A Travellerspoint blog

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Heart’s Content and Hant’s Harbour Lighthouses

One thing I have learned in Newfoundland is that if you look out the window on a beautiful sunny day, do not hesitate, do not think about going out later to enjoy the nice day. You must leave the house immediately. We are sitting out here in the North Atlantic. The weather can and will change in moments.

One day in September 2009, I sat down at my computer to get ready for work. (I was doing the working from home thing a long time ago.) It happened to be my birthday. I looked out at a spectacularly beautiful late summer day. I decided that I was not going to work that day. Instead it was going to be a day for some lighthouses. I cancelled my remote consulting appointments (clients were understanding, especially when I mentioned my birthday) and told Po we were going for a ride.

We headed for the Baccalieu Trail on the other side of Conception Bay. I initially planned on three lighthouses, but the relatively long hike to the Brigus lighthouse required an adjustment (see my previous post) and left the two lighthouses on the Trinity Bay side, Heart’s Content and Hant’s Harbour.

In addition to having a charming name, Heart’s Content is famous for its role in transatlantic communication. The town was the western terminus for the first trans-oceanic telegraph cable which was completed in 1866. At one point over 200 employees worked in the station which operated until 1965. It is now a museum.

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As well as being at the forefront of trans-oceanic telegraph cable communication, Newfoundland was briefly there with wireless trans-oceanic communication when Marconi did his thing on Signal Hill in St. John’s in 1901. Although the Newfoundland government was interested in Marconi developing the commercial aspects of his work, the Anglo-American Telegraph Company had a 50-year monopoly on telegraphic communication in Newfoundland, which was granted for them laying the telegraph cable, so Marconi headed off to Canada. (Newfoundland was not then part of Canada.)

The Heart’s Content lighthouse is quite accessible and is one of the more distinct ones, with its barber pole paint motif. It dates from 1901.

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Hant’s Harbour is just up the road. It is also quite accessible, making this a quite easy lighthouse outing. The Hant’s Harbour Lighthouse began operation in 1881.

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And to show what you can see on the way, I am also posting some photographs from Bay de Verde, Grates Cove, and the Shag Rocks in Whiteway.

Grate's Cove
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Shag Rocks
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Bay de Verde
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Posted by Bob Brink 11:39 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses canada newfoundland Comments (6)

Fort Point Lighthouse, Trinity

In planning our first trip to Newfoundland in 2006, I took the advice of Newfoundland Tourism and included the Bonavista Peninsula. That really sealed our fate. If we were not already pulled into the spell that Newfoundland casts over innocent tourists, that makes them come back again and again, or do what we did and buy a house, we definitely were in trouble by the time we left the area.

The peninsula has Trinity Bay on the east and Bonavista Bay on the west. The main road takes you along the coasts between many picturesque fishing communities. We once tried road number 236 to take a short cut. It is best to stay on the coastal roads and enjoy the view.

On that first trip, we stayed at the Fishers’ Loft in Port Rexton on Trinity Bay. The inn consists of a collection of traditional saltbox houses (both old renovated and new structures) on a hillside with views of Trinity Bay. The inn has an outstanding restaurant where we ate our breakfasts and one dinner. The food was good but not inexpensive.

Fishers' Loft
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View from the inn
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Fox Island
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Port Rexton is just around the corner from Trinity, our main destination. At one time, Trinity was a vibrant business centre. Merchants exported almost half of the cod and seals produced in Newfoundland. By the end of the 18th Century the merchants were operating 35 ocean going ships. Those days are long gone, but many of the fine homes and other structures are still there.

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The original lighthouse was built in 1874. There was a much taller lighthouse in operation for many years which was eventually torn down. The current structure was built in 2003.

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We had a couple of great outings during our stay. I had taken up canoeing a few years earlier and had done a sea kayak outing with our niece while on an Alaskan cruise a few years earlier. I asked at the lodge, and they arranged an outing for us. Po was not so sure but agreed when she found out that she would share the kayak with me, rather than be on her own. That of course meant that she enjoyed the view while I did most of the paddling. We stayed in the harbour, so it was quite calm. I have always regretted that I relied upon the guide to send us his photos, which unfortunately never happened.

