Newfoundland, Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island
Gros Morne’s Western Book Pond scenery is hard to describe
The upper deck offers the best view for visitors to Western Brook Pond, Newfoundland.
Nights in the 50’s is fairly common in Newfoundland, particularly along the coast where we are camping at Rocky Harbor, a small town along the western shore that borders on the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Mountains surround the landlocked Western Brook Pond which is located in Gros Morne Provincial Park, Newfoundland.
Since we sleep with the RV windows open, it’s frequently so cold in the morning that I turn on the gas heater, close the windows and crawl back into bed, giving the RV a half hour or so for the place to warm-up. Kind of strange for July where back home in Florida summer heat of 90 degrees is almost a daily aggravation.
Today’s agenda includes a hike and boat tour of nearby Western Brook Pond in Newfoundland’s Gros Morne Provincial Park. Long considered the crown jewel of provincial parks in Newfoundland, Gros Morne records more visitors than any other park.
Part of the 45 minute trail leading to the pond crosses a wetlands area where park officials have constructed a boardwalk.
They call large bodies of water “ponds” here, rather than lakes which is a little confusing. We were expecting a pond, maybe small enough to walk around or small enough to swim across and were surprised to learn the “pond” is more than nine miles long.
Getting to Western Brook Pond, a landlocked fjord, requires about a 1 ¾ mile easy hike along a well-maintained and mostly flat trail that ends at a visitor’s center for check-in and a boat dock. There’s also a snack bar offering some hot foods, including soup, hot dogs and hamburgers along with beverages and a gift shop.
The only water access to Western Brook Pond is by tour boats which take visitors on a two hour ride with guides providing information in both French and English.
There’s no way I can adequately describe the scenery. The boat travels the entire length of the fjord at a slow pace, allowing plenty of time to soak in the huge mountain cliffs, waterfalls and occasional wildlife. Guides on board the two-deck tour boat, which carried about 85 guests, were speaking both French and English.
Western Brook Pond is a UNESCO World Heritage site. No boating, fishing or swimming is allowed. There is no public access, however, there are about 65 miles of trails within Gros Morne Provincial Park, some that are primitive and require skilled hikers. The waters of the pond are among the purist in the world.
NEXT: Off the main road to Woody Point
Tim Horton’s coffee and scenery keeps us going in Newfoundland
Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse, Rocky Harbor, NF.
Lobster Cove Lighthouse at Rocky Harbor, NF.
Two things one can always expect in Newfoundland–windy days and Tim Horton’s coffee/donut shops. Tim Horton’s are everywhere, even in the middle of nowhere.
Driving north on Trans-Canada Highway 1, we found our first Tim Horton’s of the day just past Marble Mountain. It’s becoming a daily habit to skip a healthy breakfast in the RV for a hot mocha latte and a warm blueberry muffin, always available at any Tim Horton’s throughout the Maritimes and Canada.
Old House Rocks is a little fishing village off Highway 430 near Gros Morne Provincial Park.
We are driving to the far northern tip of Newfoundland with stops at popular Gros Morne Provincial Park, Port aux Choix, the northwest fishing capital of Newfoundland and St. Anthony for a whale watching trip. The road north ends at St. Anthony on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. It will take us eight days to meander along the coastline and see the sights before arriving in St. Anthony.
At Deer Lake we drove on Highway 430 to Rocky Harbor, where we will camp for the next four nights. Highway 430 is also known as the Viking Trail and runs along the western coastline of Newfoundland to St. Anthony.
The trail to see the Cows Head Lighthouse was well maintained and an easy hike. The lighthouse is no longer operational.
Wildflowers were in full bloom when we visited Cow Head, Newfoundland in late July.
As luck would have it, we happen to be in the Maritimes when admission to all provincial parks is free as Canada Parks is celebrating its 150th anniversary.
We drove a few miles outside town to Lobster Cove Head lighthouse and toured the lighthouse keepers home which is now a museum. The light here is still active. We walked the trails around the lighthouse and along the coast for some incredible rocky shoreline and huge cliffs views as the sun was setting on the horizon.
