Cabot Shores: Lodging for Year-Round Maritime Adventurers


Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada drive
A quiet winter view of Cape Breton
Looking for a road trip destination this summer or fall? It’s time to try something new. 

The path to get there may not be the most straightforward. After all, you are in northern Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton makes itself even more isolated by being an island. But the trip is worth it: Listed as one of the world’s most spectacular trips by National Geographic, the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton hugs the cliff line as you traverse the northern Atlantic shore.

I’ve been here twice in one year. Once to explore a cove held almost sacred to locals, requiring a three hour strenuous hike in. There was bushwacking, river-crossing and the cove approach was almost entirely uphill. The payoff was a secluded inlet, cut in two by a freshwater stream flowing to the ocean and the curious glances of wild horses on a bluff overlooking camp.

The second time was in the dead of winter. I was on my way to Ski Cape Smokey, the province’s highest elevation ski area and easily the most spectacular. I was keen to ski there ever since I heard of the struggles to keep the place afloat and the dedication of local volunteers running the entire operation. (More on that in a follow-up article). However, with maritime winter weather in full-effect, I wasn’t planning on spending my nights under open skies. I needed shelter.

The mid-winter lodging options are severely limited in the tiny town of Ingonish where Ski Cape Smokey is located. The majority of lodges are closed since tourists generally aren’t looking to brave winter conditions that far north. Scouring TripAdvisor, I contacted a few places and crossed my fingers that they would be open.

Ice floes in the Atlantic ocean by Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada near Cabot Shores Resort
Chris Surette gets low
Though I would have felt lucky that anyone would respond at that time of year, my sights were set hopefully on one in particular—Cabot Shores. Local food, sustainable operation, sandwiched between mountain and ocean, and the owners describing the outdoor adventures available in the area, the resort felt right for the trip I had embarked on.

And it was.

I received a prompt confirmation from Paul, one of the owners. Departure day from New Hampshire followed not long after, falling on a heavy snow day. He stayed in touch throughout my trek up there, making sure that I was safe until I could pick up my friend and photographer, Chris Surette, a native Nova Scotian who joined me on my northern outing.

Main lodge room at Cabot Shores
Main room of Cabot Shores Resort lodge
We arrived to find Paul waiting up, long after his usual bedtime, to make sure we arrived and were comfortably situated. After a quick rundown of breakfast and other options, he retired for the night, allowing us some time to take in where we were. Our room was in the main lodge and outfitted with two beds and a door that opened to the ocean. Though leaning towards minimalism, the wood floors and quilted bedding softened the lines. 

The next morning, we ascended the stairs to the lodge’s main room. Spectacular. The wood and stone space had towering ceilings and natural light streaming in from windows overlooking all that nature had graced the region with: mountains and a vast, ice-choked ocean. Artwork, gifted from friends and family, was placed around the room and came complete with stories which Paul and Barbara shared.

We were greeted with outstanding vegetarian fare, created from scratch by Paul’s wife, Barbara. My fork wouldn’t sit still the entire time. I would have readily finished off the entire breakfast if it hadn’t been for the competition of Chris. Fresh eggs, preserves, local bread—it was hard to guess we were in the middle of winter with such bounty.

River hike near Cabot Shores
Photo: Chris Surette
Following breakfast and some lively conversation, Paul and Barbara mentioned that they meditated each morning and extended an invitation to join if interested. We readily agreed. Two large, oversized cushions were placed on the floor in front of the lodge’s woodstove for Chris and me. Taking our places, Barbara lead us in a very tranquil practice, ending with a positive thought to carry with us throughout the day.

And so the time there went: Delicious food, meditation, lively stories and incredible views. On our down time from skiing, we played on snowshoes and photographed the ice floes with gear provided by Paul and Barbara. We traveled with Paul to the edge of the property to meet the ocean, then were turned loose to discover a serene, snow-laden river up-mountain from the resort.   

To say that I enjoyed my stay with these two would be an understatement. Their dedication to sustainability and community goes to the core of who they are, giving the resort a unique advantage over others in the area. The chance to be close to a world-class drive and national park, a beautiful ski area and treated to such hospitality is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

So go. You will be left with incredible memories. You’ll find events, such as local music festivals and adventure trips. You’ll find a host of lodging options, staying in one of their chalets, in your own tent or in a traditional yurt. Take part in gardening and exploring the intensely scenic and rich history of the area. Get a taste of Nova Scotia’s famous friendliness and feel yourself getting back to what’s important in life: living.


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