Cabot Trail Residential Retreat: Bringing nature to the door

Cabot Trail Beach House Native Sea Grass Plantings

Eighteen acres of Acadian forest stretch across the east face of the North Shore in Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail Retreat. Punctuating the landscape is architecture as bold as the aspen, spruce and maple that brace against the Atlantic ocean winds and wildly variable skies. A majority of native trees, shrubs & perennials were densely planted throughout the area of disturbance and non-invasive ornamentals were placed in key viewing angles from the buildings.

Outside! Landscape Architects brought nature to the doors of this beautifully designed private retreat, re-establishing native plants, wildflowers and the Acadian forest. Working collaboratively with the owners and the team at Nicholas Fudge Architects, East Coast Modern and Zablaskai Construction, Outside! was quickly able to establish a finished look for the project site. Custom-designed benches, waterfall, sunken garden, trail system and signage add ambiance for the owners and encourage friends and family to explore the property and learn about the native flora and fauna.

Outdoor dining at Cabot Trail Retreat
Path and bridge at Cabot Trail Retreat
Cabot Trail Retreat custom bench
Field of lupins under full moon

Project Summary

Landscape is the top priority for these landowners who told us they “want the buildings to be silent partner on the landscape”. Beautiful words every landscape architect wants to hear.

The 18-acre property has six buildings set across the landscape including a lodge, primary residence, guest house, barn, office and beach house.

Outside! was tasked with re-establishing the Acadian forest after extensive site clearing for roads, septic fields, wells, water & electrical lines, buried propane tanks, lighting cables and crane pads for installation of modular units by East Coast Modern.

Sunken garden with small waterfalls, critter ladders, and young plants
Cadet Trail Lodge with serene landscape
Stone & Wood Bridge Details on Trails

Details that make the project unique include:

  • Extensive plantings incorporating native species of differing ages & sizes
  • Sunken garden with 3-tier fountain custom designed by Outside! complete with critter ladders
  • 9 themed trails with custom designed trail signs & logos, 6 bridges & Trail Guide
  • 15 custom benches designed by Outside!, made locally with materials from site
  • Green roof over the sauna, hot tub, change room & bar
  • Custom concrete pavers for terraces at the beach house, lodge and barn
  • Extensive landscape lighting
  • Yoga platform in birch forest
  • Stone steps to the ocean
  • Engaged landowner with a keen interest in learning about plants and the land.
Cabot Trail Lodge ocean view
Cabot Trail barn

A key design strategy was no lawn, unusual for a site this size. While initial design intent was to restore and enhance the Acadian Forest, Covid required a re-think with border closures & supply chain issues. Non-native ornamental plants were integrated as they were regionally available and enhanced the owners interest in flowering plants.

Yoga platform at Cabot Trail Retreat
Harvesting sea buckthorn at Cabot Trail Retreat
Cabot trail retreat lodge

Seasonally distinctive plantings designed to flourish at key times of the year:

  • Spring: Rhododendrons, azalea, dogwoods, lupins & spring blooming wildflowers
  • Summer: Roses, lavender, wildflowers and daylilies from a private collection
  • Fall: Stunning Fall colours throughout hardwood forest along with extensive hydrangea plantings and wildflowers
  • Edible berries and fruit trees including hazelnut, hascap, blueberries, raspberries, quince, fig and sea buckthorn.
  • Native grasses used to rehabilitate shore areas and keep sight lines clear.
  • Arboretum: Collaborating with the landowner, the decision was made to create an Arboretum featuring trees at the outer edges of their plant hardiness zone including Chicago fig, Japanese maples spp, redbud and fruit trees.
Sunken garden at Cabot Trail Retreat

Creating Inspiring Outdoor Spaces

We combine landscape design, architecture, living elements, and inspiration from world travel to create beautiful, playful, and unusual outdoor spaces to love and enjoy.