Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Exploring Southern Labrador is easy.

by Keith and Heather Nicol
      Western Newfoundland has 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites that attract tourists from around the world. Gros Morne National Park at the base of the Northern Peninsula is one of province’s keystone attractions and L’anse aux Meadows at the very top of the Peninsula is another popular visitor destination. However part way between these 2 locations lies the community of St.Barbe which provides access to Labrador and the province’s newest UNESCO World Heritage site at Red Bay. Red Bay was officially named an UNESCO site in June, 2013 and is important for what it tells us about the Basques whaling exploits in this area in the 1500’s. Large scale commercial whaling started in Red Bay and through the 1500’s Red Bay was the biggest whaling site in the world! The story of how geographer Selma Barkham unraveled the clues about Red Bay in the distant archives of Spain is fascinating and unfolds before your eyes at the Parks Canada Visitor Orientation Centre. 

Start your visit in Red Bay at the Visitor Orientation Centre

 Southern Labrador is just a 90 minute ferry ride away from St. Barbe and we recently headed to the Big Land to see some of the lures of this region. We took the M.S. Apollo (http://www.labradormarine.com/) on Tuesday afternoon on August 27 and despite the showery weather we saw a couple of minke whales from the expansive decks of the ferry. Our first visit was to the Gateway to Labrador Visitor Centre which is located in L’Anse au Clair. It has informative displays and the knowledgeable staff can assist you with your travel plans. The staff suggested that we see the Point Amour Lighthouse and the Labrador Straits Museum and pointed out some short hikes that we could do if we had time. We were told to give ourselves about an hour to get the Red Bay if we drove there directly. We then headed off through the rain to Red Bay. Enroute the road travels through many communities, many of them fronted with large sandy beaches. The terrain is quite different than that of the Northern Peninsula and the road is like a roller coaster climbing over low hills  only to drop down again as each community is encountered. We stopped to view the spectacular Pinware River and then drove on to Red Bay where we checked into the comfortable Whaler's Station Cabins (www.redbaywhalers.ca).  We were delighted to have our own well equipped cabin which was right on the ocean facing Saddle Island. 
Whale watching from the M.S. Apollo

Start your trip to Labrador at the Visitor Centre in L'Anse au Clair

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