I know I’ve written lots of blog posts about our trip to Newfoundland. Here is how I summed up our visit in my newspaper column for The Carillon. Publishing it here on my blog also gives me a chance to post a few photos I hadn’t fit into any other posts.
I’ve been on The Rock for the last two weeks. The Rock is Newfoundland’s nickname. It’s fast becoming one of Canada’s most popular travel destinations. Many of our bed and breakfast hosts reported being fully booked before the tourist season even began. When I told people in Manitoba we were going to Newfoundland I was inundated with suggestions about what to see and do by previous Newfoundland travelers eager to share their enthusiasm for the province. So why is everyone going to Newfoundland? There are economic reasons like more affordable airfares and the low Canadian dollar, but I think other things are drawing folks to a place that’s often been portrayed as bleak and inaccessible by historians and novelists.
There’s the varied landscape. We hiked the Skerwink Trail along the Bonavista Peninsula. The ocean views were spectacular. We photographed eagles, saw the village of Trinity Bight where the movie The Shipping News was filmed, marveled at huge rock formations, stood on cliff edges looking out to sea and traipsed through pine and birch forests. We hiked repeatedly in Newfoundland’s gorgeous Gros Morne National Park exploring deep fjords, tablelands of stunning ultramafic rock, traditional lighthouses, tiny fishing villages, teeming tide pools and rocky shorelines.
Then there’s the fascinating history of Newfoundland. Reading the book The Colony of Unrequited Dreams on our trip I learned about the Beothuk, the first indigenous people of Newfoundland. We stopped at a statue of John Cabot. He landed in Bonavista in 1497. We visited the cable station in Heart’s Content where the first permanent telegraphic communication across the Atlantic was established in 1866. We spent time in Joey Smallwood’s birthplace. We learned how he brought Newfoundland into Canadian confederation in 1949 and how he forcibly resettled thousands of people whose families had lived in remote fishing villages for centuries. The Rooms Museum in St. John’s was an architectural delight. Its name alludes to the summer fishing stations called ‘the rooms’ which Newfoundland families used to establish on the shoreline. The museum explains how the history of fishing is essentially the history of Newfoundland.
Then there’s the food. We ate moose burgers, cod dinners and seafood chowder. At the Bonavista Social Club we dined looking out over the ocean and strolled through the gardens, greenhouse and grounds to see how every single thing we ate was grown or raised on site. Even our dishes were made in the adjacent woodworking shop. We visited the wine vaults where Newfoundland’s famous Newman’s port was aged. On Thanksgiving Day we had a traditional jiggs dinner at the Rocky Harbor community hall.
Then there are the friendly people. Our bed and breakfast hosts were kind and helpful. Our restaurant waiters called us ‘loves’ and ‘dears’ and smiled as they served us. The guides on hiking trails, in museums and lighthouses, and at tourist information centers were informative and happy we’d come to Newfoundland. We met an old friend who lived in Steinbach for a time. We hadn’t seen her in years but she took time off from her busy schedule to have dinner with us and answer our endless questions about her home province.
Although we visited Newfoundland in October when whales, puffins and icebergs were no longer on view and when many tours, historical sites and boating trips were shut down for the season, we still had a wonderful time. The autumn foliage was stunning and we lucked into almost perfect weather with plenty of sunny days ideal for exploring. The Rock was the only province in Canada we hadn’t visited, but now that we have, I’m sure we’ll go back.