Travellers rediscover the wonders of the Port au Port Peninsula
Although we have visited the Port au Port Peninsula many times over the past 25 years, we rediscovered it last summer through its new hiking trails and superb sea kayaking options.
Lets start with a gem of an area known unpretentiously as the Gravels. We were first introduced to the Gravels by entrepreneur Melissa Martin, who co-owns Spruce Pine Acres, a luxurious four-star country inn nearby.
You will love it, she told us as we donned our hiking shoes and our day pack.
The Gravels is one of the provinces newest walking trails and has been built along the rugged coastline overlooking Port au Port Bay. Here, sloping beds of limestone have been shaped by the wind and waves into curious hoodoo like formations and the wildly indented shoreline means your views of windswept headlands, beaches and bays is constantly changing.
This well-constructed trail is suited to walkers of all ages and has numerous side trails and benches to let you rest and take in the vistas. And keep your eyes open for fossils since this area is laden with remnants of life from a tropical ocean 400 million years ago.
The short trail (34 kilometres, one way) has a must see side trail to the spectacular Aguathuna Church which is the largest wooden structure in the province.
By land and by sea
Although the Gravels is a joy to walk, it is even better seen from the seat of a sea kayak. The crystal-clear water combined with the ever-changing coastline makes it a delightful paddle for kayakers of all abilities. The area is protected from the prevailing southwest winds so you can poke along, explore the intricate shoreline and then land for lunch on one of several beaches. Since distances are short, this makes an ideal morning or evening paddle.
The Port au Port Peninsula is a large, triangular outcropping of sedimentary rock that juts out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the west coast. It measures 40 kilometres along its southern base and has a 20-kilometre narrow point of land, appropriately called Long Point, extending off to the northwest.
Highway 460/463 winds around the peninsula, connecting its communities like beads on a necklace.
There are several other highlights on the Port au Port Peninsula and they can easily be appreciated in an afternoon driving tour. Proceeding clockwise around Highway 460 from Spruce Pine Acres, take in Newfoundlands largest alpaca and llama farm at nearby Felix Cove. Ed Hutchings and Cathy Whitehead let three llamas and 16 alpacas range over their scenic four-acre farm. Be sure to visit the adjacent store where they have high-quality alpaca knitwear and other locally made crafts (www.alpacasofnfld.ca).
Next, check out the new elevated walkway and waterfalls at Sheaves Cove.
This past July, we sea-kayaked along this shore in front of waterfalls that emptied right into the ocean. We then headed for one of the key attractions on the Port au Port the cliffs at Cape St. George.
The best way to explore this area is to drive to the very end of the road and then start walking north along the impressive, 500-foot cliffs for a kilometre or two. We arrived at noon just as the fog was lifting and we saw several minke whales cavorting just offshore as well as several gannets and terns swooping above the water.
Next, Highway 463 climbs up and over the hills to the communities of Mainland and Lourdes. Another recommended stop, especially on a warm summer day, is Piccadilly Provincial Park. There are picnic sites and camping but the real draw is the extensive beach and warm water for swimming.
For people with sea kayaks, a visit to nearby Sandy Point is an added bonus. Sandy Point used to be a bustling community but now
all that remains are some foundations
and community graveyards. It is an ideal
place to go exploring and walking along
its numerous trails. Last summer we spent an idyllic evening paddling to the island with sun setting in the background. Sandy Point is a short paddle from the community of Bay St. George.
This year, the Stephenville area is celebrating Come Home Year, so it is an ideal time to visit the region and take in its various festivals and celebrations.
Keith Nicol and Heather Nicol are freelance writers
and photographers from Corner Brook.
They can be reached at email@example.com
Places to stay
Inn at the Cape-1-888-484-4740
(Cape St. George)
The Woodn B and B 1-800-894-3068
Adventure X Lodge 709-647-3580
Spruce Pine Acres 1-877-239-7117
(Port au Port)
The Palace Inn 1-877-999-1377 (St. Georges)