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A Visitors Guide to Baddeck, Nova Scotia

The village of Baddeck, located on the shores of Bras d'Or Lake, is the heart of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia and the gateway to your adventures and explorations on the island. As a host of the spectacular month-long Celtic Colours Festival and as the beginning/end point of the breathtaking Cabot Trail, this picturesq1ue and welcoming village includes a full range of tourist services and accommodations, a fascinating museum, and every water-based activity imaginable. Visitors can enjoy peaceful trail walks, beautiful lake views, or a cruise. No visit would be complete without admiring the local lighthouse and beach or indulging in freshly caught lobster daily.


A statue of a couple seated on a bench looking at Bras d'Or Lake
Famous residents, Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell, enjoying the view

 

 

Baddeck Village, Nova Scotia

Before settlers arrived, this area was the seasonal home of the Mi'kmaq people. The name is derived from the Mi'kmap word "Abadak" meaning "place with an island near", referencing Kidston Island, where the lighthouse sits. The first settlers were Loyalists who arrived in the late 18th Century after France ceded the land to Britain. Mining, shipbuilding, and milling industries turned the village into a prosperous centre that attracted well-to-do travellers looking for fresh air and pristine nature, including its most famous resident, Alexander Graham Bell.

A pyramid shaped concrete lighthouse painted white with red trim on a spit of treed land
Kidston Lighthouse

Today, Baddck's economy supports 800 year-round residents based on services, cultural activities, and tourism.



Celebrate the Lobster!

During high season (May - October), visitors will have many choices for food and drink, including pubs, bakeries, and fine and family restaurants, many with patios and lakeside decks. Lobster will be on every menu and served in many ways. The traditional Lobster Dinner includes a whole steamed lobster served with melted butter, lemon, and salad. You will be provided with a plastic bib, nutcrackers for splitting the shell, and a finger bowl. Be prepared to use your hands and make a mess!

whole steaamed llobster on a plate with ramekins of melted butter and lemon slices
Traditional Lobster Dinner

Another popular way to enjoy lobster is in a lobster roll—a sandwich roll stuffed with lobster and lettuce—or in a bowl of delicious seafood chowder.


A plate with a lobster roll and fries with a ramekin of ketchup and pickle spear on the side
Lobster Roll

Accommodations

As the largest community on Cape Breton Island, Baddeck has accommodations to suit every style and budget, from quiet Bed & Breakfasts and vacation rentals to resorts, cottages, and campgrounds.



Our choice was The Inverary Resort, a sprawling property with many buildings, a private pier, a restaurant, and a lively pub. Guests can rent canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, electric scooters or bicycles. Helpful staff are eager to make recommendations or arrange tours.

Things to Do in Baddeck, Nova Scotia

Meander Around

The village is small and invites wandering. Walk along the lake's edge to see the brightly coloured buildings. Admire the view from one of the many benches placed to take full advantage of every view. Plan to watch the sunset.


Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site & Museum

Before my first visit, I confess I knew little of Alexander Graham Bell and absolutely nothing about his equally brilliant wife, Mabel. Their story has since riveted me.


Alex and his family made their first visit to Baddeck in 1885. They soon bought property overlooking the lake, where they built two houses, a farm and gardens, a laboratory, a boatyard, and other buildings. The home was named Beinn Bhreagh, meaning 'beautiful mountain' honouring Bell's Scottish roots. At first, their Baddek home was a summer residence, but within a few years the family was splitting their time equally between their American and Canadian homes. It was in Baddeck that much of Bell's work was done. The estate remains privately owned by descendants of the family.

exterior of the museum -- double A frame style with full glass windows

Alexander is well-known for inventing the telephone, but his life's work also includes studying flight and developing communication systems for the deaf. Mable was an aeronautics financier, community leader, social reformer, and advocate for the deaf.

Bell performed her own scientific experiments in agriculture and food preservation and became a community leader for women in Baddeck

The Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site and Museum is stuffed full of artifacts, letters, prototypes, and Bell Family treasures donated by his daughters following his death. Exhibits include a model of the first hydrofoil built and tested, parts of Tetrahedral kites used by Bell for flight experiments, and Mable's Garden. Fun activities available include a kite-making workshop or a White Glove Tour, allowing visitors to get closer to The Bells' models and notes.


Parks Canada sign for the AGB Musueum, in Mabel's Garden

Uisge Bàn Falls Provincial Park

Uisge Bàn (OOSH KAH ban) means white water in Gaelic. This day-use Provincial Park makes a lovely half-day activity. It has an easy one-hour hike to pretty waterfalls. The trail is well-maintained and has interpretive signs along the route. The park includes toilets and picnic tables.


a woodland bridge over a creek in the forest

Kidston Lighthouse and Beach

It's impossible to miss the lighthouse on a small island in the Baddeck Harbour. On the island is the Kidston Lighthouse and a sandy crescent beach (with lifeguard!) that is a favourite for locals and visitors. During the summer months, local volunteers run a regular shuttle service between Baddeck and the island for donations.


4 sided white brick lighthouse with red trim

Take A Tour!

Since Baddeck is the hub of the island, it is easy to arrange tours to every corner. Check with your accommodations or the outstanding Visitor Centre to make arrangements. Puffin Boat Tours offers a Puffin Viewing Cruise that guarantees spotting these beautiful birds.


We chose a sailing tour arranged through Amoeba Tours who offer cruises on large 50-passenger tour boat or aboard their wooden sailing ship. Our cruise featured interesting narration about the land, wildlife, and history of the area.

