Weekend on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, one of three ways: On a budget, spending a bit more, or when the getaway calls for a splurge.
Trip tips: Cape Breton (4,000 square miles) is considered one of the world’s most scenic areas. The month of October is consistently clear and sunny. The Marconi and Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) trails are popular drives. Others are the scenic 163-mile Fleur-de-lis Trail through French-influenced fishing villages along the southeastern shore, and the Bras d’Or Lake Scenic Drive, which follows the shoreline around the 424-square-mile lake. The spectacular beauty of Cape Breton Highlands National Park causes frequent photo stops. Allow for a few relaxed days to take it all in. From Oct. 10-18, Cape Breton Island will host the 18th Annual Celtic Colours International Festival. Over 300 artists participate in nearly 300 music events in more than 60 different communities (event prices vary); http://www.celtic-colours.com. Plan a visit at http://www.cbisland.com.
Getting there: One-way, 30-day advance purchase rates are $160 ($170 7-day) on connecting flight service to Halifax on most airlines. Estimated driving time from Halifax Airport to Cape Breton is 3 hours (7 hours to the north coast).
Stay: A stay at The Weary Gardener offers a bit of country just minutes from downtown Sydney’s attractions, shops and restaurants. There are two distinctly different suites, and each has access to a library, a coffee bar and an outdoor balcony; $130 per night; 40 Richardson Ave., 902-270-2987, http://www.wearygardenerbedandbreakfast.com.
Eat: The first floor of Governors Pub & Eatery is a casual dining restaurant and upstairs is a lively Celtic-style pub. Diners at both can expect fresh ocean seafood and home-cooked comfort meals prepared from scratch; starters $7-$12; entrees $14-$17. Two outdoor patios overlook Sydney Harbour; 233 Esplanade, 902-562-7646, http://governorseatery.com.
Experience: The 18th-century fortress town of Louisbourg was settled by French colonists over 300 years ago. Roaming costumed “residents” bring history to life in this reconstructed fort. Take a guided tour or explore on your own with demonstrations of music, dancing, cooking and military drills; $17.60 adults; 259 Park Service Road, Louisbourg, 902-733-3552, http://www.fortressoflouisbourg.ca. Take a scenic drive north along the 44-mile coastal Marconi Trail to Main-à-Dieu, a picturesque fishing village with a sweeping beach, a boardwalk, winding hiking trails, and the Fisherman’s Museum; 2886 Louisbourg-Main-à-Dieu Road, 902-733-2258, http://coastaldiscoverycentre.ca. Further north up the coast is the Marconi National Historic Site, which marks the location of the first radio transmission from North America to Europe in 1902 by Guglielmo Marconi; $2.50 suggested donation; 15 Timmerman St., Glace Bay, 902-842-2530, http://www.pc.gc.ca.
Stay: The recently restored Maison Fiset House is an ideal base to explore the majestic Cape Breton Highlands. The terraces at the inn offer lovely views of the ocean and harbor. Choose a suite ($219) or one of five guest rooms ($169); 15050 Cabot Trail, Cheticamp, 902-224-1794, http://www.maisonfisethouse.com.
Eat: Family-run Le Gabriel offers traditional dishes and Acadian fare; $11-$27. Free Acadian Music is featured a few nights a week; 15424 Cabot Trail, Cheticamp, 902-224-3685, http://www.legabriel.com.
Experience: Take in the colors of autumn, spectacular highlands and cliffs, deep river canyons and ocean scenery in the 235,000-acre Cape Breton Highlands National Park; $7.80 adults, Ingonish Beach, 902-224-2306, http://parkscanada.ca/capebreton. One-third of the scenic 187-mile Cabot Trail runs through the park. Step on the beach at the Top of the Island (northeastern tip) like the Italian navigator and explorer John Cabot did centuries ago. This area offers some of the most rugged and untouched vistas along the trail route.
Stay: A “Culinary Whisky” package at the 900-acre Glenora Inn & Distillery includes a guided tour of North America’s first single malt whisky distillery, overnight accommodations, a three-course Nova Scotia themed dinner with wine pairing, dessert with Ice wine and breakfast; $435 per couple through Oct. 18. Following dinner, enjoy a traditional Ceilidh in the Pub (a gathering of local Celtic musicians); 13727 Route 19, Glenville, 902-258-2662, http://www.glenoradistillery.com.
Eat: Book a guided tour of the Island Sunset Resort’s private Lobster Pound (a cordoned-off cove where lobsters are kept). Follow up with a freshly prepared lobster meal on the waterfront patio (market price). The resort also offers a full menu in the oceanfront dining room; entrees $12-$26; 19 Beach Cove Lane, Belle Cote-Inverness, 902-235-2614, http://www.islandsunset.com.
Experience: The scenic 62-mile-long Ceilidh (kay-lee) Trail runs alongside the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the west side of the island and ends in Margaree Harbour, where it meets the Cabot Trail. Catch lively evening entertainment (free-$8) at the Red Shoe Pub in Mabou, where music is the backbone of its history, culture and everyday life; 11573 Route 19, 902-945-2996, http://www.redshoepub.com. Catch Cape Breton’s up-and-coming musicians at Strathspey Place, a performing arts center ($30 and up); 11156 Route 19, 902-945-5300, http://www.strathspeyplace.com.
Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.