A must for all visitors is to hike the famous Skerwink Trail. The trail is an easy walk along the ocean and features some spectacular views, including many sea stacks.

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At this point we were definitely enjoying our stay in Newfoundland, but still did not know that a spell had been cast over us, that we would be making this our home. We have since returned to Trinity a few times, including a stay at the Eriksen Premises. On that visit we watched a musical at the Rising Tide Theatre which presents plays that reflect the history and culture of Newfoundland during the summer and fall.

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Posted by Bob Brink 07:32 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses canada trinity newfoundland Comments (2)

Cape Bonavista Lighthouse

During that first trip to Newfoundland, we took a day trip to the town of Bonavista, a 45-minute drive from our lodge in Port Rexton.

Like Trinity, Bonavista was once a vibrant commercial centre. We first spent a couple of hours at the Ryan Premises, a National Historic Site. Our first lesson was that premises referred to the waterfront property of a merchant or a fisherman or (another new Newfoundland term for us) a planter. The property would include the stores (storage), wharf, flakes (for drying fish) and other facilities.

James Ryan was the owner of these premises. He and his brothers built his business into an international trading company in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At one time he owned a fleet of schooners which brought dried salted cod to ports around the world.

The Ryan Premises is a restoration of the operation, with the proprietor's house, a carriage shed, a retail shop, a retail store, a fish store, and a salt store. As mentioned, stores can mean a place to buy things or a place to store things. We learned a lot about the history of Newfoundland’s fishing trade.
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After a lunch, we drove to the lighthouse. We were experiencing what we would later learn was a mauzy day, or “rdf” weather - rain, drizzle and fog. The Cape Bonavista Lighthouse has always been a real favorite of mine. It is painted with red and white stripes. We have always referred to it as the “Kentucky Fried Chicken” lighthouse. Like at Cape Spear, we were able to visit the lightkeepers house and go up into the light structure. The lighthouse was first commissioned in 1842.

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It can be quite windy at the lighthouse.
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We have visited Bonavista several times over the years, giving me the chance to take many lighthouse photos in good lighting.

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The Dungeon Provincial Park with its great rock formations is close by.

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The area’s history goes back long before the fish merchants of the 19th century. Back in 1497 John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) set out from Bristol England on his ship Matthew on his second of three trips to find a westward trade route. He landed somewhere in Newfoundland. Different communities, including Bonavista, claim they were the place. He did discover one great treasure, the great numbers of cod in Newfoundland waters.

To commemorate the 500th anniversary of that 1497 voyage, a full-size replica of the Matthew was built in Bristol. The replica sailed across the Atlantic and arrived at Bonavista in June 1997, where it was welcomed by Queen Elizabeth II and 30,000 spectators. The Matthew was docked in Bonavista at the time of our first visit to Bonavista. We were able to visit the ship in 2009 as it sat in the harbour. A couple of years later, suffering from a major rot issue, it was moved inside, where it has remained ever since. The are questions as to whether if will ever be outside again. I am lucky to have some photos of it in the harbour.

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Bonavista has seen a bit of a revival in the past few years. Many of the old houses have been restored. There are new stores, restaurants, and cafés. Luckily, the old houses were never torn down. It is still a very picturesque fishing community.

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We stayed at a B&B in Bonavista in 2009, on our way back to Pouch Cove for the summer. We asked our host about a boat tour to see icebergs, thinking that there might be a company that specializes in such outings. Instead, he took us out the next morning in his open motorboat. We were accompanied by the other two guests. I had a few doubts as we went out into the North Atlantic in what seemed like a small boat. He replenished his ice supply while we were there, no plain ice cubes for his guests.

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Newfoundland is the only place where we have spent most nights in B&B’s. We have usually been treated like long lost family members who have come back for a visit. It is an experience that you might love, or perhaps hate. I think it depends on your need for privacy on your travels. Are you the kind of person who is bothered when a fellow plane passenger talks to you? I have mentioned in my main blog, “Searching for Magical Moments”, that I tend to converse with my seatmates. I try to judge if they really prefer quiet, but I have always found it part of the strangeness of air travel to be stuffed into a plane next to people and not talk to them.

