Sailing and Boating Mecca
Yacht-based visitors from the entire Eastern Seaboard of North America make virtually exclusive use of the scores of safe and scenic anchorages within Canada’s only inland sea. Visitors come to Cape Breton to experience its rugged beauty, its culture and heritage, and to experience the ocean that surrounds and intrudes deep within this exceptional part of Canada.
Trans Canada Trail (TCT)
Iona Port Wharf serves as a delighted partner and significant access point in the progress and use of the, ‘The Great Trail’ – created by Trans Canada Trail and its many associates. CCBCVI promotes and assists this distinctive marine component of the national network by its continual effort to expand community trails in the area and deliver enhancements to Iona Port as a central access point for paddlers, kayakers, and boating enthusiasts.
Baile nan Gàidheal | Highland Village
The Iona Port Wharf is nearby to the highly regarded Baile nan Gàidheal | Highland Village living history museum and Gaelic Folklife Centre, one of 28 sites of the Nova Scotia Museum. The mission of the Village is to grow as a Gaelic folklife centre that bilingually nurtures, communicates and celebrates the heritage and cultural identity of Nova Scotia’s Gaelic community.
Highland Village is the only Gaelic folklife centre in a living Gàidhealtachd (Gaelic speaking area) outside of Gaelic Scotland and is one of the leading visitor attractions in Cape Breton. The Village is set in one of the most spectacular locations In Nova Scotia, overlooking the Bras d’ Or Lake and the Barra Strait, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The Museum features 11 interpretive buildings illustrating the story of Nova Scotia Gaels from the late 18th to early 20th centuries.
Currently, there are 26,000 (2019 stats) visitors to the Highland Village Museum at Iona on an annual basis. These numbers have increased annually over the past 5 years, and figure to continue this growth in the post-COVID world. The Highland Village is now (2021) in the process of a $5.2 Million upgrade to its Infrastructure, designed to assist the museum better serve its growing visitor base and serve new audiences. These numbers will continue to increase with a second cruise terminal opening in the spring of 2021 in Sydney, as a percentage of these visitors make their way to Iona (Iona is one of the more popular shore excursion destinations for cruise ships). A world-class attraction like Àros na Mara will create synergy, interaction, and collaboration in welcoming more tourists.
Iona Heights Inn | Frolic ‘n Folk Pub | Jill’s Chocolates
Not far from the Iona Port, adjacent to Baile nan Gàidheal | Highland Village is the Iona Heights Inn. This 22-room country inn is also home to the popular Frolic ‘n Folk Pub, with weekly traditional entertainment, and Jill’s Chocolates, handmade specialty chocolates. A convenience store/NSLC agency store and massage therapist are also located on the premises.
Eskasoni Cultural Journeys and Community of Eskasoni
20 minutes from Iona is the nearby Mi’kmaw community of Eskasoni. Eskasoni is home to Goat Island and Eskasoni Cultural Journeys. Eskasoni is the largest Mi’kmaw community, and the largest First Nations community east of Montreal, with a population of approximately 5,000.
Set along a 2.3-km trail around Goat Island on Cape Breton’s tranquil Bras d’Or Lakes are a series of “stations” manned by ardent band members. Learn to make your own “four cent” cake – the popular snack created from leftover dough fried in lard – over an open fire. Stroll a wooded waterside pathway with Mi’kmaq guides clad in traditional, homemade moose hide regalia and moccasins. Step inside a spacious tipi in a forest clearing and rest on a cushion alongside a fire pit to experience a soothing and purifying smudge ceremony with the scented smoke from healing herbs.
Learn insights among traditional hunting and fishing practices. Get up and try the koujua dance alongside a lady in a “jingle dress” whose rows of small metal cones make a tinkling sound as she moves. Practice your drumming. Listen to music. Play the ancient game of waltes and discover the practice of heating a tipi with glowing-hot rocks from a fire. At a reconstructed trading post, hear the stories of how Europeans once exchanged medicine and tobacco for pelts and hides.
In addition to Goat Island, Eskasoni also features a Foodland grocery store, gas stations, restaurants, convenience stores, Holy Family Roman Catholic Church, schools and a wellness centre administrating the needs of an ever increasing community boasting a population 5,000 residents.
McCormack Provincial Park & Protected Beach
The Iona Port wharf at the Barra Strait is adjacent to a protected government beach adjoining an inviting provincial picnic park. This provides opportunity for shoreline education programs and the beach activities.
Other Community Assets
Also in Iona is a Canada Post outlet, Grandona Branch 124 of the Royal Canadian Legion, and St. Columba Roman Catholic Church. Little Narrows Presbyterian church is but a 15 minute drive. Nearby Grand Narrows has a public marina facility with seasonal restaurant (Wheelhouse Cafe). Christmas Island is home to the annual Féis an Eilein Gaelic Festival. Also, within a 10 minute drive of Iona is Darby’s Restaurant (McKinnons Harbour), Time Out Campground (Estmere), Beaver Cove Take Out (Beaver Cove), and the week long ‘Along the Shores of Washabuck’ summer Festival’ (Washabuck) Additionally, there are many amenities in Eskasoni, including eateries, schools, food markets, and more..