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Alexander Graham Bell once said, I have travelled around the globe. I have seen the Canadian and American Rockies, the Andes, the Alps and the Highlands of Scotland, but for simple beauty, Cape Breton outrivals them all.”

I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical of this quote upon first reading it. I mean, the Rockies, the Alps, the Scottish Highlands… those are all pretty impressive and beautiful things. Could a sparsely-populated island in the Canadian Maritimes really compare?

Well, the truth is that it kind of can.

Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

When my family found out we were stopping in Sydney, Nova Scotia, on our last shore day of a cruise, we were a bit perplexed. Everything I was reading said there wasn’t much to see/do in Sydney apart from a giant fiddle and some historic houses. How would we fill 8 hours?

The trick, we discovered, is to get out of Sydney and explore the rest of Cape Breton Island. Because, as Bell asserted, the beauty of this place will surprise you.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

We rented a car and took to the famous Cabot Trail, a scenic route that skirts the coastline of Cape Breton Island and takes you through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We didn’t have time to drive the whole trail since we had a ship to catch, but we did drive a few hours into the Cape Breton wilderness.

At our halfway point, we stopped in a sleepy little fishing village that I have now dubbed The Prettiest Place You’ve Never Heard Of.

This is Margaree Harbour.

Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

The Wikipedia page for this town consists of one sentence; the town itself consists of a small collection of houses and cottages; and the only living things we saw at the harbor were sea birds.

Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

On such a warm, sun-kissed day, Margaree Harbour absolutely took my breath away.

Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

I now understand completely what Alexander Graham Bell meant.

It just goes to show you that sometimes it’s the unexpected places that end up sneaking up on you to steal your heart.

——

What do you think? Can Cape Breton compete with those other scenic places?

 

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103 Responses to The Prettiest Place You’ve Never Heard Of

  1. It’s one of the prettiest places that I have ever been. We spent 5 nights in nearby Baddeck a few years ago and loved it!!
    Lisa Goodmurphy recently posted..A Stroll Around Parliament Hill in Ottawa

  2. Marianne says:

    I agree it can compare :) you should see it in the Fall

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Oh my gosh, I can’t even imagine how gorgeous it must be when all the leaves are changing! I will definitely have to come back in the fall sometime.

      • Rich Polanco says:

        You’re absolutely right about visiting Cape Breton in the fall. It. Was. Amazing.

        When I was planning my overland trip from North America to the Chilean Patagonia, I thought to start from Alaska and make my way down. Because of timing reasons, I chose instead to go all the way to the northermost part of CB, Meat Cove, and make my way down.

        Best decision ever. Here’s where my CB leg of the trip started: http://unwireme.com/part-i-driving-cape-breton-nova-scotia-world-top-10-scenic-drive/

        If you ever go to Margaree, you have to stop by The Dancing Goat. The have the best soups and delicious freshly-baked cinammon rolls. Great sandwiches too.

        If I had gobs of money, I’d buy me a little cottage in CB and live there during the fall months.

        Good post!

        -Rich
        Rich Polanco recently posted..How to Overcome The #1 Fear a New Entrepreneur Will Face

        • DangerousBiz says:

          A fall cottage in Cape Breton would be amazing!

          And we actually did notice the Dancing Goat, but didn’t have time to stop in.

        • Morgan turner says:

          Went there 27 years ago,and never forgot it , Five years ago we returned to buy a cottage on the Cabot Trail. Now every summer this is our home – the beauty of this place is unmatched, there are gems all over this island-beautiful hidden beaches and small harbor towns, the national park and rolling interior farmlands. The Margaree area is our special summer place. And if you are a music lover, it has the the added bonus of having some of the best traditional music in the world. The people, the dancing, warm-enough water to swim and a rich musical night life. There is nothing not to love about Cape Breton, wild, remote and beautiful!

          • Blaise Fortune says:

            where at in margare I am from there my mom and dad still live there on the Cabot trail.

          • Terry Ross Notte says:

            I am from north east Margaree just two minutes from the dancing goat bakery( great food).the owner went to school with our daughter.my mom and brother still live there I live in northern Ontario but try to get home at least once a year.not often enough.didn,t really notice how pretty it was until I went back for holidays.people seem to live longer there. …….no stress could have something to do with it.

