It's the smell of the salt brine air as your hair whips across your face. The sand between your toes as you race down the beach where your family set up camp hours before. It's the white swirl of salt that dries on your skin as you stretch long on the sand, your heart beating like the surf. It's the salt you taste on your lips as you stop for ice cream on the way home with your eyelids heavy from the sun....

It's almost that time again, friends. Beach season on Cape Breton Island! With 80+ (not to mention the locals-know-best-kept-secrets) scattered across the Island, there's no end to the sea/lakeside adventures you can have. If a white sandy beach is what you crave, you need to look no further than your own backyard. 

In collaboration with Explore East, we've rounded up our top 20 beaches to visit this summer. Get out your swim trunks and your flippy floppies... here we go! 

1. Inverness Beach

(photo: Explore East)

Gorgeous soft sand, coupled with some of the Island's warmest shallows, makes Inverness Beach perfect for families. No wonder it's a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Take a walk on the 1.5 kilometer sandy beach or stroll on the boardwalk above the beach and catch glimpses of golfers on the Cabot Links course. (I know Larry David has golfed there in the past... that's who I'm always looking for...) On a clear day you can even catch a view of Prince Edward Island in the distance. 

Walk along the shore in search of beach glass and other lost treasures. Or take the boardwalk to see farther vistas with the wind whipping through your hair. It's the perfect place to set up a game of beach volleyball, or stretch out under an umbrella with a good book. Ideal for beach naps and picnics with friends. The best hot dog of your life is ready to be grilled and eaten here, while you wiggle your toes in the sand. Also the perfect place to take your furry BF along!

Get directions here. 


2. Cabot's Beach

(photo credit: Explore East)

Who doesn't love a secluded "secret" beach. Put on those exploring shoes, and don't forget your sunscreen, and get in the "know". 

Cabot's Beach is known by a few names. It's also been called Cabot's Landing, Aspy Bay and North Harbour. The beach is 8 kilometers of sand that is divided into five separate sections by harbour inlets. A beautiful hidden gem!

Perfect for hiking and exploring, you'll be able to let all your friends in on one of our Island's little secrets. Don't forget to pack a lunch. Snacking hikers are happy hikers!

Get directions here


3. Meat Cove Beach

(photo credit: Explore East)

The island's most northerly beach, where the road actually does end! Meat Cove Beach is towered over by the Cape Breton Highlands and is flanked by rocky headlands. Take a left at the cafe, and a short walk down a steep road leads you to this sandy pebbled beach.

Make a day of it, and take a drive right to the edge of the world. Some of the most beautiful views can be seen along the way. 

Not only is it great for swimming and beach-combing, but it's also the perfect locale for catching a glimpse of whales and seals offshore, all while having your toes firmly planted in the sand. I mean, you really can have it all. 

Get directions here.

(Photo credit: Explore East)


4. Ingonish Beach

(Photo credit: Expedia)

This one goes without saying. Arguably the most popular beach on the island, it's rightfully so with its 2.5 kilometers of gloriously sandy beach. 

Skip from saltwater to Freshwater Lake with just a few steps across the barrachois (coastal lagoon) in between. Surf lifeguards are on duty on the ocean side during July and August.  There are accessible change houses, washrooms, and a hiking trail on site. Not to mention a playground, tennis courts, soccer field and picnic area. Canteen concession is open daily in good weather during the summer. 

Get directions here


5. Warren Lake Beach

(Photo credit: TreesT and Maple)

Cape Breton Highlands National Park’s largest lake. Witness resident loons and incredible mountain scenery.

The lake warms up quickly in the summer to provide an enjoyable beach adventure for the whole family to splash among the shallows.   

Keep in mind there are no lifeguards on duty. But there is a picnic area, pit privies and a hiking trail on site. 

Get directions here. 


6. Fishing Cove Beach

 (Photo credit: Explore East)

Fishing Cove Beach is not your average destination. It's a hidden gem located at the end of a 6 kilometer trail (12 kilometer round trip) that descends over 1,100 ft.  It's also the one and only designated wilderness camping sites left in the Highlands, so an overnight stay is a must (register with the Park visitor center beforehand).

Fun fact: Until 1915 it was home to a lobster cannery and people say you can still find the remnants of the foundation.

Ideal for all summer Island adventurers with swimming, wilderness camping, hiking, fishing, and photography opportunities. Not to mention whales and seals. This one is a real deal hike. It's best suited for the capable/experienced/determined adventurer.

Get directions here


7. Dalem Lake Beach

(Photo credit: Meghan Finney)

Dalem Lake is a popular park on a small lake with comforting hardwood-shaded picnic tables on the shore and a white sand beach. It's perfect for your littles to splash around, especially if they're still a little small to navigate ocean waves.

Dalem Lake Provincial Park is just 4 kilometers north off Highway 105, so it's a great any-day adventure when you're short on time. A little more convenient than schlepping the whole family on an ocean adventure. There is a boat launch (for non-motorized boats), not to mention a 2.2 kilometer beautifully groomed trail. 

It's perfect for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, bird watching and exploring the area’s wildlife with the whole family. 

Get directions here.


