Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island

July 11-19, 2014

The Answer is:

  • 50,000+ bugs squashed on the front of Deidre’s Copper Red Mica MX-5,
  • 2170 miles traveled,
  • 50+ bald eagles,
  • 20 US citizens with a clean record-ok maybe 19 (sorry Jim),
  • 11 Miatas,
  • 10 pounds of dust on the inside of Deidre’s Copper Red Mica MX-5 (Meat Cove was worth it),
  • 9 days,
  • 4 different types of poutine,
  • 2 dead chipmunks,
  • 2 wish they were dead squirrels, and
  • 1 awesome time.

And the Question is: What can you expect on a Mass Miata trip to Cape Breton Island? (Deidre Ryan)

This gives you an overview of the trip. The following accounts were submitted by various people on the trip.

Three years ago members of the Mass Miata Club traveled to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton; most of us felt frustrated that we couldn’t spend more time on Cape Breton, and we vowed to return. Bill and Sue Conrad offered to run the trip, but when health problems made that impossible, Janet Baylis and Judy Austin stepped up to the plate, planning, organizing, and running the 9 day trip.

They came up with a brilliant idea: breaking into groups of 3 cars, so that we weren’t running a dangerous, long line of cars on the interstates. All of us felt much more relaxed. (Jane Arnst)

Friday: The drive north on the first day was uneventful — in the evening we spent a good bit of time walking around Saint John getting lost on the way to the restaurant. Saturday we traveled to Baddeck and the Silver Dart. On arrival we went for a sailboat cruise around Bras D’ Or Lake, a brackish lake, billed as Canada’s largest inland sea. The skipper of the sailboat had worked out an arrangement with the local American Bald Eagle couple in which the skipper throws a about half a chicken into the water near the boat, one of the Eagles then strikes the chicken for the entertainment of us tourists. The sail is worth the price of admission just for getting “up close” with the Eagles The agreed plan was to do the Cabot trail in both directions. Sunday we did a bit more than half of the spectacular Cabot Trail in the clockwise direction. Sadly wet were turned back by a tourist bus going off the road and tipping over. Cape Breton has no road that cuts across the island so when the Trail is blocked the only option is to go back the way you came. Monday according to plan we did the balance of the Cabot counterclockwise. Tuesday we did the Alexander Graham Bell museum which is a very interesting take. Wednesday we went down in coal mine, for most of us a new experience. The former miner who conducted the tour, talked about the main mine going six miles out to sea at a depth of 2700 feet below the sea bottom, I doubt that many would be willing to take a tour of the main mine if it were on offer. Thursday we traveled back to Amherst. Friday Jean & I left the group to make a family gathering in upstate NY. (Bob Brewer)

While driving our cars through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Canadian Maritimes, the Cabot Trail, Fundy National Park, Sunrise Trail to name a few was the primary goal of our trip, we also left our cars for other modes of transportation.

On our first evening in Baddeck, we all boarded the Amoeba Schooner for a beautiful cruise of the Bras d’Or Lakes, an inland sea in Cape Breton. During this cruise we saw Eagles swooping down to catch pieces of chicken tossed from the boat. We saw the extensive Bell estates compound, once owned by Alexander Graham Bell and still owned by his ancestors. This beautiful piece of land is dotted with many homes and cottages, each one owned by a descendant of Bell. Here in the bay, Alexander and his team flew the Silver Dart, the first powered aircraft to fly in Canada in 1909. We cruised this beautiful lake as the sun was going down on a lovely and comfortable summer evening. A wonderful way to spend our first evening in Baddeck, Cape Breton.

