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Sydney, NS, Canada

Sydney is the main port on Cape Breton Island, in Nova Scotia.

Sydney is on the east bank of the Sydney River where it discharges into South Arm of Sydney Harbour. Elevation ranges from sea level to 66 m (217 ft) above sea level.

The majority of properties within the former city limits have been impacted by development and an extensive urban road network. The central business district is located on a peninsula extending into South Arm formed by Sydney River on the west side and Muggah Creek on the east side. The largest park within the former city limits is Open Hearth Park.

Distinctive neighborhoods include Whitney Pier in the northeast end next to the former steel plant site, Ashby in the east end, Hardwood Hill in the south end and the "North End" located on the peninsula which contains the Holy Angels convent and the Sydney Garrison known as Victoria Park, headquarters... Read more

Sydney, NS, Canada


Sydney is the main port on Cape Breton Island, in Nova Scotia.

Sydney is on the east bank of the Sydney River where it discharges into South Arm of Sydney Harbour. Elevation ranges from sea level to 66 m (217 ft) above sea level.

The majority of properties within the former city limits have been impacted by development and an extensive urban road network. The central business district is located on a peninsula extending into South Arm formed by Sydney River on the west side and Muggah Creek on the east side. The largest park within the former city limits is Open Hearth Park.

Distinctive neighborhoods include Whitney Pier in the northeast end next to the former steel plant site, Ashby in the east end, Hardwood Hill in the south end and the "North End" located on the peninsula which contains the Holy Angels convent and the Sydney Garrison known as Victoria Park, headquarters of the Cape Breton Highlanders reserve infantry regiment. The former city completely encircles the Membertou First Nation (First Nations Reserve 28A and 28B).


Sydney experiences a cool summer and windy, wet and stormy winter, version of a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb) that is significantly moderated by the community's proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. The highest temperature ever recorded in Sydney was 36.7 °C (98 °F) on 18 August 1935. The lowest temperature ever recorded was −31.7 °C (−25 °F) on 31 January 1873, 29 January 1877 and 15 February 1916.

Due to the relatively strong influence from large bodies of water, Sydney experiences strong seasonal lag, meaning February is the year's coldest month on average, and August is the year's warmest month on average. By contrast, in most continental climates in the Northern Hemisphere, January is the coldest month, July the warmest.

In other respects, too, Sydney's climate varies significantly from that of other areas with humid continental climates. The most significant variations are that Sydney experiences unusually cool summers, and relatively windy, wet and stormy winters, relative to other humid-continental areas such as in the interior of North America. Annual temperatures are instead rather similar to areas around the Baltic Sea in north-eastern Europe at much higher latitudes, although Sydney's seasonal lag is stronger. Although Sydney has some maritime influence, similar latitudes on the other side of the Atlantic have significantly milder climates in all seasons except summer. Sydney is in the direct path of fall and winter storms (in the U.S., called nor'easters) migrating from the U.S. Northeastern and New England states; these storms can attain tremendous intensity by the time they approach Sydney, with high winds, heavy snow, ice and/or rain events common, primarily from October to March. Summer thunderstorms are rare in Sydney because nearby bodies of cool water sharply inhibit the combination of heat and humidity that fuels summer-season thunderstorms elsewhere (for example, the United States' central and southeastern states, and east-central and northern China).

While occasional thunderstorms and other rains can occur in summer, June through August are Sydney's driest months on average. Sydney's average annual precipitation cycle reflects these realities; the year's driest month, on average, is July; its wettest month, on average, is December. Average annual precipitation in Sydney is over 1500mm, virtually the highest found anywhere in Canada outside coastal British Columbia. Snowfall is heavy, averaging nearly 300 cm per winter season. However, winter-season storms are variable and can bring changing precipitation types, commonly from ice/snow to rain and possibly back to ice/snow. As such, actual snow accumulation is variable. A winter storm can bring accumulating snow, followed by heavy rain, then a brief return to snow or ice, resulting in no or minimal additional snow accumulation. Overall, Sydney's climate is moderately cold and strikingly variable, wet, stormy and windy from fall to early spring (October to March), and more stable and drier in summer (June to August).

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Sydney, NS, Canada: Port Information

Your ship will dock at the cruise terminal in downtown Sydney. It is a short and easy walk to the center and tourist attractions.
There are excellent facilities in the port, including a crafts market, an art gallery, a mini-museum, and more.

