Nova Scotia, or New Scotland, as I came to find out, blew my mind. I don’t know what I was expecting, but Nova Scotia far exceeded those expectations. I didn’t think I would ever find anything in North America that rivaled my love for the Rocky Mountains… but Cape Breton Highlands in Nova Scotia succeeded to do just that.
From the moment we drove off the Ferry (after getting a jump on my dead battery and holding up half the Ferry…) onto Nova Scotia dry land, the difference between PEI and Nova Scotia was noticeable. Where PEI is tame, manicured, open and quiet, Nova Scotia was rugged, dense, wild. This difference appealed to me immediately. I knew I was going to like this place. I just didn’t know how much.
We started our drive up to Cape Breton Island from about the middle of the province (where the Ferry lands). As soon as we crossed the causeway over to the Cape, our jaws began to drop. We took the Ceilidh Coastal Trail up towards Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The views were truly breathtaking, and we hadn’t even gotten to the infamous Cabot Trail yet! We decided to spend the night in the little village of Cheticamp right outside the park. Not only did we eat delicious fresh caught seafood at a local restaurant with live Celtic music, but we witnessed a most spectacular sunset.
Fun fact: Canadian Gaelic is still taught and spoken on the Island. All of the road signs have both English and Gaelic on them. I love that!
The next morning, we packed up and within 5km were pulling into the park and onto the famous Cabot Trail. There is a reason this scenic drive has been voted “one of the World’s Most Scenic Destination Areas” year after year. I could hardly contain myself and ended up pulling over to scenic overlook after scenic overlook. I knew then and there I would leave a bit of my heart at this place.
Our destination for the next two nights was Meat Cove, at the far northern tip of the island. Literally, at the end of the dirt road. You feel like you are at the end of the world.
Why such a name for such a picturesque place? I did a little research and found some interesting articles on the Cove.
Q: Where did the name Meat Cove come from?
A: It was given by Europeans back probably in the 1700s. They would come in here and do a slaughter (of moose, deer and bear). They were more interested in the hides and antlers as opposed to the meat.
And from another article:
Meat Cove is a visitor’s perfect antidote to a world filled with the clamouring urgencies of modern life.
I would have to agree whole heartedly. Being in Meat Cove was like entering an alternate universe. We scored an incredible little lodge, Meat Cove Lodge, all to ourselves and had the added bonus of getting to speak with and learn from it’s owner, a 5th generation resident of Meat Cove.
Life happens very differently in Meat Cove. For one, the lodges have an open door policy. Literally, the door is unlocked, with a note saying “Come on in! If there is a room available, you are welcome to it. Just use the phone and call this number and let me know you want to stay here.” Crazy!
From the lodge we could take a 12 minute walk down a boardwalk to the pebble beach at Meat Cove. The girls loved this place, as there was a freshwater pool there to swim in, and tons of rocks to explore and climb. We collected lots of driftwood and I plan to make some fun souvenirs with our loot. The lodge was perched on the edge of a babbling brook. With windows open the sound of the wind in the trees and the water in the stream was enough to put anyone into a peaceful trance.
One morning, I took Sydney and Nadia with me to hike a trail to a lookout point overlooking the Cove and specifically Meat Cove Campground.
*Note: if I were to come to Meat Cove again, I would bring my tent and snag a spot on the most beautiful campground I have ever set my eyes on.*
The trail led us to the tip of a grassy hill overlooking the Cove and the view was more breathtaking than anything I have seen. The gusts of wind were intense, though, and I made the girls sit down on more than one occasion as I took pictures standing on the edge of the cliff. But we all survived and I cannot begin to describe the feeling of sitting and standing at the “edge of the world” that morning. It will forever be filed away as one of my “most amazing life experiences” memories.
We took one small day trip from the Cove to visit the village of Neil’s Harbor off the east coast of Cape Breton. We found another spectacular beach and spent hours playing in the fresh water lake right next to the ocean, looking for sea glass, catching jelly fish, making sand castles. It was just perfect.
The morning we (sadly) left Meat Cove, it started to lightly rain in the hills. As we drove out, we came around a bend and I slammed on the brakes and jumped out of the van to capture this gem of an image. Perfection. Absolute perfection. What a perfect sendoff from a perfect little slice of heaven on earth.
I cannot recommend this place highly enough. For those who want to just hit the pause button on life, go to Meat Cove. Unplug. Sit. Rest. Hike. Eat chowder. And watch the sun rise and set on a little slice of paradise.
If you want to stay in a beautiful, clean, simple, cozy lodge, please check out Meat Cove Lodge on Facebook. If you are camping type, you really must check out the campground. Whatever you choose… bring cash, as there are no credit card options in the area.