Summer '04 Trip to NS - Please Help!

Mar 22nd, 2004, 04:10 PM
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Summer '04 Trip to NS - Please Help!

My wife and I are planning a Maine/Atlantic Canada vacation this summer
(late July-early August). We have planned to arrive in Portland on 7/22
and work our way up the coast, up through NB where we have planned to stay
one night in Saint John, across the Confederation Bridge to PEI for a day,
then over to Sydney/Cabot Trail area and down to Halifax for 2 days.

My questions are:
When we get to NS, what can we expect as far as the weather is concerned?

Also, since we don't have lots of time to spend in each location, I want to
make sure we get to see the highlights. What are the "must sees" along our

We are both crazy about lighthouses, and love to tour and photograph them.
Other than Peggy's Cove, where are the best ones located? Are there any
that are open for climbing?

I am also wondering about some of the driving times between our
destinations......for example Saint John to the western end of PEI, and
Sydney to Halifax, Halifax to Liverpool, and Liverpool to Yarmouth.

Any help would be great! Thanks.
Brandon77 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2004, 07:58 AM
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some comments on the Cape Breton part of your trip:
The major reason for going to Cape Breton is the Cabot Trail (one of the most scenic drives I have taken) - it takes about one day (or longer if you stop to hike); forget Sydney - stay somewhere else. The other major reason for going to Cape Breton is Louisberg - it is a wonderful restoration, complete with people in appropriate costumes - it is definitely worth a detour.
Weather: hard to predict - weather in Nova Scotia is changeable. It could be hot and sunny but it might also be wet and a little chilly. Bring layers. Most likely it will at least be warmish.
JMM is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2004, 08:42 AM
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My husband and I were in Nova Scotia last August.

Weather--Halifax was warm, typical summer temps, but Digby (on the Bay) was much colder. I remember wearing coats.

Driving--We took a different route and drove northwest after staying in Halifax and went to Digby. That was probably a good four to five-hour drive with brief stops. Based on our travel times, I think Halifax to Yarmouth could be as long as five hours.

Don't know if you were planning to stop in Digby, but I have to give it a quick plug: very small and charming and the whale watching tours off Digby Neck are excellent. Stay at the Thistle Down Country Inn if you go.
Have a grea time!
Jennare is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2004, 09:18 AM
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JMM and Jennare, thanks for the suggestions. Actually, we have reservations in a town called Sydney Mines...The Gowrie House, I think. Is this not a good place to stay to access the Cabot Trail? If not, what are some reccomendations? Baddeck, perhaps? Or would it be better to split up our two nights and stay on opposite sides of CB island? Again, thanks for the help!!
Brandon77 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2004, 09:23 AM
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Before you plan anything else, have a look at a mapping site, such as The distances you are covering are probably MUCH greater than you are expecting!
elberko is online now  
Mar 23rd, 2004, 10:59 AM
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Thanks Elberko. I have checked Mapquest, but I wasn't sure how accurate the driving times are. It almost always over estimates driving times for the U.S.
Brandon77 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2004, 07:04 PM
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Hi there! We went to Nova Scotia last July and wore everything from shorts to jeans and jackets. The weather varies. I agree that Sydney is not the best place to stay -- try Baddeck, a charming little town. The Inverary Resort is a nice place to stay or eat in Baddeck. Highlights for us on Cape Breton Island were Louisbourg, driving the Cabot Trail, and visiting Highland Village, a re-created Scottish village in Iona. If you have time to travel to Prince Edward Island (cross from New Brunswick to PEI via Confederation Bridge), there is a lighthouse on the western edge of the island with overnight accommodations. Click on
laurafromtexas is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2004, 07:07 PM
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Also, as you cross Confederation Bridge onto PEI, travel east about 15 minutes to Victoria-by-the-Sea, a small village with a lighthouse museum and steps you can climb. Also in the town: a fabulous chocolates shop, a funky homemade candle shop, a great cafe (catty corner from the chocolates shop), and a community theater.
laurafromtexas is offline  
Mar 24th, 2004, 02:42 AM
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Question, how many days total do you have? I'm trying to gauge what you'll have time to do along the Maine coastline and when you have to catch the ferry back from Yarmouth.
Retired_teacher is offline  
Mar 24th, 2004, 09:14 AM
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LauraFromTX and Retired Teacher - thanks for the suggestions. I will keep your advice in mind. I am wondering though, why is Sydney or Sydney Mines not a good place to stay? Is it just that it is not right on the Cabot Trail? Or is it not very scenic? We still have time to change our reservations, and have looked at a place or two in Baddeck. I doubt we will do very much hiking, so any ideas about how long it will take us to drive the Cabot Trail?

