Hike back in time at Red Bay, UNESCO World Heritage Site

Sometimes the path forward begins with a journey back.

Red Bay 

On the south coast of Labrador, the town of Red Bay takes the essence of coastal living, and transposes it onto a tapestry of rich culture and history.

Tracey Hill hiking trail/Photo by Dru Kennedy

Once known as The Whaling Capital of the World, it is here, in this naturally creative and curious place that travellers can hear the long whispers of history on the wind, and discover what life was like for Basque whalers in the early 1500s.

Today Red Bay is one of North America’s greatest archaeological sites and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A testament to the fact that, five hundred years later, this impressive harbour still appeals to explorers with an insatiable sense of adventure, driven to discover exotic places far off the beaten path.

And to get a real look at the land the Basque fell in love with, we recommend lacing up your hiking boots. 

Easy-to-spot signage as you enter the town leads to a designated parking area. Choose the Tracey Hill Walking Trail, and follow a well-maintained boardwalk of 689 steps (give or take a few). Along the way, interpretive signage details the rich, local history. Make your way to the top of the namesake hill for breathtaking views of the town and of Iceberg Alley. Approximately a three kilometre round trip, this trail is of moderate difficulty.

Boney Shore 

While Tracey Hill goes up, the Boney Shore Walking Trail wanders around, offering a closer view of the Red Bay coastline. Here, you’ll hike through a stunted fir and larch forest on ground seasonally covered with Labrador tea, lichen, mosses, partridgeberries and bakeapples, known locally as cloud berries. The trail leads to a section of beach where the whale carcasses discarded by the Basque working on Saddle Island would wash ashore. Mixed amongst the driftwood are whitish-grey whale bones, the refuse of a storied fishery from over three hundred years ago. This 30-minute walk is a flat, gravel trail, approximately one kilometre in length, making it suitable for walkers of all ages and skill levels.

Red Bay from Tracey Hill 

Regardless of the path you choose, you’ll be treated to spectacular scenery and copious amounts of breathing room, not to mention front row seats for one of the most amazing shows on Earth starring 10,000-year-old monolithic icebergs, thousands of seabirds, and the world’s largest population of humpback whales.

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