The harbour, located in historic downtown, has provided shelter to explorers, merchants, soldiers, pirates and mariners of all kinds over the last 500 years. It's always a bustling place and a landmark to the city. If you can brave the cold ..the fireworks on New Years Eve here are terrific!
A trip to St John's isn't complete until you drive to the top of Signal Hill. The last time we went was New Year's and it was a blustery winter day....but there .were others visiting as well and braving the elements. Signal Hill rises above the entrance of St. John's harbour and because of its strategic location, was a natural site for a signal station and fortifications protecting the harbour and city below. As early as 1704, flag signals were flown from the summit of Signal Hill to inform St. John's of approaching ships, both friendly and hostile. For me I go for the fabulous view of the city!!
There is an excellent exhibit at The Rooms about native Newfoundland animals and birds. Even though I've lived in Newfoundland for a time and visited often ...I was amazed at the variety of gulls. Come face to face with a polar bear on the tundra. The snowy owl was my favorite. Great for children
Built in 2005 The Room's can't be missed . Oh....I mean it really sticks out and you'll ...likely ask someone " What's That" It looks like a couple of over grown wooden fish houses ...I think that was the idea. Inside however is really worth a visit. The Rooms unites the Provincial Museum, the Provincial Art Gallery and the Provincial Archives under one roof. There are ever changing visiting exhibits.
Wednesday nights from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm & the first Saturday of every month
There are several dinner theater's to coose from . We went to The Majestic Theater and it was a good choice. "HUMBUG" is a hysterical musical comedy based on the classic Charles Dickens story, "A Christmas Carol". The singing was fantastic and so was the humour . I can't recommend it for the meal...the cod a gratin was cold and dry...but still a great night. If you go in winter wear something warm...that old building is drafty!!
Tickets can be reserved by calling 579.3023
Ticket price is $54.50+HST
L'Anse Aux Meadows is the first European settlement in North America. In 1000 AD, Norwegian Vikings from Greenland built a settlement of huts and a furnace to smelter ore into iron.
The settlement was used for about ten years before being abandoned by the Vikings.
Parks Canada recreated one of the living huts based on what was found in the ground and put on demonstrations of how life took place inside the huts.
Because of all this it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We found it an intensely interesting spot. You can read more about it on our detailed L'Anse aux Meadows page or on the Parks Canada website.
Once we had hit the high points of Gros Morne, we continued our trip northward along the peninsula the next day, heading for Vikings and Whales at its northern tip (see my St. Anthony page!). However, only a few kilometers north of the National Park we chanced upon The Arches Provincial Park - a fine little picnic stop located beside the highway. Again, we really enjoyed the unique formations of these former underwater caves that later surfaced when the Ice Age retreated and the level of the land rebounded above the sea. It was very windy but the temperature was good as we explored among the formations. No charge to visit the site.
The Long Range Mountains comprising this peninsula of Newfoundland were formed hundreds of millions of years ago during the geological changes associated with the formation of the Earth's continents as they are presently formed. During the Ice Ages, huge glaciers carved 'fjords' with 2300-ft sheer cliffs (700-m) , like these ones, in the resulting mountain ranges. Later, as the climate warmed, the glaciers melted and the surface of the earth gradually rebounded as the great weight was removed. As a result, these fjords were cut off from the ocean itself, forming trapped bodies of water, called 'Ponds' in Newfoundland. After leaving the Tablelands, we arrived at the entrance to Westen Brook Pond and then left the car park to walk a short distance inland to the interpretive centre (3rd photo). From the centre, there is a very interesting 30-40 minute (3 km) trail walk across the now intervening lowlands before you reach the edge of the trapped fjord seen in the distance. The lowlands actually comprises a coastal bog and three small wooded limestone ridges - with various interpretive signs located at strategic intervals. If you are lucky, you may even come across a Moose feeding in the bogs!
The boat tour cruised up the 16-km (10-mile) lake with a running commentary on the various waterfalls, cliff features and wildlife that is encountered. The second photo shows the view as we leave the far end of the lake, where a hiking trail connects to the 707-metre (2300 foot) Gros Morne Mountain in another section of the park. Herds of caribou still use the uplands of Gros Morne as their breeding ranges. Arrangements can be made to hike into or out of this spot and then use the boat tour as a one-way passage on the lake. The cold 165-m (500 ft) deep waters of the lake are home to Arctic Char, Atlantic Salmon and Brook Trout.
