Once you’ve seen all there is to see in Sydney, it’s time to head towards Cape Breton’s scenic Cabot Trail. It will take you about an hour to get there — and maybe just a bit longer, because you’re definitely going to stop for a few pictures, and a box of fried chicken at the island’s most inappropriately-named restaurant.
From Sydney, take Nova Scotia Route 125 around Sydney Harbour to the northeast side. Then, get on Trans Canada Highway 105 and drive across Boularderie Island and the Seal Island Bridge. Beyond the bridge, there are two ways to get to the Cabot Trail: take Exit 12 and use the Englishtown Ferry, or Exit 11 for a slightly longer loop around Saint Anne’s Bay, on a route that doesn’t require a ferry ride.
Let’s start by talking about this chicken place.
You read the sign correctly. It’s called Lick-A-Chick. And who doesn’t want to Lick-A-Chick? Especially when that chick is breaded and deep fried in delicious oil.
The restaurant has been here since 1969, and under the current ownership since 1983. It’s so well known and popular, it even inspired a parody of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines video. (Don’t worry, this version is SFW).
I had already eaten lunch, but couldn’t resist trying a two-piece snack box. I wish I had ordered more. I wish I had more room in my stomach. It was some darned good fried chicken.
Oh, and there’s a sister restaurant across the street called Lick-A-Treat, that serves dessert.
Shortly after Lick-A-Chick, Route 105 crosses over one of the two natural outlets of Bras d’Or Lake, putting you on Boularderie Island. That first bridge is nothing special, but the second one, that takes you from Boularderie back onto Cape Breton Island, is more photogenic.
This is the Seal Island Bridge — the third-longest span in Nova Scotia. Once you’ve crossed over the bridge, you can take a look at it from the side of the road…
… as well as a view down the Great Bras d’Or Channel. That’s Kelly’s Mountain up ahead, which Route 105 climbs. Once you’ve navigated around a notoriously dangerous switchback…
… you’ll get this view of the Seal Island Bridge at a “look-off” (the term Canadians seem to prefer for an “overlook”) at the top of Kelly’s Mountain.
Route 105 then heads over to Saint Anne’s Bay (another inlet from the Atlantic Ocean). You have two options for reaching the Cabot Trail. One…
… take the Englishtown Ferry as a shortcut across the bay (you can see the causeway that leads up to the ferry at this look-off), or continue down to the next exit and turn onto the Cabot Trail itself.
I chose to skip the ferry and make the longer drive around the bay. In doing so, I found my first scenic stop along the Cabot Trail. Saint Anne’s Provincial Park is at the south end of the bay. It’s just a small picnicking park, but you will find a nice view of the water.
Just a bit further up the Cabot Trail, on a whim I turned off onto a side road (Tarbot Road). I was in search of the brilliant fall colors that I had hoped to see on Cape Breton. I found a little bit of fall color at this very old and somewhat frightening bridge. I was here on October 3, but I think I should have been about a week or 10 days later to see the best fall colors.
I’ll continue the drive up the Cabot Trail on the next page.
Here’s a look at the drive around Sydney…
… from Sydney up to Low Point Light…
… and from Sydney to the Cabot Trail:
The Bottom Line
Eat some fried chicken at Lick-A-Chick, and enjoy the scenic drive from Sydney to the Cabot Trail. This hour-long route is a great drive.