The Prettiest Place You’ve Never Heard Of

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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 family 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

A DIY Cape Breton shore excursion

When we got to Sydney, we rented a car and immediately 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.

And Cape Breton Island? Most definitely a place I need to return to!

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


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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118 Comments on “The Prettiest Place You’ve Never Heard Of

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  1. I come from Cheticamp, 10 miles further. THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE IN THE WORLD with the most beautiful and kind people, French Acadians ,mostly. Do come visit and taste the best lobster, snow crab and fell the traditional music flow to your feet. Come and vist, we would love to see you….

    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

    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.

      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.

    Great find! Will have to give this little gem a visit!

      If you’re ever driving the Cabot Trail, be sure to stop!

    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?

      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).

    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.

    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.

      I’ve really enjoyed all the comments on this post too. 🙂

    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

    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…

      I would LOVE to come back to your lovely island again – and really hope that I get to!

    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!

      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!

    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.

      You should definitely make your way to Cape Breton soon!

    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 to learn more. Inverness is in the running too. Check out 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!!!

    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…

      It sounds like a place that never really leaves you, even if you leave it.

    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.

      A very beautiful spot indeed – your family is very lucky!

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