A half-hour or so after leaving Deer Lake, you will enter Gros Morne National Park, one of Canada's best. Inside the southern edge of the park is an amazing geological wonder called the Tablelands. This, in fact, was the main reason why the park was made a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Tablelands is a 260-million year old chunk of lava from the earth's crust that broke off and was thrust to the surface during collisions between the constanting moving tectonic plates in this part of the world. There are a few other places in the world that also boast similar formations, in Oman, Cyprus, Tibet and southern Chile. The rocks are composed of peridotite but, when thrust to the surface, they change to the mineral serpentine. Due to weathering effects, serpentine turns to a tan colour, giving this huge formation its distinctive look. The chemical composition of the rocks is also not very condusive to plant life, consequently it appears to be a barren moon-like surface in comparison to the surrounding spruce forests. Here, I am sitting on the back of our car at a rest-site in the Park, but we really enjoyed our drive up onto and around this amazing chunk of rock! The other photo shows how the Tablelands sticks out from the crowd when viewed from the other side of Bonne Bay.
Signal Hill National Historic Park overlooks St. John's, which is the capital of Newfoundland & Labrador. Signal Hill was once called Flagstaff Hill. It is the highest hill around; lookouts were stationed there from early on. Signal Hill has long been a military installation. It was the site of gun batteries during WW1, WW2, The Napoleanic Wars, The War of 1812 etc.
There is a trench mortar is on display at the summit of Signal Hill. The mortar is short and wide; the barrel is shallow its cannonball was eight or more inches wide. God knows how anybody ever moved it around because the barrel weighs hundreds of pounds. I am sure it was just as dangerous to the people leading and firing it as anybody they shot it at.
Jutting out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the town of Stephenville, is the Port au Port Peninsula, a geological feature that provides one of the few safe anchorages along this rugged western coast of Newfoundland. This area has a long and interesting history, starting with the arrival of Basque and French fishermen in the 1500-1600s (fishing the Grand Banks). Over the next hundred years, the initial rough fishing camps became permanent settlements with so much activity that this coast of Newfoundland remained the "French Shore" by the 1763 Treaty of Paris, even though France had lost the war with Britain.
Mixed in with the French and Basque settlers were the Acadian French from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia who had been expelled from their settlements by the victorious British (and some Acadians went to Lousiana where they became 'Cajuns). The result is that Port au Port is today an interesting melting pot of various cultures, including strong English influences due to the area's isolation from other French speaking people, as well as the establishment of a large American airbase in Stephenville during and after World War II. From these bygone days in history, the small islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, off the coast about 200 miles away to the southeast, are still the sovereign territory of France.
As for us, we enjoyed a short drive around the peninsula taking in the sights before retiring to our first Newfoundland accommodations for the evening, the fancy Spruce Pine Acres Country Inn. It has all the amenities of deluxe beds, mini-refrigerator, plush bathroom, etc. but at US$120 per night was a bit steep for our tastes. From that point on, we stayed in 'normal' B&Bs for less than half the cost. Here, I am sitting on their extensive lawns overlooking St. George's Bay while I sip a bit of wine.
On our second day in Newfoundland, we drove northwest on the TransCanada Highway for another hour before reaching Corner Brook, the major hub in this part of Newfoundland. Although the city is based on the economics of a large pulp & paper mill that has been running since the 1920s, Corner Brook is situated in a beautiful valley where the wide Humber River estuary meets the Long Range Mountains.
We found the city to be quite modern with well laid out streets and highways, plus a couple of large shopping mall areas where we could stock up on supplies and get some films developed. While waiting, we did a little driving tour of the city, eventually reaching the pinnacle of Crow Hill Park on the western outskirts of the city. The view from here was really spectacular as we looked out over both the city and the Humber River but, with the wind really blowing, one had to be very careful on this rocky outcrop with a steep dropoff of what looked like several hundred feet!
A very interesting Memorial to Capt. James Cook of the Royal Navy is located in this park. As it turns out, Capt. Cook found Corner Brook to be an excellent base when he charted this part of the coast in 1767. Cook was marine surveyor of Newfoundland from 1763 to 1767. His detailed charts made life safer for mariners, and his work was so good that many of his charts can still be used today. Of course, Cook went on to claim Australia for England, sailed up the west coast of North America to Alaska and explored all over the Pacific Ocean among his many feats.
