A Travellerspoint blog

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Burnt Point Lighthouse, Fogo Island

If I had to choose a favourite of all the places I have visited in Newfoundland, Fogo Island might be the one. It is beautiful and a bit quirky with everything from one of The Four Corners of the Flat Earth, great auks, and herds of caribou. Fogo has a different look and feel than most of Newfoundland with its treeless expanse of rocky outcrops. Oh, and it has a lighthouse, just not a pretty one.

Fogo Island sits just east of Twillingate, but to get there you must drive south to the little town of Farewell to catch a ride on the ferry.

You want to be prompt in the summer as it can be quite busy. The ferry takes a minimum of 45 minutes if you take the direct to Fogo one. More often the ferry will stop at the Change Islands before getting to Fogo. That one takes an extra 30 minutes. Of course, the wait at the ferry, especially if you do not make it on your planned departure, can take a lot more time than the actual sailing.

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Leaving the Change Islands stop.
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My visits to Fogo Island were back in May 2011. My wife was taking part in a three-week artist residency on the island as part of her master’s program. My assignment was to drive her and two classmates up at beginning and return to pick them up at the end.

The students stayed in the wonderfully named town of Joe Batt’s Arm. The legend is that Joe Batt was a deserter from Captain James Cook’s ship. An arm is a settlement wrapped around an inlet.

Po and one classmate stayed in an old traditional saltbox house.

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Joe Batt’s Arm has a fancy new hotel built on stilts. It was under construction during my visit. The hotel is aimed at a rather wealthy clientele. Rooms cost upwards of $1,500 US per night, most are more. And there is a minimum stay of three nights during the summer. The 15% HST is extra, but your meals are included.

Here is the photo that I took and one I must give credit to the Fogo Island Inn's website.

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The hotel is part of a development project done by a woman named Zita Cobb. She left Fogo Island, made lots of money in tech, and has come back to help develop the island. She created the Shorefast Foundation which promotes local businesses. The foundation is the owner of the hotel, and all profits are channelled back into the foundation. I believe that the hotel is world class, but I have always wondered about the viability of having a luxury hotel like that in Newfoundland, but then Zita had said that the rich are different. Maybe they are. There are other places to stay on the island for those of us “not rich” people.

I spent one full day on Fogo Island before heading back to Pouch Cove. The first morning I went out before breakfast to take some photos of Joe Batt’s Arm.

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While Po was doing her student artist thing, I drove over to the Tilting, which has been registered as both a National Historic Site and Provincial Heritage District. The old houses and fishing structures have been restored, giving the visitor a chance to see a traditional Newfoundland inshore fishing community.

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I saw this herd of caribou on my way out of Tilting.

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From there I drove to Fogo. If you want to get along with residents of the communities of Joe Batt’s Arm and Tilting, remember that the island is Fogo Island, Fogo is one of the communities on Fogo Island. They do not like it when people refer to the entire island as Fogo.

My first stop was Brimstone Head, a giant rocky piece of land. There is a sign that tells you that the Flat Earth Society believes that this is one of the four corners of the Flat Earth. I heard a story that some years ago a group of high school teachers came up with the idea over a few beverages consumed over several cold winter nights. Or maybe it was several beverages on one night. It was foggy that afternoon, so there was nothing to be seen as I stood at the top and looked out over the Atlantic. Maybe it was the end of the world.

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I finished my travels that day with a drive down to Seldom on the south shore of the island to see the lighthouse. Burnt Point Lighthouse is an ugly steel structure and is located in a relatively drab place compared to the rest of the island. The nicer lighthouse structure was removed in 1990.

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That evening I went with Po’s group to try out Fogo’s Chinese restaurant. The owner waited on us and then went into the back to cook our dinner. She had no staff. We could only buy the fixed Chinese dinner. We learned that she looked after this restaurant. Her husband was running their other restaurant in another town (not on Fogo Island). They had earned enough to send their children through university, a Canadian immigrant success story.

Several artist studios were built around the island by Shorefast. Po and her classmates spent their time at the Long Studio in Joe Batt’s Arm. I took these on the morning before I returned to Pouch Cove from my first visit. It was foggy and cold, quite typical for that time of year.

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It was a cold walk from the studio.
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I saw a fox and a herd of caribou.
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There is an artist studio in Tilting, and I passed the tall one as I drove home. There are others around the island.

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I returned three weeks later. There was art show that evening so that the artists could show their creative efforts from their three weeks on the island. I had the chance to meet some of the local residents and heard their opinions about the new developments in the community. I would love to go back and find out what the people think about the hotel and the related businesses after almost 10 years. I walked outside to take some photographs.

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The next day I walked with Po back to the studio and carried on down the Point Walking Trail. I passed the beach. Be sure you bring your beach umbrella when you come.

