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The Margarees – So much to discover

Story by: Adèle LeBlanc

“It’s just a magical place,” says Adèle LeBlanc who was born and raised in the Margarees, in Fordview, an 8 km stretch of East Margaree. “We all have a very big sense of pride of what Margaree we’re from. I’ve never lost that love or that feeling of seeing this community evolve through the seasons. It’s rural, but it’s a close-knit community all the same. There’s peace and quiet which is lovely, and I think a lot of people are kind of jealous they aren’t here, really. When the view opens up into the Valley and you have that beauty, and the picturesque view of the River, and the bumpy roads, that’s all part of the feeling that you just know you’re heading somewhere that’s remote, but there’s still access to the essentials here. There’s a friendly community feeling here and peace and quiet, kind of a chance to unplug if that’s what you want. I just think it’s nice.”

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Where would you place Margaree on a map?

“Geographically, Margaree spans a lot of area. It’s like the map of the Margaree River itself, which is what really brings this community together. The Dancing Goat is a big landmark. I consider Lake O’Law, the picnic park, the Lakes Campground, kind of the start of Margaree on that end, but the Dancing Goat is the big landmark on the Cabot Trail end. If you’re travelling Route 19, which comes down along SW Margaree, where that actually opens up and you start to see the river again, right at the church. And then right up all through Margaree Forks, East Margaree, Belle Côte, and Margaree Harbour when you’re heading out toward the Shore Road. And there’s Big Intervale which is beautiful and there are some really nice artisans out that way, the Margaree Valley, Portree area. The community takes in a little bit of Route 395 towards Whycocomagh, as well, because we have Pipers Glen, although I guess there’s a little bit of friendly competition about which community can claim Egypt Falls.”

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Are there any seasonal highlights, events, or celebrations that bring the community together?

“The Margarees are home to many community celebrations throughout the year—Family Fun Day in winter, Fireman’s Day in summer, plus Celtic Colours International Festival and Kitchenfest concerts and events. The Cabot Trail Relay runs through here and there’s the Terry Fox Run in September. Margaree Highland Games happen during the second week of August and features competitors from North America, and twice we had participants from France. There are also weekend events around the Games like bingo, and a community supper and dance. At just $5 for admission, the Games are accessible to families, locals and visitors. Also in August is the anything that floats race. The Race has competition in two categories, the “Fast and the Furious”-like one for canoers and kayakers, and the homemade, “pop bottles and pool noodles strung together” which is always a lot of fun. Belle Côte Days are usually celebrated in July and they have a parade and a concert and a big chicken barbecue. That typically brings a lot of people home.”

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What are some unique spots or hidden gems in the Margarees?

“I think a real hidden gem here is the Old Miller Trout Farm. They’re in Margaree Forks in a beautiful location that’s easy to access. You can bring your own gear, or rent some there, and fish. You can literally get a fresh fish for supper and they’ll filet it and everything for you. Pat and John are just a lovely couple who know a lot about the area and they always have time for you. Cape Clear is another local gem. It’s a little bit harder to get to and you need a four-wheel drive. It’s more of a remote drive and but a really spectacular view. You can check that out on a map—it’s not something you just come across. The Coady & Tompkins Memorial Library is a unique spot where they have a community pizza oven that they fire up on a volunteer schedule. You bring your own ingredients, but there’s always a volunteer there who’s helping to manage the fire and making sure people are safe. That can be fun for your whole family, or just for yourself, after your beach day, or in between beach hopping.”

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What kinds of things might you recommend for a family to do while staying in the area?

“We are very fortunate to have four beaches right here in the Margarees. They’re not rocky beaches, and I think Whale Cove and Chimney Corner have some of the best sand. Whale Cove has a raft that goes out in the summer, too. That’s fun for swimming out to and jumping off. You could easily beach hop, or just spend a few hours on the beach. I really enjoy the picnic park at Lake O’Law, too. Whether you bring your own picnic or grab something at the The Lakes Campground & Restaurant nearby, families could spend a couple of hours there. You can also rent canoes, paddle boats, and they have mini putt. Guided Salmon fishing along the River is a very popular activity, and we have the oldest fish hatchery in Nova Scotia—the Margaree Fish Hatchery, and the Salmon Museum, both of which can be interesting places for families to visit.”  You could also explore the shores—the River and beaches—with CB West Paddleboards or go tubing on the River with Live Life In Tents.”

