Explore Cape Breton Island in Canada in a classic Land Rover Defender

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A custom Land Rover Defender 90 was the perfect all-terrain vehicle to explore remote parts of the island of Nova Scotia.



Photo by Scott McIntyre / Courtesy Destination Cape Breton

A meandering mix of causeways, paths, stairs and stunning beauty that takes you from unreal ocean views to quaint fishing villages” – if anything, the island’s tourism bureau of Cape Breton underestimates the appeal of the 185-mile Cabot Trail, one of the most scenic routes in the world.

The trail, which loops around a significant portion of the island, passing through Cape Breton Highlands National Park at its northernmost point, has long drawn visitors to this end isolated and brackish in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. And yet, it has managed to stay under the radar of a certain class of traveler, as its rugged attractions have never included much high-end hospitality.

Photo by Adam Hill / Courtesy Destination Cape Breton

That has started to change in recent years with the development of Cabot Cape Breton, an award-winning golf resort on a rocky promontory in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which recently added a short 10-hole course and additional luxury real estate offerings.

The island, home to Glenora, North America’s oldest single malt whiskey, has also earned a reputation for phenomenal food and drink – not surprising given Cape Breton’s strong French heritage – making the most of the wealth of its fisheries, farms, breweries and distilleries.

Cabot Coast

Most recently, in 2020, serial investor and entrepreneur Jordan Borg acquired two properties on the island which he transformed into Cabot Coast, Cape Breton’s first collection of luxury vacation rentals, which will eventually become a world-class destination when its development plans are fully realized. over the next few years, think infinity pools, wood-fired saunas and in-house pastry chefs.

He likes to quote Alexander Graham Bell, who exclaimed on visiting the island for the first time: “I have been around the world. I’ve seen the Canadian and American Rockies, the Andes, the Alps and the Highlands of Scotland, but for sheer beauty, Cape Breton tops them all.

Views from the spacious porch of the beautiful Cabot Coast Conservatory Estate stretching for miles
(Cabot Coast)

“It all boils down to one simple fact: the geography of Cape Breton Island is absolutely stunning,” says Borg. “Abundant with beaches, cliffs, mountains and sea. It is rugged yet refined. Hard but hospitable. And it has something that everyone likes. For some it’s the pristine sandy beaches, for others it’s the indescribable mountain views”; golf courses, sailboat excursions, Atlantic salmon fishing – and the annual moose hunting lottery – already attract a wealthy (and especially Canadian) clientele who arrive by helicopter or private jet, and especially leave as soon as whether they pocketed their birdie or their trophy.

Now Borg aims to make them stay a little longer.

The Defender makes it easy to access even the most remote fishing spots in the Cape Breton Highlands
(Scott McIntyre)

Everything we had been keeping track of, when the opportunity to experience it first hand – and in a classic Land Rover Defender at that – presented itself thanks to a partnership between Cabot Coast and AutoONE, the first company Canadian acquisition of luxury and used vehicles. classic cars. AutoONE provided the wheels for the trip, a blacked-out, highly modified 1994 Land Rover Defender 90, the British off-roader with a heritage dating back to the 1940s, that looked like something out of 007’s garage.

Photo by Adam Hill / Destination Cape Breton

The company prides itself on being able to source any luxury car, classic or supercar you can imagine, from a hard-to-find icon like the Defender to a barely driven Lamborghini Aventador SVJ. Buyers from the United States can even arrange to pick up their car at the company’s branch in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, near Halifax International Airport, and take it on an awesome journey to the Cape Breton Island before having it shipped home.

A capable off-roader like the highly modified Defender D90 is essential for getting off the Cabot Trail
(Adam Hill)

AutoONE founder and CEO Kevin Andrews, a Toronto-based investment banker with a passion for fast cars, made the trip from Halifax. A Porsche and Ferrari enthusiast who has competed in almost every high-octane, high-stakes rally in the world, including the Gumball 3000, the Bullrun (seven times) and the ART Rally through Norway, the Sweden and Finland, it never passes the chance to do a road trip along the Cabot Trail.

Photo by Adam Hill / Destination Cape Breton

“Driving the Cape Breton Highlands is painfully beautiful,” Andrews tells us, “from a high mountain plateau, where moose sightings abound, to the rush down mountains through switchbacks and in quaint little fishing villages.” And while he’s not commenting for the post, we’re pretty sure he set Gumball-worthy speed records while doing so.

Rachel McGrath / Courtesy Destination Cape Breton

Completing the exhilarating driving portion of the day trip to the historic Glenora Distillery in the North Cape Highlands, after a first class tasting session, Borg arranged for a helicopter to pick us up and transport us to ‘At a scenic lighthouse near the Cabot Coast Conservatory Estate, just as the sun was setting in a ball of liquid fire; the pilot had recently retired from the military to hunt Russian submarines off the Canadian coast.

A seaside lobster ceilidh, or traditional Gaelic gathering, with freshly caught seafood in Cabot Cape Breton
(Cape Cabot Brittany)

Upon arriving at the Conservatory, a crackling fire greeted us in the library as celebrity local chef Bryan Picard of Bite House, who enjoy your food called “one of the most beautiful and unlikely restaurants in North America” – not to mention “impossible to get in” (Picard currently only does private dining) cooked up a six-course tasting menu in the gourmet kitchen of the main house. Every ingredient was sourced from a dozen miles from the property, and it was one of the most sublime meals we’ve had in some time.

Photo by Scott McIntyre / Courtesy Destination Cape Breton

Finishing off with a last glass of single malt that Andrews had providentially brought from Glenora, we went to bed dreaming of the next day’s adventures. Maybe a round of clifftop golf or some fly fishing, followed by a ride in the Defender to one of the most remote spots on the island. Picard no doubt had ideas about cooking moose meat over a campfire for supper.

Less than 24 hours into our stay in Cape Breton, we could already feel all the stress in the world melting away. We had no idea where we would put our iPhone, nor did we care. About that or anything else besides planning a trip home.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Maxim magazine.

Tags: 4x4s AutoONE Cabot Coast Canada Cape Breton Island classic cars Exclusive Jordan Borg Kevin Andrews Land Rover Land Rover Defender luxury Luxury Travel magazine article Nova Scotia off-road Rides Travel

Jared Paul Stern

Jared Paul Stern is editor of Maxim magazine and editor of JustLuxe

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