Travel Guide to Canada
WESTERN NEWFOUNDLAND: FOUR WAYS
Tracing the shoreline for 683 km (424 mi.) from Port aux Basques to St. Anthony, this quiet edge of the island isn’t only known for little outports and big-hearted people. It also boasts a rich history, unforgettable outdoor adventures plus unsurpassed scenery. That’s a combination which makes Western Newfoundland a natural choice for many kinds of vacationers (www.newfoundlandlabrador.com/ top-destinations/western-region).
Although the province as a whole is famously photogenic, the one-of-a-kind vistas in gorgeous Gros Morne National Park, situated roughly halfway up the coast, are beyond compare (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 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 deck of a tour boat.
More intrepid types, however, can explore park waterways on Zodiac tours organized by Wild Gros Morne. The company, based in Woody Point, also runs guided walks, hikes, traditional culinary experiences and assorted winter outings that are cool in more ways than one (www.wildgrosmorne.com).
Western Newfoundland’s fascinating human history comes into focus as you drive along the Viking Trail, a route which starts just below Gros Morne and extends the length of the Great Northern Peninsula before crossing into Labrador (www.vikingtrail.org). Remains of three ancient Indigenous cultures, for instance, can be seen at the Port au Choix National Historic Site (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/portauchoix), while evidence of the first Europeans to arrive in North America 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 evocative 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 populated by faux Norse folk who are on hand to tell age-old tales and demonstrate traditional tasks such as candle making (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 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 located in the western region. 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 vicinity include hiking, mountain biking, and caving; adrenaline junkies can even combine the latter two on Cycle Solutions tours (www.cyclesolutions.ca/tour/cavingtours).Golfing at Humber Valley Resort’s 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).
LOCAL COLOUR CONNOISSEURS
Travellers increasingly crave cultural experiences, and the region delivers in this regard as well. Small group excursions, like the beach boil-ups and lighthouse picnics hosted by Four Season Tours and Port aux Basques Marine Excursions, respectively, provide a unique perspective (www.fourseasonstours.ca; www.portauxbasquesmarineexcursions.com). But folks here are so friendly that there are also ample opportunities for informal interactions. To meet locals en masse, try attending an annual event. Many focus on food. The Cow Head Lobster Festival and the Deer Lake Strawberry Festival are, for example, both peak-season favourites. Others, like St. Anthony’s Iceberg Festival held each June, prove residents can always find a reason to celebrate.
Artsy 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 (www.theatrenewfoundland.com)—offer different ways to immerse in local culture. 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, informative fashion.
Such a rich range of activities makes Western Newfoundland almost impossible to resist.
Board a Marine Atlantic ferry (www. marineatlantic.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 (lmsi. woodwardgroup.ca). If you’d rather fly, land at Deer Lake Regional Airport (www.deerlake airport.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.