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From Coast to Coast in Newfoundland (Part 2)
There’s something uncanny about road-tripping. You can choose to explore a local area, barely putting any mileage on your vehicle, or you can go for the long-haul, and get to that much-desired destination quickly.
We chose the latter in the middle of our day two in Newfoundland. Taking advantage of an insider’s tip courtesy of Cape St. Mary Reserve interpreter Chris Mooney, we hurried north along a stellar coastline to see the puffins near Bonavista. A fog in Cape St. Mary, Chris told us, virtually guarantees clear skies on the other side of the island.
It was evening when we arrived at Bird Island in Elliston—a perfect time to see the 5,000-strong puffin colony. The vantage point was perfect: a cliff a half-a-kilometre east of the road on a little-used trail, overlooking a craggy island. Our birds, however, decided to take their time coming in this day, and as a spectacular sunset began, we decided to head into Bonvista.
What a popular place to spend the night! In another typical example of effusive Newfoundland hospitality, the friendly proprietor of the second full B&B we called her friend Albert to find us a place. This paved the way for our most memorable of people experiences on the Rock.
Albert drove up to lead us to our new home, which overlooked a dock where a full-scale replica of the Matthew, John Cabot’s ship, sits in harbour.
Albert came and led us to the aptly-named Harbourview B&B, overlooking the picturesque harbour where a full-scale replica of the Matthew, John Cabot’s ship, is docked.
Run by Albert Little and his delightful wife Florence, this homestead turned out be a quintessential experience of Newfoundlanders‘ unparalleled generosity.
It wasn’t quite the four-star establishment that the moms had been expecting—but they loved it. Albert, a well-aged fisherman with a knack for telling tales, had to find another trade when the Cod fishery collapsed in the early 90’s, and the hospitality business suited him and Florence just fine.
He promised an „evening snack“—which turned out to be a B&B community event. Along with Florence they filled us and another six guests with crab, pie, tarts, cake and delicious local stories, until everybody was bursting at the seams.
We woke up refreshed, to another brilliant sunrise, and headed back to Elliston to catch up with those puffins. This morning they were much more cooperative, with several even awkwardly flying over our heads in greeting.
The Harbourview, complete with Florence’s homemade partridgeberry and bake apple jams for breakfast, is a must-stay on any Newfoundland itinerary.
We left early on day three with a mission: to make it to the west coast to catch the sunset. On the way, we stopped at the Bonavista lighthouse, one of the first to be built on the island, and at Dungeon Provincial Park, where unusual rock formations add magic to fantastic ocean views. We then took a short detour to pass through Trinity, an idyllic picture-perfect traditional Newfoundland town. Any photographer would love this place.
We made a bee-line through central Newfoundland, passing through rock barrens and black-spruce forest, and our anticipation of Gros Morne, our final destination, grew. As we arrived and started our drive north through the park, the sun was beginning its final trek into hiding behind the ocean.
The scenes—how can I describe them to you? We passed through divine playgrounds of glittering lakes, towering cliffs, imposing mounds and ocean inlets stretching like fingers into the coastline. And the moose—it’s impossible not to see them, a young buck here, and an older cow there, time and time again along the highway. With some of the highest moose densities in the world, we reminded ourselves to meticulously obey the speed limit.
For the night, we landed in Norris Point—back to some four-star, mom-friendly accommodations. The Sugar Hill Inn, run by proprietor Vincent McCarthy, proved to be the perfect fit. Vincent followed his wife Marina, the local dentist, to Gros Morne some 15 years prior, deciding to take advantage of the tourist boom of the time. Vincent’s passion for cooking for and connecting with guests was clearly evident.
In the morning of day four, we rushed to the Ocean View Motel in Rocky Harbour, where we reserved spaces for another must-see element of any Newfoundland vacation: the Westernbrook Pond boat tour. A three-kilometre hike, wheelchair accessible with gravel and boardwalk sections, brought us to our boat.
On this lake, an ancient fiord which has since turned into one of the deepest and cleanest lakes in North America, we watched waterfalls plunge down the 700-metre cliffs rising like walls around us. The tour took us deep into eastern tip of the lake, where hikers starting long backcountry treks through Gros Morne typically begin their journeys. The allotted two hours for the tour proved to be just right.
In the afternoon, we headed to the tablelands, the flattened protrusion of the earth’s mantle that has earned Gros Morne UNESCO World Heritage status. On the other side of them, in a small village called Trout River, the magical little Seaside Restaurant awaited us—along with the lobster dinner that had been eluding my mother every day until then. Sorry, no more lobster, had been the maxim, but this time we managed to land the very last one.
Driving back to Norris Point as the sun was hitting the horizon, we were awed by the deep-orange tablelands mountainsides—utterly indescribable in their beauty.
The next morning, day five, we knew we needed to end up in St. John’s by the evening, and opted for an indirect route through Twillingate to punctuate the trip. There, we landed a most magnificent whale tour on the MV Daybreak, with Twillingate Adventure Tours.
Our sea-hardened guide Kimmy, one of the first women ever to work an offshore fishing boat, spun yarns worthy of a master storyteller, and alone was easily worth the cost of the trip. Having found no whales after two hours, her brother, the captain of the Daybreak, insisted on checking one more section of coastline—and soon the horn sounded, telling us to keep our eyes peeled. Surfacing unpredictably, first left and then right, almost as if teasing us, were a pair of Minke whales. Their glistening black backs crested the water in a wondrous arc for just a moment at a time, leaving us scouring the ocean for yet another glimpse.
Filled with Newfoundland’s splendour, and the kindness and modest humanity of its people, we landed back in St. John’s for the night so as to catch the early morning flight back to Toronto. A few days later, my mother called me, remarking on how strongly the land of Newfoundland must capture and shape the hearts of its people, as after but a few days, it had already begun to work its magic on her. What’s left now is for you, yourself to see how this astonishing pristine land will affect you.
(The Epoch Times)