Our driver Jim gamely pulls to the side of the road yet again, the oohs and aahs of his passengers entreating him for another scenery photo op; roughly the tenth time in the last hour. A Cape Bretoner born and raised, he teases “Another boat on the ocean needs ‘er picture taken, is it?” as this Prairie girl clambers for the camera .
The Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Nova Scotia is renowned for its beauty, and seeing it for the first time is driving me to take pictures by the memory card-full. And we hadn’t even got to the kayaks!
Witnessing the rugged beauty of the island from the road is definitely an experience every Canadian should have, but for an even more intimate look at the place, a kayak on the ocean is the way to go!
I’ll admit to feeling a little trepidation about sea kayaking. One of my last watercraft experiences was 20-ish years ago as an inexperienced camp counsellor tasked with taking my campers out in canoes. We got hopelessly caught up in some reeds near the shore and had to jump into the lake to free ourselves. I ended up picking leeches off camper legs for a long time. Suffice it to say it took the shine off boating for me. But kayaking in the Atlantic is different from canoeing in a dank Alberta lake, and they told me there would be snacks, so I gave it a go.
Our three hour excursion with North River Kayak Tours began with a quick dry-land tutorial. Even a rank amateur such as myself was able to perform the paddling technique, but just for peace of mind, I paired up in a tandem kayak with my friend Amanda who is far more seafaring than me. Her in the back, with the rudder and the power I felt much less likely to be swept off to Greenland (despite assurances that would never happen.) The tandem kayak is a good option if you are bringing kids, as they are far less tippy than the singles —the kayaks that is; no promises about the kids!
We paddled for about an hour and a quarter through St. Anne’s Bay, past the haunting ruins of a defunct paper mill, a massive aerie high in a towering sugar maple, and coastal scenery that made me stop and stare (until the gentle throat clearing behind me jolted me back to pulling my weight!)
At a sweet little beach we pulled in and stopped to stretch our legs. A short scramble through some trees opened up to Millionaire’s Falls. The Cape Bretoners in our group exclaimed at the waterfall/surprise in the clearing. We felt very pleased to be getting a special peek at a sight that even the locals don’t know.
Coming back to the beach, our guide met us with some steaming hot chocolate chai and thick slices of banana bread smeared with rhubarb jam. After all Amanda’s exertion, it tasted amazing!
On the return trip I felt more confident in my boatsmanship, and the trusty Captain in the rear of the kayak even handed over the reigns once or twice so she could use both hands to take pictures.
Hauling the kayak up the stairs to the boathouse, I felt quite pleased with myself. I wanted to track down the campers I had almost abandoned on the lake in 1995 and let them know how far I’ve come!
North River Kayak half or full day tours are recommended for ages 7 and up, and families are very welcome! For the 2016 season, prices for the 3 hour tour are $69/person plus tax ($65 for those 12 and under.) You can visit them online at North River Kayak Tours or call toll free: 1-888-865-2925. Many thanks to Angelo and Justin for a wonderful afternoon!