It’s really an island within an island on Cape Breton’s “Sunset Side” or western shore — linguistically, culturally, architecturally and gastronomically. There are so many reasons to include a stop at the Acadian French outpost of Chéticamp in your itinerary beyond the surprisingly good golf there. Part New England, part New Orleans, part California coast, it’s the perfect place to recharge after exploring the national park to the north.
PLAY — Before arranging your tee time at Le Portage Golf Club make sure you’re prepared for a true unexpected treat that reflects the passion, pride and hard work of the local golfers who designed, built and financed it. Following a former trail where traders would port their canoes — hence the name — the course is a naturalistic, engaging, no-frills experience book-ended by incredible opening and closing holes. Start or finish your round with a quick breakfast or lunch among the regulars in the friendly clubhouse.
STAY — Though it’s only been open a short time, Maison Fiset is a French country inn-styled bed and breakfast with staying power. In fact, it’s already the best place to stay in town, at least as far as we’re concerned. With eight well-appointed rooms, including two suites with their own Jacuzzi tubs and balconies, the remodeled building dates to the 19th century but embraces modern comforts in all the right ways, and the full breakfast (orders are taken the night before) is simply outstanding. Also worth a look are Auberge Doucet Inn, the quaint Cabot Trail Sea & Golf Chalets and Cheticamp Island Resort.
EAT — As with every stop on a Cape Breton excursion, seafood plays a central part in Chéticamp’s culinary history. This town is, after all, a fishing village. So plan on finding some fine chowder and fresh fish (a lot of it fried, but available in any style) at places like Laurie’s Motor Inn, Seafood Stop and All Aboard. And if you love fresh baked goods, be sure to check out the delectable treats at Aucoin Bakery — it’ll become a regular morning stop.
GETTING THERE — Located on a remote stretch of the island’s northwest coast, Chéticamp is a two-hour drive from Ingonish on the eastern side. It’s an hour north of Inverness and Baddeck and close to two hours from Sydney. Chances are it won’t be the first stop on a golf tour, so call it an along-the-way gem.
DON’T MISS — It’s easily the main manmade landmark in Chéticamp, soaring above the Cabot Trail with a sturdy majesty as the town’s marina and the Gulf of St. Lawrence stretch out in full view right across the road. LE EGLISE SAINT-PIERRE (St. Peter’s) Church stands as a monument not only to village residents’ deep Acadian roots and faith but to their abilities as builders. The stone edifice was built with rocks quarried straight from the sea that were slid across the ice one winter in the 1890s. Take a tour, admire and reflect.