Richmond County is the smallest in Cape Breton, but there’s still plenty to do outside. With a variety of activities on land and sea, Everything being close means you can hit as many of these locations as you want in just a few days!
Recharge Your Batteries at the Park
If you’ve never been to St. Peter’s, I highly recommend it as a beautiful little town surrounded by natural beauty. Battery Provincial Park is a great place to start exploring, and even to stay if you want to camp. You’ll find a lighthouse within the park, a small beach, a picnic area by the ocean, and 3.7 km of trails. This park on the hill also has 53 overnight camping sites and a boat launch, so you can explore the area by land or by sea, and then come back to sleep under the stars.
Cost: 27-36$ for camping
Address: 10110 Grenville Street, St. Peter’s
Find Magic at the Forest Falls
There are places in the forest that remind you of magic: fairy rings, perfectly round clearings, and waterfalls in a tangle of forest. The latter can be found at the Beauvais Lake Falls; seriously, look at the pictures and tell me that doesn’t look like a place that belongs in Narnia. To get to the falls you follow the trail upstream: it’s about 400m long over moderate terrain. There are actually a couple of smaller falls along the way, so you’re sure to get your fill of the falls.
Address: Salmon River Road, L’Ardoise
Learn About Cultures Working Together On Land and Sea
Canal Landing is both the name of a place in St. Peter’s and a company that provides tours on both land and sea. This company is a partnership between Saint Peter’s Economic Development Organization and Potlotek First Nation, and provides activities that celebrate the culture of the area, both Indigenous and colonial. Canal Landing provides experiences like the Sweet Grass Excursion, Traditional Medicine Demonstrations, and kayaking tours on the lake or on the ocean. You can also rent kayaks and pedal boats for the sea and bicycles for the land if you want to head out on your own.
Address: 160 Toulouse Street, St. Peter’s
Try Out An Eco-Trail
Isle Madame is a beautiful…well, technically it’s a peninsula, but it’s close enough to an island that it counts. On this almost-island you will find the Cape Auguet Eco-Trail. It hugs the coastline and takes you through a variety of ecosystems, from salt marshes to hardwood forests to lagoons. You’ll also see a variety of wildlife in these ecosystems, including marine life and edible plants (which you need to be absolutely SURE are edible before you eat, please and thank you). There are places to sit down along the way, so you can pack a picnic, and you’ll also find panels about the history of the ocean in Richmond County.
Address: Boudreauville, Isle Madame
Visit a Sacred Island
Chapel Island is a full island in the Bras D’Or lakes, and is also called Potlotekby the Mi’kmaq. This island was sacred to the Mi’kmaq pre-contact and remains the capital of Mi’kma’ki, the traditional territory of the Mi’kmaq. Its historical significance also ties in with colonial religion, as this island became an important pilgrimage site for Roman Catholic Mi’kmaq. There is a lighthouse and a church to visit, and a graveyard to pay your respects to those buried on the island. If you feel a connection to the cultures discussed here, this is a meaningful trip, and even if you don’t, you’re sure to learn all about the island’s history.
Address: 233 Chapel Island Road, Chapel Island
Take A Walk With a Bucket
Sure, you can drive from D’Escousse to Rocky Bay, but if it’s a beautiful day why not take Doyle’s Road Walking Trail? It’s 3.5 km of gravel road through the woods, and lined with ponds. You’ll have to cross a few streams along the way, so make sure you’re either good at jumping or you’ve got shoes on that you don’t mind getting wet. You should also bring a bucket with you, because there are blueberries, blackberries, and cranberries along the way (seasonally, of course). When you’re finished your walk head straight to Rocky Bay beach, which is right across the road and is a cobblestone beach (so if you didn’t find any berries console yourself with cool rocks).
Address: D’Ecousse, Rocky Bay
Have Fun At Dundee
Whether you’re staying here or you just visit, the Dundee Resort is a great place to stop. They’ve got a gorgeous golf course that provides both awesome views and varying levels of challenge. If you’re not into golf, they’ve also got both an indoor and outdoor pool, a boathouse with water vehicles to borrow, and a huge playground. It’s a great place to stay, especially if you’re travelling as a family, but you can also just come for a day!
