Bathed in sun, fog and ocean swells of the Atlantic Ocean, off the northeastern tip of Cape Breton Island, Scatarie Island stretches more than 10 km from Western Point, 2km off the mainland, to Eastern Head.
With a rugged, irregular shore, Scatarie Island is one of Nova Scotia's largest islands. Much of the interior supports a coastal spruce-fir forest, while the perimeter and a small island consists of exposed coastal bog and barren complexes, cliffs, headlands and beaches. Maximum elevation is about 50m above mean sea level . The climate is strongly influenced by the marine environment, which moderates temperatures and accounts for windy, often foggy conditions.
The island features a broad range of natural values, including rare plants, diverse fauna, extensive wetland complexes and a wide array of coastal landforms. Scatarie Island hosts a remarkable variety of rare or unusual flora, which are generally adapted to cool climate, coastal exposure, and associated site conditions.Several decades ago, the island was designated as a provincial wildlife management area, with regulations that permit waterfowl and deer hunting, but prohibit hunting or trapping of fur-bearing mammals and upland fauna.
Scatarie Island also offers excellent coastal hiking and sea kayaking opportunities. Former fishing settlements have long been abandoned and several light stations are now fully automated. The island has a long and rich history as a fishing settlement, and local ties to the area run very deep. Nearby residents still use the island as a destination for picnicking and walking, and several private properties along the original community road boast summer cottages. A yearly rendezvous occurs at Northwest Cove, when fishermen from the mainland community of Main-a-Dieu provide free passage to anyone wishing to visit.
Recent archaeological research by the Canadian Museum of Civilization has provided excellent evidence of 18th century fishing properties on the island, and tales abound of 19th and 20th century life on the island. The area is also known for its long history of shipwrecks, and archival material describes several of these in detail.
An existing trail skirts the length of the northern shore, and much of the shoreline and coastal barrens provide ideal hiking terrain. Attractions include scenic views, an exciting mix of terrestrial, intertidal and marine flora and fauna, colorful bedrock geology, and evidence of many coastal features and processes such as cliffs, high energy beaches, ponds and shoals.
Sea kayaking is appealing for many of the same reasons as coastal hiking. The rugged shore, with its cliffs, beaches, headlands and many shoals, provides dramatic paddling experiences. These very characteristics can also be hazardous and great care must be taken to ensure safe travel to and around this exposed shore.