United Empire Loyalists from New York State settled Sydney in 1785, following the American Revolution. Known originally as Spanish Bay, the town was renamed in honour of the British colonial secretary, Lord Sydney. The town was the capital of the Cape Breton colony from 1875 to 1820, when it was absorbed by Nova Scotia. The are attracted large numbers of Scottish settlers in the 1800s, and when the coal mine and steel plants were opened early in the 1900s many from Eastern Europe also settled here, creating a very ethnically diverse population.

Cape Breton's Sunrise Valley
Sydney’s 26,000 residents make it Nova Scotia’s third largest city. Wentworth Rotary Park features a pond which is home to ducks, pigeons and swans, along with a bandshell, a central waterfront plaza, boardwalk and exhibition space. Sydney celebrates Canada Day (July 1) with fireworks and events, and Sydney’s ‘Action Week’ (August) is a full week of special events.

The north end of the city contains six 18th century buildings and two others which are almost as old. There are 12 buildings constructed between 1840 and 1885 and another 15 built before 1938. On the Esplanade, a street which parallels the waterfront, there are monuments and plaques which commemorate some of the city’s famous people and events.

The town hosts various cultural events, festivals, and historical sites that celebrate its rich history and diverse communities. Sydney is a center for Celtic music and hosts various music festivals, including the Celtic Colours International Festival, which attracts artists and visitors from around the world.

North Sydney

This community is on the north shore of Sydney Harbour and the terminus for all Newfoundland ferries, to either Port-aux-Basques on the southwest corner of the island and Argentia on the southeast corner.

North Sydney - stores along Commerical Street
North Sydney - stores along Commerical Street

Sydney/North Sydney History

The area now known as Sydney was inhabited by the Mi’kmaq people, who utilized the region’s natural resources for fishing, hunting, and gathering.

Sydney was established as a settlement for Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution. Sydney was founded in 1785 by Colonel Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres, a prominent figure in Nova Scotia’s early history. The town was named after Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney, the then British Home Secretary. Sydney served as the capital of Cape Breton Colony from 1784 until 1820 when Cape Breton was merged with Nova Scotia.

Over the 1800s, Sydney grew as a commercial and administrative center. The town’s deep harbor facilitated trade and transportation. The discovery and exploitation of coal in the surrounding areas significantly boosted Sydney’s economy. By the mid-1800s, coal mining became a dominant industry, attracting workers and investment. The construction of the Sydney and Louisbourg Railway in 1895 enhanced transportation infrastructure, supporting coal mining and other industries.

Sydney played a significant role in the history of transatlantic communication. In 1856, the first transatlantic cable, connecting North America to Europe, was laid from nearby Cape Ray, Newfoundland, to Ireland, passing through North Sydney. The town became a key location for telegraphy.

In 1901, the Sydney Steel Plant (also known as the Dominion Iron and Steel Company) opened and became one of the largest steel producers in Canada, and was a major employer in the region. Sydney’s steel plant played a crucial role in supplying materials for the war efforts in both World War I and World War II.

The town’s strategic location at the mouth of the Gulf of St Lawrence and its industrial capacity made it an important military and industrial hub. The town’s port was used for naval and supply convoys. The ferry service to Newfoundland was crucial for the transportation of troops and supplies.

Following World War II, the steel industry faced significant challenges, including competition, outdated facilities, and changing market dynamics. The Sydney Steel Plant was eventually closed in 2001, marking the end of an era and causing economic difficulties for the town. The closure also started a long process of environmental remediation.

Sydney has worked to diversify its economy, to develop sectors such as tourism, technology, education, and services. Cape Breton University (CBU) has become a significant educational institution, attracting students from around the world and contributing to the local economy.

North Sydney waterfront
North Sydney waterfront

North Sydney Attractions

Florence Beach (nearby)

Florence Beach, 11 Nicholas St, Florence, NS B1Y 1M6
(about 10 km N of the Newfoundland Ferry Termina)

A short drive from North Sydney, Florence Beach offers a quiet and scenic spot for beachcombing, picnicking, and enjoying the coastal environment.

Indian Beach

Beach St, North Sydney, NS B2A 2P7
(about 400 m north of the Newfoundland Ferry Terminal)

A popular local beach offering swimming, picnicking, and beautiful views of Sydney Harbor. It’s a great spot for a relaxing day by the water.

