After a long flight home from Santiago via Toronto we arrived back in Halifax where we took a taxi to the storage lot to pick up our home. We were leaving the trailer with our Harleys in storage while we went to Newfoundland.
We headed to North Sydney to the Arm of Gold Campground and were set up 26 hours after leaving Santiago! We had decided to spend a few days here in case there were any problems with our travel home. Since the weather on “The Rock” was very unpredictable we decided to rent a car for the next 3 weeks.
The next few days we enjoyed exploring Glace Bay and Bras D’or Lake regions and admired the lupins, which were HUGE!! One evening we discovered a local bar that was having a “kitchen party”, which was lots of fun, so much talent!!
It was time for us to head for the ferry dock to get in line to board. The sailing time was midnight and we had lounge chairs booked onboard to try to get some sleep as we sailed. Since we had a car and a motorhome we boarded separately. When we boarded June and the car were one of the first to load and Larry and the motorhome was one of the last, about 45 min later! Arriving in the early morning we then had a two hour drive to our first campground at Kippen. Since we did not sleep well on the ferry we were very tired so we got set up and took a nap for a couple hours.
When we woke up we went for a drive along the coast, following the French Ancestors Route around Cape St George. We had heard about how hospitable Newfoundlanders are and within 15 minutes we had our first experience. We had stopped to get a picture of the beautiful coastline and started talking to 2 couples in the only other car there. They said they were locals and were headed to Hidden Falls for a boil dinner. They invited us to join them, and they seemed genuinely sad that we couldn’t!
We did come across them again when they were eating and again they invited us to join them, they had a TON of freshly cooked food, it would have been lovely but it also would have been all we did that day, so we politely declined and continued to explore the Cape. With a stop at a tea house where we chatted again with another couple and they suggested that we head out to Blue Beach on the Point, so we did that too.
We only spent one night at Kippen so the next morning we were off again heading north past Cornerbrook and then to the western edge and Gros Morne National Park. The drive was spectacular and after getting set up in the Gros Morne KOA we headed out to explore.
Our first stop was just down the road at Norris Point where we drove down to the “tickle” in the fijord. A “Tickel” is “A narrow salt-water strait, as in an entrance to a harbour or between islands or other land masses, often difficult or treacherous to navigate because of narrowness and tides”. Pretty cool!
The next morning was an early start as we had a 380 km (one way) drive ahead of us up the western edge to the northern tip of Newfoundland. The reason for the long drive was to visit L’Anse aux Meadows which is the only known site established by Vikings in North America and the earliest evidence of European settlement in the New World. It is also the first UNESCO site to be designated for its historic value.
On the drive up we saw a mother and baby moose, followed up by a young teenager just entering the woods beside the road. This was very exciting and also the only time we saw moose, since we did very little driving at dawn and dusk when they are more visible.
Then just before we arrived at the heritage site we saw our first iceberg! It was a small one by iceberg standards, but since it is late in the season we were very excited to spot it. Extensive archaeological research after the site’s discovery in 1960 revealed that the timber-framed structures were constructed with a particular type of gabled roof and covered with turf taken from the surrounding peat bog.
The layout of the rooms, fireplaces and openings followed the characteristics of Norse design. Excavation uncovered evidence of iron production at the site, as well as approximately 800 wooden, bronze, bone, and stone artefacts that confirm the Norse origins of the property and provide important information on the work and lifestyle of the site’s occupants.
The original archeological site has been reburied in such a way as to protect the remnants from deteriorating, which you can walk around. Then they rebuilt everything right beside it and that is what you actually walk through and view. It was fascinating!!!
We also went for a small hike along the tip on the peat bog where the soil and elements are so harsh that the trees, even though they were 100 years old, were more like shrubs.
Before heading out for the drive home we stopped at the Daily Catch for a fresh cod and lobster dinner. When we mean fresh it was caught just a couple hours before by the owner of the restaurant. We also enjoyed an iceberg martini with ice cubes that came from the iceberg in the bay. Long but amazing day!!!
The next day was a beautiful sunny day and by Newfoundland standard, very warm. The mercury rose to 20 C. We only had one thing planned today and that was to hike up Gros Morne Mountain.
This was a 16 km round trip hike that went up to the peak at 806 meters above sea level. Since we were starting at sea level it was going to be an excellent climb. The first 4 km of the hike was through the forest. The rolling trail took us up about 300 meters where we walked out of the forest into a meadow with a couple of ponds, it was very lush and beautiful.
Looking back towards the coast we had a spectacular view of Bonnes Bay and its two fjords with the Tablelands in the background. The next 400 meter climb was in a wash filled with rocks, and we had to scramble over them as we climbed, we stopped and looked around at the scenery a lot!!.
Then we went into another meadow area and the final 100 meters was a lot easier as we reached the summit.
Since this is the second highest summit on the island we had a 360′ awe inspiring view! Seeing the fjords that have helped make Gros Morne famous, was spectacular!! We have been to some mountain peaks before but this one was unique to us and was like a beach in the sky.
