According to some historians the name Baddeck is derived from the Mi'kmaq term "Abadak" which has been translated as "place with an island near".
Today, Baddeck functions as a service centre for the sparsely populated county and hosts a well-equipped volunteer fire department, a consolidated school serving grades Primary-12, as well as a public library, provincial government offices, a hospital, the Bras d'Or Yacht Club, a branch of the Royal Canadian Legion and a nursing home.
Baddeck became a tourist destination with the 1874 publication of Baddeck, And That Sort of Thing, a travel story written by Charles Dudley Warner. Tourism grew even more following the construction of the Cabot Trail in 1932, with Baddeck being situated at the start and end of the loop. While the village population is just over 700 people, local hotels feature over 600 rooms. Baddeck is home to the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, which houses a museum commemorating the work of former resident Alexander Graham Bell as well as St Ann's Provincial Park. Baddeck features the world-class Bell Bay Golf Club, a lake-front resort, numerous hotels/motels, restaurants, small shops, and a small airport in the foothills above the town. The local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion is open to the public, serving as a watering hole and venue for local music—having showcased musicians like Gordie Sampson in the past.
Baddeck is one of several Cape Breton communities that plays host to the Celtic Colours festival each fall. The music festival features hundreds of Celtic musicians from Cape Breton and around the world. In the spring, the village hosts the Cabot Trail Relay Race, a 298 km (185-mile) relay race around the Cabot Trail. During the tourist season Baddeck hosts a weekly community market every Wednesday, featuring local produce, foods and crafts.
Baddeck has a history stretching back to early Mi'kmaq, French and British settlements. The village was incorporated in 1908. Baddeck was home to Alexander Graham Bell and was witness to the first flight in the commonwealth by Bell's Silver Dart in 1909.
Several buildings in Baddeck are recognized as historic properties. Among the most notable is Gilbert H. Grosvenor Hall, the town's former post office. The building was constructed between 1885 and 1886 and was designed by Thomas Fuller, Chief Architect of Canada and co-designer of Ottawa's first Parliament buildings. The Victoria County Court House, constructed in 1889, is designed in a classical revival style. Saint Peter's and Saint John's Anglican Church—constructed in 1883—is a notable as an example of the Cambridge Camden Society's neo-gothic style, and for being constructed by Reverend Simon Gibbons, Canada's first Inuit priest. St. Mark's Masonic Lodge was built in 1898, in a neo-classical style featuring Masonic symbols. Alexander Graham Bell's Beinn Bhreagh estate is located 3 km (1.9 mi) southeast of the village forming the southeastern shore of Baddeck Bay. The Kidston Island Lighthouse, built in 1912, can be accessed by passenger ferry in the summer months.
Baddeck had a strong relationship with its most famous resident, Alexander Graham Bell. In 1885 the Bell family had a vacation in Baddeck. Returning in 1886, Bell started building an estate on a point across from Baddeck, overlooking Bras d'Or Lake. By 1889, a large house, christened The Lodge was completed and two years later, a larger complex of buildings, including a new laboratory, were begun that the Bells would name Beinn Bhreagh (Gaelic: beautiful mountain) after Bell's ancestral Scottish highlands. Bell would spend his final, and some of his most productive, years in residence in both Washington, D.C., where he and his family initially resided for most of the year, and at Beinn Bhreagh.
Until the end of his life, Bell and his family would alternate between the two homes, but Beinn Bhreagh would, over the next 30 years, become more than a summer home as Bell became so absorbed in his experiments that his annual stays lengthened. Both Mabel and Alec became immersed in the Baddeck community and were accepted by the villagers as "their own".
On 23 February 1909, Bell's AEA Silver Dart was the first airplane to take flight in the British Empire, taking off from the frozen Baddeck Bay piloted by John Alexander Douglas McCurdy. This flight was recreated with replicas of the Silver Dart for both the 50th and 100th anniversaries of the flight.
Bell's estate also included the Bell Boatyard which made both experimental and traditional boats. Notable examples included the pioneering hydrofoil HD-4 and the yacht Elsie. The boatyard employed up to 40 people at its peak and was notable in employing many women in World War One when it made lifeboats for the Royal Canadian Navy.
Bell died at his Beinn Bhreagh estate on 2 August 1922. Bell's coffin was constructed of pine from the estate by his laboratory staff and lined with the same red silk fabric used in his tetrahedral kite experiments; he was buried atop the mountain at Beinn Bhreagh.
Today, Bell's work is commemorated with the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Baddeck, which houses a museum showcasing his work.
Baddeck Academy is a Primary to grade 12 school serving Baddeck and the surrounding communities. It is governed by the Cape Breton – Victoria Regional School Board.
The Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts is located approximately 20 km outside of Baddeck in St. Anns. The college teaches traditional Celtic arts including dance, music and Gaelic language.
Baddeck experiences a humid continental climate (Dfb). The highest temperature ever recorded in Baddeck was 36.7 °C (98 °F) on 22 August 1935. The coldest temperature ever recorded was −32.2 °C (−26 °F) on 11 February 1883.