Highland Village Museum: Cape Breton Island

highland village cape breton island

I lived on Cape Breton for well over a year and never visited the Highland Village Museum. What an oversight! It’s been rectified now though. Last weekend I took members of the Halifax Newcomer Choir up to the island and we planned a stop at the Highland Village. Even as someone who is familiar with the history of the Island, it was beautiful and informative. Definitely well worth a visit. And the newcomers were quite taken not only with the exhibits and the old buildings, but also with the nature, vistas, and the atmosphere in the air.

Highland Village: Basics

The Village is open daily from June 1-October 14 in 2023, 10:00am to 4:30pm

Entry fees for adults are $15.00, seniors (65+) $12.00, students (6-17) $8.00. Children 5 and under get in free. There is also a family rate for two adults plus school-aged children for $40.00.

Don’t forget to show your CAA/AAA card to receive a 20% discount! (I forgot…)


Cape Breton Island is off the coast of mainland Nova Scotia, connected by a causeway (like a bridge). You can easily drive across. From Halifax to the Island is about 3-3.5 hours.

The Highland Village Museum is in Iona, a small community about an hour from the causeway. It is on the lower part of the island – closer to Baddeck than to Sydney.

From Port Hawkesbury, you can go to Iona via the Orangedale Road off the 105 before reaching Whycocomagh. Or, you can take the Little Narrows Ferry, which is a delightful, 5 minute ferry crossing with your vehicle. Just make sure the ferry is running.

Spending more time in Nova Scotia? Visit the Eastern Shore

Sheep at the Highland Village

What to see at the Highland Village

The Village has recently opened a brand new building as their main exhibit/gift shop/ticket office. It’s a great spot to grab a souvenir from the Island. When you first enter, the exhibit asks ‘mood setting’ questions about home to get you in the immigrant mindset. The text inside the exhibit is in both French and English, and shares a little bit about the story of the Scottish in Scotland, their relationship with the British, and what factors made them come to Nova Scotia.

Want to know more about how to travel on a budget but without missing out? Book a free travel consult.

Moving outside, visitors progress through time from building to building. The whole Village consists of 43 acres of land, populated with historical buildings and costume-clad interpreters, who share information in first-person (like actors). Visitors can interact with them, ask them questions, and learn about their lives in the past.

There are also farm animals to visit with, a blacksmith shop, and old style store, a schoolhouse, and many houses where visitors can observe the progression of goods and accessibility of products through time.

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How long should I spend at the Village?

We were there easily for 3 hours. Those in our group who were really entranced, and spent a long time speaking with the interpreters spent closer to 4 hours. Smaller children and groups with families could perhaps manage for 2 hours. There is lots of outdoor space to run around as needed, and visiting with the farm animals could take more or less time. The interpreters will also let you participate in various activities like milling the wool, so if that interests you, you might plan to stay longer.

It’s raining in Cape Breton. Is this a good activity for bad weather?

We had some rough weather while in IOna and many in our group thought it was the perfect vibe! The dark clouds, wind, and spattering rain really added to the atmosphere. It felt other-worldly, and really gave the impression of what life would have been like. Most of your time is spent indoors, so even if it is raining, the only outdoor time required is walking between buildings.

Have more time in Nova Scotia? Try these easy day trips from Halifax.

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