As avid shunpikers, we tend to blow with the wind and travel without a solid plan. But even without one, we often need to be flexible and ready to adapt.
In our first week in Newfoundland, we started to work our way up the coast from the ferry in Port aux Basques, gathering the information that I would weave into a Frugal Shunpiker’s Guide for Newfoundland. We had heard that every paved road leading from the Trans Canada Highway to the coast offers up a place of interest – a scenic or historical treasure worth exploring.
On a fruitful day. We poked around and noted the details of several interesting beaches, trailheads, lighthouses, museums, and harbors. We discovered a dozen or more scenic boondocking locations that I know followers of my guides would appreciate knowing about.
We spent the day (7 hours) driving and taking notes. At the end of the day, we’d only come 70 km north (as the crow flies) along the Codroy Valley coast. At this rate, it would take us at least three or four months to cover the island (without any interruption for fun things – like hiking or just hanging out with the locals). At the end of that day, I broke the news to Randy: “I know you like this, but it is NOT what I have in mind for this trip.” He had to concede that he hadn’t really considered how much time each side trip could consume.
So, I’m sorry to say that I’m not writing a guide on this trip. That’s not to say I won’t write it someday – but a six-week Newfoundland trip is not nearly long enough to do the job properly. I know many of you use my guides specifically to find the scenic free boondocking spots we discover. Truthfully, there are so many in Newfoundland, that you hardly need my guides to point them out but I won’t leave you high and dry. Scroll to the end of this article, where I link to a list of alternate resources for you to use. The campsite in the above photo is listed on at least one of them.
But this beach site, where we ended up camping (like many things in Newfoundland) has a personal memory/ story to go along with it.
Exploring a road that had turned to gravel, an approaching car slowed and stopped so we stopped too. Through the window, the local man said he had mistaken us for one of his buddies. After a bit of a “chat” (as they like to call it here), Randy asked if he knew if there were any nice places to camp along the shore down this road. The man replied, “Sure – I have a trailer on the beach about a ½ mile from here. I may or may not be back later on but you can just pull in right beside it; no one will bother you there.
“How lovely”, we commented to each other. “Our first example of the true Newfoundland hospitality we’ve heard so much about.” We found his trailer parked on the beach among a row of small cabins and fishing shacks. We settled in for our happy hour, and several curious neighbors and their dogs came from the fishing huts to greet us. Finally, a man who claimed to be the first cousin of the man who owned the trailer we were parked beside stopped to chat. We thought we were getting used to the accent and local dialect by now but, with some, it’s more challenging than others – as was the case now.
We were, however, able to figure out that he just wanted to warn us that his cousin is a drunk. And that often on Friday nights, he brings a bunch of other drunks along for a campfire and late-night partying at the trailer. Something we might want to consider. We thanked him and decided that we’d risk it. If “our host” arrived we’d probably try to avoid becoming too involved and decline any invitation to join in.
As it happened, he did not come back that night. We had a quiet sleep, and have a story that’s more unique than Newfoundland hospitality, which as we’ve discovered since, is quite commonplace, and extended by almost anyone we talk to (and his cousin).
With new resolve to resist the urge to travel every road to the coast, we opted to skip the road to Stephenville and the French Peninsula for now. We’ll be returning to Port aux Basque at the end of the six weeks, so we’ll take the side trips we’re skipping then if time allows. But I had talked to a couple from Connecticut on the ferry who told me they were on their way to Lark Harbor where they own a summer home. They bought here because, in their opinion, it’s the most beautiful place on the entire east coast. And yet, a little-known gem.
As we drove Hwy 450 west from Corner Brook to Lark Harbour, it didn’t take long for us to see why. The Bay of Islands came into view and with each turn of the road, the scene evoked another “wow”.
We had asked at the Corner Brook Visitor Center for suggestions of where we could camp and perhaps hike near Lark Harbour. They suggested Bottle Cove.
We spent two nights camped here and hiked two other longer trails in the area. One to Cedar Cove and another at Blow Me Down Provincial Park where the Governor’s Staircase led to a great overlook.
The view from the top was nice but not more spectacular than from other vantage points so, other than having showers and flush toilets available, we weren’t sure why anyone would pay to be in the provincial park.
The most interesting part of this hike was this section of the staircase.
But we realized we could have also camped with this view, at the trailhead for our next hike, the Cape Blow Me Down Trail.
It was another tough, uphill grind of a hike on a trail that has, in our humble opinion, no right to use the word moderate in its description. As a result, it’s another one we did not finish as planned. We got as far as two scenic overlooks that were on the trail map. When we realized we were not yet 1/3 of the way to the top but had expended more than ½ of our energy, we turned back for the steep descent. That left us with just enough energy to do the short but worthwhile hike from the same parking lot on a side trail to the bottom of this beautiful falls.
Along all the trails we’ve hiked, something that stands out for me is the lushness of the green ferns and other foliage everywhere. Oh, and we were excited to find out that there’s no poison ivy in Newfoundland. No poisonous snakes either.
What an amazing area! A few people we met on the trails refer to Lark Harbour and Bottle Cove as their little secret – a hidden gem.
Our next destination is Gros Morne. It’s a national park but I’m not sure how it could be any more beautiful than this.
This side trip was one that we’re not only glad we took, but may even decide to repeat on the way back. It was that good.
After a perfect weekend, a celebratory dinner was in order. We love lobster but it’s crazy expensive on any restaurant menu. Here’s how to enjoy a fresh lobster dinner for the least possible cost: Buy live lobster and cook it yourself.
Or…do like we do. We don’t actually carry a large enough pot, and truthfully, wouldn’t want to mess with the lobster boil anyway. We buy pre-cooked lobster (often the same price per pound). It only takes a few minutes to steam it back to temperature.
All you need now is the right boondocking spot to enjoy that dinner with a view. Here’s the list of apps and web sites we use to find them, when we’re not up to hunting them out by shunpiking. I hope you’ll find them as helpful as we do.
- Harvest Hosts
- Days End Directory
- Overnight RV Parking
- Free Campsites
- And of course Boondockers Welcome