Most people know that Newfoundland, affectionately nicknamed “the rock,” is an island; and Labrador shares a border with Quebec on mainland Canada. But travel around Newfoundland and Labrador for a while and you’ll discover that it has neighbours too – a whole lot of them.
There are actually about 7,000 islands in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. While some are obscure and uninhabited, other are famous for art festivals or their proximity to icebergs. The islands are everywhere along a craggy coast which, if stretched straight, would be as long as a continent.
“Newfoundland’s coastline is one of the wonders of the world. You could literally spend a lifetime exploring it,” says Duane Collins, who with his wife Renee runs Hare Bay Adventures, a boat tour company in Hare Bay, Newfoundland.
The 7,000 islands range from tiny specks such as Carbonear (0.3 square kilometres) to places such as Punk, Pouch Puffin, Horsechops and Venison Islands. There’s a cluster of three named Bull, Cow and Calf.
But while no one could ever hope to pay a visit to them all, there are some more well-known islands that are well worth the trek:
Apparently the Flat Earth Society considers Fogo one of the four corners of the world, and based on the way it juts toward the Atlantic, this is understandable – if not scientifically accurate.
Fogo is a magnet not just for discerning tourists, but also for artists from around the world, who come to its modern studios and revel in the local atmosphere and surroundings. It’s also home to the word-famous Fogo Island Inn, designed by Newfoundland-born, Norway-based architect Todd Saunders. The inn is a contemporary, Nordic-style building on stilts with a world-class restaurant that features locally sourced dishes, including produce from the inn’s own gardens.
Across the bay from Fogo Island, Change Islands is a community of three small islands, each separated by what locals call a “tickle” – a narrow waterway. The story goes that the islands got their name because someone set up a home on one island but then decided to “change islands.”
Whether the tale is true or not, the beauty of this historic place is undisputed. Many original homes and fishing sheds are lovingly preserved.
Change Islands is also a great locale for seeing humpback whales and kayaking through the “tickles”. There’s also a small museum and the Change Islands Sanctuary, where the endangered Newfoundland pony is protected and bred.
Pronounced Kar-POON, like “harpoon,” this island lies at the northernmost tip of Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula. In the 16th and 17th century it had another name: the Isle of Demons. Sailors were sure it was overrun by wild animals, devils and mythical beasts.
Rest assured, you won’t get attacked these days at Quirpon. Instead, you can stay at the Lighthouse Inn, which can be reached only by dinghy. You’ll also be at the starting point of Newfoundland’s Iceberg Alley. Get close to ginormous ‘bergs that are as big as city buildings; the icebergs float by after they have been “calved” from the grand neighbour to the north, Greenland. The waters off Quirpon are also a great place to see humpback whales, and occasionally, polar bears.
Perhaps those old sailors were right about the wild animals after all.
Well worth exploring by boat or by foot, Bell Island is close to St. John’s but couldn’t be farther in its appearance. It’s a cluster of curvy cliffs looming over Conception Bay, pocked with sea caves that are guarded by gigantic stacks of sandstone. It’s a stark contrast to the geology in the Avalon region, which is mostly granite and shale.
In addition to kayaking, you can also snorkel at Bell Island. On land, take the Gregory Normore Coastal Walking Trails and you’ll reach beaches, cliffs and Grebe’s Nest, where birds make homes on the cliffs above the caves.
Bell Island has a history of mining, which started in 1896 and kept going for 70 years. One of the mines goes down into Conception Bay, below the ocean floor. The community museum runs a guided tour where you can learn about the island’s underground tradition.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.