Instead of sand however it was filled with rocks and actually made it a little hard to walk. What a great place to have lunch, no Tims or Starbucks here but we had brought our sandwiches with us.
After enjoying the sunshine and view on the mountain top we started the descent down the back and around the side. This was just as much elevation change but was a more gradual decline.
The hike down was equally as spectacular as the hike up but since it was later in the day the black flies had come out and started taking chunks out of us. It was time to get out of the forest! What an amazing day.
The next morning we went over to the Tablelands for a guided walk, with a knowledgeable local guide that we enjoyed immensely. The Tablelands are one of the only places on the planet where the earth’s mantle has risen up to the surface. This makes it very toxic and very little vegetation grows let alone, survives. It is made up of reddish brown rocks, but if you break them open they are black inside.
The Tablelands consist of a valley with the one half being the mantle and the other side being lush soil where the Boreal Forest grows. Each side of the valley has some of the same trees. Due to the soil the trees grow to the same height except, on the mantle side it takes 100 years and on the Boreal side it takes 10 years.
We also learned about the plants. On the Tablelands most of the plants are two different types of moss that were brought down from the artic by the glaciers.
There are a few flowers that grow here but they are carnivorous and get their nutrients from insects since the soil does not give them much. The Buttermoss and Red Doe are two of these plants, but the one that is famous in Newfoundland and is the provincial flower is the Pitcher Plant.
This is a burgundy flower that draps over a leaf that is formed like a water pitcher. The leaf is full of water that the insects get trapped in and drown before being absorbed by the plant. Another fascinating adventure!!!
For the afternoon we just headed down the road to do the Green Garden hike. This took us through the Boreal Forest and to the bluffs of the coast, where we found a broken down set of wooden steps that took us down to the beach below.
It was a perfect spot for a late lunch. We then climbed back up and continued along the coast to the Green Gardens.
Absolutely stunning views!
There were some people but not many, actually, there were more sheep then people! They were wild and therefore extremely wooly looking, for a while we were on the same trails as they were! This was an in and out trail so after retracing our steps and admiring the view both ways we ended up back at the car and time to head home. What a day!!!
We would have loved to spend a week or more in Gros Morne but unfortunately Newfoundland is a large island and we had a lot of ground to cover. Today’s drive took us to Robert’s Arm and Crescent Lake RV Park which was an amazing small campground on the water in one of the many inlets that are all over the coast. Our site was nestled among the trees right beside the water, so peaceful! We had discovered an app that locates icebergs, and there was one close by so we got in the car and went to explore. This one was trapped in a bay at Kings Point, which is a quaint little village, one of hundreds along the coast.
We were not disappointed when we arrived and with the sun shining the iceberg looked amazing just floating out in the middle of the bay. After checking out a few of the shops it was time to drive back around the coastline around Robert’s Arm where we spotted another small iceberg.
This evening we joined the owner’s of the campground at the communal firepit where they treated us to some roasted dough. Instead of making smores or roasted marshmallows they wrapped fresh dough around the roasting sticks and you roasted them until they were golden brown, then brushed them with melted butter and sprinkled with cinnamon. Mmmmmm!
From Robert’s Arm we continued east across the island to Twillingate and the Peyton Woods RV Resort. With a couple nights here we had a chance to explore the peninsula. We did an amazing 12 km hike that took us around the tip of the peninsula following the cliffs and bluffs of the rugged coastline, for the next 5 hours we saw only3 other people on the trail! At a couple of places we scrambled down to the ocean below but most of it was along the edge, about 30 to 50 meters above the waves crashing below. At the very tip was a lighthouse complex where we had more people but once past that point it was back to nature. At one point we stopped and looked across a little inlet to the cliff adjacent to us and we saw two bald eagles watching us watching them basically at eye level. Stunning!
At another point we started seeing some beautiful seashells, but the confusing part was that we were a good 20 meters above the beach below. We soon figured out that it was birds plucking the sea urchins out of the water and bringing them up here to eat, leaving behind still perfectly formed sea urchin seashells that have not been smashed by waves. It was an amazing hike that we will remember for years to come.
Continuing our travels east our next stay was at Eastport at the north end of Terra Nova National Park. This is not as spectacular as Gros Morne but is Newfoundland’s first National Park, and Canada’s most easterly National park. We did a short hike in the park before driving out to Salvage at the tip of the peninsula that Eastport is on. Here we did a beautiful small hike that gave us some great views of the Atlantic Ocean. The next day was a long days drive in the car around the Bonavista Penisula. The main reason for this long drive was to see puffins! Bird Island at Elliston and the puffin sanctuary was our destination.
The route took us up to Kings Cove and then followed the coastline towards Bonavista and over to Elliston. Just past Kings Cove we saw a whale blow and pulled over to watch as two Fin whales were floating in the water. The Fin whale is the second largest mammal on the planet. It was interesting seeing them just floating with the occasional dive. We then continued on to our next stop at the Puffin Sanctuary, which is a locally run, donation only set up. It is basically a short hike (about 5 minutes) out to a bluff and then across the small causeway is Bird Island, which is the home of a colony of puffins.
