In August I spent ten days vacationing in Newfoundland. It was a wonderful trip and I would have stayed longer if I could have. I traveled with my brother, so it was also a great chance to hang out with him since we don’t live near each other. I’m sharing photos and impressions here, broken into two parts. Today’s post is about the west coast of Newfoundland, an area rich with UNESCO World Heritage sites.
I couldn’t find a direct flight from NYC so I had a layover in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I met up with my brother at the Deer Lake Motel in Deer Lake, Newfoundland. Deer Lake Airport is the closest airport to Gros Morne National Park, and the town of Deer Lake is mostly an airport service town. The motel is nothing fancy, but it’s clean and the staff are very helpful. It has a restaurant which is just OK but very busy as it’s the only restaurant around there. There’s a tiny hotel lounge where I had a deliciously clear and refreshing Iceberg beer, brewed in Newfoundland with iceberg water. Beer aficionados seem to find it too light-tasting but I loved it for exactly that reason.
The next day was Friday. We drove to Gros Morne National Park for a boat tour of Western Brook Pond. Western Brook Pond is 19-mile-long freshwater fjord created by glacial retreat. We hiked about a mile to the boat dock through striking boglands and windblasted woods.
The boat ride on the pond was all about the stunning cliffs and fog. The fog was so dramatic at one point that it reminded me of the curses rolling into town on the fairy tale TV show Once Upon A Time. I said so and a woman sitting in front of us said, “I was just thinking that!”
After the tour, we ate burgers at the boat dock and then hiked back to the rental car. I was in no shape even for the relatively easy hike so I was kind of wobbly afterwards, but also exhilarated from the natural beauty and the bracing air. Also maybe endorphins.
Saturday was hard rain, the worst weather of our trip. This was unfortunate as it was also our big Viking day, but the original Vikings didn’t let a little rain stop them, right? We drove further north to L’Anse aux Meadows, the UNESCO World Heritage site where Vikings established a settlement in North America. It was raining too hard for me to take my iphone out but here is a photo from Wikimedia.
Here is a gorgeous video ad from Newfoundland’s tourism bureau:
The exposed, windswept coastal site is beautiful in itself. The archaelogical remains are mostly just pits in the ground where the various longhouses were. I was impressed by the park interpreter who led the guided tour, shouting over the wind about the various archaelogical discoveries, the rain plastering her hair to her head. She also showed us how the varying colors of the stunted pines indicated the trees were secreting a substance to insulate themselves from the cold. It was freezing cold, even in August. At one point there was a little hail. We were glad to get to the reconstructed longhouse where there were costumed interpreters to talk to us about Viking beliefs and customs and, more importantly, to invite us to sit around the warm fire.
We went back to the Valhalla Lodge B&B (in Gunners Cove, Saint Lunaire-Griquet) to dry off and change, and then we went back to L’Anse aux Meadows for an amazing dinner at The Norseman restaurant. I had mussels and maple salmon, and watched black-backed gulls out the window with the provided binoculars. After dinner, we went back to the B&B and played cribbage. We were a little surprised when an elderly man came in and introduced himself as a neighbor. He hung out and chatted with us for awhile. He told us that he wished he had moved away from Newfoundland when he was young so he could have had a happier life. We never did figure out whether he was just a lonely neighbor who saw the lights and came in for the company or whether he was checking for the proprietors that the guests weren’t wrecking the joint. (There was no actual host on the premises; it was all self-check-in. The same people own the Norseman and the Valhalla; both are terrific.)
Sunday was a very long day but at least it started with delicious pancakes at the B&B. (A cook came up from the restaurant.) We left as early as possible and headed back in the bright sunshine for the long drive to Deer Lake to fly to the east coast on Monday. We saw moose by the side of the road. We stopped to stretch our legs in Flowers Cove to see the thrombolites, which look like rocks but are actually rare fossils of ancient bacterial colonies.
We went back to the Anchor Cafe for mooseburgers. (Good but need relish.) We had been making good time so we decided to deviate slightly from our planned route and drive further south into Gros Morne park to see the Tablelands, because they are another UNESCO world heritage site. This turned into something of a race against time as the park closes at sunset and we didn’t really know the way. The Tablelands are a place where the earth’s mantle was forced up to the surface during a tectonic plate collision. The resulting soil is high in minerals and low in nutrients, actually somewhat toxic, creating a kind of desert-like environment in wet, green Newfoundland. We got there in time for a quick walk on the shortest trail, and I’m glad we did because it was worth it to see the barren landscape amidst all the lush park scenery.
On Monday we flew to St. John’s on the east coast. I wish we had been able to spend more time on the west coast because there was so much more to see. I would love to spend more time in beautiful Gros Morne itself. Port aux Choix has an archaelogical site that we didn’t get to see. I would have gone to St. Anthony. I might even have taken the ferry to Labrador. There were lots of RVs on the road and there was an RV rental place near the airport, so maybe that would be a plan for another time. I would absolutely visit again.