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I then saw the Great Auk sculpture. These were large birds that were hunted to extinction by the early settlers. The other birds are alive.
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We went to Fogo (remember it is the next town over, keep those names separate) in the afternoon and hiked on the Lion’s Den Trail. The trail passes through some abandoned communities, as well as past the location of an old Marconi wireless station. The sun was trying to shine, bringing out the fantastic colours.

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The towns had been populated from the early 1800’s until the middle of the 20th century.
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We had supper at Nicole’s Café and enjoyed some cod and local ice cream. I just Googled Fogo Island restaurants and did not see the name. It looks like it has become the Scoff Restaurant and is connected to the inn. I suspect that the food is good but hope it maintains the same atmosphere (and prices).

I was used to Newfoundlanders being friendly, asking where I was from, but they seemed to take it to another level on Fogo Island. It happened first in a store in Fogo and later at the restaurant in Joe Batt’s Arm. Both times I was asked where I was from. But then the person asked more, especially wanting to know what I thought of Fogo Island.

Posted by Bob Brink 14:57 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses canada newfoundland fogo_island Comments (7)

Channel Head Port aux Basques & Rose Blanche Lighthouses

Have I motivated anyone to visit our wonderful province? With my posts on the Avalon Peninsula and the Central Region’s lighthouses and their beautiful surroundings, I have shown you enough to keep you busy for about three weeks. Now I am going to highlight the lighthouses of western Newfoundland and Southern Labrador. Maybe you will extend your trip.

During our early years as seasonal Newfoundland residents we would drive from Toronto to Pouch Cove. Since Newfoundland is an island, that drive required a boat ride from North Sydney, Nova Scotia. The year-round option, the “short ferry”, is the ferry to Port aux Basques in the southwest corner of Newfoundland. There are daytime and overnight sailings. It takes about 7 hours. The “long ferry” to Argentia is available from mid-June to mid-September. This ferry takes 17 hours.

The trade off for the longer ferry ride is the time it takes to get to St. John’s once you arrive in Newfoundland. Port aux Basques to St. John’s is a 10-hour ride. Argentia is less than 2 hours away from St. John’s.

During our travels we had no choice since we always travelled outside the summer schedule. But that was okay for us since we wanted to stop off on the way for some sight seeing in our new part time home of Newfoundland.

Our ferry trips ended in 2009 when we decided to leave a car in Newfoundland and fly back and forth. I have always missed the drives out in June but never missed the trips back in September. On the June trip we were quite excited to be returning to Newfoundland, the days were long so no night time driving, and there were the stops en route. The way back was the opposite, sad to be leaving and sometimes driving after dark with the shorter days.

We took the ferry for the first time in June 2007. We passed the Channel Head Lighthouse as the ferry entered Port aux Basques on a foggy and drizzly day.

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I would get better photographs of the lighthouse and the town in September 2008 on our way back to Toronto. We spent the night at the St. Christopher’s Hotel. It is a rather basic hotel but has a nice view. We walked to the lighthouse in the afternoon of our arrival. The lighthouse is on its own little island. I talked to a man who said that he would normally offer us a ride but said that he was getting ready to go moose hunting the next day.
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I took some more photos that next morning before we caught the ferry.

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I took these photos from the ferry.

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On that June 2007 trip, we were possibly the only car that turned right after driving off the ferry. All the others seemed to be heading up the main highway, many on their way to St. John’s. Our destination that day was the charming little town of Rose Blanche, a 45-minute drive along the south coast, literally at the end of the road.

The town’s name is a great example of what has happened to the French language in Newfoundland. It is a corruption of roche blanche, white rock.

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We checked into our B&B for the night.
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From there we walked the short distance to the only stone lighthouse in Newfoundland. The lighthouse was built in 1873 and has been nicely restored. The weather was not the best that night and even worse the next morning, but we did enjoy the lighthouse and the town.
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Posted by Bob Brink 13:18 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses newfoundland Comments (1)

Cape Ray and Cape Anguille Lighthouses

We will now head north from Port aux Basques on a route that will eventually take us up to Labrador. I trust you have enjoyed the trip so far, but I think the best is yet to come.

You have the Long Range Mountains on your right, which I was fascinated to learn are the northern end of the American Appalachians. The mountains extend up the west coast of Newfoundland, resulting in a beauty and climate that is a nice contrast from the rest of Newfoundland.

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The climate part includes a “real” winter, which means that the snow actually stays and allows for winter sports such as down hill skiing. On the Avalon the temperature alternates between just above and below freezing, with a few days of major snow along the way. So often we have the misery of winter, but without the winter sports fun.