A 20th Century wooden sailing schooner

Since Beinn Bhreagh Hall is private, you will need to take a cruise to see the house as it can only be fully seen from the water.


A grand house on a hill overlooking the lake
Beinn Bhreagh Hall

A true highlight of the cruise was when Captain John began calling out for "Alex" to come for dinner. Passengers were stunned and delighted to see a wild eagle rapidly approach the boat for his daily chicken treat.


A bald eagle flying ina cloudless sky

Go to a Ceilidh!

A ceilidh (KAY-lee) is a community get-together that includes traditional Gaelic music, dancing, and story-telling. The best ones are held in local community halls. There may be a small entrance fee. Expect to be encouraged to join in the singing. During intermission, a concession will open selling tea, oat cakes, and baked goods donated by locals. It's a lively and welcoming way to spend an evening. Look for notices outside community halls for performance times.

A group of musicians: fiddle, guitar, piano, hand drum


Day Trips from Baddeck

Baddeck is located right in the centre of Cape Breton, making it a perfect location to make a base for exploring other interesting sites. Check out my posts about spending A Day on the Cabot Trail and discovering the outstanding Louisbourg Fortress.

4 men dressed in period French uniforms firing rifles at Louisbourg Fortress
Louisbourg Fortress

The Highland Village Museum

Approximately an hour's drive from Baddeck is the small community of Iona as well as a fascinating living museum and Gaelic Folklife centre called the Highland Village Museum. Costumed interpreters bring to life the stories and history of the Scottish settlers.


The site is arranged to take visitors on a journey, with buildings representing the passage of time and the development of modern society. The stunning views are an added bonus.


historic farm equipment displayed in a field with views of Cape Breton in the background

Glace Bay

Just over a hour's drive from Baddeck is the former mining town of Glace Bay, perched on the coast next to the Atlantic Ocean. Rich coal deposits were found deep underground and out under the ocean bottom. Life for the miners and their families were controlled by the company. Dangerous working conditions and poor pay caused workers to strike leading to brutal retaliation by the company and the government.

A small community on the flats above ocean front cliffs
Glace Bay

Visitors can learn about the importance of coal mining in Cape Breton, go deep underground to visit the mine, and wander around the mine site to learn all about it. You'll hear some excellent music from the local men's choir, "Men of the Deep," who sing songs that describe the challenges and work of the miners.



Final Thoughts

Baddeck is the perfect base from which to explore Cape Breton. It is ideally located in the centre of the Island and has many charms within the village that are sure to please every traveller and every travel style. If you are enjoying the content and would like to be kept up to date with new posts become a member/subscribe (it's free!) and follow along on the RamblynJazz Facebook page, Facebook Group, Twitter, and Instagram. You can help the blog to grow by sharing the link with a travelling friend or through social media. I truly appreciate your comments and encourage you to share your thoughts below.


12 comentários


Lyn (aka Jazz)
Lyn (aka Jazz)
10 de abr.

The AGB Museum is fascinating. I really enjoyed it -- I bought a book of letters between Alex and Mabel at the gift shop that really gave a deep look into them, their work, and their commitment to the Baddeck community. I know you'll have a fabulous time!

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Pamela Drager
Pamela Drager
08 de abr.

Oh my - you had me at the lobster! But really persuaded me with the puffin tour. I've always wanted to see puffins in the wild. Such a cute town with plenty to offer! Great find!

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Lyn (aka Jazz)
Lyn (aka Jazz)
10 de abr.
Respondendo a

No one can resist puffins! Truly beautiful birds and unafraid of humans. I love how close I can get without disturbing them.

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Emma Gilbert
Emma Gilbert
07 de abr.

What a charming looking place. I'd have to join the Bells for that view at least once. But it's the puffin tour and nature walks that I'd probably enjoy the most. A lighthouse visit would be difficult to pass up too. While I'm not going to rush anywhere for lobster, I'm sure there's more than enough good food in this little place to keep me sustained for all the activities - which seems like a lot considering the size of the place

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Lyn (aka Jazz)
Lyn (aka Jazz)
10 de abr.
Respondendo a

The Bells have the best bench and view in Baddeck but they became true Nova Scotians so I'm sure they would be happy to have you join them! There are plenty of food options that don't include lobster so you'll find something to tickle your palate!

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Convidado:
06 de abr.

Canada doesn't seem to run out of quaint towns steep in character and historical significance. A befitting place of retreat, it seems the ultimate draw of Baddeck is its tranquility and nature - enough to inspire great ideas from the man who invented the telephone. With only 800 residents, there's plenty of peace and lots of lobsters to be had #flyingbaguette


Jan - https://flyingbaguette.com/

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Lyn (aka Jazz)
Lyn (aka Jazz)
10 de abr.
Respondendo a

I find the smaller communities draw me more than the cities -- it's all about nature, good food, and community. I love how the locals welcome visitors and are always eager for a chat.

Curtir

You had me at the mention of lobster - I could eat it for breakfast lunch and dinner and never tire of it. That alone would make me want to visit this town.

It is clearly so historical too with that fine connection to Alexander Graham Bell.

I love learning wear the names of towns are derived from and this one having it origins in the local indigenous people gives it a sense of history and culture.

I've been to several ceilidhs on Ireland but never one in Canada - would be good to see if they are that different from each other!

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Lyn (aka Jazz)
Lyn (aka Jazz)
10 de abr.
Respondendo a

Ha! I think I eat lobster daily when I'm visiting but I don't think I had it for breakfast. My tummy is always very happy! I really enjoy the mix of cultures -- it's very different from my home in BC.

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