Louisbourg ready for 300th birthday bash


The landmark gate inside Fortress Louisbourg is a replica of the one that would greet fishermen from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean when they arrived in Nova Scotia. (Julia Pelish/

Story by Adrian Brijbassi Managing Editor


The streets of Fortress Louisbourg in Cape Breton appear the way the did in 1744. (Julia Pelish/

FORTRESS LOUISBOURG, CAPE BRETON ISLAND, NOVA SCOTIA — Fortress Louisbourg was once among the most bustling cities in North America. This summer, the site of the colonial outpost will be again — so long as Lester Marchand has his way.

Marchand is the Visitor Experience manager of the Parks Canada property that is celebrating the 300th anniversary of the founding of Louisbourg, the colony once nestled on this island formerly called Ile Royale. At its height, Louisbourg was such a vital fishing village it grew to more than 6,000 and attracted fishermen from more than a half-dozen European nations. Cod, which travelled well because it was easy to preserve when salted, was the sought-after commodity that brought them here. The fortress on the Atlantic was also a crucial military position that traded hands between the French and English during its existence.

Last week, the national historic site announced the programming for Louisbourg300, which will run from June to past Labour Day and include numerous events that range from ambitious to fun to extraordinary, including an amphibious component in July where scuba-diving archaeologists excavating sunken ships from years ago will communicate their findings with visitors via underwater camera.

Other highlights are the LouisRocks concert series, with headliners who include the Joel Plaskett Emergency and Natalie MacMaster, and a Governor for the Day contest where winners are given the opportunity to rule Louisbourg for an afternoon. “They will be dressed in a costume with the colours that would have been worn by the governor of the colony and be escorted by two personal guards,” Marchand said, adding that there will be limits to their powers should any of the appointed governors feel the urge to declare war or order a companion to the gallows.

Louisbourg300 All About History and Good Times

A regatta will take place in July and sailing boats will be moored on the waters off the fortress’s shores, just as they would have been three centuries ago. The tricentennial will include a “SuperFête” from August 24-25 that features a performance by JP Cormier, fireworks and more.

“Many of these are meant to be legacy events, meaning they will be in place in future years,” Marchand told me when we walked through the site this week. He is excited, as is most everyone in Cape Breton, for the festivities to begin. Travellers headed to Atlantic Canada should be geared up, too.

The fortress was named the No. 1 place to visit in Canada for 2013 by in January and nothing on my visit this time convinced me it should be any lower than the top. It is a vital piece of Canadian history and an extraordinary replication of life in the village as it would have been in 1744.

Read more about why Louisbourg was chosen No. 1 by our magazine.


More About Fortress Louisbourg’s Tricentennial

Location: 58 Wolfe Street, Louisbourg, NS (see map below)
Telephone: 902-733-2280
Admission: Adults pay $17.60 for the regular entry fee, but prices vary for some of the special events this year. Visit the Fees section of the Fortress Louisbourg website for other prices and more details.
Louisbourg300: Here is a list of some of the events surrounding the tricentennial celebrations:

June 3-7: Canada’s Coolest School Trip hosted by the Fortress of Louisbourg
June 13-August 15: Exhibit: L’endroit le plus convenable / The Most Suitable Place
June 22-23: Learn to Camp300
June 29-30: Following Historic Footsteps – Guided Walk
June 30: LouisRocks! Concert Series with a Musical Tribute to Louisbourg’s Legacy

July 1: Canada Day
July 1-14: Land to Sea/Field to Lab Archaeology Event
July 5-7: Forge300 International Blacksmith Gathering
July 20: Parks Day – Louisbourg Celebrates Families!
July 20: LouisRocks! Concert Series with Joel Plaskett Emergency
July 25-28: CultureFête!

August 4: Storm the Fortress
August 9-13: Louisbourg Celebrates Seafaring Traditions
August 10: Louisbourg Celebrates Diversity
August 17: Race Through Time
August 18: Louisbourg Celebrates Acadian Heritage!
August 24-25: SuperFête de Saint-Louis
August 24: LouisRocks! for the Fête de Saint-Louis
August 25: Fiddles for the Fête

September 21: LouisRocks! at Founders’ Feast and Concert

More Info: For further information on the celebrations for 2013, visit the Activities section of the Louisbourg website.
Tip: Aim to take the back road into the park. The view from the rear of the venue is the most breathtaking in the vicinity of the fortress.


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Adrian is the editor of and He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world.

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