Newfoundland is a large island off the East coast of Canada, in April I spent 10 days with my family exploring this wonderful island. Newfoundland is the worlds 16th largest island, the capital is St John's and the island is home to around 500,000 people. The Vikings were the first visitors here (in the 11 century) followed by many other European cultures. It was formally claimed by the British in 1583 and was Englands first overseas settlement.
Newfoundland officially joined Canada on March 31, 1949.
We flew into St, Johns airport and arrived mid-afternoon, picked up a hire car and drove the short distance to our overnight accommodation. We can highly recommend Johns Ryan Mansion, it is a historic house with an amazing guest history. Princess Margaret, Prince Charles and Camilla, Bruce Springsteen and Meg Ryan have all stayed here. The beautiful staircase and mantle were supplied by the same craftsmen and manufacturer who built and installed the grand staircase of the Titanic.
After check-in, we walked down the colorful and charming streets to have dinner in a local restaurant, there's lots of pride is these homes and streets and it pays to keep an eye out for the small details. Newfoundland, has an abundance of icebergs drifting past its coast. It should therefore be no surprise it also has a brewery making beer using water sourced from these icebergs that drift along the coast. During the meal I tried the famous iceberg beer, Its crisp and best served cold. After a great meal and another beer, we soon realized why walking into town seemed easy, The road back to the hotel is steep, and the large meal and a few drinks didn't seem like such a great idea on the walk back up the hill. Eventually we opened the door to John Ryans Mansion, walked up the historic staircase and studied the map before turning in for the night.
After an early rise, we drove up to the famous Signal Hill, Marconi received the first trans atlantic radio transmission here. Weather is typically cold up on the hill, but on a early morning in April the temperature and the high wind made it challenging to be outside. We stayed a few minutes and enjoyed the view, took a few images, but were very happy when the visitor center in the tower opened and we could take some respite inside. After acquiring a few souvenirs, we headed to the car and took the short drive down to the museum.
The Museum building is unique and is built into a natural depression, due to this much of the building is underground with a strong geology focus. The science centre also has several Titanic related exhibits as the famous ship was close to here when it struck an iceberg.
After this, we drove along the jagged coast to the failed settlement of Avalon (1621) and onwards to St Brides for an overnight stay.
St Brides is the closest accommodation to Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve, the most accessible seabird rookery in Northern America. This rookery was our destination and the main reason for visiting the southern part of the island. We drove the 30 min drive to the colony early in the morning. As we were visiting in the offseason, the visitor centre was closed, this wasn't a big problem though as we were only there to see the birds. The 15min walk to the rookery was windy, and we certainly appreciated our gloves and beanies. As we walked down to the lookout, the cliffs protected us from the wind, we were able to sit and warm up.
From here we watched thousands of Gannets only a few meters away on their isolated and rocky home. The rookery is on a large outcrop detached from the coast with sheer cliffs protecting it from any land based visitors. There were a few other bird species around, and we even saw a Bald eagle pass by.
The scenery all along the coast is incredibly rugged with massive cliffs along the entire coastland. Its picturesque, isolated and dangerous. Despite the conditions I captured a few images on the walk back to the car, the wind was still blowing hard, and the temp was barely above freezing. The car was a pleasant refuge after the cold temperatures on the short morning hike, we sat and warmed up for a while before setting out on a long drive North..
We were headed to Greenspond after this and we were now starting to appreciate the size of the island, as we discovered later the country of Iceland is about the same size as Newfoundland. After 5 more hours in the car we arrived at our little house on the island of Greenspond. Greenspond was another overnight stop but its a great little place. It's a small island connected to the mainland by a small bridge and is a mix of tourist accommodation and a small traditional fishing village.
Our little cottage was a relocated and renovated saltbox home. These are traditional family homes with a large signature glass wall and are all positioned very close to the water for a brilliant view of the environment. The local company that own these have a few positioned in different locations around the island and are managed by the theoldsaltboxco.
Day four was a two-hour drive from one island to another, then onto a ferry to get to a third the size of th island was just starting to dawn on us as we had a lot more travel planned. It was a cold land, Snow, Ice, and Icebergs were visible all along the coast, we had a ferry to catch though and while we stopped in a few places, the clock was ticking, and we really didn't want to miss the boat to Fogo.
The ferry ride was uneventful; however, most of the journey was through pack ice, for an Australian family, it seemed very surreal.
Fogo island is only a short ferry ride from Newfoundland, but it feels like another country altogether, The island's atmosphere seems more relaxed, everything is close and the communities are small. Fogo island is close to the coast, but the world seemed very far away.
Once again, we were staying in an old Salt Box home (Aunt Glady's), when we arrived, there was pack ice and Icebergs visible from the lounge room windows. After arriving we stared out at the rocky, cold alien scenery, mesmerized by its beauty we just watched the pack ice swirl around and move with the waves. We had arrived after lunch though so we dragged ourself away from the window and ventured out for a late lunch. We soon found a great little coffee shop and met some of the local's. The weather was closing in, and the snow was heavy, so we ventured back to "Aunt Glady's" and spent the afternoon relaxing in our little house and kept warm.