Marine Atlantic Ferry Terminal

355 Purves St, North Sydney, NS B2A 3V2
The ferry terminal connects Nova Scotia to Newfoundland and Labrador. While primarily a transportation hub, it offers amenities and stunning views of the harbor.

Munro Park

Munro St, North Sydney, NS B2A 1P4

A local park featuring sports fields, a playground, and open spaces for various recreational activities. It’s a popular spot for families and sports enthusiasts.

North Sydney Community Pool

2 Fraser Ave, North Sydney, NS B2A 3M7

This community pool offers swimming lessons, recreational swims, and aquatic fitness programs. It’s a great place for both exercise and leisure.

North Sydney Historical Society and Museum

309 Commercial St, North Sydney, NS B2A 1B9

This museum offers exhibits on the history of North Sydney, including its role in maritime trade, shipbuilding, and community life.

North Sydney Mall

116 King St, North Sydney, NS B2A 3S1

This shopping mall provides a variety of retail stores, services, and dining options, making it a convenient place for shopping and leisure.

Northern Yacht Club

27 Seaview Dr, North Sydney, NS B2A 3N5

This yacht club offers sailing programs, boat moorings, and social events. It’s a great place for boating enthusiasts and those looking to enjoy maritime activities.

Petersfield Provincial Park (nearby)

Westmount, NS B1R 1W7

Located across the harbor from North Sydney, this park offers walking trails, picnic areas, and historic ruins, providing a peaceful retreat with stunning views of the harbor.

Ross Ferry Marine Park (nearby)

22404 NS-105, Ross Ferry, NS B1X 1T4

Located on the Bras d’Or Lake, this marine park offers a boat launch, picnic areas, and walking trails. It’s ideal for boating, fishing, and enjoying the natural beauty of the area.

Seaview Golf & Country Club

370 Seaview Dr, North Sydney, NS B2A 3N7

This golf club features an 18-hole course with scenic views, a pro shop, and dining facilities. It’s a favorite among local golfers and visitors.

Sydney Mines Heritage Museum and Fossil Centre (nearby)

159 Legatto St, Sydney Mines, NS B1V 2S6

This museum focuses on the mining history of the area, with exhibits on coal mining, local fossils, and community life. It’s located in nearby Sydney Mines.

Sydney Mira Road parkland
Sydney Mira Road parkland

Sydney, Nova Scotia Attractions

Baille Ard Nature Trails

Terrace St, Sydney, NS B1P 2L4

This network of walking and hiking trails is located within a beautiful natural area, offering scenic views, streams, and lush greenery. It’s a great place for nature walks and outdoor activities.

Bethel Presbyterian Church

9 Brookland St, Sydney, NS B1P 5B1

This historic church, built in 1875, is a notable landmark in Sydney. It features beautiful architecture and offers insights into the religious history of the community.

Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design

322 Charlotte St, Sydney, NS B1P 1C8

This center showcases the work of local artisans, offering a variety of crafts, artwork, and designs. It also provides workshops and exhibitions, promoting the region’s artistic heritage.

Cape Breton Farmers’ Market

15 Falmouth St, Sydney, NS B1P 4J5

Open year-round, this market offers a variety of local produce, crafts, baked goods, and more. It’s a great place to experience local flavors and support local farmers and artisans. Held Saturdays at the Cape Breton Exhibition grounds in North Sydney inside the Vendor hall

Casino Nova Scotia

 525 George St, Sydney, NS B1P 1K5
902-563-7777 Fax: 902-563-7776
T/Free. 1-866-334-1114

Attached to Centre 200 is Sydney’s newest entertainment feature, The Sheraton Casino. There are slot machines, gaming tables, stage performances, and the All Star Grille. Open Mon-Thurs 10 am to 4 am and 24 hours Friday to Sunday. Closed Dec 25th.

Centre 200

481 George St, Sydney, NS B1P 1K5
Mailing: PO Box 1510, Sydney, NS, B1P 6R7

This multi-purpose arena hosts sports events, concerts, trade shows, and community events. It is a key venue for entertainment in Sydney. The Cape Breton Summertime Revue, an extremely popular music and comedy revue-style show which tours the country performs each summer in Sydney and Glace Bay.

Cossit House Museum

75 Charlotte St, Sydney, NS B1P 1B7

Built in 1787, Cossit House is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Sydney. It was home to Cape Breton’s first Anglican Minister and first rector of St. George’s Church, the Rev. Rana Cossit. The museum provides insights into 18th-century life with period furnishings and interpretive programs. Allow 30 minutes. Open Mon-Sat 9:30 am to 5:30 pm, Sundays from 1 – 5:30 pm, from mid-June to Labour Day. By appointment the rest of the year. Admission by donation.