          • DangerousBiz says:

            It’s great that you can appreciate it now. :)

        • You said: If I had gobs of money, I’d buy me a little cottage in CB and live there during the fall months.

          I Say: Do it!! Property is so bloody cheap in the Maritimes compared to the rest of Canada. I’m from that neck of the woods so I know. I also know that Germans are slowly buying up all the good plots, so strike while the iron is hot! :)
          James Shannon recently posted..Photo: Deserted Waterfall At The Top Of A Mountain Trail In Northern Thailand

  3. I have to find more about this area. Have to confess I don’t know a lot about it. A cruise seems like the perfect way to visit the Canadian Maritimes.
    Ruth (Tanama Tales) recently posted..Ostriches are not as friendly as you think

  4. Nancie says:

    Being from Nova Scotia, I’m biased, but I’ve been to a lot of beautiful places in this world and Cape Breton (and Nova Scotia) can stand up there with the rest of them.
    Nancie recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday — June 7th, 2012 — Traveling Taste Buds

  5. You’re quite right about the beauty and there is some astounding beach glass to be found on the some of the shores of Cape Breton. It’s a great place to visit in October during the Celtic Colours music festival. Incredible!
    Colleen Friesen recently posted..Guest Post – Writing Advice from David Hochman

  6. I love discovering places that I had no idea would be beautiful or that I would fall in love with. Gorgeous pics!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Andi’s Pick: Hard Rock Hotel, Macau

  7. memographer says:

    Wow! Such a beautiful scenery! Thanks for sharing the story and photos!
    memographer recently posted..EuroTrip 2012: Germany and Austria

  8. Looks beautiful, to me it’s the secret of the location that makes it all the more magical!
    Heathers Harmony recently posted..Everything you want & need to know about attending TBEX!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Oh, I totally agree! If we hadn’t stumbled upon it accidentally, it wouldn’t have been as special.

  9. Lori Henry says:

    Cape Breton is one of my favourite places in the world! The fiddle tunes, the people, the scenery, oh my… It’s damn pretty. :-)
    Lori Henry recently posted..Dancing Through History excerpt – Throat Singing

  10. I’ve been here before! When I was younger I had an international choir festival in Sydney, Nova Scotia and we followed the same trail. It IS breathtaking. I love Nova Scotia though with all its coastal beauty. I need to head back East sometime soon!
    Chrystal McKay recently posted..A Farewell Moroccan Feast

  11. Ayngelina says:

    I was born in Cape Breton yet never think of it as the prettiest place, maybe because tourists see it in the summer but I know what its like in the winter.
    Ayngelina recently posted..My mother the assassin

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Hahaha, totally understandable! I’m sure I’d have a different attitude, too, if I had grown up there.

      • Joanne Gallivan says:

        I grew up here & have lived here for most of my life & my attitude’s not at all like Ayngelina’s. I have rarely vacationed outside of Cape Breton in summer. I am always commenting on what a beautiful place we live in – you’ve gotten only a small taste. It so happens I’ll be driving part of the Cabot Trail tomorrow to overnight at a beautiful resort (Island Sunset) in Belle Cote, just a few miles beyond Margaree Harbor. The resort is aptly named as the sunsets are spectacular.

    • Janice says:

      I too grew up there and I have travelled the world but there is no where in the world as BEAUTIFUL as MARGAREE HARBOUR even in the middle of winter!!!!!!

    • Eloise says:

      Blue sky puffy white clouds and sparkling blue/green sea on white landscape can be just as beautiful
      as summer or fall! Cape Breton is beautiful all year long! There are stormy days all over the world!

  12. Mikeachim says:

    That’s a big sky…

    Kinda eerie how much it looks like Orkney. And for that reason, I’m totally sold.
    Mikeachim recently posted..10 Ways To Start A Story

  13. Lori Ferens says:

    Having spend every summer vacation of my life here (my Dad was born in Ingonish, Cape Breton), it was the only choice for a honeymoon destination when my hubby and I got married. After returning to Ontario at the end of the trip, my husband agreed with my feelings about this place: we HAVE TO return! Well, 5 years after that trip, we handed in our resignations, packed our belongings and moved east. We’ve been living a dream here in Ingonish, Cape Breton for the past 12 years now! Do we miss the crazy, noisy, hectic, crowded city life? NO WAY! We fall asleep to the sound of the surf each night and wake to a postcard-perfect view of the coast every morning. If you want to see more reasons why it’s easy to fall in love with Cape Breton Island, visit this website: http://www.capebretonstockphotography.com . And come play on OUR island!! :D

    • DangerousBiz says:

      What an awesome story, Lori! I can definitely understand the appeal of dropping everything and moving to Cape Breton. Do you still love it as much in the winter?