Fogo, Coffee, hiking, and Icebergs. The morning weather was clear and cold so we drove around the island enjoying the scenery and looking for icebergs. The Iceberg spotting community is strong and specific icebergs were pretty easy to find. We even called a few in ourselves on the iceberg spotters Facebook page (its easy when they are outside the kitchen).
We drove from the town of Fogo across the island to Tilting, stopping along the way to look out at the scenery and discover the little art galleries and souvenir shops and Cafes. There certainly isn't a lot of variety, but the places that we found were all unique, interesting and very friendly. We even found that there was good quality coffee at both ends of our drive.
After a morning of exploring in the car, we decided to get some exercise by hiking to the top of Brimstone Head. The hill was a short distance from our cabin, and the start of the trail was in a nearby park. There was still plenty of snow in the ground and footsteps were easy to follow even if we couldn't see the boardwalk. Soon after setting out, the stairs and climbing put the town of Fogo well below, The trail is moderate with many stairs to climb and seemed shorter than we expected. At the top of Brimstone Head, the 360-degree views are expansive over the ocean and back over the island, the afternoon weather seemed mild to us so we stayed and relaxed for a few minutes.
From the top we spotted an iceberg not visible from the road, there was a trail not marked on the maps that looker to get us closer to it so we ventured down to see if we could see this berg a little closer. When we came back down we struggled to find any trail head leading to the Iceberg. As luck would have it, we ran into Aunt Agnes for whom our accommodation was named (she was born in the house), after a brief chat she advised us of the entrance to the trail and off we went. After another short hike and some scrambling over rocks we had a better view of the iceberg we saw from Brimstone Head.
We stayed for a while took a few photo's and walked back to the house for a relaxing evening......or so I thought.
After warming up in our little house for about an hour, the sun started to set, and as we were having dinner, the sunset colours started to become vivid. The photographer in me couldn't resist the opportunity to catch an image of an iceberg in a sunset scene. I grabbed the camera, tripod and a torch and headed out to catch a view that seemed surreal to an Australian, nowhere on the Aussie continent could this scene be replicated. I couldn't resist, so I ran along the trail for 15 min to capture the scene and then returned back to the house in fading light to warm up and have a well earned Iceberg Beer!
Fogo and the Inn. We spent a relaxing day exploring some more area's of Fogo including a visit to some of the Artist residences on the island. These were built to inspire artists and provide sustainable tourism for the tiny island. There are 6 buildings scattered around the island and people are encouraged to find then all.
All the studios are self-sustaining and completely off the grid; water is collected from the roof, toilets are composting, electricity is generated from the sun, heating is from wood-burning stoves. The only tie to the outside world is an internet link.
We only found a couple, they were empty awaiting some warmer weather before the artists turned up.
We were headed back from Tilting to Joe Batts Arm, when we spotted a herd of Caribou, After a quick u-turn we found a great vantage point on a small bridge over a stream. We sat and watched for about 15 min until they crossed the water and headed back into the bushes and disappeared rom view. Apparently this was a rare sight and the locals we saw later were interested to see these images.
Every where we visited on the island there is always the mention of the Inn, people want to know if you are staying in the Inn, have seen the Inn or are eating there. The Inn is famous locally for the affect it has on the community. Its famous internationally for the experience that it offers. While we didn't choose to stay at the Inn we decided to spoil ourself with a meal at this special place. The story of the Inn is as unique as Fogo, the community involvement, and the impact on the local economy is all planned and deliberate. Its no wonder the locals are proud of this place and it would have been disappointing to leave without seeing what the building was like on the inside.
We booked Dinner well before arriving at the Island it was one place we had decided to spoil ourselves, We arrived early and took the time to tour the hotel, its minimalist and homely, Many items are made by the locals, the wallpaper designs are hand drawn, bedcovers and had knitted, its a complete community focus. It certainly feel smaller inside than it looks though, it still feels spacious but I just had a preconception of a larger building.
After a tour we had a drink at the bar and sat down to relax. Its here that I really got comfortable, the whole place seemed to feel like home. After about 20 minutes we were invited to the main dining area. Its a simple, box shape with high ceilings and is dominated by a ceiling height window that looks west over the island.
The 5 course meal did not dissapoint but before dessert arrived, I snuck outside with the camera. I walked around the building looking for ways to capture it up close. I'm not convinced that I achieved what I wanted but I obviously had to head back inside to try dessert!
The following morning was another early start, First ferry off the island would not be waiting for us and we had a long drive across the island to look forward to. It was strange leaving Fogo island in many ways the community here reminded us of home and we all felt that more time was warranted, Its a hard place to get to and an even harder place to leave.