Adventures along the Coast

In case you missed it, I recently spent 2 weeks home in Newfoundland (Part I, Part II). After spending the long weekend in Twillingate, we returned to St. John’s for the rest of my holiday, but not without a quick stop into Dildo on the way home. That’s right – if you’re not from Newfoundland, the name might sound strange to you, but Dildo is a vibrant coastal community on the Avalon Peninsula that was recently made popular by none other than Jimmy Kimmel. My interest in visiting was to stop into Dildo Brewing. Like I mentioned in my last post, a lot of breweries have been popping up in NL, but Dildo Brewing was definitely one of the earlier breweries and boasts a gorgeous view of the ocean.

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To be honest, I didn’t enjoy Dildo Brewing as much as Split Rock in Twillingate. It was super busy in the restaurant and the poor wait staff was run ragged, making for a bit of a lengthy and chaotic experience, but I did really enjoy sitting out on the patio and watching the water at least. We couldn’t get into the restaurant, so instead we enjoyed a surprisingly good fish and chips from the local gas station!

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I spent a lot more time visiting with friends and family; eating seafood, strolling the waterfront, and searching for the best ice cream. I returned to Signal Hill to hike it properly (not in debilitating fog) on Regatta Day and then met up with friends for a swim at Sunshine Rotary Park. The St. John’s Regatta is a pretty unique event – it’s the longest continuous running sporting event in North America – celebrating more than 100 years of races on Quidi Vidi Lake. The only times it’s been cancelled was during the War and last year because of Covid. It returned this year, though spectators were discouraged and no vendors were allowed along the lakefront. But what makes the Regatta so unique is that it’s actually a civic holiday. Most provinces have the first Monday off in August as a provincial holiday, as is the case in the rest of NL, but in St. John’s, businesses take the Regatta off instead. It’s the first Wednesday in August and a weather dependent holiday. So if you wake up to wind or rain on Wednesday, you still have to go to work and wait until Thursday to get your day off (as was the case this year).

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Otherwise, I continued my hiking tour of the East Coast Trail. I did another solo hike, this time along Mickeleen’s Path, which is the section that runs from Bay Bulls to Witless Bay. I wasn’t expecting to like this section that much because I’d heard it was mostly forested, but I ended up having a really good time. There were a lot of trees at the beginning, but when you reach the end of the headland there are lots of beautiful views, which continue into Witless Bay. It was incredibly windy when I hiked the trail, but I managed to find some blueberries and see one whale hanging out in Bay Bulls. It’s a 7km trail and since I was alone, I had to hike back, but my friend gave me a head’s up that there’s an old ATV road that cuts across the headland through the woods, so I took that instead to save myself a bit of walking.

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I really wanted to do an overnight hike while I was home. A few years ago I brought all my gear home with me, only to get rained out, so I’d brought all my gear back with me again in hopes of getting out on the trail overnight. Since Emily was working during the week, we decided to try for the last weekend I was home. She’s already hiked a lot more of the East Coast Trail than me, so we decided on Cape Broyle Head Path, which is one of the few sections she hasn’t done. The only problem, it’s an 18km trail and over an hour drive away. So we convinced Mom and Dad to join us for the first section of the hike and then Mom returned again the next day to pick us up.

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Cape Broyle Head Path runs from Cape Broyle to Calvert, but the campsite is located at km 7 of 18, so we decided to hike it starting in Calvert to do the bigger distance on the first day. The first part of the hike is really scenic and looks out towards the Ferryland Lighthouse. It was super windy, but it was a nice day and we had a good time. We continued on for a few kilometers hoping to find somewhere nice for lunch, but it seemed to mostly be a forested trail, so we ended up having our lunch in the woods before saying goodbye to our parents. They hiked back to the car while we continued on.

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The trail continues on through the trees before punching through at a few viewpoints and one lone picnic table, something I’ve never seen on the ECT before! It took us awhile to wind our way along the trail before finally coming to Lance Cove. It was a beautiful looking beach, but we didn’t think we’d be able to access it from the trail and were thrilled when we found some steps descending down to the beach! We had a quick swim before continuing on to the Campsite at Freshwater River.

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We thought we’d have the campsite to ourselves, but were surprised to find someone else had set up a tent too. So we picked a tent pad up on the bluff, set up camp and had a delicious dinner of chili fettucine. It mind sound weird as it was a mix of whatever dried foods we could find around the house, but it ended up being delicious! The forecast had been a bit dicey all day and we were lucky not to have been rained on yet, so we crawled into our tent hoping it would be dry in the morning.

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Sadly it was not to be. While we tried to fall asleep we could see lightning across the bay and the rain eventually rolled into our campsite some time during the night. My tent held up well to NL’s rain and wind, but it was sadly still wet when we got up. We made a hasty tent breakfast before departing to hike out. Fortunately it stopped raining shortly after we starting hiking, but it didn’t help us at all as the trail is super narrow and the forest was extremely wet. In no time we were both soaked and blundered our way along the rest of the trail.

Fortunately Mom showed up to get us with a change of clothes and we were none the worse for wear. But sadly it also meant I’d reached the last day of my trip. I spent the rest of the day hastily trying to dry out all my gear to transport it home and we finished off the trip with one of my favourite meals and a few rounds of cards. I really wish the trip could have been longer, but fortunately my family had plans to visit less than a month later, so it was goodbye for only a short time.

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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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