Get around Sydney, NS, Canada

The main road is the Trans-Canada highway (Hwy 105), which connects Sydney on the east coast with the causeway to the mainland on the west. You can rent a car in Sydney if necessary. Like any place, you see more if you get off the main road, and the Nova Scotia government has been helpful in this regard by creating a number of scenic drives. These include the:

  • Cabot Trail - Mountainous, windy and sometimes foggy, this drive alternates between hugging the ocean and crossing the rugged Cape Breton Highlands. Considered one of the top drives in North America, it should be considered more a destination than a drive for the variety of activities available around this 190-mile loop.
  • Fleur-de-Lis Trail - Covers the southern French-influenced part of the island.
  • Ceilidh Trail - Covers the western part the island with its strong Scottish influence.
  • Bras d'Or Lake Scenic Drive - follows the shoreline of

    Bras d'Or Lake


Road maps and additional information on the island is readily available at any tourist information center and a number of private operators offer trip planning services.

A more adventurous option to get around the island is to cycle. The roads tend to be narrow and windy, so prior experience is recommended. Bike rental and trip planning are available through Sea Spray Outdoor Adventures.

Hiking trails abound in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, and the above-mentioned Sea Spray Outdoor Adventures offers guided hikes to little-known remote areas north of the national park.

Regardless of your mode of travel, watch out for moose on the roads.

There are many small cable ferries between the islands. They usually go every few minutes.

Salty Bear Adventure Travel - An excellent alternative to renting a car, Salty Bear offers budget adventure tours around the Cabot Trail. Run by passionate travelers who aim to provide a true Cape Breton experience, their trips include roundtrip transportation, accommodation, guide with full commentary, guided hikes, National & Provincial Park access, ferry passes, wildlife encounters, BBQ's, bonfires! Discounted optional activities of kayaking, sailing, and whale watching!

You can easily explore the center of Sydney with its attractions on foot.

What to see in Sydney, NS, Canada

Cape Breton is noted for its unique and vibrant traditional Scottish violin music incubated by its relative isolation over the years- so much so that music lovers from Scotland come here for a taste of their own past. Typically a duo of violin and piano play hearty dance music that can be seen at community halls throughout the island. The early-evening tourist-targeted concerts are well advertised. Some of the most important musical centers are Judique, Margaree Valley, and Chéticamp.

The island as a whole ranked second in the world in a National Geographic study of ecotourism, which was conducted in 2002 and 2003.

  • Cape Breton Highlands National Park. You need an entry permit (there are group and family discounts). The Cabot Trail runs through the national park. There are many short hiking trails starting along the Cabot Trail.

Scenery is a major reason to visit Cape Breton. Plan to stop along the many spectacular lookoffs on the Cabot Trail - this will lengthen your travel time between destinations. Since the Cabot Trail is more a destination than a drive, visitors seeking to truly experience this environmental masterpiece should plan on staying a minimum of two days in the villages around the Trail. A number of private operators offer trip planning services to assist visitors in taking advantage of the best attractions both on and off the Trail, some offering all-inclusive multi-day packages.

  • Fortress of Louisbourg, 259 Park Service Rd, Louisbourg, +1 902 733-2280. This is a reconstruction of the 18th century fortified French town whose presence plagued the British colonies of New England. Its busy harbor was once one of France's most significant economic and military assets in North America. If you enjoy the colonial restoration at Williamsburg in the United States, don't miss Louisbourg. 1 May-30 Jun 9:30 AM-5 PM, 1 Jul-31 Aug 9 AM-5 PM, 1 Sep-15 Oct 9:30 AM-5 PM. Closed 1 Nov-3 Apr.
  • The Bras D'Or is a unique brackish lake with its own unique ecological characteristics, and some islands in that lake are sacred to the Mikmaq.
  • Bay St. Lawrence and Meat Cove. Two scenic fishing villages featuring whale tours, fresh seafood and unique accommodations along the rugged cliffs north of the Cabot trail. Turn north at Cape North.
  • Joe's Scarecrows at Chéticamp on the Cabot Trail. Scary gallery of scarecrows with Halloween masks. Entrance is free, but they ask for a small donation.
  • Les Trois Pignons, 15584 Cabot Trail Hwy, Chéticamp, +1 902 224-2612. Museum of Acadian culture based on a collection of antiques started by Marguerite Gallant.

