Antigonish to the entry point onto Cape Breton is maybe 40 minutes, and be sure to go to the information center immediately to the right.
The next will depend on whether you are going to travel towards the Sydney and Louisburg areas or are you just going to loop the Cabot Trail. Two days and two nights is enough, but three days would be better if you want to do much stopping , go see the Fortress at Louisburg alone needs a good 1/2 day but yes, you could be in and out in 2 hours too. The Bell Museum in Baddeck need at least an hour, and then there are things like hikes in the Highlands Park, Whale Watch trips need 2-3 hours, finding a celtic music venue for an evening , etc . Now the Cabot Trail is a full loop, no short cuts, so depending on how you want to see the rest of the Island may dictate if you travel the Trail clockwise or counter clockwise, and that then starts to help you decide on places to stay . Even though there is a lot of rural roads, other than when on the Trail, you can reach places within an hour to hour an a half . Margaree Harbour to Sydney without stopping cross country through Baddeck is like 1 hour 20 minutes.
We just returned from a vacation in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick so I will add a few thoughts.
From Halifax, we drove to Port Hood and stayed at Lighthouse Cottages. Each cottage overlooks the water and there is a nice boardwalk if you want an easy hike. We visited the The Celtic Music Interpretive Centre' in Judique since we wanted to experience Celtic music and dance and they happened to have the Sunday Ceilidh going where they have live music, dancing, drinks, and food. It was fun... (wish I knew how to do the dances).
From Port Hood, we drove to Cape North where we stayed at the Oakwood Manor Bed and Breakfast. I highly recommend this B & B as the house was beautiful with wood interiors and it was on many acres -- price very reasonable. Wish we could have stayed there longer. Along the way, we stopped to hike the Skyline Trail and saw about 6 moose, a bear and cubs (learn how to respond to wild animals BEFORE you go hiking) and beautiful views. Also remember that if you like to make stops and sightsee, everything takes much longer to drive than you might think. Along the way, we also stopped at an authentic Acadian restaurant called Restaurant Acadien - enjoyed the Chicken Fricot.
From Cape North we drove to Antigonish and stayed at the Azelia House Bed and Breakfast. Beautiful bedrooms and since it was in season, we were served lobster omelets for breakfast! Highly recommend this B & B.
Next time, I want to spend more than 12 days in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The area is beautiful.
Thanks for reporting on your trip like that. You did very well. It's so hard advising people some times as we have such a variety on Cape Breton Island and yes, once you start stopping, you'll be taking a lot of time. The terrain changes quite a bit when you along the western coast , and than add in the Margaree valley as an example or a trip to Meat Cove and to Iona , and that alone could add a whole day . But it's fun isn't it. Too bad we didn't know you were in the area as you drove right by our house .
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