-road to the salmon pools, with opportunities to swim as well. For your independent dinner, choose from several options along the Cheticamp waterfront. BL

Maison Fiset House; or
Silver Lining Inn; Cheticamp


Day 3

Short: 46.5km +786m/-762m; Long: 78.1km +1393m/-1388m

Today is a challenging day of cycling through Cape Breton Highlands National Park; cycling distances and terrain can be adjusted using transfers. Short option finishes at MacIntosh Brook with a transfer to your inn at Dingwall. Long option includes climbing the second of two 'mountains' each of about 430m/1400 feet. The scenery today is awe-inspiring; the ascents are long, and the descents...ahh, the descents! If only they'd go on forever. BLD

Markland Inn, Dingwall


Day 4

Short: 28.4km +306m/-291m; Long: 54km +601m/-591m

Cycle the scenic route between Cape North and Neil's Harbour (where the shorter ride begins), stopping for a short hike at spectacular White Point, where eagles often soar over spouting whales. Options include swimming holes, waterfalls, beaches, and golf at the Highland Links. BD

Keltic Lodge, Ingonish Beach or
Castlerock Inn, Ingonish


Day 5

Short: 43.6km+359m/-605m; Long: 60.6km +759m/-746m

A nicely undulating ride along the East Coast follows the initial climb over Cape Smokey. You can choose to ease the ride with a transfer up and over Smokey. Enjoy a picnic feast at Indian Brook or an interesting café in the middle of nowhere, and finish at a secluded inn on the shores of St. Anne’s Bay. BLD

Chanterelle Inn, St. Anne’s Bay or
Water’s Edge Inn, Baddeck


Day 6

Short: 35km +297m/-303m; Long: 78.1km +806m/-735m

On this morning’s ride to Baddeck, you can stop to visit the Gaelic College Great Hall of the Clans Museum, or if you are already in Baddeck, visit the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. Bell's airplane, the Silver Dart, was airborne about the same time as the Kitty Hawk. There are good lunch options to choose from in the waterfront village of Baddeck, before climbing over Hunter’s Mountain (152m/500ft.) and along Middle River Valley to finish your activity with a refreshing swim in Lake O’Law. Unless you are continuing to Inverness and the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail with us, your adventure concludes this afternoon in the Margaree Valley, from where optional transfers to Port Hawkesbury or Halifax depart, arriving by about 21:30. B



Dates and Prices



Self-guided available on any dates except the following:



2021 Guided dates

  • June 6-11
  • June 20-25
  • July 4-9
  • July 18-23
  • August 1-6
  • August 15-20
  • August 29-September 3
  • September 12-17
  • September 26-October 1
  • October 10-15
  • 2022 Guided dates

  • June 19-24
  • July 3-8
  • July 17-22
  • July 31-August 4
  • August 14-19
  • August 28 - September 2
  • September 11-16
  • September 25-30
  • October 9-14


  • US 2495 C 2895 (per person, double occupancy)

    Includes 6 days, 5 nights, 5 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 4 dinners, luggage handling, support vehicle and full-time guide/driver, maps, route instructions, 15% sales tax

    US 2295 C 2645 (per person, double occupancy)

    Includes 6 days, 5 nights, 5 breakfasts, inn to inn luggage transfers, maps, route instructions, on-call emergency support, 15% sales tax

    Single room
    surcharge

    US 635 C 735


    Bicycle
    Rental

    Hybrid: US 135 C 155
    Road: US 255 C 295
    Full Carbon Road: US 395 C 455
    Electric-assist: US 395 C 455


    Transfer

    Optional 4 hour transfer from Halifax to Cape Breton and back $85 per person/return




    Please see above for accurate pricing and inclusions, unless we have proposed a customized trip for you and those details are provided here.

    1. Choose an advertised date to join a small group, as shown on our webpage. You can also check our growing group page to see where groups are already forming.

