The third-best island in the world

Cape Breton beat not only P.E.I. and Vancouver—it beat Hawaii


If island tourism was a prom, Cape Breton would be queen, Vancouver Island a graceful runner-up, and P.E.I. the wallflower that didn’t get any signatures in her yearbook.

In its annual reader survey, Travel + Leisure magazine—called “the bible” of the tourist trade by industry insiders—ranked the land of fiddlers and bagpipes the number one island to visit in North America. Cape Breton was also named the number three island in the world, right behind Bali and the Galapagos, beating out such high-profile destinations as Hawaii, Maui and the Maldives.

Among the Canadian contenders, Vancouver Island was close behind, coming third on the continent and 10th worldwide. But P.E.I., which ranked fourth in Canada and the U.S., didn’t place globally at all.

“It’s disappointing,” Robert Ferguson of Tourism P.E.I. conceded. “We would have loved to see Prince Edward Island as number one. But at the same time, Cape Breton Island is a fantastic destination.” Ferguson then added that the ranking is “very subjective.”

Capers don’t seem to care. Roy Cavanaugh of the tourism agency Destination Cape Breton­ says the ranking is no surprise. “Our culture sets us apart. Our music and our dance, our stories, our history. And I think we’ve got a very friendly and welcoming population who are particularly open to visitors.”

This is Cape Breton’s second year in a row in first place. Before that, Vancouver often held the title. “We like to be number one,” says Dave Petyk of Tourism Vancouver Island, but he still wants to congratulate Capers. He also wanted to take the opportunity to remind them that Vancouver Island is still ranked as North America’s best island destination by Condé Nast Traveller, one of the world’s most prominent luxury travel magazines.


The third-best island in the world

  1. Three weeks ago we met a French/German couple at the Frankfurt airport who were coming to Canada for their honeymoon. They had rented a camper in Nova Scotia & planned on visiting NS, PEI & Quebec City. They parked their rented camper in our driveway (Dartmouth) and stayed with us for 2 nights at the beginning and another 2 nights at the end of their trip. They soon realized they'd have to forgo a trip to Quebec considering the distance and costs. They spent a week on both Cape Breton and PEI and were thrilled with the scenery and the people they met who went out of their way to show them around. They called this eve to let us know they arrived home safely and reiterate how much they enjoyed their trip. There are many Germans who have bought summer properties in Cape Breton and elsewhere in NS.

    • So next thing we know the place will be owned by Germany.

      • At least they are bringing money to NS. I'll admit, however, that European, American and 'upper Canadian' purchasers of property, especially along the coast, has resulted in increased assessment costs to the point that many older home owners (many fishers) are having a difficult time paying their ever increasing property taxes. Long story and can't recall if, or how, the province resolved the issue. We do, however, need more immigrants, investment, etc.


    • I'd guess it's a little too large to have been considered.

      • Like Cape Breton, it is also only a portion of a province, not a whole province.

        • That has nothing to do with it. I assume they did not include Great Britain or Australia either. You can fit 25 Cape Bretons into Newfoundland.

  3. From Cape Breton and my husband is from Newfoundland, visit both every year and wonder how come we are not in first place??? Gods Country by'es

  4. The east coast is chockablock with beautiful scenery and wonderful people. Makes me proud to be Canadian.

  5. I am with you guys, where is Newfoundland on this list?

    • I guess the ferry ride from North Sydney was too expensive and too long so they decided to skip Newfoundland… if they had visited I am sure that it would have shot all the way to number 1!

  6. My girl friend and I are currently in Cape Breton Island and I just cannot express in words how beautiful and majastic this place really is! To start off, there are numerous 700 ft mountains that make up the landscape and surround the Island with roads suspended far up overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Breathtaking look out post that the camera cannot seem to capture like the human eye can. We where on a walking trail called Skyline and saw three moose, one being a baby. You would think that these wild creatures that weigh up to 1200 lb and are the size of a compact car were frightened by us but where more concerned about getting comfortable in the sun and whatching us while just only 5 feet away.

    • Our new friends from Germany did the Skyline trail too and saw moose as well. . You might have been on the trail at the same time. The views are breathtaking. Our friends met up with an older couple – about our age :-) who invited them to park their camper at their place, fed them, and them took them for a drive and a Cailie (sp?) at a local pub. Hubby made a CD of all their pics and we watched them on our TV. Fantastic and very artistic pics. We know they'll be showing them to all their family & friends.

      BTW Pauline Morgan – my bro & SIL spent 3 weeks the other year touring Newfoundland and loved it..

