There isn’t much new in the northeastern corner of Nova Scotia and that’s precisely the point; Cape Breton Island's reputation rests on simple pleasures and heartfelt hospitality. Spectacular scenery doesn't hurt either, and the very best of it is found on the Cabot Trail, a scenic 298-km (185-mile) stretch of road, winding along ocean-side cliffs. This rugged terrain made the Highland Scots,
who settled here in the 18th century, feel right at home and their influence remains obvious: North America’s first single-malt whiskey distillery is on Cape Breton, as is its only college devoted to Gaelic language, arts, and culture. Elsewhere on the coast you’ll find Francophone villages full of Acadian joie de vivre, plus historic attractions like the mighty Fortress at Louisbourg, which bear witness to the area’s long-standing French presence. Bras d'Or Lake—a vast, almost landlocked inlet of the sea occupying the entire center of Cape Breton—is still home to ancient Mi'Kmaq communities, yet it appeals equally to an international contingent of boaters who come to cruise the lake’s unspoiled coves and islands.