As far as PEI goes...we know about the West Point Lighthouse. Actually, we are staying one night there. Thanks for the ideas.

We have tried to fit as much into our tight schedule as possible, but here is our itinerary as it stands:

2 days in the Portland area

2 days in the Bar Harbor/Acadia NP area

stay one night in Saint John NB (as a stopover on our way to PEI)

1 night in PEI

drive to Cape Breton for 2 days

then drive to Halifax area for 2 days

drive to Yarmouth to catch the 1:00 CAT Ferry back to Bar Harbor, and fly out from Manchester the next morning.

A whirlwind tour, without a doubt!

Thanks again for all the suggestions.
Brandon77 is offline  
Mar 24th, 2004, 09:41 AM
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Just a few comments...

Why spend two days in Portland? In my opinion, it's worth half a day of visit, and not more. Spend more time further downeast.

It'd be a long drive from PEI to Cape Breton (or are you taking the ferry from PEI down to near New Glasgow? You may want to consider spending one night near the southern end of Cape Breton (or in the eastern end of the mainland), and then spend the next whole day driving the Cabot Trail and end up around Sydney. Sydney itself isn't that interesting, but use it to go visit Louisbourg the next day, before heading South to Halifax (which you'll arrive late at night).

How long it takes to drive the Cabot Trail depends on how fast you drive and how often you're stopping. It's not that long, but with many curves at places, and there may be some traffic in the summer. You can also make a sidetrip to Bay St. Lawrence (or even Meat Cove via a dirt road, which is virtually the "end" of Nova Scotia).

BTW, it'd be easier for many of us if you mention how many NIGHTS you're staying at a place, instead of saying how many DAYS. It's a little confusing.

I'm thinking that your plan is like this. Correct me if it's wrong.

7/22 Arr. Portland
7/23 Portland
7/24 Portland - Bar Harbor
7/25 Bar Harbor/Acadia Nat'l Park
7/26 Bar Harbor - Saint John
7/27 Saint John - PEI
7/28 PEI - Cape Breton
7/29 Cabot Trail (overnight in Sydney)
7/30 Sydney - Halifax
7/31 Halifax
8/1 Halifax - Bar Harbor (via Ferry)
8/2 Fly out of Manchester (in the morning? - it's several hours from Bar Harbor to Manchester!)

Again, I think you're wasting time for the whole day in Portland in the beginning of your trip. And, there's really not much to see in Saint John. Stop for 15 minutes at the Reverse Falls and move on. You can do Bar Harbor to PEI in one day if you leave early.
rkkwan is offline  
Mar 24th, 2004, 12:03 PM
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I like Rkkwan's idea for you to drive the Cabot Trail & end up @ The gowrie House. The Gowrie House is a beautiful home with very tasteful antique furnishings. the food is excellent. From there oyu can head out in the morning to go to Louisbourg. Remember that it is always a lot colder in Louisbourg than it is in Sydney! you may even get fog! It's often windy. Bring a jacket.
When you drive around The Cabot Trail consider spending a night in Ingonish @ Keltic Lodge. It takes about 2.5 hours to drive from Sydney to Ingonish. Ingonish toHalifax is about 5 hours.
wow is offline  
Mar 24th, 2004, 07:37 PM
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It will take you a full day to drive the Cabot Trail. You could probably drive around it in 7-8 hours, but you'll want to schedule extra time for scenic photos, short hikes in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, lunch, etc. I can't remember the names of the trails, but one goes through a centuries-old maple tree forest and another (the Bog Trail?) goes on boardwalks through marshy areas with wild orchids and frequent sightings of moose. Other possible stops include Keltic Lodge for lunch or dinner and the Gaelic College at St. Ann.
laurafromtexas is offline  
Mar 25th, 2004, 04:27 AM
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Unless you have family or specific "must do" things scheduled in the Portland area, I agree with rkkwan that you should move on downeast. Overnight in Portland then head on up the coast stopping at L.L.Bean and the outlets in Freeport if you must. Spend the day exploring the penninsulas and lighthouses between Brunswick and Rockland, staying perhaps in Camden. That would bring you into Bass Harbour a day ahead of schedule. Go ahead and allow two days for Acadia, but use your extra day in the Lubec, Campbello Island, Eastport area. I cannot locate my trip notes, but there is a light house in that area, at the eastern most point of the US as I recall, that is low tide accessible only. Overnight on Campbello Island and then continue on to Saint John. Reversing Falls gives you a great perspective of the influence of the tides on the area, but you really need to see it at both low and high tides. You could also drive quickly through the area and continue on to Fundy National Park which would give you another look at the Bay of Fundy tides. I remember having trouble finding accommodations in that area five years ago, so book ahead. I'd recommend ferrying off PEI to save yourself some driving time and rest up for Cape Brenton the next day. Sydney, though not particularly scenic, is a great overnight stop between the Cape Brenton Highlands and Louisbourgh. There is lots to see in Halifax and the surrounding area. I assume that you plan on spending your last night in NS at Peggy's Cove. Be aware that it's a hike from there to Yarmouth and if you're late, they'll fill your spot on the ferry. Enjoy your time in the Atlantic Provinces!
Retired_teacher is offline  
Apr 29th, 2004, 10:22 AM
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I'll tell you why Sydney isn't a good place to stay. There's really nothing here. It's just an economically destitute city, with very little aesthetic appeal. There's also have a very large toxic waste site in the middle of town left over from the steel plant. P I know all this because unfortunately I have to live here. I have been all over this island and I can tell you that there's no place prettier than Cape Breton Island...except for Sydney!

