Our road trip to Newfoundland – Part II: Life on island time

Welcome to part II of our Newfoundland trip highlights. Part I was all about glorious landscapes, incredible trails and curious wildlife. (If you haven’t read it, you can find it here). But, of course, Newfoundland is no deserted island. Connecting with people who live there and learning about Newfoundland’s human history and culture were among our most memorable moments of the trip.

Salvage in Newfoundland   old boat near Lobster Cove in Newfoundland

Quidi Vidi Village in St. John`s, Newfoundland   fishing village in newfoundland

Newfoundland is famous for the kindness and openness of its inhabitants. Apart from one very unpleasant altercation with our neighbour in Butter Pot Provincial Park, we can fully attest to that. Throughout our trip we were offered help, directions, musical instruments and even a backyard to watch an iceberg. That last one was quite funny. We stopped by the roadside to take a photo of an iceberg in the distance. The next thing we know a woman drives up to us to give directions to her house because the view is better from there. Once we arrived, we realized we weren’t the first and far from the last people that were sent there. I guess the woman just wanted to make sure everyone got the best view of the berg.

small iceberg in the distance

A passer-by invited us to watch an iceberg from her backyard

Then on our last night in Gros Morne, after a Fire Circle led by Mi’kmaw interpreter Kevin Barnes, a spontaneous music party erupted. Kevin  produced his guitar, one of the security guards brought his ugly stick. My husband got to play, our son tried his hand at ugly stick. And then, as he was leaving, Kevin left us his guitar to use for the night because he said he could see how much we enjoyed music. These are just two of many heart-warming moments of the trip.

playing guitar and ugly stick in Gros Morne Park in Newfoundland     playing guitar and ugly stick in Gros Morne Park in Newfoundland

No trip to Newfoundland is complete without a music party

Here are some other things we saw and learned.

Ktaqmkuk, the far shore over the waves

Long before the island was “found” by white people, it was part of Mi’kma’qi, Mi’kmaq Traditional Territory, which also includes Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Gaspé. The Mi’kmaw people call it Ktaqmkuk, the far shore over the waves. Today approximately 10,000 people of Mi’kmaw ancestry live throughout the island. Unfortunately, we couldn’t visit the K’taqmkuk Mi’kmaq Museum to learn more about the Mi’kmaw culture (we were planning to stop there on our drive back but arrived after hours). But there were some information panels at Terra Nova and plus a great program with a Mi’kmaw interpreter at Gros Morne.

Information panels at Terra Nova Visitor CentreInformation panels at Terra Nova Visitor Centre

Information panels at Terra Nova Visitor Centre  Information panels at Terra Nova Visitor Centre

Learning about Mi`kmaq at Terra Nova National Park

We made a stop at Port au Choix Historic Site on our way up north hoping to get a bit of an insight into the Indigenous history of the island. There was little information about more recent history but we learned a lot about ancient seal hunters that inhabited these shores thousands of years ago.

Port au Choix National Historic Site in Newfoundland

Thousands of years of Indigenous history at Port au Choix

Port au Choix National Historic Site in Newfoundland

Seal hunters at Port au Choix

Beothuk Interpretive Centre in Boyd’s Cove near Twillingate was another stop on our route. Beothuks were a more recent group that lived in Newfoundland around the time of European arrival. Pushed further inside the island and cut away from resources, Beothuks eventually disappeared. Shanawdithit, the last known Beothuk, died in St. John’s in 1829  taking with her a rich culture we know so little about. Another reminder of colonialism’s destructive impact on Indigenous peoples and cultures not only on Turtle Island but across the world.

Beothuks Interpretive Centre in Boyd`s Cove, Newfoundland

Beothuk Interpretation Centre in Boyd`s Cove: building structure mimics Beothuks`traditional dwellings

inside eothuks Interpretive Centre in Boyd`s Cove, Newfoundland

Cut away from resources, Beothuks disappeared after Europeans arrived in Newfoundland

The site of a former Beothuk settlement in Boyd’s Cove, now the Beothuk Interpretation Centre, strings together the story of the people that are no more. It also has a spiritual garden where people are invited to leave little tributes and, hopefully, ponder over the true history of our country.

spirit garden at eothuks Interpretive Centre in Boyd`s Cove, Newfoundland

Spirit garden at Beothuk Interpretation Centre

Come from away

Being the easternmost part of Canada, Newfoundland was often the first touch point for many European arrivals. For instance, John Cabot landed at Cape Bonavista back in 1497.

