There is way more riding in Nova Scotia than just the Cabot Trail. Make sure you get your free copy of the Motorcycle Guide (Click Here). It is a publication made by bikers that lays out every detail you want to know as you travel through Nova Scotia. Instead of chopping the map up into counties, it has a section for each of our themed highways. It doesn’t matter if you have GPS or tank maps or whatever – the guide is a must have and fun to read while breaking for lunch. If you are looking for a conventional map of any of the provinces or all of Canada, I sell them on my up and coming Canada By Motorcycle website for $5.95ea + shipping. The guides are available each spring, and once they’re out, I will include a copy with any map purchase at no extra cost. To purchase maps, click here.
Figure out how many days you’d like to be in Nova Scotia. If you are here for 4 days or more, and are looking for as much riding as possible, plan two days for the trail. The Trail is a loop, and a true Trail Blazer will ride the loop clockwise and counterclockwise. The second key thing about riding the trail twice is that you can stay in the same spot two nights in a row (can unpack the bike a bit, have a cooler in the room for when you get back, have a place where you can cook, all that good stuff). If you are only going to ride the Trail once, then watch the forecast and pick the clearest day for your ride. When you get to Nova Scotia, pick your nicest day in the forecast, and get to bed in Antigonish (as the farthest away you want to be the night before) or any point closer to the trail. I go with a group twice a year and we stay at the Keltic Quay in Whycocomagh. It’s amazing. If you have a big group, call Renie and see if you can stay there…it adds a lot to the experience. Click here to see what they’re all about. Being that close to the trail lets you have a slow morning. The trail gives you 4ish hours of riding, so you don’t want to enter the loop before 10am. I live in Antigonish, so when I want to do the trail I leave town at 8am. That gives me a perfect, very full day of riding. If you are doing the loop once, I strongly reccomend that you don’t stay on the trail…you may end up doing the loop and not feel like you got enough riding in. I’d stay an hour or two away from Baddeck, ride the trail and then ride on till you feel like you had your fill that day.
Don’t miss Route 19! It is an awesome way of getting to or leaving the trail. Even if it makes you miss the bottom little section, it is a great ride with really good twisty roads.
Spring/Fall riding – When you are going up mountains and then back to ocean level, into the shade, then into the sun, you’ll find the temperature changing a lot. Just cause it’s hot in the morning doesn’t mean you should leave your jacket in your room.
Which Way? Clockwise? Counter-Clockwise?
This is a huge debate. Some folks say it has better views one way over the other. I think some have had better experiences with weather or traffic and just credit the direction they were going that day. BMW forums suggest to always go counter-clockwise to enjoy the ride. My favourite way is Counter-clockwise. I love the climb at Cape Smokey, and if you go the otherway, it is a slow rise up and fast downhill while standing on the brake. This is just my opinion. But here’s a fact: Less tourists drive counter-clockwise. The reason is that to go this route, you have to pass a huge sign that reads “Cabot Trail – LEFT”. Most tourists go left and therefore complete the trail clockwise. If you pass that sign, 20 mins down the road is the entrance to go counter-clockwise. Because of this, I find you come up on RV’s way less if you travel counter clockwise. If I was your guide for one trip only, that’s the route we’d go. Lots of riders disagree with me, but that’s my 2 cents. If you are a small group on Hayabusa’s, having to pass people is less of a hassle than it is for a low and slow guy like me. (updated May 26th, 2010…)Since posting this site, I’ve opened a can of worms on this one! A 20 year veteran tour guide said he always went Clockwise if the group only had one go-around. I don’t have that much experience, that’s for sure! Business wise, I’d sell a lot more shirts if you went with his advice since Coastal Waters Restaurant only opens at 11am in the spring (they’re serving breakfast now during peak season), and you might get there too early going counter clockwise. If you’re making good time clockwise, or entering early counter clockwise, don’t miss The Clucking Hen Cafe & Bakery. There’s a young girl working there that’s done a life’s worth of motorcycle trips and I think she’s done some editorials for Motorcycle Mojo magazine. Stopping at the Clucking Hen for a coffee and a chat might be able to slow you down enough for hitting the Coastal Waters Restaurant at lunch time to pick up some grub and one of my shirts or the riding sunglasses.
One of the points the experience guide raised was that bikers seem to be early risers. You just can’t enter the Trail before 10 am in my opinion. But, if you go clockwise…on the pretty drive to the trail…with perfect sunny weather…you might see mist dance on the water between the Red Barn exit and the trail. It’s at a certain time when the sun comes over the mountains(or hills, if you’re from a true mountain range). I guess it is mind blowing – let us know if you see it. Now…to collect some data on the debate – please click here to fill out a 10 second, 2 question survey – and you can help me foster a democratic debate. Keep in mind, 100% say going around both ways is the solution to the problem…
Ferry at Englishtown
In 2010 I wrote: Don’t take the Englishtown Ferry, you’d be missing good riding. However, since I’ve toured with a few of you guys/gals in different weather or have been running late… the ferry does save you 20 minutes. If it is sunny, and you have lots of time, I suggest skipping the ferry. If you are going to go on the ferry, here is what to expect…
The ferry is on a cable that stretches about 500′ across the channel. If you just miss the ferry when you arrive, it will be back and forth in about 12 minutes (a smoke and a pee). There is a small building there with washrooms. You still save time even if you just miss the boat.
