But you're just getting started: once you cross the causeway onto the island, it takes another 2 to 3 hours to reach the best parts, such as the national park. Baddeck, Mabou, the Margaree Valley, and Louisbourg are a little closer -- they can all be reached in 1 to 2 hours' driving, maximum.
Visitor Information -- A number of tiny local tourist information centers dot Cape Breton Island, but you're best off grabbing a pile of info at the bustling Port Hastings Info Centre (tel. 902/625-4201), which is on your right just after you cross the causeway onto the island. (One and done, that's what I say.) It's open daily from around 8am until about 8:30pm most of the year, closed only from January through April.
Special Events -- Celtic Colours (tel. 877/285-2321 or 902/562-6700; www.celtic-colours.com) is a big, island-wide annual music shindig timed to approximate the peak of the lovely highland foliage in early October. Few tourists know about it, and the concentration of local Celtic musicians getting together for good times and music beneath lovely foliage is simply breathtaking if you're into this sort of thing. It usually begins in the second week of October and lasts more than 10 days: a foot-stompin', pennywhistlin', fiddle-playin' 10 days. The musical performances, by such international stars as the Chieftains -- or, even better, the up-and-coming next Chieftains -- are the obvious highlight, though they can cost as much as C$60 per person for a real headline act. More typical ceilidh nights cost about C$20, and popular local performers sell out months in advance; check the website or call well ahead if you've got your heart set on a particular act. Otherwise, just buy a ticket to anything. You can't go wrong. Stages and venues are scattered all over Cape Breton Island, but the heaviest concentration of events takes place near the festival headquarters in Sydney.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.