The Gulf Coast


For as long as I can remember, I’ve been greatly attracted to the meeting of mountain, sea, and sky. Cape Breton, a mountainous island, is a paradise for such vistas. The coasts along the Gulf of St Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean (including its excursion into Chedabucto Bay) are both of tremendous beauty, but thanks to the Bras d’Or Lakes, Cape Breton’s mountain-enclosed inland sea, and to the beautiful Lake Ainslie, the inland coastal views rival those of the outer coasts. If you are, as I am, a lover of beautiful coastal views, Cape Breton has them in unbelievable abundance and variety!

In this pictorial essay, I have concentrated on the coast along the Gulf of St Lawrence from Bay St Lawrence to the Canso Causeway, a distance by air of 175 km (110 mi) and much longer by water. With the exception of the coast from just east of Meat Cove to Cape North, which lies in Victoria County, this coast line forms the western border of Inverness County. (If you're not familiar with Cape Breton’s geography, have a look here. Those who have the Park Guide and Map from a previous visit to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park will find in it wonderful map coverage of the northern part of the Gulf Coast.) Technically, the coast from Port Hood to Port Hastings is the coast of St Georges Bay, but looking at a map of Nova Scotia, St Georges Bay can easily be taken as an arm of the the Gulf of St Lawrence, just as the Bay of Fundy is often taken as an arm of the Atlantic. Then there is the Northumberland Strait, that narrow part of the Gulf of St Lawrence which separates the continent from Prince Edward Island, but which also appears in the Nova Scotia Atlas (ISBN 0-88780-521-3) as the designation for the waters below Inverness harbour (though the atlas also gives Gulf of St Lawrence in parentheses). For simplicity, I’m just going to use ”the Gulf Coast” here to refer to all of this coast.

As I hope this essay will illustrate, it’s one spectacular coast! There are mountains along most of its length and, apart from a number of beautiful beaches and harbours, the mountains either come very close to or abut the water, making for stunning panoramas. The justly famous Cabot Trail follows the Gulf Coast from Belle-Côte to French Mountain and then returns briefly at Pleasant Bay, but stupendous though these stretches be, they border only a small portion of this gorgeous coast. The Cèilidh Trail (Highway 19) also follows along the lower portion of this coast and likewise offers some very fine views. To see the other splendours this coast offers that are not accessible from these two main roads, you will need to take detours on side roads or dead ends, do some hiking, or go out in a boat. I’ve tried to indicate as precisely as possible how to access each of the views shown here, all but four of which you can easily reach by car (those four were taken from a boat).

There are northern portions of this coast that I have not yet seen. The hiking trails in the Bay St Lawrence and Meat Cove areas appear to be beyond what is wise for me to undertake, so all I’ve seen of that part of the coast, one of the most beautiful jewels in Cape Breton’s crown, is what can be seen from the road. I therefore have no photos of the coast from Cape St Lawrence south to above Pleasant Bay nor from MacKenzies Mountain south to above French Mountain, since there are no roads along the coast there. I am hoping to some day get out on the Gulf in a boat to see these portions of the coast from the water, as I expect them to be amazing, but that has not yet happened.

I found it very hard to choose among the Gulf Coast photographs in my collection; it’s a long coast with one beautiful spot after another. Since I’ve previously covered the coast at the Cape Mabou Highlands and West Mabou Provincial Park, I’ve reluctantly skipped over these areas for lack of space. Anyway, the very best I can hope to do with this small sampling is to whet your appetite to discover or rediscover this beautiful coast of Cape Breton and to stop and visit its many vistas which I haven’t been able to include here. It’s definitely a subject to which I hope to return in the future.

Feedback on the photos and the accompanying commentary, including corrections, is always welcome.

Victor Maurice Faubert
2006 April 11

Revision of 2012

I again neglected to mention in the original introduction that the views in this essay are ordered from north to south. In two cases, they are out of order based on the physical position where I shot them, but they are in order with respect to the views themselves, which partially overlap in these two cases.

I have since hiked the trails in the Meat Cove area, having made it out to Cape St Lawrence and Lowland Cove twice and enjoyed the tremendous (and, in character, quite different) beauty of this part of the coast—see this photo essay. I have also hiked up the Meat Cove Mountain Trail and the Meat Cove Look-Off Trail, both of which provide stunning views, some of the coast line and from a perspective not otherwise obtainable. As indicated later in this essay, I also saw about a fifth of the Polletts Cove Trail along the Gulf coast north of Pleasant Bay. And I have managed to hike down to Fishing Cove from MacKenzies Mountain. None of these trails proved in fact to be beyond my abilities, though they were quite challenging for me, the more so as I age. I have therefore seen considerably more of the areas of the coast I had not visited when I wrote this essay, though much remains I would still love to see. More familiarity has by no means bred contempt: on the contrary, this amazing coast has become even more precious to me as I have seen even more of it. If you haven’t yet had that pleasure, you’re certainly in for a treat!

Victor Maurice Faubert
2012 January 17

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Note 1: If you are unfamiliar with the place names mentioned in this essay, a list of map resources is given here. Of these, the best computer-readable map of Cape Breton Island that I currently know about is the Cape Breton Travel Map, produced by Destination Cape Breton and, thanks to their express written permission, available as a PDF file here; I strongly urge you to download it. This map scales nicely, allowing you to zoom in on an area of interest, has a very helpful place name index, and provides a level of detail, both of back roads and streams, that is quite good.

Note 2: See the description here for the notation I use for GPS (Global Positioning System) coördinates. I did not have a GPS device when I took the photos in this essay; the coördinates found here are those written down on later trips or computed from Google Maps; when no coördinate is given, I have been unable to reconstruct where I was exactly when the photo was taken.

Feedback on the photos and the accompanying commentary, including corrections, is always welcome; send it to the address in the footer below. All of the essays in this series are archived here.


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