Cost: See website for details for specific activities
Address: 2750 West Bay Road, West Bay, NS B0e 3k0
Trail From Beach to Beach
While the Fox Cove Trail certainly goes through Fox Cove, the trail ends at Capelin Cove. The trail can give you soggy shoes (I’d recommend wearing water shoes), and you’ll get spectacular views of the ocean. The 6 km walk will let you explore two beaches—Fox Cove beach is a small rocky beach and Capelin Cove beach is large and sandy. Whatever your ‘day-by-the-ocean’ aesthetic may be, you’ll find it along this trail.
Address: Crooked Lake Road, Framboise
Enjoy the Irish Green
Nova Scotia does translate to New Scotland, but there’s also an established Irish presence. When you head to Irish Cove Provincial Park, keep that in mind—maybe speak some Irish Gaelic? This is a picnic park with a beautiful view of Bras d’Or lake. There’s a small trail and plenty of birds and wildlife to observe. Climb the hill and celebrate the Irish heritage of fair Nova Scotia in the best possible way—being outside among the green.
Address: 16165 Highway 4, Irish Cove
See an Island of Conservation
Protecting nature is an important project in Nova Scotia. Just off of Isle Madame, you will find Janvrin Island Nature Reserve, a careful collection of undisturbed islands. It provides a great habitat for seabirds and ecosystems. If you’ve got access to a kayak, you can kayak around the islands and see some beautiful scenery, watch the birds, and appreciate the great blessings of nature conservation.
Cost: Cost of a kayak rental
Address: Janvrin Island
Kayak and Glamp
Like Dundee Resort, Kayak Cape Breton provides a place to stay and a place to play. They have four different options for accommodation: the boathouse, an RV, a yurt, and a dome. There are canoes and kayaks to borrow, and there are tours and lessons to take as well. Guests can rent bikes too to explore the trails, or you can hike into the woods and look for local mushrooms and berries (note: make sure you are certain about what’s edible—if in doubt, leave it out). Kayak Cape Breton is glamping at its finest, and since it’s just outside of St. Peter’s it’s close to other adventures on this list.
Address: 5385 West Bay Highway, West Bay
Go to the Passage Park
If you head to the North Shore of Isle Madame, you’ll find Lennox Passage Provincial Park. There’s plenty to do at this park: you can visit a lighthouse, explore the trails, swim at the beach, have a picnic either in the forest or in clearings (there’s options for both), and you can go swimming. You can also bring kayaks if you want to go further afield, or bikes if you want to go fast. You can also find a former post office if you want to play postman pretend.
Address: 2313 Highway 320, Martinique
Learn at the Smithy
Isle Madame’s Historical Society gives you a chance to take a step into the past at the LeNoir Forge Museum. The Forge was built before 1826 by a French soldier named Thomas LeNoir who became a locksmith and blacksmith for the town. Visit to see a working forge and see artifacts from times gone by. This is partially indoors and partially outdoors, but I can assure you that the heat of the forge necessitates some time outside where it’s cooler.
Address: 708 Veterans Memorial Drive, Arichat
Phone: 902-226-9364 or 902-226-2880
Find the Lighthouse Point
With the number of islands around Richmond County, it’s not surprising to see that there are several lighthouses. One is called Marache Point Lighthouse, which sits right at the entrance of Arichat Harbour on Isle Madame. What makes this lighthouse special is that you can’t just drive to it; there’s a hike out to it from the road. It’s not a long hike though, and you can swim in the bay beside the lighthouse to enjoy the beautiful sea. I highly recommend going on a sunny day…unless you like spooky, because between the fog horn noise and the surrounding ocean, it looks like the perfect place to get creeped out.
