Nova Scotia's Baddeck beckons with culture, heritage

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Nestled along the shores of Cape Breton Island lies the charming seaside town of Baddeck. Steeped in the same Celtic, artistic and fishing traditions as the rest of the island, this tiny town has managed to maintain its authenticity in a way that many such villages around the world have not. When boaters reach the shores of this summer destination, they are greeted not by glitz and chaos but by friendly locals and small-town hospitality.

Bringing Buster along for the trip? He's welcome too. Chances are he'll make a few friends along the way. On any given day, you're likely to see scenes such as a pair of twin pooches riding in a pontoon boat because their owner wants them to enjoy the fresh air, a Labrador hanging out of a truck window on the way to get his daily drive-through snack with Dad or a retriever or two strolling along the waterfront walking path.

Many travel to Baddeck to experience the nearby artisan loop while shopping for unique souvenirs, or to explore the town's deep connection to famed inventor Alexander Graham Bell and his beloved wife Mabel. The fact that it's such a cost-effective place to visit certainly doesn't hurt, either. If you're planning on making the trip, there are a few must-include items for your vacation itinerary.

Activities: No visit to Baddeck is complete without spending some time on the water enjoying the breeze. If you're traveling by car and don't possess the sailing skills to rent a craft, Amoeba Sailing Tours offers a fun and affordable alternative. Suitable for families as well as couples, this tour take place on an old-fashioned sailboat, providing the sound of whipping canvas as well as winds.

Wine and other beverages are available for purchase. Be advised, however, that this sailing ship is the real deal. You can expect to find yourself bracing your feet as the vessel tilts radically into the wind in order to get where it's going. A lovable wild bald eagle the locals have called Mabel after Alexander Graham Bell's wife makes frequent appearances as she swoops down to grab still-swimming snacks of fish out of the water. Tours are June through mid-October and run a mere $25 for adults, $10 for older children and free for travelers younger than eight years of age, according to the company's website.

The Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site operated by Parks Canada features an extensive museum to honor the famed inventor who spent a large portion of his life in Baddeck working on countless projects and inventions after his success with the telephone. Plan to spend a couple of hours exploring the actual artifacts from the man's collection of inventions, including aircraft, breathing machines and more. The actual sketches from his journals are reproduced graphically on glass windows, doors and walls, along with quotes from Bell himself.

Those with a national parks pass can enter for free, although the $7.80 entry fee is certainly doable for those without one. If you have the time and a few extra pennies, consider booking their white glove tour as an inexpensive addition to the experience. The additional $7.30 scores you access to a behind-the-scenes treasure trove reserved for historians and curators. You'll get to touch some of Bell's actual clothing, journals, delicate prototypes and more. There's also an antique solid wax recording disk of his actual voice! Great stuff for history fans and young students alike.

Art: St. Ann's Artisan Loop makes an excellent day trip from Baddeck proper. The route takes you by a number of artisanal establishments producing everything from wood crafts and one-of-a-kind hats to Celtic pewter creations. The products at Leatherworks include fireside kindling containers favored by former presidents as well as handbags and other hand-crafted items. Their on-site canine companion is available for cuddling, if you happen to have left yours at home.

Another venue worth the stop is called Glass Artisans. You'll recognize them from a distance as soon as you start to see the large glass sculptures in the yard as you approach. If you're lucky, you might time your stop when a studio tour is being offered. In addition to the building with the fire ovens, there's also a space in the back that serves as home to a glass bead artist in residence.

The artists change from year to year, and have included such noted individuals as Susan Hood, whose works are favored by numerous movie celebrities and other dignitaries. If those higher-end works aren't in your price range there's no need to worry. There are other quality items available as well. The pendant slide I purchased cost me less than $30, and attracts compliments whenever I where it.

Celtic music is also a large part of the town's heritage. Those visiting in the summer will want to take advantage of the live performances every evening during the months of July and August. With tickets just $10 for adults and $5 for children younger than twelve, it's an inexpensive cultural experience visitors are sure to enjoy. has further details.

Appetite: While spending the day on the loop, be sure to make time for the Clucking Hen Cafe, which is popular with locals and tourists alike for their cinnamon rolls, butter tarts, lunch items and more. It's located near several artisan studios, and an easy stop that won't take you away from your shopping mission. Other popular lunch spots in the town of Baddeck itself include The Yellow Cello and Bell Buoy Restaurant.

Inverary Resort, a popular accommodation option for travelers, has a number of dining and snacking options as well. For casual fun, hit the Thistledown Pub which offers drinks, bar food and free live music in the evenings. Appetizers start at $7. Inverary is also home to Flora's Dining Room, boasting cost-friendly $10 tapas which are perfect for vegetarian travelers. Offerings include chickpea burger sliders, a Lebanese snacking platter, vegetable spring rolls and a sensuous tomato and cheese option.

If you're in the mood to splurge for a private lobster dinner on the water, the venue is happy to arrange that as well. For vacationers wishing to spend some time, room rates start as low as $119 per night.

Myscha Theriault is a best-selling author, avid traveler and a veteran in the field of international teaching. Her recent book entitled "Teach Anywhere," advises new and experienced educators about overseas employment, international evacuation tips, and inexpensive lessons which can be implemented anywhere from refugee camps to regular classrooms.

(c)2014 Myscha Theriault

Visit Myscha Theriault at

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