Dr. Grenfel, Dr. Grenfell, Fog, Fossils, Gros Morne National Park, Icebergs, L'Anse aux Meadows, Lighthouses, Lightkeepers Seafood Restaurant, Newfoundland, Port au Choix, SS Ethie, St. Anthony, Vikings, Whales
Newfoundland (newfun LAND) is an island and when driving an RV to an island the only way to get to it is via ferry, so we reserved a spot online. Following the instructions to be there an hour before boarding, actually we made a point of being early, we arrived at the dock in North Sydney, Nova Scotia and were sent to lane 11 to queue up and wait our turn to drive onto the MV Blue Puttees bound for Channel-Port aux Basques, Newfoundland.
After the 6 ½ hour crossing we off-loaded and headed straight for the nearest campground JT Cheeseman Provincial Park where the sites are huge, private, with electric only but on both sides of the space and at least when we were there pretty much empty! For you fellow RVers, the drinking water spigots all said boil before using, so we just didn’t use it.
We had decided to head for the Northern Peninsula and L’Anse aux Meadows first, so taking the TCH (Trans Canada Highway) to Corner Brook we picked up 450 driving out almost to the end of the road and Blow Me Down Provincial Park. The water here also required boiling. Before getting there however we stopped at the Blow Me Down Nature Trail between Frenchman’s Cove and York Harbour. A good distance from the parking lot is a lovely tall waterfall which doesn’t seem accessible but there is a trail that wonders off through the bog ending at what we’d call a river but the local kids we chatted with call a brook! We stayed there only long enough to get a photo as the blackflies were swarming near the water.
The next morning the weather was not in our favor, but very typical for Newfoundland, VERY low clouds/fog and misty.
The route up the Northern Peninsula is 430 running right along the coast. There’s a lot of construction on the first bit but one has to remember that with the winters here there’s a very small window to do any type of construction/repair work. It was to our advantage actually because there wasn’t a lot of traffic and our short waits gave us a chance to look around before moving on up the road.
We stopped at the site of the 1919 wreck of the SS Ethie. All crewmen and passengers were saved, including a baby that was transferred safely in a mailbag to waiting hands on shore but the ship lost.
We arrived at Port au Choix (Port ah Shuwwaaa) as the sky was clearing and checked into the Oceanside RV Park run by the United Towns Lions Club. Situated right on the shore and with electric, water and wifi this is a no frills but wonderful location! After picking our spot and marking it we headed into town. Basque whalers in the 16thth century fished here and gave it the name Portuchoa meaning “little port”.
Later this area was part of the “French Shore” given to France as exclusive fishing rights, but not as land for settlement, in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, and hence the French version of the name which translates to Port of Choice. We stopped for dinner at Anchor Café where we not only had excellent fish chowder and really good pan fried cod, our friendly and fun waitress Norvalee told us about Pointe Riche Lighthouse.
Back at the campsite we walked around the huge, flat rocks that are the shore and discovered they are covered with fossils! All in all, put Port au Choix on your MVL (Must Visit List).
The next day was just plain ugly weather wise, and not much better the following day, but we headed on north anyway towards Eddie’s Cove where we saw our first iceberg!
At this point the road turns east inland where the fog and rain slowly faded away, then up to the northern tip of Newfoundland, splitting into four fingers of road. We drove up 437 to Cape Onion where we saw more and bigger icebergs.
Then back down and out 436 to Quirpon and Viking RV Park where we settled in for the night.
To our great relief we woke to find the beautiful sunshine had remained and we quickly headed on up 436 to L’Anse aux Meadows a place that I was very excited to see. Discovered in 1960 when Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine came to this area following their study of the Norse Sagas. They asked the village residents if they knew of any mounds or unusual shapes in the surrounding landscape. Local George Decker took them to an area they all called the “old Indian camp”. Excavations began and with the discovery of an unquestionably Norse made cloak pin the first European settlement in North America was confirmed, dating from 1,000 years ago!
Back down the south arm of 430 we went to St. Anthony where we discovered Lightkeepers Seafood Restaurant. Put this on your MVL! We had lunch here twice and even stayed an extra day to try their dinner menu!
There is a gift shop and museum across the way as well and we had a wonderful time chatting with the owner as well as purchasing some of his mother’s homemade jams. On one of our visits I also walked the short trail behind the restaurant where a large white X was painted on a rock.
Turns out the “X Marks the Spot” where on August 10, 2009 Francis Patey threw his 2 page message about his hometown, inserted into a plastic soda bottle, into the ocean. For 544 days it traveled along an unknown journey until being spotted and picked up on a Brittany, France beach by Joy Nash! Francis had included his contact information and Joy did just that! FUN!!
We visited the Grenfell Center where we learned about the amazing Dr. Wilfred Thomason Grenfell who in the late 19th and early 20th centuries fell in love with Newfoundland and Labrador and spent the rest of his life, along with his wife, doctoring, educating and supporting the peoples in these two incredibly remote and difficult environments by building hospitals and schools.
We sat and watched on a foggy wet Sunday as men worked at the end of a newly constructed rock pier doing something in the waters of St. Anthony harbour. Watching through binoculars, I asked Ed “What do you think that yellow broken tube thing is?” one of the guys had taken out of a box, my clever husband says “Dynamite, that’s what they were doing, they’re going to blast under the water!”
Newfoundlanders call their island “The Rock” and true there is precious little soil on it, but we are having a wonderful time and hope you are enjoying our window into this beautiful place. There’s a lot more to come and we can’t wait!