But he wasn`t the first European to do so. Five hundred years before Cabot set foot on the island, another group of explorers landed here. I am talking about Vikings, of course. We couldn’t miss an opportunity to explore a nation wrapped in so much mystery and rich lore. So we made sure our itinerary included L’Anse aux Meadows, a site of a former Norse encampment.

LÀnse aux Meadows National Historic Site in Newfoundland

Vikings, the first Europeans to visit Turtle Island

Located on the northern tip of the island, where everything has either Viking or Norse in its name, L’Anse aux Meadows features a reconstructed Viking village as well as a great visitor centre detailing the archaeological work that was done and what it uncovered.

LÀnse aux Meadows National Historic Site in Newfoundland   LÀnse aux Meadows National Historic Site in Newfoundland

Reconstructed Norse village at LÀnse aux Meadows

LÀnse aux Meadows National Historic Site in Newfoundland   LÀnse aux Meadows National Historic Site in Newfoundland

A few Vikings left behind

LÀnse aux Meadows National Historic Site in Newfoundland   LÀnse aux Meadows National Historic Site in Newfoundland

Houses in the village were made of peat bricks

playing games at LÀnse aux Meadows National Historic Site in Newfoundland   playing games at LÀnse aux Meadows National Historic Site in Newfoundland

Playing some Viking games

L’Anse aux Meadows is not only a national historic site but also a UNESCO heritage site. Its importance, as the guide explained, lies in documenting the first meeting of the two worlds as the Norse were bound to come across Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. Hence the sculpture interpretation of this monumental reunion.

LÀnse aux Meadows National Historic Site in Newfoundland

Meeting of Two Worlds

Fishing villages

Ocean proximity means highly developed fishing industry and mouth-watering sea food as well as lots charming fishing villages. Many of the villages come with the titles of the most beautiful or most photographed. All of them very well deserved. Multicoloured houses against rocky backdrops. Piles of lobster and snow crab traps. Boats bobbing in the water nearby. Lighthouses perched on rocky ledges. The smell of salt and peacefulness in the air. That is until you see all the “For Sale” signs and realize things may not be as idyllic as they seem.

Salvage in Newfoundland

Salvage, the most photographed fishing village on the island

Petty Cove in Newfoundland   Petty Cove in Newfoundland

Petty Cove in Newfoundland

Petty Cove near St. John`s

Petty Cove in Newfoundland   fishing net

fishing boat near Cape Spear

Fishing boats attract lots of avian followers

Norris Point in Newfoundland    old boat at Norris Point in Newfoundland

Scenes from Norris Point

Twillingate, Newfoundland

Charming little town of Twillingate, also known as the Iceberg Capital of the World

Elliston, the root cellar capital of the world in Newfoundland    Elliston, the root cellar capital of the world in Newfoundland

Elliston, the Root Cellar Capital of the World

lobster traps on the shore

Piles of lobster traps is a common scene

Long Point Lighthouse in Twillingate  Lighthouse in St. Anthony, Newfoundland

Lighthouses in Twillingate and St. Anthony

The colours of St. John’s

Newfoundland’s capital and largest city, St. John’s is also North America’s oldest. And even though it is considerably larger than most of the towns and villages we travelled through, it has managed to preserve the charm and serenity of coastal villages, in part thanks to its famous jellybean row houses lining St. John`s hilly streets. And also because cars still stop here for pedestrians to cross the street.

St. John`s from Signal Hill

Colourful St. John`s

jellybean rowhouses in St. John`s, Newfoundland   jellybean rowhouses in St. John`s, Newfoundland

St. John`s, Newfoundland

Famous jellybean row houses

jellybean rowhouses in St. John`s, Newfoundland   jellybean rowhouses in St. John`s, Newfoundland

Then, of course, there is Quidi Vidi, an old fishing village, now part of St. John`s and home to the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation, an artistic community. As well as Quidi Vidi brewery famous for its Iceberg beer because if you have icebergs so close by, you have to use them in beer making. The beer is so popular that it took us a while to track it down.

