A day in Sydney and Cape Breton

A day in Sydney and Cape Breton


Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Summit makes a stopover in Sydney on Cape Breton Island, arriving from Quebec. The island is part of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Eight hours lay time is planned for Sydney. There isn't enough time to get even a vague idea of ​​the island's vast land area.

Sydney - Joan Harris Cruise PavilionSydney - Joan Harris Cruise Pavilion


Excursions offered by the shipping company

While always striving to provide authentic experiences through self-organized excursions, we study cruise line excursions carefully.

Visit to the former industrial complex

What is the excursion program for Sydney? Celebrity Cruises organizes several interesting day trips for guests on Cape Breton Island. First there would be a tour on the BIG Pink Bus. The participants get to know the former coal mines and steelworks that were shut down 20 years ago. Beforehand, a visit to the museum explains the original working situation in the mines and factories. Finally, a visit to the Indian reservation Membertou is on the agenda.

Fortress of Louisbourg

Another interesting excursion takes you to lighthouses and the Fortress of Louisbourg. The fortress is a “National Historic Site of Canada”, i.e. a historical place worthy of protection. A British squadron captured and destroyed the French-built fortification in 1758. At the beginning of the 1960s, a quarter of the facility was rebuilt. – Before visiting the fortress city, we stop at the Louisbourg lighthouse. It was Canada's first lighthouse.

Fortress of Louisbourg


Fortress of Louisbourg


Louisbourg Lighthouse


Louisbourg Lighthouse 


We visit the Highland Village Museum

We consider a trip to the Highland Village Museum in the beautifully situated Iona, a good 60 kilometers away, to be just as interesting as a visit to the fortress. This goal is also on the shipping company's agenda. We had already decided before starting the journey to complete this tour on our own. Now it is a matter of finding a provider at the terminal.

Before we get to that, let's first look at the modern cruise terminal, the "Joan Harris Cruise Pavilion" and the 15 meter high Fidel set up at the main dock. At the terminal, a man in a tartan skirt devotedly elicits sounds from his bagpipes. A second coat wearer, a giant of a man, gives the arriving information. There is also more information inside the terminal.

The Big Fiddle


The Big Fiddle


bagpiper


bagpiper 


Together with an American couple, we book a large taxi in front of the cruise terminal. The trip costs 80 Canadian dollars per couple. A few years have now passed. The taxi cooperative now charges 275 Canadian dollars for the four and a half hour tour. The price for the tour lasting several hours was reasonable at the time, especially since our driver Bill had a few surprises up his sleeve for the way back. More on that later.

The outskirts of Sydney can be reached quickly. From there we drive about an hour north on the dual carriageway Grand Narrows Highway. The drive through sparsely populated country leads to the Grand Narrows Waterfront at Bras d'Or Lake. At that point, the lake, which is up to thirty kilometers wide, is only one kilometer wide. At the bottleneck, a historic railway bridge and a modern road bridge cross the narrow part of the 1.100 square kilometer inland lake. Opposite us is the city of Iona. And on a hillside diagonally above we see the museum village, the destination of our excursion.

House on St Andrews Channel
Houses on the Grand Narrows Highway
Grand Narrows Waterfront
Scenery along the Grand Narrows Highway

We pay the entrance fee at the visitor center of the Highland Village Museum. If you like, you can buy handicrafts, watch an introductory video or chat with the friendly staff at the center. We then go over grass and gravel paths to the houses on the slope. The paths are not suitable for wheelchair users or people with disabilities. As a free extra, we enjoy the wonderful view of Bras d'Or Lake and the southern shore, which is quite close at this point, when the weather is wonderful.

Highland Village MuseumHighland Village Museum


The wood-clad, white Malagawatch Church towers above us. We turn to the first dwelling, an igloo-like tiny dwelling built of rock and covered with turf. It actually served as a home for the first Scottish settlers. The rotunda was built in the years from 1770. Inside we see a place to sleep, plus a table and chair as well as the simplest kitchen utensils. It is inconceivable how people at that time could live under such conditions in summer and winter on the land that was given to them.

Highland Village Museum - Scottish Home - the first house
Highland Village Museum - Furnishing of the Scottish Home
Highland Village Museum - Millstone in the Scottish Home
Highland Village Museum - one of the first accommodations

Log houses were built in the years that followed, followed by sturdier and larger houses at a later date. After that, over time, the schoolhouse, a general store, the simple church, a smithy and a wool combing shop were built.

Highland Village Museum - the school
Highland Village Museum - General Store
Highland Village Museum - View of Bras d'Or Lake
Highland Village Museum - carriage
Highland Village Museum - Portal of Malagatch Church
Highland Village Museum - the Malagatch Church
Highland Village Museum - Interior of Malagatch Church
Highland Village Museum - instrument

Men and women dressed in historical clothing provide information about the buildings, their history and the exhibits. They are employees of the “National Historic Site” who found one of the sought-after jobs in the museum village during the tourist season.