We soon continued onward toward the town of Deer Lake, where we finally branched off the TransCanada Highway and headed toward the coast for our real target - the mountainous Northern Peninsula with its two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
We finally made it to the northern tip of the Peninsula, where we checked into a very nice B&B in the village of St. Anthony. The evening before we went on our whale-watching excursion, my wife and I parked our car just off the main road and took a walking trail up a hill with a great view out over the water at St. Lunaire. After we had been at the scenic lookout area for a short while, we were approached by a local man, with his young niece and her friend from Toronto. We struck up a conversation, and it turned out that he is the owner of the Viking Boat Tour that we had already booked for the next day! He said that he had noticed that we locked our car as we left on the walk so he knew that we must be from "away" as there is no need of that here! We had a great old chat and, as we stood there, we could actually look down on whales close in-shore as they surfaced. It was so quiet that, even that high up, we could hear them blow a few seconds after we first saw the spurt from the water! It was a very enjoyable time in the early evening as Paul filled us in on all the details regarding whales in the area. We even managed a glimpse of a distant iceberg far out on the horizon - the only one we saw that late in the summer (early August). This whole experience was one of our fondest memories of the whole trip!
Continuing our drive north from Port au Choix, we decided to veer right just short of St. Barbe, as we headed for the eastern side of the Northern Peninsula for the first time. Our route took us through the small village of Roddickton before we reached the coastal fishing village of Englee. This whole northern tip of the peninsula is marshy ground with thick stands of Black Spruce trees, a paradise for Moose from what we observed as we drove through this part of the island!
Moose are not native to Newfoundland, but four animals were brought over from New Brunswick and released in 1904 in an attempt to increase the local food supply in this harsh climate. The result is amazing, with Newfoundland now full of these huge animals - 127,000 of them at last count. You will see the occasional one along the highway through the daytime but they are out in force at night - on the highways too. At night, they are dark (hard to see), their eyes do not reflect headlights back at you and they are heavy (typical males weigh about 1200-lb or 550-kg) when they fall onto your windshield and crush it. Gros Morne National Park has a sign with the latest statistics for the year (13 moose and 7 caribou accidents so far that year in the park). We saw 6 Moose during our day trips - keep off the roads at night for the same reason (PS - I hit one in Maine on Interstate-95 so I know what they can do)!
Our first night north of Gros Morne was spent at the fishing town of Port aux Choix, about halfway up the Northern Peninsula. The earliest European presence here dates to the 1500's when the town received its name, Portuchoa, meaning "little port" from Basque fishermen who operated in the area. Although the weather deteriorated into showers and sometimes outright rain here, we were able to squeeze in a couple of activities.
Our first visit was to the recently opened museum displaying the rich archeological finds discovered here regarding the earliest inhabitants of the region, thanks to the prehistoric coastline having risen above sea level when the glaciers melted. As their literature describes it: "This site commemorates the Maritime Archaic Indians who lived from the forest and marine resources of the Atlantic coast from Labrador to Maine between 7000 and 3000 years ago. Later, about 2500 years ago, the Groswater Paleo Eskimo, known as expert seal hunters, also inhabited the area. More recently, by A.D. 500, a Canadian Arctic people known as the Dorset Paleo Eskimo had arrived as far south as Newfoundland, of which they were the principal inhabitants for over 700 years. The Dorset occupation of Newfoundland marked the most southerly expansion of Paleo Eskimo peoples and the large habitation site discovered at nearby Phillips Garden provides detailed evidence of how they lived."
The weather let up for a bit, so we struck out on the 4-km Phillips Garden trail for ourselves to have a look. The terrain along the trail is flat as it follows the coastline to the light tower at Point Riche. It is a fairly easy hike except for a couple of areas where you have to walk over limestone rocks. By exploring the low limestone cliffs, one can discover relics of the ancient past. Fossils are abundant throughout this limestone and the area's low vegetation with its unique array of wildflowers is in part due to the calcium-rich soil.
The Murray Premises is one place in St. John's I had always wondered about after trying a couple of...more
?? I don't know, my place is only 5 minutes away from here. Early in the 1920's Armstrong-Whitworth...more
112 Trans Canada Hwy, Gander, NF A1V1P8
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