Quidi Vidi Village in St. John`s, Newfoundland

Quidi Vidi Village

Quidi Vidi Village in St. John`s, Newfoundland

Quidi Vidi Brewery, home of illusive Iceberg beer

We spent two days in St. John’s wandering its streets and hiking the trails around Cape Spear and Signal Hill. The latter is where Marconi received the world`s first transatlantic signal in 1901.

Cape Spear in Newfoundland

Cape Spear in Newfoundland    Cape Spear in Newfoundland

Cape Spear, North America`s easternmost point

view of Signal Hill in St. John`s, Newfoundland

Signal Hill, one of St. John`s landmarks

Signal Hill in St. John`s, Newfoundland  Signal Hill in St. John`s, Newfoundland

enjoying the view from Signal Hill St. John`s, Newfoundland   view from Signal Hill in St. John`s, Newfoundland

inside Signal Hill in St. John`s, Newfoundland

Marconi received the first transatlantic signal at Signal Hill

Signal Hill also offered some of the best views of the city. That was where I spent my last morning  on the east coast, taking in the view of St. John`s bathed in the soft glow of the rising sun.

view from Signal Hill St. John`s, Newfoundland

Early morning view of St. John`s from Signal Hill

Geocaching in a geo park and other geoadventures

No trip would be complete without geocaching. Our son’s pursuits took us to places and trails we wouldn’t have visited otherwise. Some were pretty cool like GEO park in St. John’s. Others not so much, like the Old Mail Trail in Gros Morne where we were attacked by mosquitoes.

geocaching in Newfoundland  geocachign in Newfoundland

There is always time for some geocaching

eco park in St. John`s, Newfoundland

Geocahing in a graveyard (not a real one) at GEO park in St. John`s

geocaching at Port au Choix National Historic Site in Newfoundland   geocaching at Port au Choix National Historic Site in Newfoundland

More geocaching along the way

This time our geocaching adventures came with additional incentives. Gros Morne, Port au Choix and L’Anse aux Meadows offered geocaching challenges where you could purchase geocoins after collecting a certain number of caches. So of course, we had to get them all, sometimes in a span on an hour or so.

geocoin at Port au Choix        geocoin at LÀnse aux Meadows

geocoin at Gros Morne National Park newfoundland

Geocoins from Port au Choix, LÀnse aux Meadows and Gros Morne, what a collection

Life in slow motion

There were lots of memorable encounters along the way, like meeting fellow Torontonians on  top of Gros Morne mountain and running into a friend I haven’t seen in years on the streets on St. John`s. Or that time when we were huddling in a kitchen shelter on a rainy night with a dozen other campers who were finishing their dinners, washing dishes, playing card games. The place was filled with the warmth of a wood stove and buzz of spontaneous conversations about best views, best trails, best wildlife sightings.

But the best part of the trip, as always, were quiet, unhurried moments to sit by the ocean, watch, and photograph, sunsets, play in the sand, stack rocks and skip stones, while listening to the world dance around in slow motion.

watching sunset

Sunset watching was on the itinerary almost every day

skipping rocks    skippign rocks

Skipping rocks is fun at any age

watching a waterfall in gros morne, Newfoundland

Taking a break on the trail

playing on the beach   playing on the beach

Sometimes all you need to have fun is some rocks and lots of sand

walkign in Gros Morne, Newfoundland

Quiet, unhurried moments are always the best part of the trip

At Lobster Cove lighthouse in Gros Morne, Newfoundland   At Lobster Cove lighthouse in Gros Morne, Newfoundland

Playing games and some music at Lobster Cove Lighthouse

balancing rocks   balancing rocks

balancing rocks   balancing rocks

Stacking rocks is my husband`s favourite activity

Wave sound sculpture in Gros Morne, Newfoundland

Wave Sound sculpture by Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore, one of the four placed in Parks Canada across the country, encourages visitors to pause and listen to the land

writing in a journal in a tent by the lamplight    photographing sunset

Documenting the trip in words and pictures

family selfie

A rare selfie moment

 

8 thoughts on “Our road trip to Newfoundland – Part II: Life on island time

    • It was a great trip. And yes, geocaching is a lot of fun. It’s like a huge treasure hunt. Definitely takes you to places you wouldn’t visit otherwise. Let me know if you need any pointers on how to get started with geocaching and thank you for the follow.

      Liked by 1 person

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