Jost House Museum

54 Charlotte St, Sydney, NS B1P 1B7
Website: Jost House Museum

This 1786 two-storey building highlights changes in family living over two centuries. The basement features a 1700s kitchen, the ground floor features Victorian antique furnishings, and he second floor rooms contain themed displays, including an apothecary, and a maritime room featuring seafaring history and model ships. Allow 1 hour. Open Mon-Sat 10 am to 4 pm, may 15 – October 30. Admission by donation,

Membertou Heritage Park

35 Su’n Awti, Membertou, NS B1S 0A5

This cultural center celebrates the history and heritage of the Membertou Mi’kmaq community. It features exhibits, a cultural village, and educational programs.

St. George’s Church

119 Charlotte Street, Sydney, NS, Canada, B1P 6J1

Built in 1785, St. George’s Church is the oldest standing building in Sydney and the oldest church on Cape Breton Island. St. George’s is a church of England with royal foundation and was originally built as a garrison church in what is now downtown Sydney. The church no longer offers regular services, but is open to the public at various times throughout the summer and fall seasons when a cruise ship is in town. Visitations can be arranged by contacting the page administrator.

St. Patrick’s Church Museum

87 Esplanade, Sydney, NS B1P 1A1
902- 562-8237

On the Esplanade, across from the Government Wharf, is the old stone St. Patrick’s Church Museum. This is the oldest standing Roman Catholic Church on the island (1828) and it now houses a collection of early Sydney artifacts. It is the starting point for guided walking tours of the historic north end. Open Mon-Sat 9:30 am to 5:30 pm, from mid-June to Labour Day. Tuesday-Friday 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday 1 pm to 4 pm the rest of the year. Admission by donation.

St. Phillips African Orthodox Church

34 Hankard Street, Sydney, NS, Canada, Nova Scotia

St. Phillips is the only African Orthodox Church in Canada and was originally founded by West Indians who settled in Cape Breton. The three churches are open for regular services and all found in Whitney Pier.

Sydney Museum (formerly Cape Breton Centre for Heritage and Science)

173 Charlotte Street, Sydney, NS B1P 1C4

An interactive museum that explores the history and culture of Sydney and area. The museum offers children’s activities, an oral history listening room, a Virtual Reality experience, and special events and public programming throughout the year. The Old Sydney Society also operates Cossit House Museum and St. Patrick’s Church Museum.

The Big Fiddle (Fid Eile)

74 Esplanade, Sydney, NS B1P 1A1

Located on the Sydney waterfront, the Big Fiddle is a giant fiddle sculpture and a symbol of Cape Breton’s musical heritage. It’s a popular spot for photos and offers scenic views of the harbor.

The Holy Ghost Ukrainian Church

47 West St, Sydney, NS B1N 1R9
Website https://ukrainianparishsydney.ca/

The only one of its kind east of Montreal and is richly decorated with Byzantine-style holy pictures, icons and scrollwork. St. Mary’s Parish Church has a white gothic pulpit decorated with Poland’s national symbol – the eagle.

The Savoy Theatre (nearby)

116 Commercial St, Glace Bay, NS B1A 3C1

Located in nearby Glace Bay, this historic theatre hosts a variety of performances, including plays, concerts, and community events. It’s a cultural hub for the region.

Two Rivers Wildlife Park

4581 Grand Mira North Rd, Huntington, NS B1K 1V5
Marion Bridge (30 km south on route 327)
(902) 727-2483

View North American wildlife along a 1.5 km trail. Animals displayed include moose, red deer, cougars, barrel owls, bald eagles and arctic foxes. Picnicking permitted. Open 9 am to 8 pm July-August, and 9 am to 7 pm in the shoulder season from mid-May until mid October, and 9 am to 4 pm the rest of the year. Admission fee.


Victoria Park

Park St, Sydney, NS B1P 2H9

This urban park features walking paths, a playground, and open green spaces, making it a popular spot for family outings and recreational activities.

North Sydney & Sydney Nova Scotia Area Map


Cape Breton Tours and Experiences

Here are some tours and experiences you can book:

For Louisbourg Tours and Experiences

Here are some tours and experiences you can book: