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Meat Cove, NS
Friday, July 16, 2004 - 6:00pm by Lolo
15 miles and 0.5 hours from our last stop - 2 night stay
I was quite surprised to find that a place with a name like Meat Cove turned out to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. In fact, it was the name that originally caught my eye in the guidebooks and made me want to come here in the first place. It was such a contrast to the obviously tourist-in-mind names that the rest of Nova Scotia gave to places and roads that I was curious to see what this place was all about.
Meat Cove was not an easy place to get to—you really had to want to visit and spend the night there. Although it was only about 17 miles off the Cabot Trail, the last 3 miles are over a bumpy, dirt road that often comes precariously close to a steep drop-off. While not bad for a car, the road is a bit rough in an RV, yet definitely worth the effort. The dirt road came to a dead end at the Meat Cove Campground, perched on a highland bluff overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It was the most spectacular location for a campground that I have ever seen!
It really wasn’t much of a campground in terms of facilities—in fact, there were none, but with views like that, it didn’t need anything more. We were a little concerned that there were no other RVs, but only tents, camped out on the bluff, but we decided to inquire in the small office at the end of the road anyway. We were greeted (kind of) by the very laconic owner of the campground, who assured us we could fit. He led us back outside, lowered a rope blocking the entry out onto the bluff, and pointed to a magnificent spot right at the edge of the drop-off. Although the area was pretty flat, I made Herb put blocks behind our tires to ensure that we wouldn’t plunge into the sea while sleeping. From our back windows, it actually seemed like we were hanging over the edge.
The weather was perfect—sunny and warm, so we took the steep path that lead down to a small rocky beach. Since the water was a bit chilly, we skipped the swim and played around in the Meat Cove Brook instead.
There wasn’t a whole lot to do at Meat Cove. The entire population is probably less than 40 and most of them are members of the McClellan family, who have been living and fishing here for six generations. In fact, they own the campground, which I imagine has given them a pretty decent living. I wonder if they ever regret giving up the best part of their property for a bunch of tourists to set their tents up on. Maybe that’s why the owner wasn’t very talkative. I did get him to tell me the origin of the name Meat Cove though. He said that this cove was used by early seamen as a place to stock up on moose and deer meat.
The next morning we arose early to catch the sun rising over Meat Cove. I’m not an early morning person so the logistics were perfect—I sat up in bed, looked to my left, oohed and aahed, and then flopped back down on my pillow. Herb and the boys, however, actually got out of the RV to take some pictures. To each his own.
Later that morning we took a hike from the campground up to the top of Little Grassy, the highest point at Meat Cove. Of course, the view was great and we could even look down on the campground and see our motor home, which looked a bit like a toy from this distance.
Once back down at the campsite, we had to decide whether to stay another night or move on. None of us minded the lack of things to do (surprisingly, even the boys) and the weather was perfect, so we unanimously voted to stay another night. We had covered a lot of ground the last couple of days, so the chance to just sit back and relax was quite welcome. And that’s just what we did. We set out our beach chairs, read, played cards, and just looked out over the magnificent view. Herb read the entire Da Vinci Code in one sitting.
The next morning we awoke to the sound of a steady rain hitting the roof of the RV. Herb, concerned that the already bad road would be even worse when muddy, suggested that we leave as soon as possible. One of the nice things about an RV—and there are many of them—is that there’s no packing or unpacking to do along route, so we were ready to go in about 10 minutes. We didn’t want to take any chances on missing our ferry to Newfoundland that afternoon.
The road out was pretty sloppy, but we did okay. Since we had about 5 hours to make the 2 ½ hour drive to the ferry terminal in North Sydney, we did some sightseeing along the way, stopping in the quaint fishing village of Neils Harbour and at the famous Keltic Lodge in Ingonish. We made it to the ferry terminal with plenty of time to spare.
Meat Cove is located at what seems to be the end of the world, on the tip of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The only way to get there is over a 3-mile, bumpy, dirt road that ends at the Meat Cove Campground. This primitive, 20-site campground is perched on a highland bluff with spectacular views of the coastline along the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The Meat Cove Campground is owned by the McLellan family, who have lived and fished in this area for six generations. There is really nothing there, but a grassy knoll to pitch a tent or park a small RV. But what a view!
While there is not much happening at Meat Cove in terms of entertainment, those that love nature can find plenty to do. There are several nice hikes departing from the campground, including a short steep one that leads to the highest point on the bluff. Also, from the campground, you can clamber down a steep path to a small beach where a pretty stream flows into the Gulf. The water is chilly, but swimmable. Perhaps best of all, just sit back and enjoy the view. Pilot whales are very frequently sighted in the waters below the campground.
Meat Cove location map