There’s a certain magic in Change Islands
The community of Change Islands actually spans three close knit islets, two of which are populated, each separated from the other by a narrow strait or, as they call them around here, a “tickle.” According to one story, an early settler had set up a home on one island but then decided to “change islands.” And if you know anything about this place, you'll know yarns like these are actually pretty normal.
Like so many small towns in Newfoundland, there’s a particular charm to this place. As soon as you arrive you can tell that life is just a little bit slower here; there’s no need to rush. Only about 300 people live in this idyllic and historic island setting. Many of the original homes, stages, and stores (fishing sheds) have been preserved and walking among them is akin to a stroll back in time. The quietness of the landscape is all consuming; sometimes the only sounds are the cries of the seagulls and the crashing of the waves against the rocks. Once you immerse yourself in this place, you’ll discover stunning coastal hikes and interesting local characters. It really is a beautiful area, not to mention a photographer’s dream. Make no wonder artists of all disciplines find inspiration here.
Don't let the peace and quiet fool you, though. Change Islands features several destinations worth visiting, even if they're not always clearly marked. But that makes the journey through these narrow streets and saltbox houses all the more rewarding. Or you can strike out off-road, by foot or by boat. With so many rocky outcrops and hidden tickles, it’s a rewarding place for paddling and kayaking. There are six hiking trails that meander around the islands, with amazing views to discover.
Here, you’ll discover a distinct part of our cultural heritage – the noble Newfoundland Pony. At the Change Islands Sanctuary, this critically endangered breed is protected. Its founder Netta LeDrew will tell you how these diminutive beasts toiled, hauling capelin in from stages, and plowing the fields. But the ponies under her care know no such rigors. These sturdy little beauties are part of a rescue and breeding program, and lead picturesque lives with their devoted caretaker, a brand new barn, and plenty of space to graze and roam. This wildlife reserve is currently home to 11 ponies; the largest herd of its kind, and you'll fall in love with their gentle temperament and fairy tale appearance. Before visiting, it may be worthwhile to call, to make sure someone is on-site.
Finding a one-room museum built and maintained by a local character is a given on most trips through the small towns of Newfoundland and Labrador. And Change Islands is no exception with its meticulously organized Olde Shoppe Museum. In this treasury, each artifact has been researched through the painstaking tracking of local oral histories. Peter Porter, the owner and operator, knows each tale by heart. Peter is a curator by deep instinct, if not training. His stories and anecdotes have a singsong cadence, and his respect for the history he is preserving is contagious. His accordion playing isn't too shabby either.
There are several accommodations scattered around the island, including a small hostel, the Change Islands Retreat, and the Seven Oakes Island Inn, a historic B&B.
To find the real charm of this off the beaten path place, look not in its structures or attractions, but in that special feeling you get when you disembark the ferry. With air so fresh it takes your breath away, land so quaint in its welcoming ruggedness, and people quick to invite you into their world, Change Islands is the perfect spot to immerse yourself in the simplicity of life.