The following day we drove north to Cow Head and hike 1.5 miles to see another lighthouse and the seashore. The lighthouse here was smaller than most and had been decommissioned years ago. It was made of steel and refurbished in 1990’s. During the hike we met two students from the University of Miami who were spending a month in Newfoundland on a geology field training trip. The University has been bringing students here since 1981.
We visited a museum of a prominent resident who once lived in Cow Head and returning to Rocky Harbor, stumbled into the little community of Old House Rocks.
A hand-carved wooden sign welcomes visitors to Hickey’s Cove, a place you will not find in the visitor’s guide. It’s primarily a summer fishing operation with docks along the waterfront and about 20 small cabins fishermen use for lodging while they are here. We could not determine where Hickey’s Cove ended and Old House Rocks begins. They seemed to be one in the same place.
Broom Point fishing exhibit.
Sunset at Lobster Head Cove Lighthouse.
At nearby Broom Point, a full-time interpreter with Parks Canada told the history of the Gulf of St. Lawrence natural harbor, beginning as early as 300 BC when it was used as a base for spring seal hunting and later for cod and lobster fishing, ending in 1975. Parks Canada acquired the land from the family of three brothers who fished here every summer from 1941 until 1975. Along with the land came all the boats, fishing equipment and buildings the brothers used in the fishing operation.
NEXT: Newfoundland’s crown jewel, Gros Morne Provincial Park
Joining a community pig roast at Robinson, NF
Wildflowers seen along the trail in the Codroy Valley area of Newfondland.
With threatening skies, we are back on the Trans-Canada Highway and driving north through the Table Mountains, which are half covered with low hanging, moisture laden clouds and threatening rain.
We stopped in the Codroy Valley area to take a hike through a wetland preserve, hoping to see some birds. Maybe it was the time of day or the time of year, but we didn’t see many birds and after a mile walk, got back to the RV.
Heading north to Robinson, our destination for tonight, the highway left the coastal areas and cut through the mountains. Martha noted there were no homes, businesses or signs of civilization in her trip journal. No traffic. Kind of eerie for a weekend when one would expect some vehicles on the highway.
Found a service station in tiny St. David’s and filled the RV with fuel that cost $1.23 per liter which relates to almost $4.75 per gallon. Most commodities are shipped into Newfoundland, by sea or air, accounting for the higher price of goods. That is not the situation with oil since the province has several producing offshore oil fields providing crude to its’ Come By Chance Refinery. In a conversation with a local, he speculated that taxes are responsible for the expensive fuel.
We left the highway and drove toward the coast to Robinson and Pirates Haven RV Park, our destination for tonight. We have driven only about 60 miles from Port aux Basque because we wanted to eat fresh pork at Pirate Haven’s pig roast.
The RV campground check-in was at a bar, which was full of happy patrons who obviously had been there for several hours, waiting for the pork. We parked the RV, connected to water, electricity and sewer and proceeded to the bar for a roast pork dinner.
The owner told us he has been cooking a whole hog annually for the past 23 years and it has become a community as well as campground success. The dinner consisted of pork, pork stuffing, browned potatoes and corn for $18 Canadian which made the cost about $15 America. The pork was nice and moist but needed some barbeque sauce, Martha wrote. “Newfoundlanders don’t drown pork in sauce,” said a local, preferring their pork “naked.”.
Although I’m not sure that’s what he said. Newfies talk fast and have a serious accent, obviously a mixture of several cultures plus some local slang. The accent is becoming more obvious and undecipherable as we head north.
A four-piece band played music until the wee hours of the morning, long after the pork was finished and long after we had gone to bed.
We closed the RV windows, put one of Martha’s homemade quilts on the bed and called it a night. The wind was blowing hard and it was cold outside but the temperature didn’t seem to slow the pork crowd. It didn’t bother us, either.
NEXT: A stunning seashore drive on the French Ancestors Route.
Skyline Trail and Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia
The boardwalk at the end of the Skyline Trail in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
There are not many places that can rival the scenery of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.
We are traveling around the island, waiting for the ferry ride to Newfoundland in a couple days, blown away by the seashore, small waterfront fishing communities and of course, the forested mountain scenery that rises up out of the ocean and extends untouched for miles.
