Carolyn’s Cape Breton Staycation

Carolyn Dawson

Dr. Strang and Premier Stephen McNeil opened up Nova Scotia, burst the family bubbles and at this point, we hadn’t had a new case of COVID-19 in 12 days. But leaving Halifax—and the downtown core, which had become my safety net during the pandemic—felt strange. I was anxious and apprehensive to leave the bubble I had created. But I knew I needed the time away for my own mental health, for my relationship and for a battery recharge.

And what better way to refresh than with a visit to the beautiful highlands of Cape Breton, where cell service is sparse, the views are vast and the people are welcoming and kind.

Skyline Trail in Cape Breton overlooking untouched, foliage-covered cliffs that roll for miles along the Atlantic Ocean


When we crossed the Canso Causeway, it felt like we had left not only Nova Scotia, but the country. A weight lifted off my shoulders and I felt an immediate sense of relaxation as we quickly changed our carefully laid-out plans and headed straight to Inverness Beach. Once we arrived, we snagged a spot in the corner of the lot and broke out some snacks. As we powered through our peanut butter sandwiches, we were greeted by a slew of smiles and waves from those walking by. It was strange to not see people avoiding one another, but it was a glorious feeling. We felt welcome. We walked the beach and headed up the road to the Live Life InTents campground in Margaree Forks to get settled for the weekend.

When we arrived at the campsite, we were greeted with bug spray, a smile and the campsite COVID-19 plan. It was reassuring that the pandemic was still top-of-mind but wasn’t the first thing mentioned. Instead, it was a joke about the mosquito pandemic the region had been experiencing. After getting cozy in our tiny tent, we took a moment to enjoy the mountain views we would be waking up to for the weekend. Again, a wave of relaxation fell over me.

That evening, we took a drive up the coast to check out the sunset. Stunning is the only way I can describe it. I wanted to capture the moment to remember and this was a task in itself, as you can see from the photos below. The accidental snaps really highlight the truth in Instagram vs. reality and a real lack of grace.

We had a belly full of laughs and things felt normal—we were in our own world with no cares. We spent the rest of the weekend exploring the Skyline Trail, which had its own set of COVID-19 precautions, and the beautiful Gypsum Mine Quarry & Trail. We chatted with locals, we went back to the beach and enjoyed the sun and sunsets all weekend long.

To explore this part of our province that I hadn’t taken the time to do in many years was exactly what I needed to recharge, relax and reconnect. COVID-19 put a wrench in most people’s plans but learning to be resilient and flexible made for a wonderful weekend away. It wasn’t what we had planned for our summer, but it turned out to be better than we could have ever expected. It allowed us to escape all of our worries and the congestion of our 750-square-foot apartment.