Later in the week, several of us went on a Puffin and bird watching boat ride. We steamed out of a port on the Bras d’Or and headed out to the Bird Islands where we saw Puffins, over 60 Bald Eagles, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Gulls, Cormorants, Gannets, Seals and other bird and sea creatures. After the Bird tour, we went to lunch at a restaurant nearby where we had local favorites like Lobster Club sandwich, Hamburger with Peanut Butter and a special plate of Poutine with birthday candles for Jim Gillis! (Charly Busky)

Our adventure started when some of us got stuck at the border. Deb & Jim did finally clear the customs background check and we all headed into Canada. When we arrived in Baddeck NS we went on a wonderful sunset cruise on the schooner Amoeba. We were all excited when an eagle swooped out of the trees to greet us. Little did we know we would be seeing over 50+ eagles before the week ended. On our second day we drove the Cabot Trail. This day did not disappoint as we drove on many scenic and windy roads stopping at all the vistas and villages we could find. The highlight of the day was a trip to Meat Cove at the most northern tip. This included an 8 km dirt road that most 4×4’s would avoid but it was worth the scenic views. We also had an educational walk along the bog trail learning about the local plants and animals. Although we did not see any wildlife Deidre did a great job entertaining us with her imitation of a bull frog. On the third day a group of us drove the Ceilidh Trail. We toured the Glenora Distillery and we were given a sample of their whiskey (its 5 o’clock somewhere!). We had lunch at the Red Shoe Pub where all shared the best poutine in Canada. On day 4 most of us took a Puffin tour out to Bird Island. The island is appropriately named as we not only saw many Puffins but hundreds of birds (including over 50 eagles) and seals as well. At lunch the group surprised Jim with the first ever Poutine birthday cake! On day 5 we drove out to Sydney to visit the Miners Museum. Our tour guide, Sheldon, a retired coal miner, made us feel what it must have been like working there back in the day. He was a wonderful story teller. That evening we had the group dinner at the Silver Dart where we were all staying and Jim was surprised again when he got a real cake for his birthday. The next few days were travel days as well as sightseeing. While most went to see Hopewell Rocks a small group of us went island hopping on Friday. We took a large state ferry to Deer Island (yes, we did see a deer!). Then a smaller private ferry to Campobello Island that landed on the beach. After we returned to the mainland we met up with the rest of the group for dinner at a small diner in St Stephen. Turns out our waitress is a Miata enthusiast and owns a 95 Miata.

She drove by after her shift to check out all our cars at the hotel. She was so excited and took some pictures. We left her with a few MMC mementos to remember us by.

We thoroughly enjoyed this trip and will have great lifetime memories (RIP chipmunks). What a great bunch of people to enjoy Cape Breton with! (Jim Gillis)Day 1: We started our day with a driver’s meeting at the Seabrook Rest Area in NH. Traveling in groups of 2-3 cars, we made our way to Dysart’s in Bangor for lunch. The small groups worked extremely well after we convinced the guys that it wasn’t a race and it was OK to not catch up with the group ahead. After lunch, we took the Airplane Highway to Route 1 just outside of Calais ME. Crossing the border was quite an adventure when Jim and Deb had their car put under the carport area and were escorted into the building for questioning. The rest of us waited around the corner (we were told we couldn’t wait on the side of the road in sight of the border) Jim and Deb were released after what seemed like a long time but was probably only 5-10 minutes. It was still early in the day so we took a scenic route to the Chateau St. John. Pat and Lee met us at the hotel as they left home on Thursday and spent the night in Bangor. We had dinner at the St John Ale House after taking a wrong turn and walking 3 times further than we were supposed to. St John is quite hilly so we had quite a bit of exercise before our meal. It felt good to stretch our legs after riding all day. Even so, Bob, Janet, Jack, Judy and Les took a cab back to the hotel after dinner.

Day 2: Still traveling in our small groups, we proceeded to North River NS for lunch at Molly’s Dairy Bar & Abbie’s Café. Pit stops were greatly appreciated and fairly quick with the smaller groups.

Most groups followed a combination of Google map and GPS directions. This created multiple ways to get to Molly’s but most importantly we all made it on time. We proceeded to Baddeck and the Silver Dart Hotel. The rooms had beautiful views of the Bras D’Or Lake and a long balcony perfect for gathering, chatting and admiring the view. We went on a sail on the Amoeba Sail Boat with Captain John Bryson. The semi trained eagles were the hit of the show.

It was a beautiful full moon that night and this was the view over the lake.

