Port au Choix National Historic Site

Location, as the old saying goes, is everything. The Port au Choix Peninsula juts slightly out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Newfoundland’s northwest coast. With marine resources like fish and mammals within reach, it’s been a favoured spot for peoples who have lived and traded here for 5,500 years.

Maritime Archaic Tradition, Groswater and Dorset Palaeoeskimos, and Recent Indians occupied the area before Europeans arrived. Beginning in the late 1500s, Basque, French and English occupied the site. A main portion of the Maritime Archaic heritage of the area was uncovered by accident during the excavation for a theatre in 1967. Subsequent archaeological investigation led to it being named a National Historic Site in the 1970’s. Today, archaeologists continue to peel away the layers of this rich site and expose more of its rich past.

While many other sites along the coast have acidic soils that break down organic materials, the Port au Choix area’s underlying limestone geology has helped preserve many ancient artifacts. It also means calcium-loving arctic alpine plants usually found much further north can live here. Over 100 rare types of these plants are found around the site.

Today’s residents still depend on the sea for their livelihood. The technology may have changed over the millennia, but adaptation to this environment remains a major feature of whatever cultures have lived here. The visitor centre provides an extensive overview of the history and ecology of the area. Information panels and artistic depictions on the landscape help tell the story of the place. Nearby trails take visitors along the exposed shoreline to rich archaeological sites. Whales can often be spotted frolicking alongside small boats as fishermen pull in their day’s catch.

Past the National Historic Site and out on the coast is the Point Riche Lighthouse. This “pepperpot” style lighthouse constructed of wood in the shape of a tapered octagon was built in 1892 to replace an earlier structure. It flashes every five seconds. The first lighthouse, built in 1872, was built by the Government of Canada even though Newfoundland wasn’t a province at the time. It’s one of a series of lighthouses on Newfoundland’s west coast that continue to provide navigation assistance to mariners.

Getting Here:

Port au Choix National Historic Site is located midway along The Viking Trail on Route 430 approximately 234 kilometres or 3 hours north of Deer Lake airport and 161 kilometres or 2 hours from St. Anthony airport.

For more information visit the Parks Canada official website for Port au Choix National Historic Site of Canada

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Driving distances and calculations derived using Google Maps. Actual driving times may vary. GPS coordinates have been provided by tourism operators. Please confirm location with operator before departure.