The Great Northern Peninsula
Drive slowly and stop often. A tour of the Great Northern Peninsula cannot be rushed. The Atlantic Ocean is a constant companion as you motor along the rugged coastline. The Long Range Mountains follow your progress from community to community. This is the place where time stands still. Those who do the same will experience the vacation of a lifetime.
Nurse Myra Bennett arrived on the Great Northern Peninsula in the early 1920s. The young English nurse had signed a two-year contract that essentially named her the nurse, doctor, midwife and confidant to hundreds of people eking out a living on more than 300 kilometres of isolated coastline. For more than 50 years Nurse Bennett traveled by boat and by dog team, on horse and on foot. No patient was too far away; no call came too late at night. Her story is told at Bennett House, located in Daniel’s Harbour, and at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival. Imagine her journey as you travel along this route.
‘Historically significant’ is perhaps the best way to describe the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula. This is where the Vikings staked a claim more than 1,000 years ago. This is where medical missionary Dr. Wilfred Grenfell lived, worked, and changed people’s lives. Northern Newfoundland is an area of unspoiled beauty and natural wonders – from the Long Range Mountains to the outport fishing communities; the rolling waves of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the rugged coastline. Some of the world’s rarest plants grow in this region, wildlife commands the forests and salmon dominate the streams. This is where 10,000 year-old icebergs fill the horizon and various species of whales migrate. This is where things can really get interesting.
Communities with names like Savage Cove, Deadman’s Cove, Nameless Cove and Lonesome Cove beg to be visited. If you happened upon Noddy Bay, Cape Onion or Ha Ha Bay you would have to investigate, wouldn’t you? These communities trace their beginnings back to the Maritime Archaic Indian and the Dorset Eskimo, to the French and the Basque. If you listen carefully, their stories will become your stories.
Head north on the Viking Trail. Be sure to visit Port Au Choix National Historic Site and learn of the about the artifacts of the Maritime Archaic people. Continue north to visit both L’Anse aux Meadows – the only authenticated Viking settlement site in North America and Norstead Viking Village – a fascinating re-enactment of how Vikings lived over 1000 years ago. This evening, be sure to join The Great Viking Dinner Theatre at Leifsburdir. This building is located next to the Lightkeepers Seafood Restaurant at Fishing Point in St. Anthony. It is a replica of the 1000 year old Leif Erickson’s home at nearby L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site. “Leifsburdir” is covered in sod and nearly invisible from the outside, but inside it takes you back to 1000 AD when the Vikings roamed our land. Truly an experience not to be missed!
Today visit Dark Tickle Econo Museum, Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve or Pistolet Bay Provincial Park. Other suggestions include visiting the Underground Salmon Pool located at Beaver Brook. Experience the natural phenomenon of an Atlantic Salmon river surfacing from an underground cave. This is the only known place in the world where Atlantic Salmon swim through an underground river cave to get to their spawning grounds.
Today join the team at Northland Discovery Boat Tours where you can take a nature cruise which explores the breathtaking coastal waters off St. Anthony. An area noted for its icebergs, whales and seabirds. In the afternoon be sure to visit the Grenfell Historic Properties and learn of the impact that Sir Wilfred Grenfell had on the social, medical and economic climate of the early 1900s during his worldwide mission.
Today visit the French Shore communities of Conche, Croque and Grandois/St. Julien’s. Be sure to stop by the French Shore Interpretation Centre located in a former Grenfell nursing station in Conche where the exhibition takes visitors through the history of the French cod fishery on the northeast coast of the Great Northern Peninsula.