Sightseeing in Twillingate

I decided to write specifically about Twillingate because it’s such a beautiful part of Newfoundland. It has special meaning to me as the place where my Nan lives and my mom grew up, but it’s also become a pretty popular tourist attraction in recent years. Twillingate is an island located on the northern central part of Newfoundland. The entire region is a series of coastal islands and its neighbouring Island, Fogo, has become especially popular in recent years since a high-end hotel was constructed that frequents visits from bonafide celebrities. I’m not sure if Twillingate became popular as Fogo’s less-expensive and easier-to-access cousin, but either way, it is worthy of the attention its received in the past few years.

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Unlike Fogo, which requires taking a ferry, Twillingate is connected to the rest of Newfoundland by a causeway. It’s a 5-6 hour drive from St. John’s, so it is a bit of a trek to get out there. My Nan regularly comes in to St. John’s to stay with us, so I haven’t been back to Twillingate since 2015 when we had a family reunion. My Nan is going to be moving out of her house later this year, so I was really keen to go out and stay with her while I was home. It was the August long weekend, so the rest of my family decided to join me. We were hoping to get out cod fishing, which unfortunately was not to be, but we still had a great time.

My Nan has the most beautiful property located right near the water in Bayview, a very small community on the island. Her house is at the end of the road, known as Greenham’s Point after my family (the Greenhams), and has the most gorgeous ocean views. As children we’d always brag to our friends about how we could whale watch right out of the window in my Nan’s kitchen. Because the house is located right at the end of the road, there are several beaches behind the house that, while not actually on my Nan’s property, feel almost like they belong to us.

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The house itself is located on the cliffside, but the back of the house looks out to Back Cove, where you can access the water. At the end of Back Cove, the rocky coastline juts out into what we call High Point. According to my Mom, it was my Pop’s favourite place to be and her favourite place too – such is her attachment that she’s asked us to eventually scatter her ashes there – so definitely a special place. From there you can climb down to Middle Cove and then eventually over one last rock overhang to Swimming Cove. I’m not sure if my family named the beaches or whether the names were passed down, but either way, all pretty self-explanatory.

We arrived late at night, but we got up the next morning to do our standard walk of all the coves. I admit they seemed a lot bigger to me as a kid and the topography of the beaches has definitely changed over the years, but they still hold a lot of memories to everyone in our family.

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Fishing has always been a way of life in Newfoundland and more so on my mom’s side of the family for me than my dad’s. My Pop Greenham was a fisherman and since the moratorium ended my family has always loved to fish. My parents had already been out earlier in the season, but we were hoping to get out while we were there. There are strict regulations on the recreational fishery and you can only go from Sat-Mon during the summer, and fish a maximum of 5 fish per day per a person, with a total of no more than 15 fish per boat trip (regardless of the number of people in the boat). I’ve been fishing with all my uncles at some point throughout the years, but the weather was not ideal for it on this trip.

It wasn’t overly rainy (though the rain did pass through for short periods of time throughout the weekend), but it was pretty windy in Bayview and as a result it was never really calm enough for us to take the boat out. Disappointing, but that’s life. My parents did give me the fish they’d already caught to take home though, so I didn’t leave empty handed!

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Instead we embraced the tourism. I did a bit of googling to see what was new “down arm”, the name locals use for the main part of Twillingate because it’s located on the arm of the North Island (as if things aren’t confusing enough with so many islands, Twillingate is actually comprised of 2 islands). I saw a pop-up for “Cozy Tea Room” and I was intrigued to check it out since I love tea. Mom had never heard of it and assumed it was new.

So we went to visit one afternoon and Mom was dismayed to learned that it is not new at all, but has actually been there for a whopping 19 years! And not only that, it was owned by my Mom’s former teacher, so we had a great chat with the owners and Mom vowed to return on future trips. Unfortunately I was disappointed to learn that “tea room” is a bit of a misnomer. I was expecting a full tea list, but despite having a full menu, they really only served Tetley orange pekoe. We all got a big kick out of this though because it’s just so classic Newfoundland. Everyone in Newfoundland just drinks orange pekoe, mostly Tetley, although some people love Red Rose. It’s a classic part of Newfoundland, drink it with evaporated milk if you really want to fit in!

