Trip Log – Cape Breton Highlands (East)

Our last night in the Bras d’Or Lakes was spent in Otter Harbor, a common place to anchor and wait for the proper tide before running out the narrows, where the current can reach up to 8 knots. After two weeks in the lakes it was refreshing to once again see the unbroken horizon of the sea and to feel that we on our way.

We beat up into St Ann’s bay for a night before setting out northward to the Cape Breton Highland coast, where the topography begins it’s dramatic rise up from the sea. Our passage to Ingonish was a full day of light-wind sailing under a blazing blue sky, on a sea empty of boats but teaming with sea birds. It was my first time witnessing the dramatic way in which Gannets plummet out of the sky like arrows, piercing the water at a tremendous speed, folding their wings back at the last second. I don’t imagine the fish they are after ever know what’s hit them.

The Northern Gannet dive bombing a fish outside St. Ann's Bay, Cape Breton

The Northern Gannet dive bombing a fish outside St. Ann’s Bay, Cape Breton

Ingonish is a beautiful spot that I highly recommend. The entrance to the harbor is a very narrow but deep cut in the barrier beach and should be approached in daylight and settled weather only. Once inside the bay is quite large and has a number of good spots in which to anchor. Ingonish is broken up into Ingonish and Ingonish Beach, the latter of the two is where we were, and is the gateway to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It is also home to the Keltic Lodge, Highland Links golf course and a beautiful sandy stretch of beach, great for swimming. We arrived there in late afternoon but still had time to do the middle head hike, get a drink in the Lodge, listen to some live music and have a beautiful star light row back to the boat. There are at least three good hiking trails that you can do from Ingonish Beach (without access to a car) and we enjoyed two of them. We did the Franey hike, which takes you up to the highest point around, offering superb views inland and back down the valley to the bay. As well we did the Middle Head hike, which leaves from the Keltic Lodge and is a nice walk out to the point between north and south Ingonish. From the point we saw whales swimming by.

Out at the end of Middle Head with Cape Smoky in the background

Out at the end of Middle Head with Cape Smoky in the background

If you are looking for provisions then Ingonish Beach is a bit lacking. There is a liquor store, a rite-stop mart where you can get the basics and a great bakery. There is a larger grocery store in Ingonish town proper but its a bit far on foot alone.

From Ingonish it is only a short 15 mile jaunt up to White Point, where we spent a final night on the Cape Breton coast. We were hoping to go into Dingwall harbor, as it is supposed to be nice, but the entrance has silted in pretty bad. I know I keep saying how every harbor is a beautiful spot but it seems that as we work our way north they just keep getting better, and White Point followed that trend. It is a small fishing harbor totally open to north northwest but the holding is good, and this time of the year northerlies are rare. There is a very nice and easy walk from the break-water down the point where flocks of sea birds roost. We made an early night of it so that we could be rested the crossing of the Cabot Strait.

White Point in northern Cape Breton.

White Point in northern Cape Breton.


  1. What a great experience! We are really glad that you and Jess are having this once (?) in a lifetime experience, maybe even a wee bit jealous that we’re not there too. But this website allows us to accompany you, and we’re enjoying it immensely –great photos— keep them coming.

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