The most direct route down the west coast of Cape Breton Island is also the most scenic, so it’s hard to think of a reason not to drive down Nova Scotia Route 219. The Shore Road is part of the scenic Ceilidh Trail byway, and it provides access to some simply gorgeous spots along the Bay of Saint Lawrence.
Route 219 connects the Cabot Trail with Trunk Route 19. Those two routes turn inland and connect to each other, but if you’d prefer to stay along the scenic western coast of Cape Breton, it makes sense to take Route 219 between Margaree Harbour and Dunvegan.
Route 219 is just one portion of the very scenic drive from Cape Breton National Park back to mainland Nova Scotia. Above, you see Margaree Harbour, where 219 begins (or ends, depending on your direction).
As soon as you cross the Margaree River, there’s an intersection where the journey on 219 begins. Take the turn, and drive past the tiny community of Margaree Harbour (or take the side road into town, if you’d like to take a look around). The road quickly climbs a small hill, and you get a brief glimpse of the coast to the north in your rear-view mirror.
Moments later, the road passes Whale Cove. As I drove by, I looked out at the water and saw an interesting peninsula of land. It became even more interesting when I saw one lonely car parked in the grass at the very end of the peninsula. I have no idea if you’re really supposed to drive out there, but somebody else did it, so I did, too.
There is a dirt road that runs out onto the peninsula, but the road turns to grass…
… before you end up here. I drove all the way out and parked next to the other people who thought they had found the perfect place to gaze out onto the bay. I suppose I spoiled it for them by showing up, but it was partially their fault, because I would have never even thought of driving out there if I hadn’t seen their car.
The rocky end of the peninsula provides a nice view looking northward, but perhaps the best reason to travel out onto this perfectly scenic spot…
… is to spend eternity here. This is Calvin United Church Cemetery, and it overlooks Whale Cove, a tidal pond, and a small beach down below.
Even if you don’t know anyone who is resting here, it’s still a nice place to take a walk and pay your respects.
Some of these tombstones are impressively large and old.
You’ll quickly get a feel for Nova Scotia’s Scottish heritage. Nova Scotia is, after all, latin for New Scotland. Most of the people buried here are MacIntoshes, MacLeans, MacKays, MacDonalds — you get the idea.
The Whale Cove overlook and cemetery is probably the most scenic spot on Route 219, but the rest of the drive is quite nice as well. I followed the road until it ended at Trunk Route 19, where I continued to head south towards the Canso Causeway.
Here’s a look at the drive from Chéticamp to Margaree Harbour…
… Margaree Harbour to Dunvegan…
… Dunvegan to Mabou…
… and Mabou to the Canso Causeway:
The Bottom Line
Shore Road is a great scenic alternative to taking the Cabot Trail and Trunk 19. The views of Whale Cove alone make it worth the drive.