East Coast Trail, near Logy Bay, Newfoundland.
By Bike tour guru | www.duvine.com
I once was lost…but now am found. Well, make that, lost in my own time zone! Don't worry, I didn't go off the grid, more like I was operating on Newfoundland time. Yes, interestingly enough – being the easternmost point in North America merits Newfoundland its own special time – a half an hour off kilter with the rest of the world. So, in essence, I was lost in this unique space- time continuum that exists in Newfoundland, Canada. Hence, if you really looking to "get away" [both literally and figuratively] – this is the place to go!
Now back to being found…
My trip started in the capital, St. John's, which is located on the eastern tip of the Avalon Peninsula. The architecture of St. John's has a distinct style from that of the rest of Canada as its major buildings are remnants of its history as one of the first British colonial capitals. Many of the homes are painted in bright colors – also a unique feature unlike other parts of Canada. Another interesting tidbit – St. John's was the first place to receive a transatlantic signal via telegraph atop Signal Hill in 1901 – ushering in the modern era of long-distance wireless communication.
The waters around Newfoundland and Labrador are home to whales of all kinds – and between May and September – many of these species can be seen breaching the surface and playing along the shores. Hence my first 'order of business' [so to speak], was to head out with Captain Joe O'Brien in search of whales!
Not only did we encounter humpback whales, but I had the chance to see a mola mola (a giant ocean sunfish) as well as an island full of puffins! [cute little buggers… can't fly very well… but damn cute] They kind of remind me a cross between a penguin, a parrot and a seagull…and spend the majority of their time swimming in the water. I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see such a huge preponderance of puffins – apparently one of the highest percentage of North America's Atlantic puffins are found along the coastlines in this province. And what an epic coastline it is!
After my first impressive day on the water, I headed back into town for more "fruits of the sea" with a dinner at the Atlantic restaurant and some of the freshest food this coast has to provide – including some out-of-this-world cod cheeks! Everything was so incredibly fresh and tasty – truly the product of a land that lives by the sea. Funnily enough, the big word around town is who has the best fish and chips in the area. Needless to say, my quest for the evening was to find out the answer to this eternal question – so I asked anyone and everyone I could for their opinion. After conducting my field research, I retired to my hotel, Ryan Mansion for the evening [which, I guess you could say it was fit for royalty…as Prince Charles and Camilla stayed here last year].
No, you do not need to adjust your glasses…the town is called Dildo. And, as you can imagine, is butt of many jokes. All joking aside, the town itself is a quiet and picturesque place with a great inn called Inn by the Bay (run by two great guys), some exceptionally friendly people and is the home of one of the best breakfasts I had in Newfoundland. I also checked out the local museum in town and was honored with a private tour by the original Captain Dildo [was a real character!] who told me all about the history of the whaling business in town (and why many people were forced to relocate to Boston when the whaling industry ended).
I spent the day sea kayaking with Stan Cook, and not too coincidentally, Stan Cook, Jr. – great guys! Paddling on the water was great fun…and we ate "uni" roe straight from the sea!
In the afternoon, I went on a hike to check out the converted Ferryland Lighthouse, which now houses Lighthouse Picnics, famous for its picnic experience. What a spectacular place. You pick up your picnic basket from Jill, the owner, take a short 2km hike along a natural isthmus where you are surrounded by the sea on both sides of the path and then voila…it's like a movie set! A sweeping landscape where waves, whales and seabirds are all part of the epic vista that lies before you. Need I say… a most romantic spot for a picnic lunch.
Next on my list was a visit to Trinity where I went on the most incredible hike along the coast – honestly, you cannot even imagine how amazing the views are – a real cliff walk! Hiking the coastal Skerwink Loop is a must – something that everyone needs to be experience. While on the trail, I was lucky enough to spot a bald eagle, who was flying so close that I began to worry that he might be thinking of having me for lunch!
Oh, and must confess, I had the best fish and chips on the wharf in Trinity (don't tell the St. John's folks!) I spent the evening in the town of Port Rexton at the Fisher's Loft, a wonderful little inn that is nestled on the hills of a winding lane that overlooks the old fishing and boat-building harbour of Ship Cove. It's a great spot to relax with amazing food, great rooms, and a beautiful organic garden.
Some other adventures along the way included a hike along Fox Island Trail and a visit to the town of Bonavista. And upon returning to St. John's, I had the pleasure of being invited into the home of one of the locals for a lobster dinner. Talk about a group of incredibly nice and hospitable people!
Newfoundland is definitely a great place to get away for a while, slow down and observe the fascinating natural beauty that surrounds you. A place of epic proportions: epic coastlines and icebergs, epic vistas, epic creatures (humpback whales, bald eagles) and a rather epic town name. Oh, and my favorite…the puffins…who are just really cool little guys.
It may not be easy to get to, but once found – Newfoundland is destination well worth visiting.