  14. I love unexpected places like this! Your pictures are beautiful and depict a lovely town that looks so peaceful. Makes me want to visit!
    Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista recently posted..Picturesque Costa Brava

    • DangerousBiz says:

      It’s definitely convinced me that I need to spend more time in Cape Breton! Such an unexpectedly pretty part of the world.

  15. Vi says:

    I can’t agree with “it outrivals them all” statement. Yes it is beautiful, but you can’t compare with Rockies as it totally different landscape.
    Vi recently posted..Weekly Travel Photo. Lake O’Hara

  16. Alouise says:

    I’ve been to Nova Scotia, but not to Cape Breton. My parents were just there a couple months ago, drove the cabot trail. My mom said it was beautiful, definitely another reason (of many) for me to go back to Nova Scotia.
    Alouise recently posted..A Traveler’s Dilemma – In Search of Good Shoes

  17. Ryan says:

    Wow Amanda, stunning photos! I’ve always wanted to check out Nova Scotia (mainly for the Viking myths and scenery) but now this is added on my list! I’ll definitely have to check it out while back stateside, looks like the most peaceful place ever!

  18. Cedric says:

    The body of water at the mouth of the river is Margaree Harbour on the right side but the pics are of the Belle Cote side to be exact! Walk 4 minutes up that beach and climb a cliff and that’s my mom’s, so I’d know :)

  19. Cedric says:

    I meant left side lol

  20. What a beautiful place! I have indeed never heard of it! The 3rd photo from the bottom, with those deep blue water and gorgeous mountains captivated me. Now I want to go there too!
    Ayelet – All Colores recently posted..Jerusalem Ice Festival: Jerusalem Made of Ice

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I had never heard of it either before this trip! I mean I vaguely knew of Cape Breton Island, but I had no clue it would hold this kind of prettiness!

  21. Oh my gosh! This is my place! This is my home! You were taking pictures right outside of ‘my’ beach! When I’m home, that’s where I go, that’s where I breathe and take in all of the gorgeous beauty God has blessed me to grow up with!
    I’m so honored that you wrote this and I love that Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton stole a piece of your heart!
    Please, visit us again and if you do, write me up, I’ll show you the hidden nooks of our place!

  22. Marty W says:

    So glad you took the road ‘less traveled’ and found Margaree Harbour. I have spent summers there for almost 15 years, and still become speechless at first sight of the harbor, where the Margaree River flows into the sea. FYI, the River is the border between the Acadian French settlements in the North of Cape Breton and the Scottish villages in the South. Most of your photos look upon the small village of Belle Cote, which is on the French side, with the ships berthed in the Belle Cote Harbor. After visitors breakfast or lunch at the Dancing Goat, try dinner and Tuesday music at the Island Sunset Resort, pictured in your 7th photo – the long grey building on the water. http://www.islandsunset.com The Cape Breton fiddlers are unreal!!

  23. Lucille says:

    Home is where the heart is!!! I have lived in the Rocky Mountains for 30 yrs & Belle Cote will always be where my heart is!! In my teenage years – I would take my books & study at the beach (both Belle Cote & Margaree Harbour side) or even just take a leisurely walk to the beach to watch the sun set! Truly breathtaking and cherished memories! Thank you for capturing my childhood memories!!!

  24. Jeanne Egar says:

    I wanted to find a new photo of Margaree for my desktop and clicking on your blog made me smile! My cottage is diagonal to the Lawrences General Store where I spent every summer of my childhood. To see it called the ‘Prettiest Place You’ve Never Heard Of’ is great! Except people need to hear about it :) Also, beautiful photos!