Visit a Shrine From Far Away
Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine was created by Monsignor Ronald MacLean, who brought the Mosaic of Our Lady back from Mexico. Inside Sacred Heart church, you’ll find artwork about Our Lady of Guadalupe created by South American, local Gaelic, and Mi’kmaq artists. Outside the church, you’ll find the shrine itself, as well as a trail that starts just behind it. Called the Tepeyac trail, it takes you up the hills to give you a tremendous view of the church and the Bras D’Or Lakes.
Address: Route 4, Johnstown
Spend A Day at the Market Garden
Visiting local markets is a great way to get to know the community, and visiting local gardens can inspire you through local plants. If you go to Pebble and Fern Market Garden, you get to enjoy both! They grow organic and heirloom vegetables, and they sell them both at their own farm stand and at the Isle Madame Public Market. They’ll also have seeds, kombucha, and even body products on sale, all home made.
Cost: Depends on what you buy
Address: 11 Cypers Lane, Sampson Cove
See the Beach By the Pond
Pondville Beach Provincial Park has one of the few sandy beaches on Isle Madame, but it’s an ocean beach and not a pond one (the pond is elsewhere). It’s got 1 km of sandy beach with dunes providing a lovely background. There’s also a lagoon and a salt marsh to explore to work up an appetite for your picnic. It’s a picnic park, after all, so pack some lunch, and give yourself some time between swimming and eating so you can enjoy both to the fullest. Eating in a damp bathing suit on a picnic bench isn’t the most fun thing ever.
Address: 219 Pondville North Road, Pondville
A Beach, a Bog, and A Surf Day
This provincial park has 3 km of sandy beach with supervised swimming, so you could legitimately spend the entire day swimming and beach walking with quick stops for snacks. There’s also dunes and cranberry bogs to see (and if they’re in season, cranberries to pick), and if you like to surf there’s a decent chance to catch waves. You can walk the boardwalk, have a picnic at the tables, and enjoy your day at the shore. Make sure to take lots of pictures, especially of the cranberries, because they look absolutely awesome in their bog homes.
Address: 3796 Point Michaud Road, Point Michaud
Go On A Sailing Adventure
Sailing is fun, but it takes a lot of time to get good at it, and they don’t let you take the boat on planes. If you want to really enjoy yourself, book a sailing tour with Richmond Adventure Planning. They have tours on the Bras D’Or Lakes for either a half- or full-day excursion, or you can take their historical canal tour and learn all about St. Peter’s canal. You can learn the basics of sailing if you like, or you can just sit back, put on some sunscreen, and enjoy the ride.
Address: 10199 Grenville Street
RockA Farm Tour
If you’re looking for something to do on a Sunday, you should book a tour at Rock Loaf Farm. Rock Loaf Farm has a variety of animals to see, and they sell their own products, especially wool products from their sheep. They conduct farm tours on Sundays, so you can come and learn about how to manage sheep and cattle, what it’s like to live on a farm. It’s about a one-hour tour most of the time, and you can book a private tour if you wish.
Cost: Contact for details
Address: 2903 Highway 206, Arichat
Consider the Canal
St. Peter’s Canal is a National Historic Site for a reason: it’s been around in one form or another since the 17th century! Its modern incarnation offers you plenty of things to do. You can learn about the history of the site through interpretation panels, you can inspect the gates, go boating or just watch people boat by. It’s also a highly recommended place for a picnic. The canal is a place of coming together—the Bras D’Or Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean, the past and the present, and it’s a great place to come together and enjoy with your group.
Address: St. Peter’s—depends on what side you want to visit (lake or lock), but it’s quite long
Trail the Coast
Walking along the coast near St. Peter’s is special thanks to the canal, and St. Peter’s Coastal Trail aims to show you all of it. The route was once a railway, meaning that the trail is mostly flat. It extends out of Battery Park, so if you’re staying there you can just keep going on the trails and you’ll hook up with this one. It’s a 3km walk along the shore, and it’s easy to step up and down to the main street if you want to get a drink or do some quick shopping.
Address: 10110 Grenville Street, St. Peter’s
By: Adrienne Colborne