One reason we went with B&B’s was that the alternatives in most places were basic roadside motels, the kind where you can share the evening with your neighbours, without leaving your own room. You find out if they are watching TV or perhaps engaging in other activities. That has now changed with the proliferation of vacation rentals. You now can check into your accommodations without ever meeting your hosts, just enter a code to get in and shut the door when you leave. By the way, we have a vacation rental in Pouch Cove. You have to meet us to get your key. And we may knock on your door to see if you need anything. Message me if you plan to visit. I will give you a discount.

A twenty-minute drive to Upper Amherst Cove will take you to The Bonavista Social Club. There you can get a great pizza. They grow their own vegetables.

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Elliston is a short drive in the other direction. The town declared itself the "Root Cellar Capital of the World" in July 2000. Root cellars were used to store the root vegetables over the winter. There are more than 130 documented root cellars. Many are still in working condition. Elliston is also a great place to see the puffins.

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There is a new museum in Elliston dedicated to sealing, the Home From the Sea, John C. Crosbie Sealers Interpretation Centre. Sealing was an important part of the Newfoundland economy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a dangerous occupation for the men who ventured out on the ice. The year 1914 was especially tragic. In March of that year 78 men froze on the ice when they became stranded from their ship. The SS Southern Cross was lost at sea during the same storm, with 251 sealers aboard.

At Porter’s Point, the Sealers Memorial, a bronze sculpture of a father and son, Reuban and Albert John Crewe, depicts them as they were found, frozen together on the ice, the father trying to protect his son. Names of those on the ships are engraved on a granite wall next to the sculpture. Some of the men were from our adopted home of Pouch Cove. We have learned a lot about the sealing industry since moving to Newfoundland. The men of Newfoundland needed the income to feed their families after the long winters, when their supplies were gone, and fishing not yet started. Newfoundlanders would refer to the “hungry month of March”.

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There is also a nice B&B in the town, The Meem’s Elliston B&B, that allows pets, which we took advantage of when Po needed to do some research last summer and wanted me to be the driver. We also appreciated Nanny’s Root Cellar Kitchen in the old Orange Hall. They allowed us to sit with Bella on their deck.

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Posted by Bob Brink 14:53 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses canada newfounland Comments (5)

King’s Cove Lighthouse

I have just shown you lighthouses in Trinity and Bonavista, the more popular tourist spots on the Bonavista Peninsula. A tour of the area should also include the Bonavista Bay side where we found the King’s Cove Lighthouse in June 2009.

King’s Cove is a charming little community. It is an easy 45-minute hike to the lighthouse which was erected in 1893.

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This is my one of my favorite areas in Newfoundland. I especially love the towns of Tickle Cove and Keels. In 2006 the photo on the back of the Newfoundland tourist map featured a nice scene with a clothesline in front of a rocky shore. Po asked where the photo was taken, and the folks at Fishers Lofts directed us to Tickle Cove. Although the day was overcast and drab, it was still impressive. I made sure we went back in 2009 which was a nicer day for taking photographs.

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Po and I spent a couple of nights in the nearby town of Duntara in 2012. She was participating in an art show. Her piece was an installation of cod drying on a clothesline.

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One morning we drove up the road to Keels. I drove Po back to Duntara so that she could sit in the gallery that day, but I was so captivated that I went back to Keels and spent the afternoon taking more photographs.

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Here are some photos from Red Cliff and Duntara.

Red Cliff
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Duntara
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This ends the tour of Bonavista. I have now given you a great 10-day itinerary for your visit to Newfoundland, from St. John’s to Bonavista. Now we will be heading west, on our way to Labrador. I hope that you will be planning a three-week Newfoundland adventure by the time I am finished.

Posted by Bob Brink 15:43 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses canada newfoundland bonavista Comments (2)

Long Point Lighthouse, Twillingate

From Bonavista, we are now heading west to my next lighthouse in Twillingate. We need an overnight stop along the way.