  25. Photo Kitch says:

    It’s definitely a beautiful place, but i’ll take the Andes every time

  26. Vicky says:

    Cape Breton definitely seems like it can compete with all those other places! Gorgeous photos!
    Vicky recently posted..Three Months To Go!

  27. BM says:

    I’m also a born and raised Cape Bretoner. It is definitely a hidden wonder. I’ve travelled a bit myself, but Cape Breton will always be my #1. I’m very glad that year after year, people from far and wide get the chance to expierence our culture and land. We often forget to stop and take a look around us, but when we do, we remember why we can’t stay away for long.

    You’ll have to come back and enjoy the rest of the island! St. Peter’s, Baddeck, Mabou, etc. – all the villages are spectacular in thier own right! Not to mention the house parties :)

    • DangerousBiz says:

      It’s awesome to hear from locals how much they love their home. Based on my brief visit, I can definitely understand why!

      • Leonard says:

        I am from north east Margaree and born and lived there for 48 years till no work had to take me to the west of Canada to make a living.I go home very summer for 3 weeks and every year it gets harder to leave but we all have to make a living. Love seeing your pictures and the good memories of home . Don’t like the idea of getting old but cant wait to retire and go home for good, Calgary is where we live but its just not home for us. thanks again

        • DangerousBiz says:

          Glad to have brought back some good memories for you, Leonard. This is definitely a lovely place to consider “home”.

  28. John says:

    Shhhhh…..everyone will find out!!! We came in 94 and ‘discovered’ the area by accident, (we came inland because of fog along the coast), and now we are one.

    However, being Canucks, we don’t brag about it. (:->) What would happen if everyone knew!!!!?????

  29. Shirley Mac Lean says:

    I am blessed to be able to say beautiful Cape Breton is my home . I so enjoyed your photos. I live right on the River Denys Basin and overlook beautiful Iona, in central Cape Breton. The water stretches around the front of our home including full view in two bedrooms, including a small beach. Cape Breton is breathaking, and the fall colors are gorgeous, and there is always local talent and cultural events taking place. Celtic Colors Festival begins in October each year. We have the Louisbourg Fortress, the world renown Cabot Trail, and many other cultural events taking place all through the tourist seasons. Please come back and visit with us again. You won’t be disappointed.

  30. Debora says:

    Cape Breton is the place I have called home all of my life and no matter where I travel it will always be my “home”. It is an Amazing place with such beauty that it is hard to describe to someone just how breathtaking it can be ( during all 4 seasons )……not just along the trail but the entire Island offers places that you would never read about in a travel magazine or by researching Cape Breton, but to see them you would fall in love over and over again…..the only way to completely appreciate the beauty is to come and see the spectacular sites for yourself….even pictures don’t always do it justice. Not to mention the music, food, festivals and most importantly, the people…….the most amazing people you will find anywhere in the world….”salt of the earth”, genuine friendly people who will assist you in your travels and entertain you until the minute you leave this precious Island!!!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      It’s great to get comments like this – it definitely says something about a place when the locals are so in love with it. :)

  31. Kevin says:

    The little white Cottage from where you took the pictures of Margaree Harbour belongs to my mom. She was born and raised there and bought the post office and turned it into the cottage. Her brother lives in the old homestead behind and another brother lives just to the right of the stop sign as you leave the Harbour. I was there on Saturday Sept.21 visiting from Calgary where I live. My family has always known the beauty and will cherish it forever.

  32. Roger says:

    Home…. how I miss it…

    I live in Ottawa now, but I wish I could go back… Margaree Harbour beach was our playground and we took it for granted growing up… Life is at a different pace there, with friendly, generous folks…

    I try to go back as often as I can, to show my kids where Daddy grew up… it simply is not often enough…

  33. Leslie says:

    Some 13 years ago I fell into real estate sales. I was trying to find a way we could stay and raise our family in Cape Breton, Inverness to be exact. Now I have my own brokerage and we actually have a few gorgeous listings right in Margaree Harbour. We consider Margaree Harbour to be one of our most desirable neighbourhoods. Check out http://www.invernessproperties.ca to learn more. Inverness is in the running too. Check out http://www.cabotlinks.com to see why. I wish more people would move here and stay full time …..not too many but some. Oh, and Inverness got its own Dancing Goat this summer too!!! Yippee!!!