    2. Pick your own dates. We will confirm quickly, and are happy to talk with you as you make your choice. If you would like a private guided date, price remains the same as advertised if you have at least six. If you prefer self-guided, we usually only require two participants to initiate a new date at the advertised price, and can sometimes reduce prices for you if you have four or more.

    PLEASE NOTE: Trip Cancellation Insurance is highly recommended. Please ask us for a no-obligation quote from our insurance providers: Century Insurance, or CSA Travel Protection.


    All details and pricing are subject to change without notice. 15% sales tax included.



    Get to the start



    If you fly:

    The best option is to fly to Halifax (YHZ). We meet you at your inn in Halifax, for a transfer (four hours) to Cape Breton Island with the Freewheeling shuttle. We depart Halifax 1pm, day 1. Halifax’s downtown core is located about half an hour from its airport. Taxis are readily available; Maritime Bus offers an airport express shuttle ($40 roundtrip or $22 one way); and Halifax Transit provides hourly departures on its MetroX bus service ($4.25 fare).

    Second option: Fly to Sydney (YQY). Arrange your own transport (taxi or rental car; one hour) to first inn.

    If you drive:

    Meet at your first inn, 5pm day one. It is 400km from Halifax, 1500km from New York, and 2000km from Toronto. You can park at the inn for the week.



    Finish



    Cycling finishes mid-afternoon, day six, at the inn in Margaree. Freewheeling shuttle gets you back to Halifax by 7:30pm. It is best to fly out the following morning. Contact us for hotel recommendations.



    Before and After



    If you have one day:

    Rent a car (we can drop you at Halifax airport on day 6), and visit Wolfville, from where you can experience the highest tides in the world by car or on a 4-hour hike, visit wineries in the Gaspereau Valley, or just enjoy the rural university town.

    Join us for a day trip kayaking on the South Shore, or rent a bike from our HQ and ride the Aspotogan loop.


    If you have several days:

    Extend your trip without leaving Cape Breton Island on the Mabou Multisport experience.

    Join one of our other rides in Nova Scotia, or the adjacent provinces, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland.
    We recommend the following accommodations in Halifax for before or after your tour; please let us know if we can assist with reservations:

    The Lord Nelson, 1515 South Park Street Ph: 902-423-6331 or 800-565-2020
    Prince George Hotel, 1725 Market Street Ph: 902-425-1986 or 800-565-1567
    Halifax’s Waverley Inn, 1266 Barrington Street Ph: 902-423-9346 or 800-565-9346
    The Halliburton Inn, 5184 Morris Street Ph: 902-420-0658 or 888-512-3344



    Learn more




    This is one of the world’s greatest rides; one that all touring cyclists should have on their “must-ride” list! The beautiful coast – the most dramatic in Nova Scotia - meets the breathtaking highlands in ways that make you appreciate both to the fullest, and the scenic magnificence of the paved trail can be truly savoured at the speed of your bicycle. The landscape and the people may demonstrate to you why Nova Scotia’s name means New Scotland. You will ride through the valley of the Margaree River, rich with salmon and its pursuit. You can choose to linger at the famous Highland Links if you prefer golf to cycling, and on some days you can expand your rides onto beautiful wooded trails, or to find swimming holes beneath waterfalls. The cycling, although manageable by most cyclists (and van-supported for the rest!), includes some challenging sections – especially on day three with two 1400ft climbs. Combining such awe-inspiring scenery and out-of–the-way charm with comfortable inns and exceptional cuisine makes this loop ride an exquisite experience you simply have to add to your list!

    This ride combines very well with other Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, or Newfoundland rides/hikes to make a longer holiday.

    Explore more of Cape Breton Island. Visit the amazing Fortress of Louisbourg.

    In Halifax, visit the Halifax farmer's market, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and the Citadel; all highly recommended. Halifax is the usual arrival point for those coming by air. It is a small port city with an attractive waterfront, and an abundance of restaurants, bars, cafes, and hotel choices. The new library has been winning international architectural awards.