Travel Guide to Canada
WESTERN NEWFOUNDLAND’S TOP ACTIVITIES
For starters, it boasts two signature attractions that are ripe for exploring: one a superlative national park, the other a haunting heritage site. Plus it offers ample opportunities for both exciting outdoor adventures and genuine cultural interactions. Trying this quartet of activities will help you make the most of your visit (www.newfoundlandlabrador.com/western).
MARVEL AT GROS MORNE
Although the province as a whole is famous for camera-ready vistas, those in gorgeous Gros Morne National Park, situated roughly halfway up the coast, are 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, are a case in point. Created eons ago by a massive tectonic upheaval, the mountainous, red-hued landscape is one of the few places where you can actually walk on the earth’s mantle.
Stunning 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 also launch out from here on the Long Range Traverse, a hiking route which ranks among the world’s most memorable.
FOLLOW THE VIKING TRAIL
Back in 1497, when John Cabot dubbed the island Terra Nova (or “New Land”), this region already had a long history. The
Viking Trail, 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 (www.vikingtrail.org). Remains of three ancient Indigenous 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 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 Viking port of trade (www.norstead.com). Faux Norse folk are also on hand to tell age-old tales and demonstrate traditional tasks such as candle making.
ENJOY THE GREAT OUTDOORS
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 example, is a magnet for whale watchers and boaters. Prefer fishing? Cod, squid, and more can all 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, warm-weather activities in the Corner Brook vicinity include hiking, mountain biking, and caving; adrenaline junkies can even combine the latter two on Cycle Solutions tours (www.cyclesolutions.ca/tour/ caving-tours). Golfing at Humber Valley Resort’s highly-regarded 18-hole championship course is another option (www. humbervalley.com). In winter, meanwhile, popular Marble Mountain promises skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and zip-lining (www.skimarble.com; www.marbleziptours.com).
FEEL LIKE A LOCAL
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 Cow Head Lobster Festival and the Deer Lake Strawberry Festival are, for instance, both 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 summertime alternatives— including the Writers at Woody Point Literary Festival, which combines scheduled and impromptu performances (www. writersatwoodypoint.com ), and the Gros Morne Theatre Festival, which breathes new life into vintage songs and stories through its repertory lineup, offer a different way for you to immerse in local culture (www. theatrenewfoundland.com). The same is true for the engaging interpretative programs sponsored by the eponymous national park, several of which explore traditional outport life in a fun and informative fashion.
Such a rich range of activities makes 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 to eight-hour crossing. If you’re arriving via Québec or Labrador, take the ferry between Blanc Sablon and St. Barbe or Corner Brook instead (www.labradormarine. com). If you’d rather fly, land at Deer Lake Regional Airport (www.deerlakeairport. com). The titular town (www.deerlake.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.