Travel Guide to Canada
FOUR WAYS TO ENJOY WESTERN
Those looking for urban pleasures will feel no big city buzz in Western Newfoundland. Tracing the shoreline for 683 km (424 mi.), this edge of the island doesn’t boast glitzy mega-malls or a late-night club scene and skyscrapers here are noticeably absent.
But a pair of signature attractions—one a superlative national park, the other a haunting heritage site—plus ample opportunities for outdoor adventures and cultural interactions—make it a natural choice for many different types of vacationers (www. newfoundlandlabrador.com/western).
Although the province is famous for camera-ready vistas, those in gorgeous Gros Morne National Park, roughly halfway up the coast, are truly unparalleled (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/grosmorne). More than a year-round playground for nature lovers, this ruggedly beautiful 1,805-sq.-km (697-sq.-mi.) locale is a natural wonder almost 500 million years in the making. The Tablelands, which helped earn Gros Morne a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation in 1987, is one case in point. Created eons ago by a massive tectonic upheaval, the red-hued, flat-topped mountain is always ready for its close-up.
The scenery of Western Brook Pond—a freshwater fjord formed during the last ice age—is equally compelling. Most people are content to view its glacier-carved granite walls and dramatic 610-m (2,000-ft.) waterfalls from the photogenic boardwalk or the deck of a tour boat; however, energetic types can launch out from here on the Long Range Traverse, a hiking route which ranks among the world’s most memorable.
Back in 1497, when John Cabot dubbed the island Terra Nova (or “New Land”), this region already had a long history. The Viking Trail (www.vikingtrail.org), which starts just below Gros Morne and extends the length of the Great Northern Peninsula before crossing into Labrador, lets you experience life in the past lane. Remains of three ancient Aboriginal cultures can be seen at Port au Choix National Historic Site (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/portauchoix), while evidence of the first Europeans to arrive in the New World lies further north at L’Anse aux Meadows (www.parkscanada.gc. ca/meadows).
Contrary to what Columbus fans profess, it was actually Leif Eriksson who “discovered” North America in 1000 AD, and the Viking settlement he erected here has itself been recognized by UNESCO. Open from late May through early October, the site includes a complex of sod huts and a visitor’s centre showcasing artefacts used a millennium ago. For an entertaining variation on the theme, continue on to nearby Norstead, a meticulously recreated port of trade populated by faux Norse folk (www.norstead.com).
If it’s fresh air fun you’re after, head for the area around Newfoundland & Labrador’s second largest city, Corner Brook (www. cornerbrook.com). The Bay of Islands, for starters, is a magnet for whale watchers and boaters. Prefer fishing? Cod, squid, and more can also be caught here. Of course, there aren’t just lots of fish in the sea—they fill other bodies of water, too. In fact, this province is home to most of North America’s Atlantic salmon rivers, a disproportionate number of which are right here. The Humber, which sees tens of thousands of fish swim through during its annual run, is a particular hot spot for trophy-sized salmon.
Back on dry land, other warm-weather activities in the Corner Brook vicinity include hiking, mountain biking, and golfing at Humber Valley Resort’s highly-regarded 18-hole championship golf course (www. humbervalley.com). In winter, popular Marble Mountain promises skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, dogsledding, and even zip-lining (www. skimarble.com; www.marbleziptours.com).
LOCAL COLOUR CONNOISSEURS
Travellers increasingly crave cultural experiences these days, and Western Newfoundland delivers in this regard as well. The simple fact that folks around here are so friendly means opportunities for authentic interaction are plentiful. To meet locals en masse, try attending one of the region’s annual events. Not surprisingly, many of them focus on food. The Exploits Valley Salmon Festival, the Cow Head Lobster Festival and the Deer Lake Strawberry Festival are, for instance, all peak-season favourites. But others, like the Iceberg Festival held each June in St. Anthony, prove that residents can always find a reason to celebrate.
Artsy alternatives, including the Gros Morne Theatre Festival which breathes new life into vintage songs and stories through its summer repertory lineup, offers a different way for you to immerse in local culture (www.theatrenewfoundland.com/ gmtf.html). The same is true for the engaging interpretative programs sponsored by the park itself, several of which explore traditional outport life in a fun and informative way.
Such a rich range of attractions and activities make Western Newfoundland almost impossible to resist.
Board a Marine Atlantic ferry (www.marine atlantic.ca) from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Port aux Basques at the island’s southwest tip (www.portauxbasques.ca). This historic town, founded by 16th century Basque fishermen, is a fine place to stop before or after the six-hour crossing. If you’re arriving via Québec or Labrador, take the Blanc Sablon to St. Barbe or Corner Brook ferry instead (www.tw.gov.nl.ca/ ferryservices/index.html). If you’d rather fly, land at Deer Lake Regional Airport (www. deerlakeairport.com). The titular town (www.town.deerlake.nf.ca), 35 minutes north of Corner Brook and 35 minutes south of Gros Morne National Park, marks the start of the Viking Trail, otherwise known as Route 430.