Return to Sydney

Time flies by in the museum village. It's understandable that Bill, our driver, is pushing for the return trip. In the absence of an alternative, he takes the same route as before on the way there. Above St Andrew Channel he stops for a coffee at a general store with fast food restaurant attached. You know each other, the atmosphere is relaxed and relaxed. Everything looks the way we imagine life in the vastness of Canada. It would be different to have to live there permanently.

Stopover on the Grand Narrows HighwayStopover on the Grand Narrows Highway


Stopover at Membertou Trade & Convention Centre

In Sydney our driver will stop at the Membertou Trade & Convention Centre, a venue named after the Indian chief Membertou. The first inhabitants of the island were Indians from the Mi'kmaq tribe. They lost their land to the French and later to the British colonizers. For a long time, the descendants of the indigenous people led an underprivileged life characterized by poverty. Beginning in 1995, the Canadian government launched programs to integrate approximately 750 Aboriginal descendants into society and to improve their economic situation.

Membertou Heritage Park

Membertou Heritage Park


The Convention Center is the focal point of city life for Mi'kmaq descendants. The large, unadorned building is suitable for meetings and events. If you like, you can buy Indian artwork on site. Our driver Bill insists that we should see the Indian residential areas including a wigwam. Unfortunately, what we saw doesn't particularly impress us. It differs little from the residential areas of the descendants of immigrants.

Reminiscent of Sydney's industrial past

Up until the turn of the millennium, Sydney was a site of coal mines and steel mills. At the beginning of the new millennium, the Montan era came to an end. The city's outskirts are spoiled by large brownfield sites. The vacant site will be available following our visit to Nova Scotia Music Week. With over 100 artists and many stages, the festival is the largest event in the region.

Summary of our road trip

During our trip we saw no spectacular buildings, no castles and no cathedrals. Instead we saw beautiful, peaceful countryside and a museum village. We will remember both for a long time.

Landscape at Grand Narrows


Landscape at Grand Narrows


Grand Narrows Waterfront


Grand Narrows Waterfront 


Visit to the historic core of Sydney

After a brief refreshment break on the ship, we roam the historic district adjacent to the cruise terminal.

Sydney - on the way in the historic core - Esplanade


Sydney - on the way in the historic core - Esplanade


Sydney - Houses on the Esplanade


Sydney - Houses on the Esplanade 


St Patrick's Church Museum is located on the esplanade near the terminal. This structure is the Saint Patricks's Catholic Church, originally built in 1828. On Sundays it served as a place of prayer and reflection for Sydney residents. At that time the believers came not only from Sydney but also from more remote regions by horse and boat. Due to the growth of the community, it was decided in 1874 to build a new church. Afterwards, two religious communities used the church. In 1966 the idea came up to restore the then unused church and use it as a museum.

St. Patrick's Church MuseumSt. St. Patrick's Church Museum


Another museum is the Cossit House, located two blocks from the terminal on Charlotte Street. It is one of the oldest houses in the city. A clergyman had the house built in 1785. He was commissioned to act as spiritual advisor to the growing British colony. His descendants lived in Cossit House until 1975. The building was then restored, furnished with authentic furniture and converted into a museum. Guides dressed in historical clothing tell visitors about the life of the Cossit family. Uniforms and clothing from that period are on display in the upstairs bedrooms.

Cossite House Museum


Cossite House Museum


Cossite House Museum


Cossite House Museum 


Diagonally across from the Cossit House is the 225-year-old Jost Heritage House. It was once the house of a wealthy merchant and is also one of the oldest houses in the city. Anyone who sees the house today does not necessarily associate the prosperity of the time with this house. From the outside it looks rather unspectacular. Inside, like before in the Cossit House, costumed guides present life at the time. The kitchen is in the basement. The ground floor rooms, a drawing room, dining room and bedroom are decorated in Victorian style. There are more bedrooms on the upper floor. Historical ship models are exhibited in one room. A well-stocked pharmacy from the early 20th century is on display in another room.

Jost HouseJost House


Don't miss the Cruise Terminal's Craft Center

Don't miss a tour of the Cruise Terminal's Craft Center. An art shop sells paintings and sculptures worth seeing. But what we like best is the handicraft sales exhibition in a hall of the cruise center. The properties for sale are impressive in terms of quality and design. A snack bar and a restaurant provide for the physical well-being of visitors, and - importantly - Wifi is also available.

Joan Harris Cruise Pavilion


Joan Harris Cruise Pavilion


Inside the Joan Harris Cruise Pavilion


Inside the Joan Harris Cruise Pavilion 


Updated Aug 2023