Welcome to Salvage, a picturesque fishing community at the end of the Eastport Peninsula. At the time of our visit in 2009, I was not aware that there is a lighthouse visible from the walking trail in Salvage. One day I need to go back and take that photo. We were pleased to find a nice sandy beach on our way back to Eastport.

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Further along we pass the town of Gambo, the hometown of Newfoundland and Labrador’s first Premier, Joey Smallwood. Joey might have been small, standing only 5 ft, 5 inches, but he was stands large in Newfoundland’s history. He was a key player in getting Newfoundland into confederation with Canada in 1949 and then served as premier for 23 years. You can imagine that he must have had many supporters in order to get elected 6 times with large majorities of both the popular vote and seat counts. He also had more than a few detractors. There is still some bitterness regarding Newfoundland losing its independence.

One year we stopped in Gambo and visited the museum dedicated to Joey. One thing that impressed me were the 3D photos of Joey. He loved them. This is an election version I found online.

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There is a scenic overlook of Gambo on the TransCanada highway, past the turnoff for the town. One constant at the parking lot is the chip wagon, a place to get French fries on the go. There is a nice view. We have never tried the chips.

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By the way, do not expect fine cuisine along the way. I do recommend the fried ice cream at Monty’s Place at the gas plaza near Whitbourne, which is way back on the Avalon, about an hour out of St. John’s. The main menu is full of what one could call typical Newfoundland restaurant fare such as fried cod, fish & chips, fish fingers, and roast beef sandwiches. Just think of gravy.

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The turnoff for Twillingate is in Gander. In my Brigus Point post I mentioned Newfoundland’s role in early transatlantic aviation with early air adventurers using the island as a base for their historic flights across the ocean. For many decades Gander played a serious role in both military and civilian aviation. It was an important air post during World War II when over 10,000 Canadian, British, and American military personnel were based there. After the war, the Gander International Airport was used for refueling for international flights between Europe and North America.

That traffic declined with the advent of modern jets, but in the early 1980’s eastern bloc airlines still used the airport. The airport was a stop on flights to Cuba, so asylum seekers would book their Cuban holidays and then force their way off the planes in Gander.

After the September 11 attacks in 2001, 38 civilian and 4 military US bound flights were ordered to land at the airport after the US closed its airspace, stranding more than 6,600 passengers and crew. The people of the small town sprung into action, providing the needed food and shelter, as well as entertainment, and most important of all, a warm Newfoundland welcome. A Broadway play, “Come from Away”, commemorates the town’s great hospitality on that occasion.

There is a memorial site just east of the town for Arrow Air Flight 1285, which crashed on December 12, 1985, with the loss of 256 lives. The plane was carrying US armed forces returning from a 6-month peacekeeping mission in the Sinai.

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Twillingate is 1.5 hours north of Gander. Like many places in Newfoundland, its name comes from an original French name, “Toulinquet”, given by French fishermen.

We chose Twillingate for our stop on our way back to Pouch Cove in June 2008. The town has declared itself the Iceberg Capital of the World. We were pleased to see a large iceberg and just after checking into our B&B walked up a hill to have a better look. We would have considered a boat tour, but the weather turned rather cloudy and then quite rainy over the next couple of days.

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We visited the town’s museum where we learned about the polar bear that had visited off an ice floe. He is now stuffed. One night we took in a musical performance by a local group, The Split Peas, a group of seven women singers who have been putting on a weekly performance for over twenty years.

Twillingate is on a small island which is connected by causeways. There are several small fishing communities on the island. With its sheltered harbour and once rich fishing grounds, Twillingate was once a major fishing centre. There is still some activity, but nothing like the first half of the twentieth century.

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There is also a great lighthouse, the Long Point Lighthouse, which was completed in 1876. There was an earthquake on November 18, 1929, that caused a tsunami on the Burin Peninsula. The earthquake actually caused cracks in Twillingate’s lighthouse, several hundred kilometres from the offshore epicenter. The lighthouse was then encased in a foot of reinforced concrete. The view could have been fantastic from the lighthouse but not on the day that we visited.

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Posted by Bob Brink 15:06 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses canada icebergs newfoundland twillingate Comments (2)

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