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After tea we did a little bit of shopping and then I wanted to stop into Split Rock. Craft breweries have been popping up all over Newfoundland (similar to everywhere else), with the latest addition being in Twillingate. We asked the waitress if there’s an actual “Split Rock” that the brewery is named after, turns out there is, so she told us where to find it and we logged it away for later. We didn’t visit on this trip, but if you like wine, Twillingate also has a fruit winery called Auk Island, which you can do a tour of or make a booking in the restaurant. Newfoundland boasts so many different types of berries and many of them are featured in the wines. (Disclaimer – in case you know my parents, neither of whom drink, these are mine and Emily’s beers).

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I was also keen to do a bit of hiking while we were there (of course). One of the Island’s more popular hikes is known as the Top of Twillingate and is conveniently located 10 minute walk from Nan’s. It’s Mom’s favourite walk and goes up to the highest point on the island. It’s not a particularly long walk and only took us about an hour there and back, but you can see Nan’s house from the top, which is always fun.

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In the past I’ve also gone hiking out around French Beach and Spillers Cove, which is a great hike, but I wanted to try something different, so me and Mom opted to go out to the lighthouse at Long Point and do a loop hike around the community of Crow Head. Long Point is a popular attraction itself, we did a bit of a longer loop that didn’t seem to be super well frequented based on the condition of the trail, but lots of people hike down to Nanny’s Hole when they visit the lighthouse. It’s worth going into the lighthouse as well if you’re visiting, you can go right up to the top and there’s a nice museum as well. The last time I visited was during our family reunion and we actually found a replica of my Great-great-grandfather’s boat (I’m not actually sure how many “great’s” he is but you get the idea.). Also if you’re thinking the water in these photos looks great for fishing, you’re correct, it’s generally calmer in this area, but sadly where we store the boat in Bayview it was still blowing a gale on and off.

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I really enjoyed the hike around Crow Head. It’s a nice mix of hiking through the woods and over the headlands. We found the not-so-infamous Split Rock and enjoyed lovely views down arm and out to Crow Head. There’s one sketchy bit on the trail as you head into Crow Head with a steep rope section, but otherwise pretty easy hiking. We almost lost the trail once, but found it again pretty easy. We got rained on briefly near the end and finished with a trip to the lighthouse gift shop. This is definitely another thing not to miss! The lighthouse sells THE BEST fudge. Mom is a bit obsessed and bought over a pound of about a dozen different flavours to sample, while I enjoyed a very generous scoop of ice cream.

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Otherwise the rest of the trip was spent visiting with family, playing cards, and enjoying the view from Nan’s back deck. Some of our relatives arrived from Ontario just before we left and it was great to get to spend an evening with them. The food was excellent – we had my Aunt’s moose stew, my Uncle’s cooked dinner with turr (known by the rest of the world as “murr”, it’s a gamey seabird), and a delicious pea soup from the Crow’s Nest. I wish I could have stayed longer to go fishing, but mostly I’m just thrilled to have gotten to visit with my Nan.

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Newfoundland Homecoming

I haven’t had any opportunities for travel lately (obviously), so I figured I would write about my trip home in late July/early August. I grew up in Newfoundland, so going home is more about visiting with my family than activities, but I’ve become a lot more enthusiastic about getting out hiking while I’m home over the past few years and ended up having a great time exploring while I was back!

I always catch the overnight flight when I fly back to St. John’s, so Seth dropped me at the airport for my 11pm flight late in the evening. It’s definitely not fun flying post pandemic (but really, was it fun flying pre-pandemic either?), but fortunately I didn’t have anyone sitting next to me on either flight and the airlines are really strict about mask usage, so it wasn’t too bad and I slept through most of the flight. I had a quick stopover in Montreal and arrived in St. John’s around noon. My parents did a quick drive by to pick me up and I was so happy to finally be home for the first time in 2 years!

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Even though it would be really easy to take a nap, I always force myself to stay awake the first day to help get used to the time difference. Mom made me some homemade cod chowder and my friend Gill dropped by so that I could meet her 2 month old baby, Leo. I quickly caught up with Emily, but she was going camping with her friends for the weekend, so me and my parents decided to go for a short hike along the Signal Hill trail to close out the day. Signal Hill is a huge tourist attraction in St. John’s as the location of the first transatlantic radio signal, but really it’s just popular for the views. It makes for a great urban hike and you can often spot whales up there, so the locals love it just as much as the tourists. Unfortunately it was super foggy when we went visited, but it still made for some cool photos of the city and harbour shrouded in fog.

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The rest of the weekend was all about catching up with family and friends. It was a little surreal finally being home. Newfoundland had super strict border entry regulations during COVID that required all visitors to isolate for 2 weeks upon entry. They modified the restrictions in July so that fully vaccinated travelers could visit without having to isolate. While Newfoundland has still had a few outbreaks over the past year, cases have been limited in comparison to many other places and while I was home, there was virtually no COVID there and everyone was just carrying on with their lives mostly like normal. It was so wonderful to spend time with so many different people and to be able to hug my loved ones. It didn’t take long for it to feel like normal again, but initially it was a little bit surreal.