Years ago, this area gained the name, Wreckhouse, from the frequent strong winds that would blow the narrow-gauge railway cars of the old Newfoundland Railway off the track. Sadly, the railway is long gone. But the winds are not. They now blow trucks off the road. Sometimes the trucks drive side-by-side. Once the Department of Transportation even advised a group of truckers to drive three abreast across both lanes. This caused some obvious issues for motorists coming the other way. The police were not impressed.

Our first stop is Cape Ray, a small community just north of Port aux Basques. On our September 2008 drive back to Toronto we stopped there to check out the lighthouse, while en route to Port aux Basques, where we would catch the ferry the next day. Po was quite taken with Cape Ray and wanted to check out houses. I suggested that the place might be a bit too windy for her.

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The lighthouse has been in operation since 1871.

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A short drive further on is the Codroy Valley, which is unlike any other place I have seen in Newfoundland. It is sheltered by the mountains, giving it a milder microclimate than the rest of the island. The valley is lush and green.

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It also boasted a lighthouse at the end, the most westerly point of land on the island. The Cape Anguille lighthouse began operation in 1908. The dwelling is now the Cape Anguille Lighthouse Inn. It was a lovely spot, but one thing about lighthouses, they have to be built where they can be seen from the sea, so the spots are even windier than other places, this in a province with already lots of wind. But we had decided not to stay there, instead choosing a B&B closer to the main highway, so that we had easy access to the ferry the next morning.

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Although they do not have lighthouses, we spent enjoyable evenings at a couple of other nearby places on our trips back and forth to Pouch Cove.

In June 2009 I chose the little community of St. David’s for a rest stop after spending the day on the ferry. It only took an hour to get to the Maidstone B&B. We were the only guests and were treated like we were visiting family. They cooked supper for us that night. The next morning the owner showed us his prize humpback skeleton that he had salvaged from a whale that had died on the beach. He then gave us a tour of the community before sending us on our way.

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The year before, we drove up to Cape St. George on the Port au Port Peninsula. It took us about two and a half hours to get there from the ferry which turned a bit unpleasant in the rain and fog. We stayed at the Inn at the Cape where we enjoyed a communal style buffet meal. The next morning was quite sunny so that we could enjoy the drive around the cape before heading off.

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Posted by Bob Brink 09:22 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses canada newfoundland Comments (2)

Woody Point Lighthouse

After leaving the Port au Port Peninsula, it is time to spend a few nights in Gros Morne National Park. We will first pass Corner Brook, the major town on the west coast. The town has been an important part of the Newfoundland forestry industry with its pulp and paper mill. I think the area would make a nice stopover for a few days, but we have only paused a couple of times for a quick meal, as we were always in a rush.

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After Corner Brook the road runs along Deer Lake (one of the few bodies of water given that status in Newfoundland, since most are called ponds) for about 30 kilometres until you reach the town of Deer Lake, at Newfoundland’s big crossroads. Turn right to go to St. John’s or left for Gros Morne and the Northern Peninsula.

We are turning left, but first we can stop for gas and food since being a highway crossroads, there are many places to shop. Deer Lake also hosts an airport, which allows tourists to fly in, rent a car, and tour the west coast only, skipping the east coast (not recommended, but then I am biased) Or tourists can fly into either St. John’s or Deer Lake, tour the island and fly out of the opposite airport, avoiding the second drive across the island.

It is not an overstatement to say that Gros Morne National Park is spectacular and will likely be the highlight of your visit to Newfoundland. Gros Morne achieved United Nations World Heritage Site status in 1987, thanks to its glacial and geologic history.

But first we have to consider how to pronounce it. In Newfoundland you must remember to never pronounce French words like the French would. Gros Morne is pronounced as Gross Morn. You must say that supposedly silent s! The park was named after Newfoundland’s second-highest peak (806 m). That is not impressive by the Alps or Rockies but remember this is part of the Long Range Mountains, the end of the Appalachians, so they have been worn down over 1.2 billion years.

Gros Morne is divided by the beautiful Bonne Bay. It is helpful to know that the road goes around the bay and requires a one-hour drive between the two main overnight spots of Wood Point and Rocky Harbour. In Newfoundland terminology you have the North Arm and the South Arm of Bonne Bay.

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Our first trip to Gros Morne was in 2007. We were doing our first drive back to Pouch Cove from Toronto. On arrival at the park, we turned left and drove straight to the Tablelands.

For any geology buffs, the Tablelands were formed by continental drift which left the earth’s mantle exposed. We visited again in 2010. These are photos from both trips, one in June 2007 and the other in June 2010.

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In 2007 we carried on to the North Arm. My next post will be about the attractions there. But I am recommending that you spend a couple of days in this neighbourhood, maybe staying at a B&B in Woody Point like we did in 2010.