8. Margaree Harbour Beach

 (photo credit: Faith Farrell)

Grassy sand dunes, dramatic cliffs and a working harbour to the north surround this beach. A favorite among the locals, you can sun yourself on the sand as you watch lobster boats return home.

A little off the beaten path, this is another gem at the end of the road. Shore Rd. tapers off to a gravel road, and down the hill you'll find parking below two lovely lighthouses. The beach is just beyond the dunes.

Perfect for all your favorite beach activities. Pack a lunch, stretch out under an umbrella, fly a kite. This is a place where you have a Beach Day. Capitals all the way. 
Get directions here.


9. North Bay Beach

(photo credit: Faith Farrell)

For those seeking a quieter, more secluded beach experience, this long expanse of sand beach is very inviting. 

Nearby picnic and washroom/change areas makes North Bay the perfect spot for relaxing, swimming and beach-combing. 

This is the beach you seek if you love to look at driftwood like sculptures. This is where you go to listen to the waves. 

Get directions here


10. Belle Cote Beach

(Photo credit: Candice Tynski)

This is a nice long beach with a mixture of sand and lovely round pebbles worn smooth by eons of wave action, absolutely perfect for combers. The beach run is spanned on one side by a vast breakwater, making it feel like a world apart. 

Located just north of the Harbour Bridge, the easiest foot access to the beach is at the south end of the breakwater on the northern end of the wharf. Look for an opening in the boulders, not far from the big anchor.

A great place to get away from it all, and let your dog friend frolic. Walk along the coast looking (and sniffing) for treasure. 

Get directions here


11. Chimney Corner Beach

(photo credit: Joshua Wludyka)

This is the choice of local folks not only because of its sheer size, but also its privacy from the road. This gorgeous, clean beach is cradled in a cove, and offers safe swimming with long shallow water areas and great views.

It also offers a fresh water stream which crosses the beach and empties into the gulf; perfect for kids (and adults alike). There's rocky point to be explored, even in bare feet. A path leading to the beach has been worn smooth by generations of curious traffic.

Cape Bretoners travel from Baddeck and Sydney to enjoy Chimney Corner's perfection.…

Chimney Corner is best suited for swimming, exploring and having a picnic with family and friends.

Get directions here. 


12. West Mabou Beach

 (Photo credit: Another Walk in the Park)

West Mabou Beach Provincial Park is a natural environment park with a beautiful large sandy beach and dune system at the mouth of Mabou Harbour. Not only is there a beautiful beach, but the park consists of beautiful old farm fields and marshes with several walking and hiking trails nearby, as well as a quaint little picnic area. 

Perfect for making a day of it with swimming, hiking, fishing, and bird watching. And if you're doing all that, you better throw in some picnicking as well! 

Get directions here. 

13. Black Brook Beach

(Photo credit: Another Walk in the Park)

Take in the ocean views at one of Cape Breton Highlands National Park’s most popular beaches bordered on one side by a gentle waterfall and intersected by a freshwater brook on the other.

Take a dip in the ocean, and rinse the salt and the sand away at the end of the day in the Highland's fresh water. Bring along a boogie board or learn to body surf the large waves that crash along this beach. We guarantee you've never laughed so hard, or had more fun. But prepare for some bumps and bruises...and possible sand burn. Trust us, it's a thing. But, battle scars are half the Island fun. 

Change houses, washrooms, picnic shelters, a playground, picnic tables, fire pits and hiking trail heads are all on site. Keep in mind there are no lifeguards on duty at this beach.

Get directions here


14. Point Michaud Beach

(Photo credit: Trip Advisor)

An exceptional 3 kilometers of sandy beach (that is supervised in July and August). With a back drop of marram grass covered sand dunes and large cranberry bogs, it's a majestic vista. 

Ever wanted to try surfing? Now is your chance! Rent a board or book some lessons and try your luck on the waves. Point Michaud also features a boardwalk, picnic tables, change house, and vault toilets.

Get directions here. 


15. Cheticamp Gypsum Mines

(photo credit: Faith Farrell)

This is a short hike on an established trail/ATV track that leads you to a beautiful, secret swimming spot near the town of Cheticamp.

This trail follows the old railway line from Cheticamp harbour to the base of the mountain, just below the former mine’s location. The Cheticamp Gypsum Mine operated from 1908 to 1939. 

Being an old rail line, the trail is wide and flat and has recently been regraded and cleared out to welcome hikers, bikers, ATVs, skidoos, and skiers alike.

The main trail will take you to the base of the mountain where you will be directed by signs to the short climb up the hill to the lake. Once the old mine, now willed in with fresh spring waters, has been a well visited swimming hole for Cheticamp locals for decades. The locals always know!

I mean aqua blue waters against white gypsum cliffs...right here on the island. A sight that all should see!

Keep in mind the water in the lake is of unknown depths and has a sheer drop-off mere feet from the shore. It's a good idea to always use the buddy system. And the lake provides the excellent opportunity to take your favorite floatie along, and float the day a way. Nothing says Cape Breton summer than floating on a unicorn in a Gypsum Mine. 

