Cape Breton Paddlefest

Cape Breton Annual Paddlefest is now in its 6th year.  The festival runs over 3 days in September and includes both kayakers and canoeists although most of the attendees have a kayak in tow.  Each year the festival is held in Richmond County – another one of those unkept secrets of Cape Breton Island.  What I like the most, and this may change, is the ratio between instructors and students.  Some years, I think the instructors outnumbered us!

Cape Breton Paddlefest is where I go to network with fellow paddlers from across the province of Nova Scotia as well as to learn.  The Festival offers paddling skills, safety clinics and my favorite, guided tours of the local area.  This is the place to hone your skills as a paddler, paddle around the variety of waterways, and get lots of excellent advice and tips from those that have paddled in every type of situation.  It is both an education and an eye opener.   Two of the courses available are rolling and rescue clinics.  I got the bruises to prove it.  This is an important part of the festival experience.  You can never be too careful.

Most years we get a frank talk from the Coast Guard on the dangers and hazards of the water, and hear of close calls, and rescues of unprepared paddlers.   We need to hear this, as sometimes we can be a little too bold and confident.  I’m talking first hand here as just last year,  I got into a bad situation paddling by myself without being prepared.  You can never be too careful and you have to follow the rules.  Some paddlers do not even know the rules.  This is another benefit to the Festival.  You will know the rules before you leave.

So if you are thinking of trying kayaking or simply want to improve your technique, the Cape Breton Paddlefest is the place to go.  Check them out on Facebook,


Golfing in Cape Breton

Cape Breton is now one of the best or maybe the best golf destination in Canada.  This is world-class golf on a world-class island.  It is now home to two of the best 100 golf courses in the world – Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs in Inverness.  Not a bad rating considering there are approximately 35 thousand golf courses in the world.  These courses along with what we call the fabulous foursome – the Highlands Links, which formerly made the top 100 list, Bell Bay, Le Portage and Dundee make Cape Breton a destination for golf enthusiasts.

In Jeff Barr’s 1001 golf holes you must play before you die, the Highland Links had five holes listed – as many as Augusta National, US and St. Andrew’s, Scotland.  We’re now in completion with our  ancestors in Scotland.  1/3 of Cape Bretoners have Scottish heritage.  No wonder we like golfing so much.   Highland Links is my favorite, especially in the fall.  You can also golf the Lakes, set on the shores of the beautiful Bras d’Or Lakes and Seaview.  Seaview Golf and Country Club is one of the hidden gems on the shores of the North West Arm of Sydney Harbor.  It has panoramic views of the harbor, my house and the car ferry to Newfoundland.  All of these courses have fantastic scenery with natural beauty and water views.  Comparatively speaking Cape Breton’s courses are reasonably priced and can be booked through

I think it is now tee time of a different sort.






Kayking in the Bras d’Or Lakes

As many of you can tell by now, I am an outdoor enthusiast as well as an ambassador to Cape Breton Island.  My bucket list includes kayaking around the Bras d’or Lake.  Bras d’Or is French for Arm of Gold and is named after the beautiful sunsets on the water (or so I am told).  The Bras d’Or Lake, or as we Cape Bretoners call it the Bras d’Or Lakes, is actually an inland sea as it is fed by the ocean.   The water is brackish, being part fresh and part salt water.  Silver Donald Cameron, a reknowned Canadian author and yachtsman, describes the Bras d’Or Lake as “a basin ringed by indigo hills laced with marble.  Islands within a sea inside an island”.  It is actually the second largest inland sea in the world and quite deep with some places being 942 feet (287 meters) below the water.   The lake is 1099 square kilometers, with 1234 kilometers of shoreline so it is going to take me awhile.  I’m happy to report that I am about 1/3 finished.  I look forward to completing the trip as every part of my journey has been a great experience.  It always amazes me how much wilderness there is out there along the coast.  We’ve seen salmon, deer standing on the cliffs, and lots of sea birds and eagles.  I don’t think I have ever been in my boat and not seen an eagle.  Cape Breton Island is home to the largest eagle population east of Alaska.

It is estimated that 27% of the coastline of the lake is along narrow cannels which are sheltered from higher waves, so some of the paddling can be done by novice kayakers.  Other areas are a little trickier and when a headwind comes up you feel that you are taking two steps forward and three back.  More than once, we had to abandon our kayaks and come back another day when the wind was not so high.

I know there are lots of other great kayaking areas around Canada.  I’d love to hear about them.