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In between catching up with friends I still managed to cram in a lot of hiking. Me and Mom went out to Cape Spear to look for whales, another popular tourist attraction because it is the most Easterly point in North America. We hiked 5km out to North Head, where we had a snack, but sadly didn’t see any whales. However, on the way back, we found two hanging out feeding along the cliffside and ended up watching one of them for the better part of a half hour! The fish must have been pretty shallow because it only dove once and was super active in one spot near the surface. We saw it breach several times and it waved at us a lot, so it ended up being a very successful trip! We think it was a humpback whale based on size. The most common whales in NL are humpback and minke, it can be hard to tell them apart, but minke are smaller.

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Over the years I’ve been working on hiking the entire East Coast Trail, which is a 300km long section trail that runs the entire eastern coast of the Avalon Peninsula. I made good progress on the trail when I was home because most of my friends were working during the day, so I would just go off hiking on my own. But Mom is semi-retired and Sean was finishing up his education degree, so one week day we decided to go hiking together. We ended up doing the Sugarloaf trail, which runs from Logy Bay to Quidi Vidi. I had done this section years ago with Seth, but on a very cloudy day, so it felt like a totally new hike on this occasion. It was cloudy when we started, but it ended up clearing into a gorgeous day and we had a picnic lunch at the halfway point and saw more whales playing around in the shallows. There were several boats out fishing though and they didn’t look too pleased at the whales eating all their catch! We were thrilled to find the ice cream truck open in Quidi Vidi when we finished the hike and ended with a cold treat.

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During the first week home I also did a few solo hikes, the goal with these was to do new sections of the trail. I went for a short hike from Middle Cove to Torbay along the Silver Mine Head Path, which is less than 5km round trip and actually very scenic for such a short hike. I ended with a swim at Middle Cove Beach. Growing up I would never swim in the ocean. The North Atlantic is known for being very unforgiving with big waves and riptides, as well as it’s very cold. It seemed warmer to me than I remembered growing up, so I guess all those freezing cold alpine lakes have increased my tolerance. I don’t recommend swimming in NL unless you know what you’re doing, but there are some safer places if you want to dip your toes.

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I also did Stiles Cove Path, which I wanted to do as a one-way trip as it’s 15km long. Mom dropped me off in Flatrock on her lunch break and it took me about 5 hours to hike north to Pouch Cove. I loved this trail! First of all, it was a week day, so I was one of the only people on it, and it had so many gorgeous views! The weather was pretty classic Newfoundland when I was home, in that it was constantly changing from rain, to clouds, to sun. The forecast called for rain almost my entire first week home, but while it was cloudy most of the week, it didn’t end up raining very much.

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Mom was convinced I was going to get rained on when I did Stiles Cove, but the weather gradually improved throughout the day until it was a beautiful blue sky, sunny day! The reason I liked Stiles Cove so much was the variation in topography. It meandered both through the trees and along the open coast. Again, I stumbled upon a bunch of whales and hung out around one viewpoint for 20 minutes watching 4 whales fishing. I saw one of them breach, which makes it seem like more of a common occurrence than it is, as well as I saw a few whale tails while they were diving. About 3km before the end, the trail goes down to a beach at Shoe Cove, which is very sheltered, so I decided to go for another swim before meeting Dad at the end of the trail for pick up. The completion of this trail meant I have now hiked the entire trail continuous from the tip of Cape St. Frances all the way to Maddox Cove, approximately 80km.

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Conveniently the Olympics were on throughout the entirety of my trip, so I stayed up late watching events at night and then had some pretty lazy mornings getting caught up. I don’t have cable in BC, but Dad has some 800 channels, so my timing was great. I’ve been pretty obsessed with the women’s soccer team ever since I attended FIFA when it was held in Vancouver, so I made sure to watch all their games while I was home (which obviously had a very exciting ending!). Then towards the end of the week I prepared for a short family trip out to Twillingate to visit my Nan – to be covered in my next post!

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Exploring Historic Abbotsford

Usually you can find me off hiking in the mountains all summer, but this year I paired up with Modo and Tourism Abbotsford to spend a day exploring the many urban attractions Abbotsford has to offer! As an Ambassador for Modo, I love how easy it is to book a car whenever I want to go adventuring, both inside and outside of the lower mainland. Modo’s many different options allow me to tailor my vehicle to my trip needs – a large and loadable SUV for exploring the mountains, or a more compact daily drive for getting around the city.