A adventuresome hiker teeters on the edge of a high cliff on top of French Mountain along the Skyline Trail in the Cape Breton Highlands.
Starting from North Sydney where we left the RV, we drove south and west across Cape Breton Island, emerging on the western shore at the little settlement of Margaree Harbor. We exited the car and took time to walk along the shoreline to the mouth of the Margaree River and imagined how much fun it would be to live here, at least in the summer.
The mountains meet the sea at Cape Breton National Park, Nova Scotia.
Back in the car we passed the small communities of Grand Etang and Point Cross and stopping occasionally for Kodak moments of the craggy coastline before reaching Cheticamp, another fishing community along the Cabot Trail. Cheticamp receives a lot of pass- through- traffic, en route north to Cape Breton Highlands National Park, one of the most visited places in the Nova Scotia.
The boardwalk makes hiking much easier to visitors to views the ocean and mountains on the Skyline Trail.
The downtown area has an unspoiled view of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and a population of about 4,000, making it the largest town on the western shore of Cape Breton Island. Settled by Acadians, it is very common to hear French spoken here.
It’s the Saint-Pierre Catholic Church, however, that prompted us to pull of the highway for a closer look. We could see the church bell tower before reaching the town’s southern limits.
Along the shoreline at Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.
The church, constructed in 1892, was built of native sandstone mined from the north end of Cheticamp Island and ferried across the ice to the shore. It is one of a few stone churches on Cape Breton Island. The doors to the church were open, allowing us to see the interior which is described as “a barrel-vaulted nave with two aisles and upper gallery leading the eye straight towards the main altar. ” We were the only people inside the church.
We entered Cape Breton Highlands National Park just north of Cheticamp and walked the four mile round trip Skyline Trail on French Mountain to the ocean’s edge, finding ourselves hundreds of feet above the shoreline and overlooking the highway. It is best described as the place where the mountains meet the sea.
We could see the bell tower of St. Pierre Catholic Church in Cheticamp, Nova Scotia, long before we entered the town.
An interior photo of St. Pierre Catholic Church, Cheticamp, NS.
Surrounded by forested mountains as far as the eye can see, we parked ourselves on wooden park benches and tried as much as possible to absorb the surroundings. Parks Canada has installed a wide boardwalk with steps that follow the steep cliff of the mountain and zig-zag back and forth, making it easier for hikers to get a panoramic view of the ocean and surrounding mountains. This is not the place to turn loose small children.
This lighthouse once stood along the shoreline at Dingman, NS but was relocated into town when it was decommissioned.
Although the trail is well traveled, hikers need to be aware that bears and coyotes are present in the mountains. A 19-year old was attacked in 2009 while walking the Skyline Trail by a pack of coyotes and later died from her injuries. It is the only known fatal attack on a human in Canada.
There are no trees growing at this elevation, providing undisturbed opens views. We were surprised to learn the mountains here are part of the Appalachians. My, what a view!
This colorful lighthouse at Neil’s Harbour also housed an ice cream store, which is the real reason we stopped here on our tour of the Cape Breton Highlands.
Back on the Cabot Trail we stopped for a late lunch at Rusty’s Anchor restaurant near Pleasant Bay, enjoying a bowl of seafood chowder while sitting outside with another view of the mountains while listing to live celtic music.
The northern part of the road has sharp curves, deep canyons and strong winds but the splendid views continued. We drove off the main road a few miles and visited the small settlement of Dingman and took photos of a recently relocated lighthouse. We found another lighthouse and a colorful small boat harbor at Neil’s Harbor. This lighthouse also featured an ice cream shop, the real reason we stopped.
NEXT: Loading the RV on the ferry for a six hour ride to Newfoundland.
Small boat harbour at Neil’s Harbor, NS.
Back in Nova Scotia after 37 years; lobster for lunch
At 60 feet, the world’s largest fiddle is located at the Port of Sydney, Nova Scotia, celebrates the Celtic culture of Nova Scotia.
It’s not a real lighthouse but a small version on the grounds of Arm of Gold Campground, North Sydney, Nova Scotia.