Cape Breton’s portion of the Trans Canada Trail

I like being in the woods.  Although I periodically go for a bike run around the loop close to where I live, and enjoy the beautiful scenery by the water, my favorite place to bike and hike is in the woods.  Luckily for me, we have 94 kilometers of groomed trails through the woods less than and hour an a half from where I live.  The trails are built on the old railway line that used to run up to Inverness.  The railway has long since closed and for the past 10 years, they have been working on a multi-use trail.  I have hiked, cross country skied and biked this trail.  It is hard to pick a favorite, but biking is definitely up there.   Besides I cannot think of snow yet…

Last week I got reconnected to this trail and it was an awesome ride.  We did 18 kilometers in a little more than an hour.  Monarch butterflies were flying all around us as we peddled. Because the trails are built on a railway bed, there is not much of a grade.  Typically not much more than 3%.  This makes it easy riding for seniors (there were 5 seniors and me a junior senior last week) and families.  Much of the trail is by the ocean and last year while biking I jumped in for a swim and hopped back on my bike.  There are also quaint vistas, and bridges and small communities along the path.

These trails are all part of a network of the Trans Canada Trail that they are hoping to have complete for Canada’s 150th birthday next year.  Do you have a section of the Trail in your neck of the woods that you use?

Cape Breton’s Hike the Highlands Festival by DebMartell

Hikers are usually all season animals (except those who hibernate in the winter….). My favorite time of year for hiking is the fall – the crisp autumn air instead of the sun burning your skin, and the pristine sound of crashing waves instead of flies buzzing in your ears. Hike the Highlands Festival, a signature event for Nova Scotia is held each year in September on beautiful Cape Breton Island. Cape Breton, a busy destination awash with tourists in the summer has plenty of room for visitors in the off season.
The festival started with a small number of committed local organizers, me being one, and of course, people who love to hike. Much like a large family gathering – hikers and festival volunteers reunite each year. Locals and “come from aways” book their vacation around the event. As word gets out the family grows and you will meet hikers of all nationalities.
I go to the festival to hike and connect with nature and friends. In following my life’s paths, I ensure some of them are dirt. How long you stay depends on your stamina and time. As Stephen Wright says, “everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.”
Newcomers are “blown away” not just by the wind on top of some of the mountains but also by the quality of the trails. Hiking in the Cape Breton Highlands takes you to places and vistas that you couldn’t get to by other modes of travel. Watch and listen for birds and wildlife. Cape Breton Island has the largest population of eagles east of Alaska and moose are a common sighting. Being at the top of Franey, Peak Tenerife or Meat Cove Mountain can be a spiritual experience with the smell of fresh salt air, and breath taking scenery. You quickly forget your aching muscles at the summit. It is worth every step. To find out more about this extraordinary event (and I’m not just saying that cause I started it) get in touch or go to It is time some of you headed east anyway…Hope to see you on the trails.


My first glob, I mean blog – using social media for travel writing

Although there are thousands of blogs written about how to promote travel articles through social media, How to Share Travel Articles Efficiently and Effectively Using Social Media is one of the good ones and gave me a basic understanding of what is out there and how to best implement it.  Social media is perfect for sharing your travel stories if you know which applications to use.  Matt Gibson believes it to be the online equivalent of “word of mouth”.  Now that is inspirational to me, as I like to talk, and for many social media users “word of mouth” is your best form of advertising.    The down side is sharing articles on social media requires a time investment which needs to be managed.   This article helps with that by outlining some interesting short-cuts and tips on how to make the best use of your limited time.  The first golden rule really impressed me, perhaps because I’m a master of the obvious.  “Write articles so remarkable that people will want to share them with friends and networks.”  Daaah…  Even more remarkable is that this strategy is least used by social marketers.  Useful and inspiring are important in making a great travel article.  Brevity is also key. (That one I’ll have to work on, as I said I’m a talker).

Once I get the brevity covered, the next big thing is to make sure that people are going to read my article right now.  Focus should be put on a captivating headline that gets the attention in the “sea of information” out there.  Brian Clark of Copyblogger says that strong headlines is an art form that offers the reader something useful, creates a sense of urgency, portrays the idea in the article as unique and is super-specific.  Mark suggests getting acquainted with the features on popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and others like Pinterest and keep the posts coming.  Another great tool for organizing your posts are dashboards (media management applications) such as Tweetdeck, and HootSuite.

All of this information may be as useful to you as to me not just from a perspective of travel writing but for social media use in general.  I look forward to making use of these suggestions.