I have shared a lot of photos of the California coast this year, where we continue to find trails and beaches that we haven’t visited before. We are gradually getting nearer to our goal of walking as much of the shore as possible between Big Sur and Santa Cruz. As more and more people get vaccinated, the “travel question” is emerging. Where will we go when it is safe to travel again. I don’t know when that will be, but I’m starting a list of possibilities. Most of the suggestions I plan to post are islands, because that’s the kind of place I like to visit.
I’m starting relatively close to home, with Newfoundland, Canada. I’ve seen the colorful buildings in downtown St. John’s in the opening scene of “Republic of Doyle” on TV. If you haven’t seen that clip, and would like an orientation, this map shows you that Newfoundland is an island just off the coast of mainland Canada. It’s a big island, about the 16th largest in the world, slightly larger than Cuba, and just smaller than New Zealand’s North Island. St. John’s is the capital, on the extreme eastern of the island, facing the Atlantic Ocean. It would be interesting to be there through a storm and watch the waves break on the rocky coast. On the other hand, I would probably visit Newfoundland during the summer months when storms are less likely.
When we decide that a place may be worth visiting, one of the first things we do is look at the annual weather. Jonathan and I aim to travel from March or April through the end of October. Here’s how Newfoundland looks in terms of temperature and rainfall:
You can see that the lowest rainfall and warmest temperatures come in July and August, followed by May, June, and September. I include September based on another chart that shows the ocean is warmest during that month. Personally, I don’t plan to go swimming in Newfoundland. May doesn’t have much rain, but is pretty cold. The best time to visit is the best time to visit many places, in the middle of summer. On the bright side, Europe is getting to be so hot during these months that a visit to Canada may be just the thing.is
Beyond the view of St. John’s, and the legendary Newfoundland dogs, I only know of one place to visit in Newfoundland, the only confirmed Norse site in North America, L’Anse aux Meadows. Norsemen sailed from Viking settlements in Greenland, landing on the northern tip of Newfoundland around AD 1000. The weather was harsh, game was scarce, and the indigenous people were hostile, according to Viking accounts of the New World. There’s a difference of opinion over L’Anse aux Meadows. Was it a short-lived settlement, or a boat repair station that was used on and off for a century or more?
Today, L’Anse aux Meadows is a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are reconstructed buildings to see, artifacts from excavations at the site, and a nearby historic park where blacksmiths hammer, weavers spin, and visitors can observe some of the tasks that the occupants of the site carried out in AD 1000. I would like to visit this unusual site, even though getting there takes a bit of work. St. John’s is about 500 km from L’Anse aux Meadows, and according to Google, it would take more than 11 hours to drive there. For us, that means at least one night on the road each way.
Unlike our usual plan to stay in one place for a month and explore from that base, Newfoundland might require a different strategy if we’re really going to the far northern tip of the island to visit an archaeological site. I’d plan to spend two weeks in the St. John’s area in an Airbnb. We’d rent a car and explore the coast, going out from St. John’s as far as we could comfortably visit in one day. During the second two weeks of our stay, we’d take a road trip, stopping overnight in Grand Falls/Windsor, the largest town in the interior (pop: aprox. 15,000). From there we’d drive to the west coast of Newfoundland, possibly stopping another night near Gros Morne National Park. We’d make the final drive up the northern peninsula of Newfoundland to St. Anthony’s, a far northern town, about a half hour’s drive from L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Park. Staying in the area for four to five nights, we’d have time to rest from our long drive, and to see L’Anse aux Meadows at a leisurely pace. We’d also look at the coast and do some beach combing.
With a few days left in our month in Newfoundland, we would head south again. Depending on where we can return a rental car, we’d drive to Stephenville on the west coast of NF, or back to St. John’s on the east. If we could work it out, we’d drive all the way to the southwest corner of Newfoundland to Port aux Basques, drop our car and board the ferry for Sydney, on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Since we’re visiting Canada just now, Nova Scotia will be my next stop.