Cape Breton is a national treasure

A few years ago I decided to venture off and take a week to explore and discover eastern Canada. Leaving Toronto, I set out to visit some well-known places including Hopewell Cape followed by Halifax, Peggy's Cove and Prince Edward Island.

On the way between Halifax and P.E.I., I called a friend to share my stories of the beautiful areas I had seen. My friend, being an avid motorcyclist, mentioned that I should visit Cape Breton and travel the Cabot Trail. He comes from a family of motorcyclists that have told him his whole life he needs to go and take this world-class ride.

Slightly ashamed to admit this now, I hadn't even heard of Cape Breton at the time but told him I would visit on his recommendation, given my proximity. I changed course and headed to Baddeck where I spent the night. I then ventured out the next day to complete the drive which stated it should take about four hours according to google. Instead, this four-hour drive turned into a three-day exploration of Cape Breton as I was unable to drive for what seemed like more than 500 meters without stopping to see the incredible landscapes that felt unworldly. I was taken aback by the beauty of the island and was curious and embarrassed how I didn't realize it was even here.

I have lived in many areas of Canada and have visited landmarks like Whistler, Vancouver Island, Jasper Provincial Park and Banff. Despite my travels, Cape Breton connected with me in a way no other place has. Over those three days I stopped at the Skyline Trail, Lakies Head, Cheticamp and a few other off-the-trail attractions before heading back to Toronto on an 18-hour drive.

On my way home the euphoric thoughts of Cape Breton left me saying I need to return. I called my friend and thanked him for telling me to go and see such an amazing place. I raved about the beauty of the island as he made jokes about how there was now another person outside his family who would continue to tell him how he needs to go. I asked him why he has never been? His response was "I can't find the four days to travel there and home." I agreed the 18 hours from Toronto was a commitment but assured him it was worth it.

For the next six months all I thought about was Cape Breton and when I would return. The following May I made the 18-hour one-way trip again to spend a week on the island and return home. In the last 18 months I have been to Cape Breton three times. From Toronto it takes me just about as long to drive there as it does to reach Orlando, Florida which is a popular destination for Canadians in the greater Toronto area.

With family on Vancouver Island, Western Canada and in Toronto, the response is always the same. "It sounds beautiful, but flying into Halifax and driving three-to-four hours both ways sounds like a lot." Many people I talk to think I am crazy for taking the 36-hour round trip drive and wouldn't ever consider it. Those that have visited know better.

I am writing today because I believe Cape Breton is a national treasure. Unfortunately, I believe it is treated like one (hidden and hard to get to). I believe Cape Breton is not visited more because access is onerous to anyone looking for a vacation. Worth it, yes. Easy to access, no. Cape Breton is a world-class destination with horse and buggy access.

An airport near Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail is needed to allow not only Canadians but the world to access, enjoy and vacation in what is no doubt the country’s best-kept secret. Cape Breton has stolen my heart and I know I will return many, many times. The question now is when's the next time I have a spare 36 hours to travel there again.

Robin Urie
(Recently purchased land in Grand Etang)

Peterborough, Ont.

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