The Rusty Anchor is an awesome place to eat on any trip around the Cabot Trail.
With fresh and delicious seafood, friendly Cape Breton service and a sunny dining room and patio overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, The Rusty Anchor is a fantastic stop.
Good to Know
Location: Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton
Distance from Causeway: 177 kilometers (2 hours + 20 minutes drive)
Family friendly? Yes
Is there a patio? Yes, with a spectacular view of the ocean
Price range: Food ranges from $9-$46
Gluten free/Vegetarian/Vegan options: Yes
Alcohol available to order? Yes, including some beer brewed on Cape Breton
Live Music? No
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes
Dog friendly: Yes but not in the eating areas - must be outside the patio area
Shop on site: Items for sale
Open year-round? No – seasonally.
Getting to The Rusty Anchor
The Rusty Anchor is pretty hard to miss in the small village of Pleasant Bay. If you are making your way up the west side of the Cabot Trail it's early in your drive through the village, on your left.
If you're coming from the north part of the trail, it's at the far side of the village just before you re-enter the National Park, on your right.
Visiting The Rusty Anchor
Before I left on last summer's trip around the Cabot Trail, I polled a Cape Breton Facebook group about the best food to eat around the Cabot Trail.
One name that came up again and again was the Rusty Anchor in Pleasant Bay. A number of people specifically mentioned the lobster poutine.
Since so many people mentioned it, I made a mental note to stop there. In fact, I arrived in Pleasant Bay at the perfect time for lunch!
I think Pleasant Bay is a great place to stop for lunch, because you've either made your way up the west of Cape Breton, checking out all the little towns and the lookoffs in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, OR you've just made your way across the northern part of the park, an area with a pretty long drive between towns.
Either way, by the time you arrive in Pleasant Bay, you'll likely be ready to stretch your legs, and possibly find a little bite of lunch.
The Rusty Anchor is a bigger restaurant than I expected. I visited on a Saturday, and it was busy, but not too busy. There was no wait for a table in the dining room (the large patio was not open on the day I visited).
The dining room is large and sunny, and pleasantly decorated in what I think of as Cape Breton country/nautical decor. It's very clean and bright.
There are great views of the ocean, and you can hear the waves crashing outside.
The menu looks great and extensive.
There are a lot of seafood options on it, but also a good number of options for people who don't eat seafood, as well as quite a few vegetarian and seemingly gluten free options.
I really wanted to try a few of the items on it but those will have to wait for another visit.
Tip: Some of the other menu items that were highly recommended to me included the fish cakes (classic Cape Breton fare!) and the lobster roll.
Since I was there by myself I just had to pick one thing for lunch, and I really couldn't say no to the lobster poutine.
I was not disappointed.
It was delicious!
The food came quickly and was piping hot when it arrived.
The fries were coated in a light, crispy batter, and were amazing even on their own. Then they were smothered in a Hollandaise-type sauce, along with a good amount of lobster pieces, and shredded mozzarella cheese.
There were actual chunks of lobster, and it was delicious.
If, like me, you love rich and indulgent food, you will LOVE it. I may have swooned a few times in my first couple of bites.
It was quite filling. I had no room leftover for dessert or anything else to eat. But it was worth it.
In fact, when I visit the Rusty Anchor again (hopefully soon) I'm going to have a hard time ordering anything else (although I will obviously have to, so that I can update this post with feedback on more menu items!).
All of the service was super friendly - from the hostess at the front door, to the waitress, to random staff I chatted with.
As I mentioned, I was there on a Saturday and didn't have to wait for a table - one of the benefits of having a large restaurant!
The restaurant and the bathrooms were all super clean and the atmosphere was bright and cheerful.
It was lovely to sit at a table facing a spectacular ocean view. I really enjoyed my lunch there!
What to do near The Rusty Anchor Restaurant in Pleasant Bay
Whale Watching Tour - We haven't gone whale watching in Pleasant Bay (yet -- I really want to!) but there are a couple of tour companies that operate out of the area: Captain Mark's What and Seal Cruise comes highly recommended and Cabot Trail Guaranteed Whale Adventures looks like another good option - especially if you're travelling with pets, because they're allowed to sail too.
About 25 minutes away, Beulach Ban Falls is a gorgeous,65-foot tall waterfall that you can drive almost to the base of.
Enjoy a windswept stroll on the Pleasant Bay Beach, which extends on both sides of the small harbour.
The Whale Interpretive Centre is located super close to the small Pleasant Bay harbour. It looks great and I can't wait to take my kids there! I think it would be really nice to visit in conjunction with doing a whale watching tour.
Gampo Abbey is a Buddhist monastery located near Pleasant Bay. Visitors are welcome to walk the Abbey grounds, visit the Stupa of Enlightenment and hike their trails.
Perfect Stopping Point on the Cabot Trail
The Rusty Anchor makes a great stopping point on the Cabot Trail. It's located in Pleasant Bay, and there isn't much else around. It's a great place to eat regardless of which direction you're travelling in - coming up from Cheticamp or over from Ingonish.
It has a spectacular view of the ocean and space to walk around back and stretch your legs.
Looking for other reviews of Cape Breton restaurants? Check out our post on Route 19 Brewing (and restaurant) in Inverness!
Have you ever eaten at The Rusty Anchor? What do you recommend I try next time?