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Nova Scotia

This page covers the bike trip from Charlottetown (PEI) to North Sydney (NS).

Total Days: 3
Pedaling Days: 3
Total Distance: 357 km
Total Vertical: 2,748m
Average Speed: 28.5 km/h

Route summary: We took the ferry from PEI to Nova Scotia, arriving near Pictou.  Hwy 106/104 to New Glasgow, then Hwy 245 which followed the shoreline for a brief diversion.  Took that til it hit Hwy 4, following along and crossing onto Cape Breton Island.  Then onto Hwy 105 all the way to the ferry terminal at North Sydney.

Click on a day below, or scroll down to go through day by day.  Click on any image below to get a larger view.  Click here to go back to the trip index.

  1. Nova Scotia: August 2-4
    1. Tuesday, August 2
      1. August 2 – Charlottetown to Lower Barney’s River (Nova Scotia)
      2. Reunion with a fellow cyclist
      3. Us on the ferry
      4. Dinnertime in the van
      5. Nova Scotia north shore view
      6. Watching the sun go down
    2. Wednesday, August 3
      1. August 3 – Lower Barney’s River to Whycocomagh
      2. Clouds blowing in
      3. Wind and waves
    3. Thursday, August 4
      1. August 4 – Whycocomagh to North Sydney
      2. Boat Launch
      3. That's me on the hill
      4. View towards the Atlantic
      5. How does the cyclist cross the bridge?
      6. More cyclists crossing the bridge
      7. Icebreakers and forgotten skills

Nova Scotia: August 2-4

Tuesday, August 2

Bike log: 106.0km, 801m of vertical, avg. speed 28.4 km/h

August 2 – Charlottetown to Lower Barney’s River (Nova Scotia)

Made it to Nova Scotia - they sure do have some great town names around here! Very charming to read them off the map.

Today we traveled about 52km to the ferry at Woods Island (PEI) and then took the ferry (our 5th of 6) to Nova Scotia. On the PEI side, we took a shortcut (highway 23) indicated on the map which turned out to be really hilly! Probably saved a bit of time anyway, especially since the trees gave some shelter from the headwind. There was almost no traffic on the road as well.

The hills were a good wakeup for me. I did not seem to have my normal post rest day lag before getting going. I still don’t know what causes that, but maybe a steep hill is all that’s really needed to jumpstart things!

Reunion with a fellow cyclist

Riding time was a bit short today due to taking the ferry. We missed the 11 o’clock ferry by about 15 minutes, and had to wait until the 1, which meant we didn’t get moving on the Nova Scotia side until nearly 2:30. Still, it was a lucky occasion – I met up with another cyclist (Ryan Dong) who I had met way back near Wawa. (Note: his trip is also blogged at We have traveled similar routes, but with lots of differences, so it is quite remarkable that we met up again, on the ferry of all places! Very nice guy, and he’s planning on doing either the Cabot Trail, or else the “long way” through Newfoundland before finishing up. Both are tough rides considering he’s packing all his gear.

Us on the ferry

Ryan was able to get a rare photo of the two of us together.  We are 

Dinnertime in the van

Cheryl is seen here madly cooking up a huge pot of pasta for dinner. I made the mistake of underestimating the effort to get to the campground today. We picked our route (trying to avoid the Trans Canada for a bit), then looked for suitable campgrounds, and there really was only 1 option. It didn’t seem that far – just 55 km or so from the ferry, so I went for it without a food break. I figured I had a good rest on the ferry, and had eaten lunch prior to bordering, so I should be good to go. But I bonked (ran out of energy) about 10 km from the campground and so it was a bit of a struggle to get here. I haven’t done that very often on this trip, probably twice. The last time was when we took the ferry from Manitoulin – the big pause in the middle of the day is tough to deal with! Live and learn though – even the “short” days require careful food energy planning.


Nova Scotia north shore view

So far things have looked similar to the other maritime provinces. We are taking a secondary highway (245) at the moment, which follows the northern coastline of Nova Scotia, towards Cape Breton island, and has given a few views of the water. We will follow this along to about Antigonish, then I think we’ll be on the highway as we head towards Cape Breton Island and on to North Sydney, where we catch the ferry to Newfoundland.

I find that as the trip is getting on, I have wanted to be off the main highway more and more, and will even ride extra distance to avoid it! The condition of some of the roads is a bit of a pain in the butt though – literally!

Watching the sun go down

This is a view from our campground. As I type this, the sun is setting over the island and is a huge fiery red ball. Fantastic!


Wednesday, August 3

Bike log: 150.7km, 1087m of vertical, avg. speed 29.1 km/h

August 3 – Lower Barney’s River to Whycocomagh

We are in the home stretch now – onto Cape Breton Island. We are under 100km from the ferry to Newfoundland, so we should have no problem getting there tomorrow (jinx!). I do not know what the ferry schedule will be like. We have a tourism “brochure” put out by the Nova Scotia government that is over 350 pages long. I haven’t gotten to the part about the ferry schedule yet, it’s kind of difficult to use…

I was back on the Trans-Canada highway (104 and 105) for a lot of today. I can’t say I missed it – there was lots of traffic, although the condition of the road was mostly good. However, once we got onto Cape Breton island this seemed to decrease quite a bit. There are 2 roads that lead up to Sydney, one around each side of Bras d’Or Lake essentially. Most of the traffic must take the south road, because we took the north one and it is not too bad. Very hilly though! In the 50km we took along there were 2 x100m climbs and 2 x 50m climbs, plus lots of smaller ups and downs. The other way may be hilly too, all of the roads on Nova Scotia have been so far.

There is a causeway that connects Cape Breton Island to the rest of Nova Scotia. It was pretty hairy crossing as there was a really strong crosswind coming through. I was grateful for (though puzzled by) a big gap in the traffic going my way – no cars passed me in my direction the whole way. Finally I got to the other side, where a cop was actually stopping cars going the other way. I looked back and a truck was moving a massive double wide mobile home that barely fit across the road. Glad he was behind me!

Clouds blowing in

It got stormy today – lots of clouds for most of the day. However, it did not really start raining in earnest until after we got to the campground! It was quite cool as well, real maritime weather.

For the first 50km or so today, we were on a secondary road (highway 245) that gave us some really nice views of the water. Traffic was very light along this road, which was good because the pavement was full of potholes that I had to keep dodging. I am glad we took the scenic route though. One local told us they refer to it as the “mini Cabot Trail.” Kind of like a “Brussel Sprout Trail” I suppose, if you pronounce it right. I am not planning on biking the Cabot Trail so I am glad I at least got to see this part. It was by far the most scenic part of the day!

Wind and waves

The wind got the waves going a little bit today. It’s cool to see waves again – even little ones! Although it was not a nice summer day today, in some ways it is better to see the sea with a bit of energy and cloud. More exciting! Perhaps I will regret saying that if the ferry to Newfoundland gets rough.

Although it was a pretty strong headwind for about ¾ of the day, I was glad to have the wind on several occasions. Today was probably the worst I’ve gone through in terms of roadkill – I passed at least a dozen really bad ones. What a reek! Maybe the Nova Scotia highways department does not bother to clean them up, just leave it to the crows, I don’t know. On this trip I have learned that a headwind is much preferable for dealing with stink on the road – it minimizes the amount of time you smell it and once you pass it you get fresh air right away. My technique is to hold my breath as soon as I catch wind of it, then try to hold it until I pass “the spot.” You can’t do that if you have a tailwind because the odour follows you down the highway for a long ways. I think if I’d had a tailwind going past some of those flattened pelts I would have had a pretty hard time keeping my peanut butter on the inside.


Thursday, August 4

Bike log: 99.9km, 860m of vertical, avg. speed 27.8 km/h

August 4 – Whycocomagh to North Sydney

Well, this is about as far as you can go on the mainland! It is very exciting to be here, we sure feel like we are getting close! We are at the ferry terminal in North Sydney. We had a few hours to kill before the ferry left, so we explored North Sydney. It’s a small town, so it didn’t take long! However, it definitely had a maritime feel to it – including a real working harbour. We are looking forward to seeing a bit more of Nova Scotia, especially the coast, on our drive back.

Boat Launch

Only 6 goverment organizations were involved in developing this awesome boat launch.  It looked pretty risky though, so we did not use it.

That's me on the hill

It was a challenging ride today, even though the distance was not that high, mostly due to a very strong headwind. The wind was nearly as strong as some of those prairie blasters, but at least the road kept changing direction a bit, and there was shelter due to hills and forests. There were also some decent climbs as well as lots of little up and downs like this one.  The dot on the shoulder near the top of the hill is me.

View towards the Atlantic

The largest hill today was about 250m, and gave a really spectacular view once you passed the summit. You could see for miles out to the Atlantic ocean, as well as down towards the road ahead and a bridge that needed to be crossed. There was a sharp switchback on the descent, after which the wind changed to a tailwind for a short period. It was also quite a steep grade, so I actually needed to use my brakes on the downhill! Normally I don’t use the brakes as I find they just slow the bike down. But I was doing close to 70km/h, and with the quality of the roads it did not really seem too safe.

How does the cyclist cross the bridge?

Answer: in the van!

The wind was an extremely powerful crosswind for the crossing of this bridge. There was also no shoulder or sidewalk (pedestrians are prohibited on the bridge), and the lanes were narrow – too narrow for a truck to pass safely. So there was no safe option but to put the bike in the van and drive across.

More cyclists crossing the bridge

Just ahead of me at the bridge were 2 cyclists from Montreal, touring from Montreal to Halifax (they had done the Cabot trail), who had started across the bridge but turned back when the shoulder disappeared. They had decided to try and hitchhike across, so Cheryl was able to ferry all of us over the bridge in 2 trips! They were pretty grateful, although I think I used up all that goodwill a little bit later. Cheryl & I had lunch right after crossing while the couple continued on. I passed them a while later & scared the beegeezus out of them by accident – you really aren't expecting anything silent to pass you when you are riding peacefully along. The gal actually screamed as I passed…sorry! I’ve had a number of cyclists tell me that I scared them that way, I’m not really sure what to do about it as beeping my airhorn would obviously be much worse and calling out is usually pretty hard to do with all the wind noise.

Icebreakers and forgotten skills

These coast guard icebreakers are needed in the winter time to keep the ferries to Newfoundland moving, among other things. Apparently the ferries occasionally get stuck in the ice and get delayed…for a day or so. Just one more difference between the ferries here and back home in BC. Speaking of which, I should also mention that the ferry workers we met were once again very friendly. We chatted to the security guard for a while, he had lived for 32 years in Nanaimo, and sure missed the mild winters. Moved out here because he met a woman from Newfoundland. Later on this evening, he was involved in an altercation on the ferry – one of the disembarking passengers forgot to take his medication and went berserk. Our friend took a punch in the head, and the cops had to come and wrestle him to the ground! He came back to tell us about it, proudly showing off his fat lip. No worker’s compensation claim for him – and he was probably nearly 70! Tough old guy.

I have found on this trip that I have forgotten some things related to my “old” day to day life. For instance, I have lost the ability to button up my shirt properly. I now smile obliviously while my shirt is all crooked - I can do this all day. It will probably be some time before I regain that skill.

Ferry Across the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Newfoundland