Great Places to Eat, Stay in Nova Scotia
When in Nova Scotia, do as the Scoatians do... or is that do as the Novans do?
No matter. ... After a six hour plane journey on my favourite airline, WestJet, split partly by a 20-minute touchdown in Hamilton, we ended up in Halifax as another golf/work journey got underway. The first order of business was finding our hotel in a strange city, and with two sets of directions and only getting lost once, we indeed found what we were looking for.
For first Atlantic-oriented meal we ate at The Five Fishermen, a 200-year-old heritage house restaurant that features, needless to say, sea food. Now being from Alberta, fresh sea food is a novelty and as it turned out this was a great place to start becoming acclimatized to all the mysterious things from the ocean.
The first taste test were fresh mussels, steamed, and served with a choice of dips. I was a mussel virgin so to speak, and was a lttle intimidated by the critters, but found them to be nothing like I imagined (slimy). Rather, they were firm and quite flavourful although I will admit I was a bigger fan of the red pepper dip they came with.
For the entree, I chose the specialty of the house, an interesting mix of seafood including shrimp, scallops and haddock. Nothing was new to me here but I must admit, it was probably the best fish I'd ever had, or at least since I was in Maui.
My companion (well, actually my wife) went with the lobster stuffed scallops and they received rave reviews as well.
The main courses here aren't large, but they are good, and with an all-you-can-consume salad/mussel bar, this is a place worth a visit every time you're in Halifax.
Our first stop on our trip around the gorgeous Cabot Trail was Baddeck, where I teed it up at Bell Bay Golf Club, and we settled in for the night at the Inverness Resort.
This charming spot offers you accommodations and cottages right on the waterfront in Baddeck, Alexander Graham Bell's beloved Cape Breton home, and the starting point of the world-famous Cabot Trail.
In keeping with the famed inventor's tradition, the MacAulay Family has been extending a warm welcome to travelers from around the globe for over 30 years. Originally built in 1850, this 11-acre resort sits on the shores of Cape Breton's glorious Bras d'Or Lakes and offers you a breathtaking view, beautiful landscape and a variety of accommodations including hotel and cottages. It also affords a wide variety of on-site activities for kids of all ages.
The dining here is in Thora’s Dining Room and the fare is every bit as good as advertised. As a member of "Taste of Nova Scotia" you are sure to enjoy your dining experience at the Inverary Resort. Succulent seafood, pasta, lamb and garden fresh salads are prepared by expert culinary staff. The food is impeccable and the service second to none and to top all that off, the Inverary Resort is pleased to bring you the greatest selection of wines, beers and ales on the Island.
For more information on this great stopping-off place where the wonderful journey up the Cabot Trail begins, go to CapeBretonResorts.com.
Our next stop was in the small town of Ingonish where the hospitality continued to come our way. We set up shop at the Keltic Lodge in preparation for my round of golf the next day at the wonderful Highlands Links course, designed by Stanley Thompson.
The moment you arrive at Keltic Lodge‘s Cape Breton Resort and Spa, you’ll begin to feel at ease. This resort offers the perfect coastal escape for those seeking a quiet retreat to restore spirits, an invigorating setting to perfect your golf swing, a secluded getaway to rekindle romance, or an adventure destination to reconnect as a family. Having been in place since 1940, the art of customer service is finely tuned at this gorgeous stopping off point.
After a hard day’s work of golf and relaxation, there’s nothing quite like sitting down to a great meal prepared for you by master chefs. Top that off with spectacular ocean views from the dining room and it’s a meal not soon to be forgotten.
On this night I went with the Surf and Turf combo, and while lobster was out of season at this particular time, the shrimp that was prepared as the replacement was succulent and large. The beef was also exquisitely prepared and came exactly as ordered and the service at this restaurant, both for our evening meal and breakfast was outstanding.
Continuing up the Cabot Trail our next stop was in the community of Cheticamp and the Masion Fiset House, which can’t be described as a bed-and-breakfast but at the same time is far superior to an overnight hotel stay. In fact, this charming location turned out to be the favourite of our trip.
The room we had was comfortable and equipped with its own Jacuzzi tub, a nice touch on what turned out to be a cool evening in Nova Scotia.
This beautiful historic home was built in 1895 by Father Pierre Fiset for his brother Dr. Napoleon Fiset and his family. Dr. Fiset was the first doctor to practice in the Chéticamp area. Maison Fiset House was restored and enhanced in 2011 into an 8-bedroom inn. Its multiple terraces feature a beautiful panoramic view of our village’s assets of ocean, harbour views and the majestic Cape Breton Highlands along the world famous Cabot Trail.
While no meals other than a huge breakfast are available at the Masion Fiset House, they have several restaurant recommendations and the one we took a fancy to didn’t disappoint.
We headed down the road for about five minutes and came across a roadside stop known as the Roundabout. While it didn’t look like much, you don’t eat looks, you eat the local fare and that’s what we did by chowing down on lobster and crab, at a bargain basement price. Each of our meals came with sides and we topped it all off with a shared piece of the most amazing coconut cream pie (my dear wife’s suggestion) that was absolutely as good as it looked – if not better.
Somewhat reluctantly leaving Cheticamp, we drove the last few miles of the Cabot Trail to Inverness, home to the world-famous Cabot Links golf course. And while the course lived up to all the advance billing the Cabot Links Lodge is none too shabby either.
Designed by Nova Scotia architect, Susan Fitzgerald and celebrated interior designer, Alexandra Angle, the 48-room Cabot Links Lodge is inspired by its surroundings. The building incorporates local materials such as cedar and heavy timber, which combined with a timeless and modern aesthetic are the epitome of low key luxury. The Lodge is located in close proximity to Cabot Bar and Panorama Restaurant, fanning south to border the putting green.
This is another one of those places where food and relaxation go hand-in-hand. We started with cast iron shrimp (the way they’re cooked, not how they taste!) and shrimp which whetted our appetites for the main courses of steak frites and parmesan crusted chicken. Both were excellent and more than one could eat at one sitting, again proving that the hospitality in this part of the country goes beyond a firm handshake and a hearty hello.
From there we headed to our last stop, this time in the small community of Tatamagouche where I was to tee it up at Fox Harb’r in Wallace. Interestingly enough, our accommodation here was to say the least, somewhat different than anything we’ve ever experienced before.
Here we set up shop for the night in a train car and yes, you read that right. The interesting Train Station Inn sees guests spend the night in a fully fuctional railway car complete with sitting/eating area, bedroom, bathroom and shower. While they aren’t large they are unique and is one of those things from a trip that stay in your mind long after you depart.
The owner of the Train Station Inn, James LeFresne, explained to us that when he was 18 all his friends were out buying cars while he went out and bought a train station. His friends likely don’t have those vehicles anymore but to this day LeFresne still has his station, gift shop, dining car and breakfast spot that is worth a stop for the unique taste of history.
Overall, this trip to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton opened my eyes not only to wonderful golf experiences but the great people and accommodation options and believe it or not turned this beef-loving prairie boy into a seafood afficienado!
Well done, Nova Scotia, well done!
About the Writer
Gord Montgomery is the sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area and is a member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. He has written for Inside Golf for the past five years with the majority of his coverage in north and central Alberta. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.