Sydney is the main port and largest community on Cape Breton Island, in Nova Scotia. It also serves as the hub of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (population approx. 100,000), which includes nearby communities such as North Sydney and Glace Bay. Although not a major tourist destination in itself, Sydney makes for a convenient base to explore south-eastern Cape Breton and has a full range of shops and services not found elsewhere on Cape Breton Island. The Sydney area has a rich coal mining and industrial history, the remnants of which can be found throughout the region.
Sydney is served by the nearby Sydney Airport (IATA: YQY), which has year round flights by Air Canada with prop service several times per day from Halifax and daily jet service from Toronto. Westjet also provides non-stop jet service from Toronto from May to October.
During the summer the airport is served by Air Saint-Pierre (with flights from Saint-Pierre and Miquelon).
Driving to Sydney can be done by crossing the Canso Causeway which links Cape Breton Island to the Nova Scotia mainland near Port Hawkesbury. From there you have two options: the slightly longer but straighter Highways 105 and 125 (via Baddeck and North Sydney) or the shorter but twistier Route 4 (via St. Peter's).
North Sydney is the site of the Marine Atlantic terminal which serves as the main connection to Newfoundland. From the ferry terminal it is about a 20 minute drive on Highway 125 to Sydney. A cab was $30 for this ride in 2017.
Most sights within the downtown are within walking distance, however most major tourist sights are well outside of the city and require a car or pre-arranged tour bus.
A basic local bus service is operated by Transit Cape Breton, providing local service within Sydney, hourly service to Dominion and Glace Bay, and limited service to North Sydney, Sydney Mines and New Waterford. Service is minimal during evening hours, and no service is provided on Sundays or public holidays. Fares range from $1.25 to $5.00, depending on distance.
Although Sydney is the center of Cape Breton, it lacks major tourist sites itself. A few things to see are:
- The world's largest fiddle is located on the waterfront by the Joan Harriss Cruise Ship Pavilion.
- Two private homes dating to the earliest settlement of the city, Jost House and Cossitt House, remain in the downtown area of Sydney.
- The recently revived Wentworth Park, a 5 minute walk south from the downtown core, is worth a visit.
The Sydney marine terminal as well as Charlotte Street have an abundance of arts and crafts stores selling traditional Cape Breton souvenirs.
Sydney has many well established restaurants, most with menus full of classic seafood favorites.
- All-Star Grille, inside the Sydney casino. This restaurant features a large menu consisting of a good mixture of diner classics and newer 'fusion-fare'. It should be noted that since it is located inside the casino, it is off-limits to those under 19.
- Mescalero's Steak House, . Located 5 minutes from downtown is Sydneys newest restaurant. Executive Chefs Todd MacIntyre and Mike Fitzgerald are proud to offer an extensive menu with something for every taste, including hand-selected cuts of Canadian Certified AAA Angus beef cooked over an open flame grill.
Sydney is home to a handful of places to rest your head ranging from small motels to larger hotels.
- Royale Hotel, 345 Esplanade, ☎ +1 (902) 539-2148, . checkout: 11am, but flexible. Older hotel type of accommodations. Three floors without an elevator. Dated, with some box tvs still around (gasp!), but clean, friendly & accommodating. Rooms typically run from $56 - $112. edit
- Cambridge Suites, 380 Esplanade, ☎ 1-800-565-9466 (toll-free) or +1 902 562-6500 (fax: +1 902 564-6011). Although the nicest hotel in the city, it lacks a swimming pool so it might not be very family friendly, which might be a selling point for busy business travelers. Rooms typically run from $149 - $199. edit
- Days Inn Sydney, 480 Kings Road, ☎ 1-877-834-0333 (fax: +1 902 539-2773). This hotel also has a pool, sauna, hot tub, and gym. Rooms run from $134 - $159. edit
- Delta Sydney, 300 Esplanade, ☎ 1-800-565-1001 (toll-free) or +1 902 562-7500 (fax: +1 902 562-3023). This hotel features large conference facilities and ballrooms as well as a large swimming pool, waterslide, gym and sauna. Rooms typically run from $159 - $219. edit
- Quality Inn, 560 Kings Road, ☎ +1 902 539-8101. Hotel with free high-speed Internet, restaurant and lounge, heated pool, exercise room, executive suite, courtyard and free parking. Rates $109- 199. edit
- Beacon Motel, 294 Keltic Drive, ☎ 1-866-562-8282. Cheaper motel located 10 minutes outside of the downtown core. edit
- The Martin Arms, 100 Kings Road, ☎ 1-902-567-3311. Located on the fringe of the downtown core. Extensive renovations recently. $94 to $149. edit
For travelers seeking something with a little more character try one of the many bed and breakfasts in the area a selection of which can be found here
- Glace Bay, at the eastern end of Highway 4, is home to a working fishing harbour, the Cape Breton Miners' Museum and the Marconi National Historic Site.
- The Fortress of Louisbourg located in Louisbourg, about a half hour's drive away, is a reconstruction of the 18th century fortified French town whose presence plagued the British colonies of New England.
- Stop at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site of Canada in Baddeck.
- And no visit to Cape Breton is complete without a trip around the famous Cabot Trail, which regularly places high on lists of 'Best Drives in the World'