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Red Bay National Historic Site

In June 2013, Red Bay Basque Whaling Station was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And for good reason. This mystical place is world-renowned. Red Bay takes the essence of Labrador coastal living and transposes it onto a tapestry of rich culture and history.

In the 1500s, the waters of Red Bay were thick with thousands of Basque whalers hunting right whales and bowhead whales for blubber, which was rendered into oil for export to Europe. On Saddle Island, an island at the mouth of the bay, the remnants of whale oil rendering ovens and cooperages sit where Basque hands first built them. Today you can wander around the former whaling town of Red Bay and immerse yourself in history. You can visualize the day the San Juan sank in 1565, only 50 metres away and stand at the whaler's burial ground where 140 colleagues and friends were carefully laid to rest.

Take a hike along the beach and step into the interpretation centre to see an eight-metre chalupa, which whalers used on the ocean to harpoon their giant catch. To get a full appreciation for the size of these whales, compare the chalupa to the assembled collections of whale bones displayed. These showcase a time of prosperity and dangerous adventure, illustrating a long-ago way of life.

If you take a boat or kayak trip to Saddle Island, you will find the remains of a time miraculously preserved. Where once stood the home of the first large-scale whale oil production in the world, now piles of red clay roof tiles can be found on the island, 500 years since its closure.

Getting Here:

Red Bay National Historic Site is part of the Labrador Coastal Drive. It can be reached via ferry from St. Barbe, Newfoundland, to Blanc Sablon, Quebec, and just an 82 kilometre/1-hour drive.

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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.

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