  34. Marilyn&Roy Peters says:

    Thank you,We enjoy living here,a wonderful place to live.

  35. Alexandra says:

    Ever since moving to PEI, I have heard about Cape Breton! I can’t wait to go visit one day. Your photos are beautiful and it looks so peaceful there.
    Alexandra recently posted..The Magic of the Forest

  36. Highlandfling says:

    How’s she goin’ bye?! I love reading your article, looking at the pics and reading all the comments. I grew up I cape Breton and luckily still live in NS , albeit the mainland, but memories are fond , when we were kids my mom was involved in theatre so we got to spend the entire miners vacation, this is the 2 weeks in the summer when the pits (coal mines) would shut down, travelling the highlands we would stop in every small village from Iona to cheticamp to margaree and my mom was usually in a play or skit or parade in the local festival. Yup we went to them all and even as a kid I knew this was special memory making right there. Thanks for your blog and kind words now all we need is more tourism to come to our beautiful island!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I really love all the comments on this post, too! It makes me really happy to see so many people who really love where they come from!

  37. Awesome story! I am a Cape Bretoner and NEVER take this island for granted. I work the Port of Sydney (where your cruise ship arrived) in a Kilt just so I get to talk to passengers and tell them about our island. And most often I tell those who are not going outside of the city..they are missing the best part……and you said just that…come back again,I say! My grandmother grew up on a farm not far from the Dancing Goat in Margaree and we have a “cabin” still there which we spend most of the summer there. I recently took visitors on the exact tour of Margaree Harbour you took and they have all the same pictures. And if you golf we have some of the very best golfing in the World(I am biased of course). And Celtic music…eating fresh hot Lobster…there is just so much…Thanks for the nice words and please do come back again…

  38. Mary Greenhowe says:

    My dad was born in Donkin Cape Breton about half an hour from Sydney, but has lived in Aberdeen Scotland for about 79 years and my brother lives just outside Donkin, we were over 7 years ago and did the whole route of the trail and went to Alexander Graham Bells museum too as you say it’s the most beautiful place you can find

  39. Marie Parks says:

    Yes indeed, as in our unofficial anthem “THE HOME OF OUR HEARTS – CAPE BRETON”, it will always be home. I find it very heartwarming to read all the comments. I too never appreciated the awesome beauty of our island until, like many, I left the small village of Belle Cote and came back home every summer. A note worth adding, the entrance to the National Park, just past Cheticamp, always takes my breath away. Thank you for sharing.

  40. Peter Thrasher says:

    I went over the Cabot Trail many moons ago with a 14ft. trailer in tow. Would not advise this. Beautiful scenery everywhwere. Should have left the trailer at the beginning.

  41. Sophie Mullender says:

    Were these photos really taken on an Olympus EP-2? They are BEAUTIFUL. I am about to go travelling in Canada and didn’t want a DSLR so this looks like a brilliant alternative! Do you edit them in any software?

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Actually these were taken on an Olympus E-PM1 (similar to the E-P2 but smaller and not as expensive). These sorts of in-between cameras are AMAZING! And the fact that you can still buy a variety of lenses for them is perfect. As far as editing goes, I just use iPhoto (which comes free on MacBooks).

  42. Great find! Will have to give this little gem a visit!
    Chris A Sharpe recently posted..Two Weeks: Thailand’s Islands

  43. Thanks for sharing this great finding. It’s always these little known places that surprise us. Most of the touristy places deserve their fame, but I guess they kinda lost their charm when there’s a huge crowd blocking our view or persistent vendors ruining the experience. Margaree Harbour looks peaceful and charming in its own way.
    Andrew Darwitan recently posted..Are the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World Worth Visiting? My Temple of Artemis Experience

    • Amanda says:

      I like visiting the touristy places, too (I mean, there’s usually a good reason that they’re so popular!), but it’s great to discover little hidden places like this, too.

  44. savecapebreton says:

    Iam from Cape breton and had to move to other parts of Canada to get a job, I love all areas I had to move and had fun and met great people but Iam back in Cape Breton because its the best and Im now trying to protect Cape Breton from loosing its charm I ask cape breton to tell your government that we do not want a statue in our National park or to loose a right of way through a worlds masterpiece

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