Get directions here


16. Whale Cove Beach

(Photo credit: Whale Cove Summer Village)

A few kilometres south of the village of Margaree Harbour, on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, this beach is smaller compared to some of the others but it has a beautiful bluff which is perfect for a stroll. Plus, the sunsets here can be amazing!

It's in plain sight of the road and there's parking above on the grass.   

Get directions here.


17. Mira Gut Beach

(Photo credit: Go Cape Breton)

Where the Mira River meets the Atlantic Ocean, you can relax on the sand and watch the sand bars rise from the waves, presenting the perfect warm shallow splash zone for the kiddies. 

Make sure to bring along your pail and shovel, this beach is ideal for working on your sandcastle skills. Just 22 kilometers south of Sydney, it's a quick car ride away. There is a life guard on duty through July and August. 

There is an unsupervised portion of beach on one side, but keep in mind, there are currents there. There are also large break water rocks, but they can be dangerous to climb on. The smart beach goer is a safe beach goer!

Get directions here. 


18. Big Pond Beach


(Photo Credit: Ashley MacEachern)

On the beautiful Bras d’Or Lakes (our favorite salt water lake), this is a great inland beach. A sand and pebble beach with incredibly clear water that gets deep quickly and is typically calm.  Makes it a great choice for the whole family.  You can spend hours just ducking and diving underwater. Give a Seal a run for it's money. It's a favorite among swimmers. 

Enjoy a great drive along Route 4 to get there. It is a great place to stretch out with a summer read and partake in a waterside picnic. Watch bald eagles and kingfishers over the lake and take a load off.  Keep in mind that Big Pond is unsupervised.

Get directions here.


19. Kennington Cove Beach

(Photo credit:

The beach at  Kennington Cove is one of Cape Breton's hidden treasures. It offers one of the best sandy beaches on the Island. Two, to be exact.  If you continue on through the trees, it will bring you to the second beach. The waves are a little bigger here, but that just means more fun. And, you often have this beach to yourself.

One of the beach's most unique features is that it is near the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site. At this historic location, the British landed in 1745 and 1758, beginning sieges that lead to the fall of Louisbourg. It has sand and history. 

Make a whole day out of it, take a tour of the Fortress, and then hit the beach. And don't be fooled if you get there early and it seems a bit foggy, or the tide is high. The surf will recede to expose soft sand, and the fog has been known to burn off so fast in the heat, it will make you miss it. 

Get directions here.  


20. Pollett's Cove Beach

(Photo: Adam Hill)

It's quite a trek to get there, but once you do, you're in paradise! It's said to be one of the most beautiful places in Canada, but don't take our word for it. 

The spectacular highland terrain on the northern tip of the island is the province at its wildest and most rugged. 1000-foot cliffs meets yet-to-be-discovered plant life meets world class scenery in complete enchanting isolation. 

It's an 18-km, 4-8 hour hike over three mountains, so strap the bare essentials to your back and spend 48 hours completely off the grid with wild horses. It's ideal for swimming, camping, hiking, berry and plant-foraging, bird watching, whale and seal watching, and photography. As night falls, prepare yourself for one of the best displays of star clustered skies you will ever see.

In Pleasant Bay, look for Red River Road. Follow the pavement, and keep going when it turns to dirt. Follow it past the Gampo Abbey monastery and shrine, until the road's end, at a small parking lot. The trail starts with a width of an ATV trail. Passing a small yellow cottage, the trail soon narrows to just a footpath.

Get directions here.

And there you have it!

Twenty elements of what makes this place so magical. How it was shaped by the ocean, how the ocean shapes us. And in the summer time we return to the shore, like reconnecting with an old friend. There is no greater anticipation than that first wink of bright blue on the horizon as you rattle along a back road with everyone you love, and a life time of supplies. That's summer. It's an action. It's a feeling. It's precious and beautiful.

We want to know what your go-to beaches are? Do you have deets to some hidden gems? Tell us! 

Now pack that cooler, beaches. ;) P.S. Here's some of our favourite beach accessories!

1. "Save Me Your Bottom" Bottle Opener

2. Foggy Tide Mini Wave Wanderers

3. Little & Lively Sun Bonnet

4. East Coast Tee

5. Under The Sun Sunglasses

Written by Faith Farrell


I do not see South Harbour Beach listed. It is an absolute gem and I am sure many people would love to spend time there.

brian hancox on Aug 16, 2022

Cheticamp has two other gorgeous salt water beaches. Plage St. Pierre on Cheticamp Island features extra warm water ( 75-80F) due to it being a shallow , white sand beach with multiple sand bars. It is perfect for families with young kids. The beach offers privacy as well , there is lots of room to spread out. This beach has amazing views and is dog friendly,
The other local favourite is Petit Étang Beach which features ocean swimming and lake swimming. Again , the water is warm and the beach is dog and kid friendly. In Cheticamp , we are truly spoiled with natural beauty!

Paulette Larade on Aug 28, 2019

Great guide! Thanks for putting this together.

Melinda on Aug 28, 2019

I’m not sure how old this post is but Kennington cove no longer has any lifeguards so that might be something to edit so that people aren’t confused and stay safe :)

Brianna on Aug 23, 2018

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