It was 37-years ago when we last visited Nova Scotia. We were driving an automobile and ended up here, quite by accident, after visiting Maine and decided at the spur of the moment to extend the trip a few more days to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
We were blown away with the beauty of the coastline, the cold water shellfish and Cape Briton Island’s highlands area and promised to return. Nova Scotia was just becoming a tourist destination for adventurous travels in the late 70’s. There were small mom and pop motels, cozy little tourist cabin, family owned restaurants and attendants that filled our car with fuel at service stations. As I recall, only Halifax and maybe a couple large cities, boasted Holiday Inns type motels and shopping malls. In fact, Nova Scotia in the late 70’s reminded me of the states in the 50’s and 60’s. Unfortunately, we were in a big hurry back then and didn’t have the spare time to really absorb the province.
St. Joseph’s Catholic Church is a 106-year-old Parish church a few blocks from the Arm of Gold Campground.
Our transportation this time is a two-year old 32-foot Winnebago Aspect motorhome. We are retired, seasoned RV veterans with 47 states visited behind us and seeing Nova Scotia at a very leisure pace. Next up is Newfoundland which is why we are in North Sydney, Nova Scotia at Arm of Gold Campground and only about two miles from the ferry terminal where we will soon board an oceangoing boat to Newfoundland/Labrador. Our goal is to spend a month exploring Newfoundland and getting our fill of cold water lobster, scallops, clams, mussels and cod fish.
While waiting for the ferry we will drive the tow car and tour the northeastern portion of Nova Scotia which includes Cape Briton Island.
Enjoying fresh lobster at the campground in North Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Downtown Sydney from the second floor of the Cruise Pavilion building.
In the meantime, we found a fish market in North Sydney selling fresh off the boat lobsters. They cooked a couple live 1 1/2 pound “bugs” which made for a nice meal on a picnic table outside the RV at Arms of Gold campground.
NEXT: Getting up high in the Highlands.
Hairpin mountain curves and Bell’s Museum in Nova Scotia
Other than checking occasionally in the dashboard backup camera, I never see the tow car following faithfully behind our Winnebago Aspect motorhome. It happened coming down from the mountains on Highway 105 just a few miles from North Sydney, Nova Scotia.
The grounds at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck, overlooks Bras d’or Lake.
We had been driving along highways 104 and 105 from Truro, NS, surprised to see dozens of motorhomes heading in the opposite direction and was even more surprised a few miles down the road when we passed a huge race track that was emptying fans from a weekend of professional auto racing.
After driving across the Canso Causeway and entering Cape Briton Island, Highway 105 took us along the shores of Bras d’or Lake, a huge inland fresh water sea, with depths of almost 1,000 feet. The lake stretches for 62-miles before emptying into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean.
The mountain views around the lake are impressive, so much so that they attracted inventor Alexander Graham Bell who built a home on the lake’s east side and where he conducted many of his experiments.
Alexander Graham Bell’s Silver Dart was the first powered airplane flight in Canada in 1909 and hangs from the rafters at his museum in Baddeck, Nova Scotia.
“I have travelled around the globe. I have seen the Canadian and American Rockies, the Andes, the Alps and the Highlands of Scotland, but for simple beauty, Cape Breton outrivals them all,” Bell said.”
He said it reminded him of his home in Scotland.
There is a museum in Baddeck that houses much of Bell’s work.
Nearing North Sydney, we were descending the east slope of Kelly’s Mountain and were cautioned to slow down ahead because of a couple sharp bends in the highway. There were two 180-degree hairpin curves, where we slowed to about 15 or 20 miles per hour. I happened to look in the side mirror of the RV and was surprised to see the tow car. That has never happened before that I recall.
Highway 105 was named for Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell in 2010.
Cooking salmon over a wood fire at a restaurant in Nova Scotia.Highway 105 was named for Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell Highway in 2010.
NEXT: Following the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia
RVing through the northeast headed to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland
A couple of bathers cool off in the Glen Ellis River below the falls near Shelburne, NH. The falls are 65 feet high and are only a short walk off Highway 16. The river begins on the east slopes of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeast U. S.