Photo by Lee Tarantino

Days 3-6: We spent the next 4 days on Cape Breton. We traveled in small groups and sometimes solo.

Some of the things people did include, driving the Cabot Trail in both directions. Our group made it 2/3s of the way around in the clockwise direction when the road was blocked due to a tour bus accident. We turned around and finished the trip counter clockwise. The counter clockwise group went to Meat Cove and we went to White Cove (all paved roads). Judy saw a moose! Or at least a glimpse of a moose.

The Alexander Graham Bell museum was fascinating and we learned a lot about his wife Mabel as well. Bell built the first plane flown in the British Kingdom. Others went to the Glenora Distillery.

Most of the group went on the Puffin Tour to Bird Island. They saw many different birds and even some seals. They saw over 50 eagles. The tourists were more impressed with the eagles than the tour operators. Apparently the increased eagle population is causing the puffins to leave their nesting area early.

We also went to the Cape Breton Miner’s Museum. It was very interesting but you needed a good back and legs. Some parts of the tunnel were less than 5 feet high. I think even Deb had to duck a few times. It’s a good thing we had to wear hard hats as we kept hearing clunk, clunk as people hit their head on the roof.

After the miner’s museum, we went to the Marconi Historic Site. It was rather disappointing as the structure no longer exists but they had a good model inside. Then we took a scenic drive through part of the lake area and took a cable ferry back to the mainland. Other people drove to a lighthouse and enjoyed the changeable weather when the fog rolled in and dropped the temperatures 20 degrees.

We also went to hear the local music at the Baddeck Gathering Ceilidh and a show called Smile.

Ted and Jane took in the Fortress of Louisbourg.

Louisbourg was very interesting. A recreated French Fort with some of the structures built on actual foundations and all were very detailed inside. The town was staffed by very knowledgeable folks in period dress. They really played the parts well and could answer most questions. As you can see in the pictures we saw and heard canon fire and Musket volleys. During a walk through the ruins area, Jane and I could actually talk with Archaeologists working the site – fascinating. We ate at a period restaurant with just 1 utensil provided as it would be in those days. Food was good and reasonably priced.

Since I was wearing my red Miata Club windbreaker I was called a redcoat spy numerous times by the staff. That was fun. It was a full day of activity and one should give it that much time to see most of the site. I recommend this highly to anyone visiting Nova Scotia in the future. Ted Del Donno


We did have one casualty during our time on Cape Breton. Ed killed a chipmunk with his car. As a reminder to drive more carefully in the future, he was presented with a stuffed chipmunk, Squishy.

Day 7: We parted from Pat and Lee (they stayed in Baddeck several more days) and travelling in small groups again, we made our way to Pictou for lunch at the Saltwater Café. Pictou is a declining fishing village. The ferry from PEI docks there but this doesn’t seem to be helping the economy. After lunch we walked around for a while then resumed our trip towards Amherst NS. We took an interesting detour (it must have been 5+ miles long), Bob saw some deer in a field-very unusual in the daytime, and we stopped for ice cream. We spent the night at the Super8 and had dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant called Bella’s Café.

Saltwater Café

Day 8: The Brewers left us on their way to Plattsburg NY. The rest of us split into 2 groups. One group went to Hopewell Rocks and Cape Enrage. Hopewell Rocks was fascinating and we arrived at almost low tide so had plenty of time to walk the beach. Cape Enrage was impressive but freezing! We also stopped for ice cream at McCabe’s. This was delicious ice cream but the premium ice cream came with a premium price $5-$8.50 for a small cone. The other group went island hopping. We ended the day at the Winsome Inn in St Stephen’s NB and had dinner at Carman’s Diner. It was just a short walk from our motel.

Day 9: This was our last day. After our last group photo, we bid goodbye to Canada and re-entered the US.

Fortunately, none of us were selected for special treatment at the border. We stopped for gas and a pit stop at Dysart’s in Bangor and had lunch at Bob’s Clam Shack in Kittery. It was the end of a great trip.

Janet Baylis

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