What to do in Sydney, NS, Canada

  • Celtic Colours International Festival. Celtic Colours is a unique celebration of Cape Breton Island's living traditional culture. For nine days each October the Island-wide festival offers hundreds of events and activities, and dozens of concerts featuring world class musicians alongside some of Cape Breton's finest performers.
  • Whale watching tour. There are boat tours along the coast from Cheticamp north and around to Englishtown. Sighting of whales is almost guaranteed, especially at the northern tip of the island. Tours takes two hours or more, and the scenery alone is worth the price. Oshan Whale Cruises and Captain Cox's Whale Tour operate at the northern tip of the island.
  • Biking the Cabot Trail. Many people think that biking the Cabot Trail is the best way to see it. Featured in the September 07 issue of Bicycling magazine, as North America's Best Ride. Sea Spray Outdoor Adventures will rent bikes, provide one-way shuttles if necessary and plan your itinerary to maximize cycling opportunities.
  • Hiking tours Lots of self-guided hiking in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Guided hikes to spectacularly remote areas north of the national park can be arranged with Sea Spray Outdoor Adventures.
  • Kayak tours Eagle North and Sea Spray both offer guided kayak tours, in the large tranquil harbors at the top of the island as well as in the whale-rich Atlantic.
  • The Top Of The Island, (North and Northeast of Cape Breton Highlands National Park). The most spectacularly scenic region of Cape Breton, the region boasts a combination of historic, cultural and environmental activities. Featuring whale watching, guided hiking, cycling, and paddling tours, museums, artists' studios and galleries and seven miles of the most significant beaches north of the Carolinas, the region is home to Cabot's Landing provincial park, the site of John Cabot's landing in 1497.  
  • Arts North, Cabot Trail at Cape North (Drive to the northern tip of the Cabot Trail. Arts North is 3 km SW of Cape North Village), ☎ +1 902 383-2911. 9AM-7PM. A retail gallery featuring the works of over two dozen juried Cape Breton resident artisans. Pottery, jewelry, weaving, quilts, wood, prints, basketry, canvas and other media are all displayed in an architecturally pleasing space. Of interest, the gallery ships purchases world wide for its customers.  

What to eat and drink in Sydney, NS, Canada


Seafood, especially lobster, is the thing to eat on Cape Breton. The Aspy Bay oysters are also good. As mentioned in the "Buy" section, if you plan to save money by getting groceries, do so at larger centers such as Chéticamp, Baddeck or Port Hawkesbury. Small convenience stores tend to be more sparsely stocked than convenience stores you would find in cities.

  • Rusty Anchor, Pleasant Bay, +1 902 224-1313. Great seafood, fantastic seaside patio. If you are lucky you can spot a bald eagle hovering above you. 
  • Cedar House, TCH 105m Boulebarderie Centre, at the Seal Island Bridge between Baddeck and Sydney, +1 902 674-2929. Bakery and restaurant. Good seafood chowder at reasonable prices. May-Oct 10 AM-8 PM.


  • Club 418, 418 George Street. 10 pm - 2 am.  

Shopping in Sydney, NS, Canada

Many of the smaller communities have only a general store that sells groceries, sundries, acts as a post office, etc. These small general stores have a very limited selection of groceries - better to stop in a bigger center like Baddeck, Chéticamp, or Port Hawkesbury for groceries, although the Top of the Island area has two Co-Op grocery stores (somewhat smaller than the Co-Ops in Baddeck and Chéticamp) as well as a couple of independents that, taken together, do a reasonable job.

  • Floras, Point Cross, +1 902 224-3139. Handcrafts. Especially traditional Acadian rug-hooking made by locals. Demonstrations.
  • Local pottery and other juried Cape Breton Only crafts sold along the Cabot Trail at Arts North, outside Cape North, at the northern tip of the Trail.
  • St. Ann's Artisans.

St. Ann's, an area to the south of Ingonish along the Cabot Trail, has a large concentration of artisans who work and sell out of their shops. Leather, glass, woodworking, iron art, photography, pottery, pewter, and sewing are all found, made by skilled artists, within an hour's drive north of Baddeck.

Smelt Brook Pottery Studio at the Top of the Island in Smelt Brook features two production potters. The studio is open to the public and is a popular rainy-day stop for family learning experiences.

  • Nest (Patti Millet-owner), 11352 Route 19, Mabou, ☎ +1 902 945-2414. 10 AM-6 PM. Nature-themed shop featuring jewelry, gifts, and home decor. Emphasis on artisan crafts. Local music CDs. All price points, kids welcome, bathroom always available.  
  • Traditional Cape Breton square dancing. This form of dancing is a genuine folk dance since it is performed to local music by local people in the villages. Every village or region on the island has its own version of a square dance and only that version is danced all night. Public dances are announced in local news papers for nearly every night during the busy summer months, especially in Inverness County (Glencoe Mills, West Mabou, Normaway Inn, Judique). But also in the eastern part, there is plenty of opportunities (Baddeck, St.Anns College, Cape North, Sydney). The music is the Cape Breton style of traditional Scottish Music. Tourists are welcome to the dances and in many places, there are a ½ hour introductory instructions ahead of the dance. Descriptions of the dances can be found in Right to the Helm, Cape Breton Square Sets by Jørn Borggreen, to be purchased at several book- and giftshops across the island, or from the author,  

Safety in Sydney, NS, Canada

Cape Brenton Island, in general, is a safe destination. However, you should always use your common sense like in any other place in the world. 

Language spoken in Sydney, NS, Canada

English and French are official languages.


4:00 am
July 2, 2022


17.59 °C / 63.662 °F
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19.87 °C/68 °F
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21.09 °C/70 °F
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17.41 °C/63 °F
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