Newfoundland’s rugged beauty

While we were on a hiking trip in our easternmost province, the words of the anthem “Ode to Newfoundland” rang true. But we hadn’t expected the line “We love thee, frozen land” to apply on the first day of our mid-July holiday. Icy winds warranted fleece and windproof jackets and brought regret that I’d left my new gloves back at the B&B where we were staying. But the weather couldn’t curb our excitement as we warmed up our hiking legs on the trails around Signal Hill in St. John’s, enjoying views of brightly painted houses and ships in the harbour.

On our second day, we drove our rented car west to Gros Morne National Park. Our first day in the park dawned sunny and warm, perfect weather for tackling the eight-hour-long hike up Gros Morne Mountain. No doubt about it: the hike was challenging but it provided vistas that took our breath away. That breathlessness added to the feeling our descent was twice the distance as the climb up. Later that evening, when we picked up the last available bag of Epsom salts from the local pharmacy, we wondered if we would ever walk again. The fact that we could move the next morning, let alone hike, is testamento the rejuvenating powers of a good night’s sleep.

We finished our exploration of the park in the following days with hikes on and around Western Brook Pond (the largest lake in Gros Morne National Park), Snug Harbour, Green Gardens and Stuckless Pond — all of which proved not as brutal as the mountain but in their own way just as scenic with fjords, beaches, sea stacks, caves, meandering forest paths, moose sightings and overgrown tree stumps where fairies seem likely to live.

The pleasures of the unexpected
Sometimes, an unplanned detour can lead to even more surprises. For us, it was a two-night stay in a roomy log cabin in a little hamlet called Rattling Brook, in Central Newfoundland east of Gros Morne. The proprietor handed us a trail guide of the Green Bay area and, over our cabin-cooked scallop dinner, we decided to explore the King’s Cove hiking trail in Harry’s Harbour the following day. If you park your car by the Anglican Church in Harry’s Harbour, you’ll see the trail heads off beside the cemetery. But if you take your time with last-minute adjustments to knapsack and boots, Harry himself will saunter out to ask if he can help. If you’re lucky, he’ll show you his workshop, give you a tour of the old homestead and surprise you with a peek at the wooden leg of the original owner who survived the battle of Beaumont Hamel in 1916.

Our hike on the King’s Cove trail to Budgell’s Cove took most of the day as there were numerous side trips to abandoned settlements on either side of the peninsula. And the walk into Anstey Cove was magical, mystical and more than a little spooky.

The following day, we headed to Bonavista Bay and a visit with family. We had been to my sister and brother-in-law’s summer home in the fishing village of Salvage on the tip of the Eastport peninsula before but never when the sun was shining. Walking on the recently constructed community trails around the village made me feel I was hiking in Ireland. The only difference was an unprecedented heat wave. It was too hot to tackle the nine kilometres of Old Trails, which join Salvage to Sandy Cove, but the coastal hikes were long enough to keep us limber. Along the way, we picked berries known locally as Harry-Plum-Boys and saw a minke whale as well as the small remnant of an iceberg. Salvage’s history is noteworthy. The village was used in summer months by Basque fishermen in the early 1600s and settled by Europeans in the mid-1600s. Known for its excellent fishing and beautiful scenery, it is one of the oldest continually inhabited communities in North America.

Only too soon, it was time to head home to Ontario. “Best stop at the Killick Restaurant in town and pick up a crab sandwich to go,” my sister advised us before we headed out of Salvage. En route to the airport, we discussed where we’ll hike the next time we come to this dramatically beautiful, wind-swept province. Will we go back and tackle the four-day Long Range Traverse in Gros Morne? Not likely. More exploration of the trails in Green Bay? Maybe. Or how about sections of the East Coast Trail on the Avalon Peninsula? Definitely. Yes, we love thee, Newfoundland.

To find out more about hiking in Newfoundland, contact Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism toll-free at 1-800-563-6353 for a brochure and map or go to For more information on Gros Morne National Park, go to