When you get on the ferry, you will be charged $5.50 to get on. I met 3 riders from Ontario, and told them this. So I asked them for $10, and told them I’d buy a book of 20 passes, and give them three. I thought I was saving them $7.50. But there are no books anymore. They’ve replaced it with punch cards. For $12.50, you get 10 punches. So I really only saved my friends $2.50. BUT, would they have asked for a punch card? No… who would think of it? So – riders of 3 or more – ask for a punch card. When you are about to leave the Island, and know you won’t be on the ferry again, leave the punch card with your tip or give it to a local.
Get gas at any Caper Gas, or Baddeck, before entering the trail. A couple of stations on the trail don’t have supreme (High Octane), so I’d feel better topping up first. In Nova Scotia, you’ll notice that our Supreme Fuel is usually 91 Octane. Regular is 87 Octane. It is always labeled on the pumps. Don’t worry about running out of gas. Check out the Map section, click on the image to make it big… Gas stations in Ingonish, and in Cheticamp, and that is only an hour and a half or so of riding. If you want to explore all of Nova Scotia on a limited range motorcycle, click here to see every gas station in Nova Scotia. REMEMBER, not all gas stations are 24hrs!!!
Don’t ride in the evening – you’ll be on the lookout for moose and will be too distracted to enjoy.
Buy a Park pass if you want to get photos. If you stop your bike inside the National Park, even if just to take a photo, there are guys in pickup trucks that check to see if you have a pass. They cost around $10 and save you a big fine.
Eating, or Refreshing
I need you and your group to stop at Coastal Waters Restaurant. I’m all about welcoming fellow bikers to enjoy Nova Scotia, but I’ve got to pay the bills. I started a T-Shirt business when I was 16, and my best one ever is the Original Cabot Trail Biker T-Shirt. It is available at this restaurant only. I don’t even have any at my shop. It’s the only way to ensure that only those who rode the trail get to wear the shirt. The restaurant is in Ingonish. They are an hour and a bit from Cheticamp, so you’d likely be stopping in those two towns anyway. Please take you and your buddies there incase someone needs the shirt. As my business’ ads always say…naked sucks, buy our stuff! There are no bike dealerships on your Cabot Trail travels, it’s your only spot for a nice shirt for men and/or ladies.
The Trail is really twisty, and pretty, and all that great stuff – but there is another great feature that no one ever mentions – there’s hardly anyone there. It is so much like this that you’ll be thinking “is this pavement laid here just for bikers like me?”. The speed zone is reduced in only 2 spots – Cheticamp and Ingonish. Other than that, you pretty much pace yourself to your ability. I’m not saying to disobey the speed limit and go as fast as you want. The point is, if you are in a group, and you are going slower than you want because of someone’s ability in front of you, the day can be ruined. I go with a group of 20 each year. First group is of all the sport bikes. Second group, is the aggressive cruisers. The last 10 or so of us are in 3 more groups yet. We had to do this to make sure we could all just ride our own pace. Even if you are a small group – put the fastest in the front and make it clear on the day where you are stopping and make sure everyone is okay if you split up.
Motorcycle Rentals for the Cabot Trail
Unfortunately, there’s not much for renting motorcycles in Nova Scotia. Here’s a little bit of info for anyone that I know of that rents motorcycles.
JK Walker – (902)403-0469
1 Kawasaki Vulcan 900
2 Kawasaki Versys 650
Each bike is $150/day
includes 300km /day
$.020 km if extra kms
$75 drop off (to airport if you wish)
40 min from Halifax International Airport
Both bikes are great for 2 up as we’ve had people go for up to 3 weeks on each of the bikes. The Versys comes with 3 Givi hard bags and the Vulcan is an LT with the windshield and leather saddle bags.
Eldridge’s Harley-Davidson and Honda Dealership
1230 Fairville Blvd. Saint John NB E2M 5T7
Phone: 506-635-1223, Ask for Mike Slauenwhite or email him – He’s your guy to hook you up with one of 8 Harley Touring bikes – Ultras, Electraglides, RoadGlides, Street Glides, and Road Kings.
Neither Harley-Davidson Shop in Nova Scotia rent bikes as of January, 2013. If you do rent in St. John, you can take the highway (see map) and get to the Trail in a day, or ferry over to Digby, and have a scenic 2 day ride to the Trail (see map)