Getting to Newfoundland from our home base in northeast Florida will be across mostly familiar and sometimes boring territory until we reach the northeast. The 2,000 miles to North Sydney, Nova Scotia, where we will board a ferry to reach the island of Newfoundland/Labrador, will average about 300-miles of daily driving in our two-year-old, 32’ Winnebago Aspect. We are not in a hurry.
From Highway 9 at Hog Mountain overlook. The road from Bennington to Brattleboro was mountainous with some 8-10% grades and several runaway truck ramps. The weather was cool at this 2,410′ elevation.
We drove north on Interstate 95 up the east coast, camped in Florence, S. C. (where we arrived just in time for a late afternoon raucous thunderstorm), followed by a few days in historic old Williamsburg, VA. Richmond was bypassed and drove Interstate 64 west to Interstate 81 north where we settled in behind continuous long lines of semi-trucks, also heading north.
From Bennington, VT, we drove through the White Mountains on a very good two-lane road that featured several runaway truck ramps on Highway 9 to Shelburne, NH. Mount Washington, a popular national park where we have previously visited, is only a few miles from Shelburne-Gorham area which accounts for the difficulty we had getting campground reservations.
Just east of Gorham, we drove on U. S. 2, a coast-to-coast highway called the Great Northern. It stretches from Bar Harbor, ME to Seattle, WA. Although a two-lane road, U. S. 2 is a good highway with paved, wide shoulders. It rained several inches overnight but skies the following morning were mostly clear with moisture laden puffy clouds still hanging around the mountains.
Greenwood Lodge, a ski resort near Bennington VT, was not crowded when we visited in late July.
We drove through Bangor, ME then took Highway 9 north, cleared customs at Calais, ME and entered Canada late afternoon, arriving at a city campground in downtown St. Johns, New Brunswick for a one-night stay. We have previously camped here and enjoyed the campground and surrounding park grounds.
Jackson is only about 20 miles from Gorham, NH where we found this waterfall.
The 200-mile drive from St. Johns to Truro, Nova Scotia the following day was on Canada 104, a four-lane, limited access highway. After overnighting at a KOA in Truro, we drove 184-miles to the northeast corner of Nova Scotia at North Sydney, where we will stay four nights before boarding the ferry to Newfoundland. The major highways here are in excellent condition.
Since we have traveled through Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island on previous trips, we did not spend any time touring the two Maritime Provinces.
Covered bridge in Jackson, NH, built in 1876 and still open to traffic.
NEXT: Exploring northern Nova Scotia
Newfoundland/Labrador trip up next
With the lady of the manor, we are back on the road and headed this time to Newfoundland and its almost forgotten neighbor Labrador. It will be our third visit to the Canadian Maritimes but our first to Newfoundland/Labrador.
Followers of this blog know we can’t stay home and would never consider traveling in a car. The RV lifestyle has us hooked by the toe. Although we are not full-timers (we spend about six months a year on and off the road), we have been RVing for nine years, wearing out one big motorhome and downsizing to the Winnebago. The smaller motorhome gives us the opportunity to drive more of the back roads and less of the interstates. We are staying in more state and national parks and seeing more of small town America and enjoying every minute and mile.
Cool weather of the north country will be a welcomed change from the constant summer heat and humidity in Florida which we seem to enjoy less with age. Temps in north Florida were in the low 90’s and aggravated by the almost daily afternoon thunder-boomers, leaving behind a few hours of steaming high humidity until sundown thankfully arrives and cools things a bit.
We are driving a two=year=old Winnebago Aspect Class C motorhome, which displays 30,000 miles of dependable road work, including last year’s 12,000 mile five month trip to Alaska. Our trips usually range in the 2,000 to 3,000 mile range.
There will be a few camping spots in route to Newfoundland which we will tell you about. Otherwise, we will be in North Sydney, Nova Scotia by July 20 to catch the ferry to Newfoundland. With a little luck, there will be pictures and stories of icebergs, whales, puffins, lighthouses and some memorable happenings from the roads we travel.
NEXT: Colonial history in Williamsburg, VA.