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A group of stand-up paddleboarders

Is there anything to do in the area that leaves no doubt you are on Cape Breton Island?

“You can get a good dose of Cape Breton culture at the adult square dance in Southwest Margaree on Fridays and live local music at the Normaway Inn from July to October. Stop in Two Macs Gallery, opposite the Dancing Goat, for a unique, locally hand-crafted gift or memento and don’t miss Myles From Nowhere, a full-to-the-rafters antique shop at Margaree Forks that’s a fun stop for all ages. As well as artisan gift shops, some really renowned artists have studios in the area including Bell Fraser whose Cape Breton Clay pottery is available exclusively at her studio and shop in Margaree Valley, and Anne Morrell Robinson, 12 km down a gravel road at King Ross Quilts in Big Intervale. During winter, snowmobiling is a very popular activity. You can get up into the Highlands and access the trail network that connects you straight into Chéticamp and beyond, I think as far as Baddeck.”

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What types of amenities are available?

“Cell service can be spotty, especially up in North West Margaree it’s not that great. But as you get into Margaree Forks, East Margaree, towards Belle Côte and Margaree Harbour, it’s all pretty good along there. Consider it an opportunity to unplug and give yourself a real getaway. There are a few ATMs around, one at the conveniences store in Northeast Margaree, and at Margaree Forks Co-op which is kind of the hub of our community, and where you’ll find an NSLC outlet. WiFi is available at the Library in Margaree Forks and you can sign on from the parking lot with a free code and no password. Pretty much any accommodations or businesses have WiFi too if you’re staying over.”

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Where would you recommend to eat?

The Dancing Goat is very much a must-stop for visitors. You can get a buffet brunch with a great view at The Duck Cove Inn on Sundays and they have more of a family-stye kind of menu at Belle View Restaurant. The Lakes do kind of family-style food as well. Sit down at the Island Sunset for their daily dinner menu, or go for more of a five course, small-plate style intimate dining experience at the seasonally-focussed Woodroad Restaurant with another spectacular view. Another pretty special spot is Big Intervale Fishing Lodge. It’s a bit of a drive to get there but it’s worth it. If you’re looking for a cold cone, there’s The Ice Cream Shop at NE Margaree by the Dancing Goat and one towards Belle Côte at Belle View Restaurant.”

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What kinds of accommodations are available if you plan to stay the night?

“We have a kind of a boom in luxury accommodations right now.  There’s the Valley View Chalets up at Northeast Margaree. And they too have jacuzzis and private accommodations with great views. There’s also Swallow Bank Cottages in Margaree Centre and glamping at Live Life In Tents, as well. And there are lots of smaller Airbnb and Bed and Breakfasts, and a more traditional kind of motel-style at the Duck Cove Inn. There are a variety of options and price points, so if you wanted a  campsite or a night with a jacuzzi on the deck overlooking the sunset, you can find either of those things here.”

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7 Days of Glamping on Cape Breton Island 3
Adèle LeBlanc

Adèle LeBlanc

Adèle LeBlanc is a farmer’s daughter—a good country girl, crazy about summer, slow days, and all things Cape Breton. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism & Hospitality Management, and a love of sharing good food and conversation with others, Adèle teaches customer service skills and dining room etiquette to Culinary students at the Nova Scotia Community College. Her personal commitment to always knowing and appreciating what is in her own backyard has led Adèle to volunteer with several community development projects including The Margaree Highland Games and The Terry Fox Run. Having managed The Baddeck Farmers Market for three years, Adèle is an advocate for local food, the coming together of community, and the creative opportunities that arise from living year-round in rural Nova Scotia.

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