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Wood Point is an attractive town. I took most of these photos one morning when I noted a break in the clouds and rushed out to take some shots before the fog and cloud reappeared.

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After supper on our second night, I looked out at a great sunset and decided that I had to go out to take a photo. After getting my shot, I heard some people shouting out to me and was soon invited up to a deck, given a beer, and handed some spoons (musical type) to tap along to a boom box playing traditional Newfoundland music. Unfortunately, that was before selfies, and I never thought to get a photo of my new friends. But I do have the memory.

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Oh, about the lighthouse, it is easy to walk to, and you can see that it is quite cute. It was built in 1919.

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We also visited the community of Trout River where we had hoped to do part of the Trout River Pond Trail but gave up since we could not see a thing in the fog. But we did visit a couple of museums and had a great meal.

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Woody Point was also where we were introduced to Newfoundland musical legend, Ron Hynes. Ron spent a lot of time in the town and was doing a concert at the Woody Point Heritage Theatre. We saw the sign and decided to buy tickets. I do not know how we had missed him up to that point, but like most folks, we fell in love with his music that night. Ron was known for his songs about the province, especially its hard times with the closing down of the cod fishery and mines. Sadly, he died in 2015. He was given a huge memorial at the St. John’s Basilica.

I mention this because the province is full of talented musicians, and you might be lucky on your tour of Newfoundland and stumble across one. Be sure to attend. There is nothing like the intimacy of a house concert. This video is of Ron and Amelia Curran. We first heard Amelia at the little café in Pouch Cove.

Posted by Bob Brink 12:16 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses canada newfoundland Comments (5)

Lobster Cove Head and Cow Head Lighthouses

After visiting the Woody Point side, or the Southern Arm, we will now drive around the bend to the Northern Arm.

In 2007 we stayed in Rocky Harbour. After checking into our B&B, we took a short drive to the Lobster Cove Head lighthouse. The lighthouse was activated in 1898. There is a small museum in the house, but unfortunately no access the light structure.

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The next day we drove further up the coast to visit the beautiful Western Brook Pond. This is the best example of the quaint Newfoundland tradition of calling virtually anything less than the ocean a pond. The lake was formed by glaciers which carved the steep rock walls. After the glacier melted the lake was cut off from the ocean, leaving the lake to become fresh water.

It is an easy hike to the pond.

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We passed a moose.
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Parks Canada controls access to the pond itself, allowing for only a couple tour boats to operate. Be sure to book ahead to get a place on the boat. It was mostly overcast during our ride.
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The lake is fed by Stag Brook and several waterfalls. One, with the picturesque name of Pissing Mare Falls, is one of the highest in eastern North America.
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We finally had some sun at the end. I was sure that I was annoying my fellow boat passengers since I seemed to be only person taking lots of photos. Now I jumped up to take a few more.

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There are some great hiking trails in the park. I have shown you photos from the easy Tablelands and Western Brook Pond hikes. We had specific plans to do a couple others, part of the Trout River Pond Trail and Green Gardens. In my last post I mentioned that we gave up on the Trout River hike since we could not see a thing in the fog. We had to skip Green Gardens because of pouring rain and fog.

There are several other hikes to keep you busy. If you want a real challenge, try out the Gros Morne Mountain trail, a 16 km loop that takes you up the mountain. Tourist information shows a dramatic photo from a mountain top with Western Brook Pond in the background. Historically that required a multi-day back country hiking trip. I see that there is now a day tour (about 8 hours, with 4 hours of hiking) that takes hikers to that spot. Like the Gros Morne Mountain trail, I assume that this hike requires a good level of fitness.

On the same rainy day that we skipped the Green Gardens hike, we also visited the town of Norris Point, which is across the bay from Woody Point. We stopped on top of the hill before the town, where it seemed that there must be a spectacular view. But not that day. I did not bother to take a photo in the rain and fog. I was able to get some photos at the bottom of the hill.

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Cow Head is on the north side of the park. We spent a night there in order to take in a play at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival.
There is also a lighthouse which was activated in 1909. It is easy to find. The lighthouse needed a paint job that day. With the fog we could barely see the ocean behind it.

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Once you leave your adventure in Gros Morne to come to The Arches Provincial Park. It is an easy walk to the arches.

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We did these visits back before the proliferation of the Air B&B's and vacation home rentals. So this advice might be outdated. But in those days, anyone visiting during the busy time of July and August were advised to book accommodation in advance. I started looking a few weeks before our trip and found places, but not necessarily the ones that I would have preferred. We had to share bathrooms in Woody Point and ended up with a "luxurious" room in Cow Head, giant jacuzzi and big screen TV, which was twice as much as the standard rooms.

Posted by Bob Brink 06:17 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses canada newfoundland Comments (3)

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