    • definition of a mountain …

      Flat to 500 feet, base to highest point – Rolling Plain
      Highest point 501 to 999 feet above base – Hill
      Highest point 1,000 feet above base – MOUNTAIN

      Come to BC – we will show you mountains …

  7. The Philippines has 7,000 islands the temperatures in different
    places hot to cold, dry to wet, sunny to rainny, calm to huricane wind,
    earthquake to volcanic eraption, tornado called funnel, landslides,
    tsunamis to great floods wiping out whole towns, islands grow,
    islands disappear, Blood relatives Muslims and Christians merrilly
    shooting at each other, then when they get tired killing each other,
    they declare timeout in the middle of the fight to gather their dead and wounded to bury and heal. Yes, it is the exciting place in the World.
    Numero Uno!!!!!!!!!

  8. You can take the girl out of Cape Breton, but you can't take Cape Breton out of the girl.
    The part of Canada, I wil always love and cherish.
    Gloria (Harris) Middleton

  9. Congratulations Cape Breton for its beauty and also the culture it has created! Can't wait to be home next week!

  10. I agree Cape Breton is beautiful, but Newfoundland should definately be up there for its grandeur and incredible sweeps of rock and sky. Sandra (Ottawa)

  11. Congrats…it's been on my list of must-see's for years. It just moved up a few spots!

    • I love the fact that we're on your must see list – but even more fascinating is the fact that your name is Daria! I hardly ever see that.

  12. Don't forget that with the new land connection to NS Cape Britain Island is no longer an island.

    • Cape Britian??????? OMG, where are you from?

    • New? When's the last time you visited? 1950?

    • sound ika PEIer. on't cry. you're good too

  13. It's not Cape "Britain", it's Cape "Breton", and the connection to the Nova Scotia mainland is a MAN made causeway. It was not made by God or nature. Yes, we ARE an island, geographically and in spirit!

    • no ur not an island anymore now face it!

  14. The home of our hearts. I have never longed for anything with so much passion as I long for home.

    Cape Breton and the healing power of the Bras D'Or lakes.

  15. I'd take Cape Breton over Bali or the Galapagos any day.

  16. So, after this article, poor old Cape Breton will be sold to developers. They are already booking flights with cheques in hand.
    5 years hence, the culture will be in museums and it will be unaffordable to visit.
    Thanks Macleans!

  17. lol ur probably not even on the list its a lie

  18. britain or breatain watever

  19. no one even knows the name of that island

  20. the number one island in the world shoud be ILES DE LA MADELEINE :)

  21. Always great to see the homeland get recognized.

  22. I was born In NS been to CB lots of times and seasons it is beautiful but no weares close to Vancouver Island . we have a mini Cabot Trail on the Malhat no black flies mosquitoes no 6 months of winter golf all year but give them no 1 I love the people there especially my relitives in Framboise out side of St Peters

  23. I want to go to every island listed above, except the ones in the Philippines.

  24. More tourists should go east. Vancouver Island is infested with them. Take a few thousand retirees too as they are putting serious strain on our health care system with out contributing to it or creating much in the way of real employment.

    • In '75 I spent 2 weeks in BC (Vancouver & the Okanagan) , visiting old friends, formerly from Montreal. Seriously thought about moving to BC, but was discouraged by the high cost of living, distance from family & loved ones, feeling cut off from the rest of Canada by the mountains, and the never ending rain during the winter. One friend from BC retired in PEI and loves it, another married an American & moved to California. Third lives in Sooke where, unless you've got big bucks, you'll never own a house. I decided to move to Halifax instead. Most thought I was nuts. I've had a great life here, however, still miss Mtl's cosmopolitan ambiance and one day, when my husband retires, we may return.

  25. My trip to Cape Breton island was quite memorable. I saw the Queen at Louisbourg (she was visiting Canada for the Commonwealth games). I wish we had gotten around to seeing the Sidney tar ponds though. Sometimes we take a place for granted and assume it will always be there.

  26. Oh my God don't tell anybody about the mountain lookouts on Cape Breton! They'll do to you what they did to Wolfe Island and are planning to do to Amherst Island in Lake Ontario!

    See http://www.wind-watch.org/pix/displayimage.php?al

    The peaceful, rural life on the island has been utterly destroyed for the sake of subsidies and tax breaks for fat cats in Toronto and New York.

  27. I find it somewhat amusing, being a former Caper, trying to understand yet another bizzare survey in this magazine. Obviously none of the people doing these surveys have every visited our "magical isle" in Febuary. Cheers.

  28. I can't believe that no one else has noticed a giant error in this article. "Hawaii, Maui" are listed as two different places….Maui is part of Hawaii! Takes a wee bit of credibility away…
    That being said, congrats Cape Breton!

    • I think they mean Maui island and Big Hawaii island….two separate islands in the state of Hawaii!

  29. Yes, Newfoundland and Isles de Madelaine are beautiful but so is Hawaii but Cape Breton Island won so all of us Canadians should be happy and proud for that and not vengeful….

  30. A caper who lived six yrs on Van Isle – sorry Victoria, the east wins, even with her winters.

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