As we walked out and saw our first puffins we got VERY excited. They were flying around and swimming in the ocean below us. Then we rounded a large mound on the bluff and saw a group of people standing with cameras in hand, as we got closer we were about 5 meters away from a couple dozen puffins hanging out on the bluff. We stood there for about 45 minutes in awe of this beautiful bird, so much in awe I think we took about 500 pictures! Got to love the digital age.
It was a surreal experience: between the puffins flying around, to the whales off shore swimming past, and then the coastal fog rolling in. Unbelievable, one of the most amazing things to see!!! We then went back into town to the Puffin Café for an amazing meal of clam chowder and some cod tongue. Then we continued down the coast to Port Rexton, a very old fishing village with a lot of character. We arrived back home as the sun was setting to finish off a bucket list day.
Continuing on our tour east, we now found ourselves in St. John’s, at a campground downtown called Pippy Campground, which would be home base for 3 days. Our first place to explore was Signal Hill. It has been an important location for many wars such as the Seven Year War (mid 1700s) to the Napoleonic War and even the American Civil War. In modern times it is famous for being the location that received the first trans Atlantic wireless signal back in 1901. It is located at the entrance to the St. John’s natural harbor, and has some amazing hikes and views.
Just outside the city is Cape Spear, which is not only the most easterly point of Canada, but also North America. Here we hiked along the bluffs and watched the Fin and Minke whales playing and feeding in the ocean below.
We also drove to Mile 0 of the Trans Canada Highway. This one is the eastern mile 0 as we have already visited the western Mile 0 in Victoria, BC.
We had booked a puffin and whale watching tour out of Bulls Bay so we set out into the Atlantic. We have been on whale watching tours before and since we had such an awesome Puffin experience earlier, we were not expecting to be wowed. Boy, were we wrong!
We had a couple Fin whales swim past our boat, numerous Minke whales and then we spotted a pod of Humpbacks. So for about 20 minutes we floated in the water as they played around us. It turned into a magical whale show.
Then we headed to the cliffs to see the puffins and other seabirds and if we had not been wowed by the puffins the other day, this would have been good. Wait, it was still good just not as up close and personal.
We finished our stay in St John’s with a visit to George Street, the music and party street of Newfoundland. We ended up at two different pubs for some dinner and Celtic music and were not disappointed either time.
Our last two nights on Newfoundland was in Burnt Cove at the Celtic Rendezvous by the Sea campground. We have had many very cool campsites over our three years of exploring and site #7 here has been one of our best! This small campground is nestled on a bluff and our site was the end one looking out over the Atlantic, it was a spectacular place to call home! A short 1 km walk along the road from the campground brought us to the East Coast Trail which then took us along the coast.
Most of the trail was in the trees, but a side trail took us out to Doctor’s Cove where we came across the La Marche suspension bridge which gave us a beautiful cove to sit on the rock bluff to eat lunch where we had a couple more whale sightings. Later in the evening we joined our neighbours for drinks around a huge communal campfire. Before calling it a day I walked over to the bluff to take some pictures of the beautiful night sky.
Our next day we drove down to the southern tip of Newfoundland to Mistaken Point and the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve. This was a nice drive down along the coast where we could see more whales playing out in the ocean.
The Reserve is a UNESCO site where they have discovered fossils known to be left there by the first animals on the planet. The only way to see these fossils is to take a guided tour out to them. So after meeting our group at the visitor centre we drove out into the reserve and parked. Then we had a 3 km walk along the coast.
Once at the location we had to remove our boots and were only allowed to walk on the rocks in our socks. These rocks contains one of the most diverse and well-preserved collections of Precambrian fossils in the world. Ediacaran fossils discovered at the site constitute the oldest known remnants of multicellular life on Earth This was one of the most mind blowing things we have seen!!
Another kind of cool fact is the wreck of the RMS Titanic was found on 1 September 1985, slightly more than 600 km off the coast form here. After the tour we continued along the road to Cape Race, where we stopped at the lighthouse and radio station that picked up the distress signal coming from the Titanic after it struck the iceberg.
It was finally time to leave “The Rock”. After an amazing time here we left on the ferry from Argentia to North Sydney. The ferry ride takes 16 hours to complete and leaves mid afternoon so that we arrive in the morning. This time we had a cabin booked so that we could get a good nights sleep. After having a nice dinner in the formal dining room we enjoyed a beautiful sunset as we sailed and then crawled into our beds to finish the crossing.
We were awakened in the morning by the fog horns from the ferry as we arrived back to North Sydney in the fog. After disembarking we drove back to New Glasgow to drop off our rental car, and then on to the storage area to pick up our trailer. Next stop: our campground in Dartmouth called Shubie Campground for our next adventure.
Newfoundland was absolutely an amazing place!!