This former industrial city's main industries today are in customer support call centres and tourism. Tourism in Sydney has boomed as a result of significant government investment in cruise ship facilities and a waterfront revitalization plan through which a boardwalk and marinas were constructed, as was the world's largest fiddle.
Sydney was founded in 1785 by the British. Sydney served as the Cape Breton Island colony's capital, until 1820, when the colony merged with Nova Scotia and the capital moved to Halifax.
A rapid population expansion occurred just after the turn of the 20th century, when Sydney was home to one of North America's main steel mills. During both the First and Second World Wars, it was a major staging area for England-bound convoys. The post-war period, there was a major decline in the number of people employed at the Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation (DOSCO) steel mill. The Nova Scotia and Canadian governments had to nationalize it in 1967 to save the region's biggest employer, forming the new crown corporation called the Sydney Steel Corporation (SYSCO). The city's population has steadily decreased since the early 1970s as Sydney suffered an economic decline as local coal and steel industries underwent significant changes. The closure of the SYSCO and the Cape Breton Development Corporation's coal mines in 2000-2001 have resulted in attempts by the municipal, provincial and federal governments to diversify the area economy.
Sydney experiences a cool summer, and windy, wet and stormy winter. February is the year's coldest month on average, and August is the year's warmest month on average.
While occasional thunderstorms and other rains can occur in summer, June through August are Sydney's driest months on average. Sydney's average annual precipitation cycle reflects these realities; the year's driest month, on average, is July; its wettest month, on average, is December. Average annual precipitation in Sydney is over 1500mm, virtually the highest found anywhere in Canada outside coastal British Columbia. Snowfall is heavy, averaging nearly 300 cm per winter season. However, winter-season storms are variable, and can bring changing precipitation types, commonly from ice/snow to rain and possibly back to ice/snow. A winter storm can bring accumulating snow, followed by heavy rain, then a brief return to snow or ice, resulting in no or minimal additional snow accumulation. Overall, Sydney's climate is moderately cold and strikingly variable, wet, stormy and windy from fall to early spring (October to March), and more stable and drier in summer (June to August).
- 1 J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport (YQY IATA). In Jan 2021, flights where suspended indefinitely by Air Canada and WestJet. During the summer the airport is served by Air Saint-Pierre (with flights from Saint-Pierre and Miquelon) and Sunwing Airlines (with flights from Toronto).
Driving to Sydney can be done by crossing the Canso Causeway which links the island to the Nova Scotia mainland at Auld's Cove (on the mainland) and Port Hawkesbury (on Cape Breton). From there you have two options: the slightly longer but straighter Highways 105 and 125 or the shorter but twistier Route 4.
Martime Bus services Sydney from Halifax.
Most sights within the downtown are within walking distance, however most major tourist sights are well outside of the city and require a car or pre-arranged tour bus.
- 1 Tourist Information Center, 77 Kings Rd, ☏ . 9AM-6PM.
- Transit Cape Breton. 13 routes through the island. Adult fares range from $1.25 to $5.00. Fares for seniors 55 & up and children 5-12 range from $1.00 to $4.75.
Although Sydney is the centre of Cape Breton, it lacks major tourist sites itself. A couple of things to see are:
- Two private homes dating to the earliest settlement of the city, Jost House and Cossitt House, remain in the downtown area of Sydney.
- Wentworth Park, a 5-minute walk south from the downtown core, is worth a visit.
- 1 Merchant Marine Memorial Statue, 246 Esplanade. A roadside attraction.
- 2 Old Sydney Society, 175 Charlotte St, ☏ . Museum.
- 3 St Patrick's Museum, 87 Esplanade, ☏ .
- 1 Casino Nova Scotia - Sydney's Neighbourhood Casino, 525 George St, ☏ . Includes a restaurant on-site.
The Sydney marine terminal and Charlotte Street have an abundance of arts and crafts stores selling traditional Cape Breton souvenirs.
Sydney has many well established restaurants, most with menus full of classic seafood favourites.
- [dead link] Celtic Junction Bar and Grille (inside the Sydney casino). This restaurant features a large menu consisting of a good mixture of diner classics and newer 'fusion-fare'. Because it is located inside the casino, it is off limits to those under 19.
- 1 Kiju's Restaurant, 50 Maillard St, Membertou B1S 3W3, ☏ , fax: . Su-Th 11AM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-10PM. Fresh ideas and local ingredients, pub style classics, kid’s meals and finer fare. In Membertou Trade and Convention Centre, near the Hampton Inn Sydney.
- 1 Breton Brewing Co., 364 Keltic Drive, ☏ . A local craft brewery that sells pints in the tasting room.
Sydney is home to a handful of places to rest your head ranging from small motels to larger hotels.
- 1 Beacon Motel, 294 Keltic Drive, toll-free: . Cheaper motel located 10 minutes outside of the downtown core. No website; call to make reservations.
- 2 Cambridge Suites, 380 Esplanade, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . Although the nicest hotel in the city, it lacks a swimming pool so it might not be very family friendly, which might be a selling point for busy business travellers. $149-199.
- 3 Hearthstone Inn Sydney, 560 Kings Road, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Hotel with free high-speed Internet, restaurant and lounge, heated pool, exercise room, executive suite, courtyard and free parking.
- 4 Holiday Inn Sydney - Waterfront, 300 Esplanade, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. This hotel features large conference facilities and ballrooms, a large swimming pool, waterslide, gym and sauna.
- 5 Travelodge Sydney, 480 Kings Road, fax: . This hotel also has a pool, sauna, hot tub, and gym.
For travellers seeking something with a little more character try one of the many bed and breakfasts in the area a selection of which can be found here
- The Fortress of Louisbourg, about an hour's drive away, is a reconstruction of the 18th-century fortified French town whose presence plagued the British colonies of New England.
- Stop at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site of Canada in Baddeck.
- And no visit to Cape Breton is complete without a trip around the famous Cabot Trail, which regularly places high on lists of 'Best Drives in the World'
|Routes through Sydney|
|END ← North Sydney ←||N S||→ END|
|Antigonish ← Port Hawkesbury ← Jct ←||W E||→ Glace Bay → END|
|END ←||N S||→ Louisbourg → END|