Things to do in Sydney Nova Scotia

Family activities in Sydney, Nova Scotia on your Canada New England cruise

Family Activities in Sydney Nova Scotia

Nine family things to do in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

At first I thought it was just an interesting, over-sized violin that greeted our cruise ship arrival into . But to a Islander, it’s more than that. Translated from the Gaelic, “Fidheal Mhor A’ Ceilidh, ” it’s actually the world’s largest fiddle. “Ceilidh” is Gaelic for a social gathering, so that should give you some indication as to the personality of the people of Sydney. They are friendly, outgoing and welcome you with open arms to their corner of Canada.

Sydney, Nova Scotia is located on the Atlantic Ocean side of beautifully rugged and scenic Cape Breton Island. Although the first inhabitants of this area were French Acadians, they were eventually succeeded by mostly British, Scottish, Irish immigrants.

Sydney Nova Scotia harbor mapThe city of Sydney was founded in 1785 when British Loyalists abandoned their posts during the American Revolution and fled north to Cape Breton island. Settlers soon realized the great wealth of natural resources and it wasn’t long before Sydney became a major coal and industrial city. In search of employment, immigrants from many different cultures settled into the area which gives present-day Sydney its multicultural flavor.

Proud of their Celtic background and Gaelic language, activities in Sydney include many colorful festivals reflecting the music, cuisine, culture and natural beauty of the island. throughout the year from the Cape Breton International Drum Festival to the Celtic Colours Music Festival and even a close of the lobster season festival.

Sydney Nova Scotia harbourUpon arrival into Sydney Harbour, you are immediately greeted by the aforementioned mega-fiddle and the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion. The pavilion is a destination unto itself with shopping for authentic Cape Breton products right there; hand-made arts and crafts, knitwear and a great place to buy your souvenirs.

So what should you do with your eight hours in Sydney? Better yet, here are the most popular attractions that are either available as short independent walking tours right from the port or a planned shore excursion with your cruise line.

At the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion

Inside the Pavilion, in Pittmann Hall is the Big Fiddle Market. Local artisans have set up their crafts in this huge warehouse-like facility. If convenience is your thing or you don’t want to go very far from the ship, there’s a shore excursion tour offered by most of the cruise lines that takes place right there in the pavilion. Visitors are “escorted” through the cruise terminal by a Scottish bag-piper, to a sitting area where guests are treated to the experience of genuine Celtic fiddle music, talented young step-dancers (kind of a mini-River Dance) and can learn more about life in the area from past centuries. Don’t be surprised if this tour is quickly sold-out.

The artisan market inside the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion Downtown Sydney Nova Scotia Jost House Sydney Nova Scotia St. George's Church in Sydney Nova Scotia

It's Interesting

  • Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald (1914–1987) was a renowned Cape Breton fiddler. He was a pioneer in recorded performances of the music, and has heavily influenced the style and repertoire of later generations of players.
    Fitzgerald was born on February 16, 1914 at White...
Descriptive Note On the Sydney Coal Field, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia: To Accompany a Rev. Ed. of the Geological Map of the Coal Field, Being Sheets 133, 134, 135 N.S.
Book (Ulan Press)

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