ANTIGONISH – PICTOU
Tour the Cape.
EMBRACE THE WARMTH OF THE SAND, BREEZE, AND CULTURE.
Navigate your adventure in Scottish culture and scenic seaside vistas, from the cliffs of Cape George to the flat, warm beach of Melmerby.
For those looking for a challenge, the jaw-dropping Cape George highlands await with steep climbs and thrilling descents. Reward yourself with a visit to the Northumberland Strait’s warm beaches and Scottish towns. The gently rolling coastal terrain around Pictou and New Glasgow offer opportunities to delve into the area’s unique Scottish culture and history.
Start your trip in the town of Antigonish, home of St. Francis Xavier University. This picturesque town is known as “the Highland Heart of Nova Scotia”. Enjoy a meal in town at Gabrieau’s Bistro – recommended by Where to Eat in Canada– located in the heart of downtown Antigonish. Other local favourites include the Tall and Small Café, the Townhouse Brewpub and Eatery, and Wheel Pizza.
Departing from Antigonish, it’s mostly uphill as you wind your way up the highlands. The leg of your journey through rugged Cape George (Ceap Sheòrais in Gaelic), often described as a “miniature Cabot Trail,” is demanding; thankfully, there are many reasons to stop and take a break along the way. The scenery is stunning, with dramatic views of the Mabou Highlands and Creignish Hills of Cape Breton across St. George’s Bay. Perched three hundred meters above sea level is the Cape George Point Lighthouse , which guides vessels into St. George’s Bay and is also used as a trailhead to over 30 km of wilderness trail.
The Cape George area also has its place in the fishing history books. St. George’s Bay is home to some largest bluefin tuna in the world. In fact, the largest tuna ever, weighing 1647 pounds, was caught in these waters. You can learn all about this magnificent fish and the history of the local tuna fishery at Ballantyne’s Cove Tuna Interpretive Centre.
At Arisaig Provincial Park , take a break from your bike and walk the loop trail, featuring viewing platforms of seacliffs and interpretive panels that explain unique geologic rock formations that are rich in fossils. Before you begin your descent down the highlands, stop in for a (responsible!) sample of excellent hand mashed vodkas and spirits at Steinhart Distillery in Arisaig. You can also stay longer in one of their chalets for an opportunity to learn more about the science and art of distilling.
After conquering the Cape George highlands, you will be rewarded with a scenic descent to low-lying white sand beaches. Merigomish Beach , a three-kilometer sandy spit, is a perfect place to explore the endless display of beach grasses and sea creatures. Further on, take a dip in the warmest salt waters in Nova Scotia at the exquisite Melmerby Beach . This long beach features a boardwalk and fantastic ocean views. On clear days, you can even see Prince Edward Island on the horizon.
Each of the towns along the Northumberland Shore has its own remarkable history to share. New Glasgow’s Museum of Industry features fascinating exhibits about Nova Scotia’s industrious past, from steam engines to coal mining to technology. After working up an appetite, stock up on supplies at the Pork Shop for some of Nova Scotia’s most delectable meats and cheeses… perfect for a picnic lunch at Trenton Park!
When you arrive at Pictou’s waterfront , visit the Hector Heritage Quay to discover stories of the Scottish families who immigrated here almost three centuries ago. Be sure to satisfy your sweet tooth at Mrs. MacGregor’s Shortbreads. Just outside the town, stop at Uncle Leo’s Brewery for a sampling of some locally brewed ales and lagers in Lyon’s Brook.