Last September when we sailed on Holland America’s 7-Day Canada and New England Discovery cruise on the ms Rotterdam, we visited Sydney on Cape Breton Island.
This cruise port is famous for having the world’s largest fiddle. (Look close and you can see it in the photo above.) Sydney is a relatively small town that we’d visited several times before, so I was looking forward to exploring more of Cape Breton Island.
I booked Holland America’s “Baddeck On Your Own” shore excursion, which transports you from the port of Sydney to the resort town of Baddeck. It is about a 75-minute drive, during which which the guide shared interesting commentary about the history of Sydney and of Cape Breton Island.
As you get close to Baddeck, the views of the Bras d’Or Lake are spectacular. One of the world’s largest saltwater tidal lakes, Bras d’Or Lake covers 425 square miles at the center of Cape Breton Island. The village of Baddeck is situated on the lake’s northern shore.
A village of 769 residents, Baddeck is the county seat for Victoria County, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Baddeck is the perfect size for walking around to explore on your own. This shore excursion gives you about 3 hours in Baddeck, dropping off participants near the tourist information office. There are numerous shops and restaurants in this charming resort town.
I started out by walking the lakefront path. The “Bells at Baddeck” sculpture honors Mabel (Hubbard) Bell and Alexander Graham Bell. In 1885, Bell — the inventor of the telephone –acquired land near Baddeck overlooking the Bras d’Or Lake. The area reminded him of his childhood years in Scotland.
Bell spent the last 32 years of his life in Baddeck, where he established a summer estate with research laboratories.
I walked about a half a mile to this road just at the edge of town. It leads to the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. (If this sounds like too much walking, Holland America also offers several other tours by bus that include a visit to this museum.)
At the museum, I was surprised to learn that Alexander Graham Bell was a life-long researcher and inventor. He established research laboratories in Baddeck where he continued to experiment on a diverse range of scientific endeavors including hydrofoil technologies, powered flight, sheep breeding and genetics among many others.
It was Bell’s work with the deaf, including his wife, that inspired him to invent the telephone. Helen Keller was a visitor to the Bell’s Baddeck estate.
Alexander Graham Bell also championed the inventiveness trait in other locals. In 1909, Baddeck native J.A.D. McCurdy manned the first Canadian flight above Baddeck Bay in the Silver Dart.
The Silver Dart (or Aerodrome #4) was a derivative of an early aircraft built by a Canadian/U.S. team at the Aerial Experiment Association (AEA), formed under the guidance of Alexander Graham Bell in Hammondsport, New York.
After the aircraft was successfully flown in Hammondsport, iy was dismantled and shipped to Baddeck. On February 23, 1909, the Silver Dart was flown off the ice of Baddeck Bay. This was the first controlled powered flight in Canada.
In 1910, McCurdy became the first Canadian to be issued a pilot’s license and the following year, he made the first flight from Florida to Cuba. In 1915, McCurdy established Canada’s first aviation school in Canada — the Curtiss Flying School. McCurdy was also the first manager of Long Branch Aerodrome, Canada’s first airport.
In addition to being a Canadian aviation pioneer, John Alexander Douglas McCurdy served as Nova Scotia’s 20th Lieutenant Governor from 1947 to 1952.
To learn more about Baddeck and Alexander Graham Bell, check out these resources:
For more on cruising in Canada and New England:
- A Walk Around Halifax, Nova Scotia During Our Visit By Cruise Ship
- In Search of the Best Lobster Roll During Our Canada and New England Cruise
- A Do-It-Yourself Port Day in Quebec City, Canada
- Highlights From Our Visit to Prince Edward Island Via Cruise Ship
- A Walk Around Bar Harbor, Maine via a Cruise Ship Visit