In-between the quaint town of Amherst, NS, and the rock-filled Canso Causeway, lies 333 kilometres of varying landscape known as the Sunrise Trail. Whether you travel some or all of it, visitors can encounter sandy, warm water beaches (in the summer of course), gentle rolling farmland, and timeless villages and towns.

Encompassing the entirety of the Northumberland Strait coast, the Sunrise Trail is home to sublime scenery and a wealth of history. Though there are many ways to explore this coastal route, cycling a few of its notable trails will provide visitors with the perfect snapshot of time spent along these shores.

Simple and Scenic: Pictou to Pugwash

Difficulty: Easy

Though the Pictou to Pugwash cycling route is relatively flat and quiet, it is not without excitement. Easy to ride for cyclists of all skill types, you may want to split this 110-kilometer journey into an additional day or two if you intend to take in the sights encountered along the way.

Pictou: Start this Nova Scotia cycling experience in the town of Pictou. It is known as being the port of arrival for Hector” a ship carrying Scottish immigrants in the late 1700s. Making for a remarkable photo op, a full-size replica of the ship is stationed at the Hector Heritage Quay. Getting hungry? Pack some food and stop for a peaceful picnic at the peninsulas of Caribou Island or Munroes Island.

Tatamagouche: Once you’ve reached the village of Tatamagouche, you are at the halfway point of the trip. Be sure to spend some time in this vibrant community, home to impressive art galleries, museums, restaurants, and even a farmers’ market (seasonal). This town is also not without its historical significance. It was an important junction point of the Intercolonial Railway. Remaining pieces of the old tracks and train cars were converted into what is now known as the Train Station Inn and Restaurant. Before departing on the last leg of your journey, stop for a quick summer swim in the warm waters of Tatamagouche Bay.

Pugwash: Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of this bike trip. Though the exploration doesn’t stop here. Pugwash is the site of Thinkers’ Lodge, the former home of Cyrus Eaton, a Canadian-American investment banker, businessman, and philanthropist. This National Historic Site also houses the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize awarded for an international peace conference calling for nuclear disarmament.

Fitzpatrick Mountain Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

Fitzpatrick Mountain trail is an 8‑kilometre section of the longer Cape to Cape trail system. As you begin your ascent, headed 275 meters above sea level, you will be greeted by the serene sights of historic homesteads and abandoned farmland. Along the way, you will pass through private land, site of a blueberry farm – just be sure not to pick the crop! As the journey continues the trail will open to mature hardwood trees, including beech and maple. Since there is little undergrowth, cyclists will get an unobstructed view through the forest, and even some stunning views of the countryside below the mountain.

Though it might be hard to miss, once you arrive close to the Smith Rock Lodge & Chalets, keep an eye out for a panoramic view of the countryside and the Northumberland Strait in the distance. When the weather is clear, cyclists may even get a glimpse of Pictou Harbour, Pictou Island, and the ridge of hills to the east leading to Cape George. Once at the summit, stop for a peaceful picnic with a view before continuing or heading back.

Challenging and Thrilling: Antigonish to Pictou

Difficulty: Difficult

Experienced cyclists or those looking for more of a challenge will appreciate the steep climbs and hair-rising descents found along the Antigonish to Pictou route. This 156-kilometer stretch will take cyclists past some of Nova Scotia’s most stunning beaches, so be sure to pack your swimming gear.

Antigonish: This journey will begin in the picturesque town of Antigonish, otherwise known as the Highland Heart of Nova Scotia”. Despite its size, it is home to St. Xavier University, a prominent Canadian educational institution. As the next part of the journey will involve plenty of uphill cycling, consider fueling up” at one of the town’s cafes or eateries.

Cape George: As you approach the Cape George area, you will be greeted by the impressive sights of the Mabou Highlands and Creignish Hills of Cape Breton across St. George’s Bay. About 30-kilometers past Cape George is Arisaig Provincial Park. You’ll want to spend some time here, and even set your bike aside for a walk along the loop trail. Here, you can take advantage of viewing platforms that open to seacliffs and interpretive panels that explain the areas’ unique rock formations.

Once you’ve completed the Cape George ascent, enjoy the scenic descent into a couple of Nova Scotia’s premier beaches. Merigomish Beach will be your first stop, a three-kilometer stretch of sand, with plenty of exploration to be had. Check out the beach grasses in the area and the potential for wildlife by the sea. Then, continue to Melmerby Beach, considered one of the warmest saltwater beaches in Nova Scotia. Park your bike and take a walk along the boardwalk for fantastic views of the ocean, and Prince Edward Island, visible on the horizon on a clear day.

Pictou: Congratulations you made it to the end of this bike trip. Before your arrival into town, pick up some meats and cheeses at the Pork Shop in New Glasgow, and enjoy a picnic at Trenton Park.

Keen to experience more of what Nova Scotia has to offer? Check out some of these top attractions across the province during your next visit.

Special thanks to the staff at the Comfort Inn in Amherst, NS for their suggestions.

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