I booked my favourite daily drive, the Toyota Corolla on Charland Avenue, and two of my friends, Karen and Sabrina, joined me for an awesome day sightseeing in Downtown Abbotsford! Despite Abbotsford being only a 30-minute drive from where I live, I haven’t spent much time exploring there. Tourism Abbotsford put a package together for us with lots of fun ideas for what to do for the day and we quickly set out to sample everything Historic Abbotsford has to offer!

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“Along the streets of Historic Downtown, you will find an abundance of quaint, unique and locally-owned shops and boutiques” (TourismAbbotsford). Our first stop was the local Farm & Country Market, where we browsed from a plethora of stalls selling local produce, treats, and handmade artisan wares. The market is held in Jubilee Park and runs every Saturday morning from 9am-noon from May 1 to October 30. We established the market as our base for the morning and continued our adventure from there.

Before we were ready to start shopping, we needed coffee, so our first stop downtown was to Oldhand Coffee to fuel up for the day. Oldhand has such a homey feel, with rustic wood walls, bench seating, and dried flowers on every tables. Everything in the bakery looked delicious, so we stocked up on cookies and scones for later and sat down to enjoy iced tea and coffees. What I really liked about Oldhand is that, in addition to your traditional coffee shop finds, they also stock some of the most whimsically bottled wine from around BC!

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We browsed the most beautiful assortment of bouquets at Confetti Floral Design – Karen took notes for her upcoming wedding while Sabrina bonded with the florists over their mutual love of Taylor Swift. Then we continued on to Hemingway’s Books and Records for what was the highlight of my day! I’m an avid reader and Hemingway’s has an excellent selection of discount books. The main floor is brimming with everything from contemporary fiction, to young adult, to mystery, to fantasy and science fiction. Meanwhile, the basement is well stocked with records and non-fiction. I picked out a book from each floor to take home with me at a great price!

By this time we were starting to get hungry again, so we crossed over to BRGR BRGR in search of lunch. We’d heard from more than one person that BRGR BRGR was an Abbotsford must-do and its fast food style ordering made it perfect for lunch. That’s where the comparison to fast food ends though because the burgers are absolutely fantastic! They have a diverse menu, offering plant based burgers and gluten free options, plus their french fries are delicious!

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The shopping continued after lunch and we visited Montrose + George General Store, which was definitely a highlight for everyone. They stock a wide range of goods, from clothing and shoes, to hats and bags, to candles and beauty products. Karen and I tried on lots of clothes while Sabrina browsed the candles and we all walked away with a different purchase. Mostly we just liked the atmosphere of the store and give them A+ for their music selection! We continued down the road to Spruce Collective, which featured a very different collection of wares, but was equally unique! It’s hard to capture everything for sale in Spruce because they had such a variety, but it was filled with many locally sourced goods and novelties. Sabrina stocked up on hot sauce, while Karen picked out a cute mug for her morning tea.

The food really does steal the show in Downtown Abbotsford. Before departing, we stopped into The Polly Fox, which is a completely gluten free bakery and cafe! Sabrina is gluten free, so she was especially thrilled at this find and stocked up on treats, while Karen and I waited until Banter to gorge ourselves. Banter is one of Abbotsford’s many ice cream parlours and is located right in Jubilee Park. You can smell the fresh made waffle cones before you even enter the store – I had the lemon curd ice cream and the combination with the homemade waffle was *chef’s kiss*!

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I know that sounds like a lot of adventuring for one day, but we weren’t done yet! We needed a break from the shops, so we returned to our Modo to relocate to Mill Lake Park for a bit of nature therapy. Mill Lake Park is a gorgeous urban park in central Abbotsford. It seems like a vibrant community has grown up around the park and it makes for a great place to kick back and relax. We did the 2.3km walk around the lake, stopping to picnic in the grass along the way and enjoy the sun.

Finally, we ended the day with a visit to Trading Post Brewing for dinner. In addition to the many shops, bakeries, and ice cream parlours, Abbotsford is located along the Fraser Valley Ale Trail and is home to several breweries and wineries. We ordered quite a feast for dinner and Sabrina and Karen sampled the drinks menu. If you eat in the restaurant, you can purchase cans from the store at discount, so I picked up some of the Raspberry Wheat Ale to sample later. It was the perfect way to conclude the day and we returned to our Modo to drive back home, though not without filling up the tank for the next driver!