The coal mines are long gone from this seaside town halfway up the island’s west coast, but its fortunes are definitely looking up with the opening of Cabot Links. Shops and restaurants are bustling during the summer months and there’s a bounce in the steps of locals who’ve lived here for generations. Now with even more golf options, the Bandon-like boom is sure to continue. That can only be a positive thing for visitors.
PLAY — Pretty much the moment Bandon Dunes founder Mike Keiser signed on as an investor-owner for Cabot Links, it was destined to be the 900-pound gorilla of Cape Breton golf. And the other courses on the trail are OK with it because having that kind of name recognition, marketing muscle and built-in buzz will only increase everybody’s bottom line. It doesn’t hurt that Cabot is a pure, perfectly modulated links experience that merits repeated plays per visit. And now that Cabot Cliffs has opened to international acclaim, this stretch of coastline is mentioned in the same breath as Scotland, Ireland, Bandon and other of the world’s grand golf destinations.
STAY — For wall-to-wall golfers who prefer quick access to the course above all else, the only game in town is the lodge right there at Cabot Links. Since it’s situated alongside the practice green and first part of the par-5 No. 6 hole and designed so every window looks west, it’s impossible to get a room with a bad view because it simply doesn’t exist. And the digs themselves are smartly thought out with emphasis on cleaning up and resting up for the next round. Meanwhile, there are some solid nearby options — Glenora Distillery (which helps simplify getting to your bed after a night of “sampling” some of the best whiskey in North America),
bed-and-breakfasts, small lodges and motels, most with at least partial ocean views, such as the Dusky Diamond.
EAT — Cabot Links gets a nod here for its sleek, casual restaurant Panorama, both for its sophisticated menu of locally-sourced seafood, lamb and beef and its almost urban vibe. From there, Inverness dining options run from tasty fare at Glenora to milkshakes at the little frosty across from Cabot’s entrance, or a classic breakfast or lunch at the Coal Miner’s Cafe.
GETTING THERE — There’s talk of expanding a nearby airstrip to allow larger private planes to land, but in the meantime, air service to either Halifax (four hours away) or Sydney (two hours) is your best bet. The closest full-fledged tourist town is Baddeck, and there are also ferries to Prince Edward Island.
DON’T MISS — Sampling the world’s best single-malt whisky at the place of its origin used to require a trip to Scotland or Wales, but Cape Breton’s GLENORA DISTILLERY now brings the art of brewing to North America in a smooth and satisfying way. At any given time, they’re putting hundreds of barrels of spirits through their painstaking production paces, then, depending on the desired strength and flavor profile, bottling them starting at 10 years of age. Their whiskies are racking up awards already. If sipping arts are your thing, step right up.