Sydney Mines is admittedly better and Gowrie House is gorgeous! You should really enjoy your stay there.
HeatherMac is offline  
May 3rd, 2004, 02:25 PM
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Advocate Harbor area. Trust me its worth it
PetHead36 is offline  
May 8th, 2004, 08:14 PM
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It has been a while since I have been able to log on and post a reply, but I do want to thank everyone for the helpful information.
From what I gather from reading all of these comments, is that the Gowrie house is a very nice place, but off the beaten path, and not in the most scenic area. Since we will not have as much time as we would prefer for such a long journey, I do want to get the most out of our vacation. Is the general consensus that the Gowrie house will be a good place to stay, but just a minor inconvenience because of its location, or is the general consensus that a wise person would find lodging elsewhere, perhaps Baddeck? Again, I only ask due to my somewhat limited knowledge of the area at this time, and my desire to squeeze every last drop of enjoyment from our time in the Maritimes. Thanks again to everyone for your help and your suggestions. They are much appreciated!!
Brandon77 is offline  
May 9th, 2004, 08:01 AM
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Hi. I am from here too so hopefully I can help. Gowrie House is a very pretty place. The Prime Minister of Ireland (I believe it was) stayed there a few years ago so obviously it has some credibility. The Inn does face the water, the harbour. But Sydney Mines is not a big happenin place. But really, no where in CB is. Sydney does have some more hotels and restaurants but it's nothing special. you don't have to go there for the whole CB experience. Sydney Mines is in an alright location. It's a half hour from the start of the Cabot Trail if you take the route that goes Englishtown-Wreck Cove-Ingonish and so on. The counter clockwise way. Also Sydney Mines is about a 45 minute drive to Louisbourg. Much closer to there than Baddeck is. I did the cabot trail a few weeks ago actually but it was a rainy day so we did it in about 6 hours because we didn't stop very much for long periods of time. Also we did it out of season (season starts mid-May) so nothing was open. You have a better time for it. Weather-July/August is usually pretty warm but do bring rain gear and sweaters just in case. Especially for Louisbourg. Louisbourg is not always cold but they do have more foggy and chilly days than other parts of the island. Driving from Halifax to Sydney Mines is about 4-5 hours. Baddeck is about a 40 minute drive from Sydney Mines, and about an hour from Sydney. Must sees: Ingonish beach, Keltic Lodge (in Ingonish), the scarecrows in Cheticamp (yep, there is a whole field full of scarecrows, you'll see them from the highway when you are there and you can drive up and get out to see them). The fortress of louisbourg (take the guided tour). The Gaelic College in St. Ann's. That's on your way at the beginning of the trail (if you go the counter-clockwise way, otherwise it's the end of the trail). They often have celidhs (small scottish concerts) in the day there. If you want to do a quick hiking trail do the Middlehead trail that's at the top of the Keltic Lodge property. It takes only about an hour or so and is very pretty. I've seen whales from the top of the trail before. Oh and if you have time to do a whale watch tour you really should. I did one last year in Ingonish. We saw a lot of whales and we even saw dolphins! If you are there in early August you may be in Louisbourg for the Crabfest festival. Crabfest I believe is usually the first weekend of August. They have a night when they have a mussel boil with live entertainment. The next day they serve crab legs. Sooo many crab legs. I volunteered at it a couple years and it's fun. Lots of tourists show up. Lots of entertainment. Good time.
Quick suggestion for Halifax. I recommend you take the Harbour Hopper tour. It's a tour 'bus' that takes you through the city with a very entertaining tour guide that fills you in on the city's history. Then the 'bus' goes into the harbour! Your tour continues in Halifax harbour! It's a lot of fun and you see so much of the city. Hope this helps!
AllTeeth is offline  
May 9th, 2004, 09:23 AM
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I would stay in Baddeck. I found Sydney and Sydney Mines to be the only unpleasant areas in all of Nova Scotia.
KarenE is offline  
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