2015's Winter Trip: Port-aux-Basques and the Southwest Coast

Burnt Islands, Diamond Cove, Harbour Le Cou, Rose Blanche, Fox Roost, Margaree, Channel-Port aux Basques (Map)

Winter 2014-15


Even though I despise winter through the day-to-day, I love a good winter weekend trip. Especially when there's 3 of us instead of just myself, there is extra appeal in getting out of Corner Brook and into a motel in some other nearby town.

Restless with the long winter in C.B., Stevie 'Olizko, Shelloo & I set off one Saturday morning in February. We were going to take the Intrepid but since I had been slacking on replacing the winter tires, the worn tire studs slipped and failed to make it up a hill while still inside the city limits of Corner Brook (only after about 1 minute after picking up Steve). We subsequently moved everything into Stevie's car and were on our way more safely soon after.

We were driving south for 2 hours to stay in Port-aux-Basques, which put us down near the 41km/25mi NL-470 road towards Rose Blanche. Driving past the docked ferry, we continued east on the NL-470 for what would be the rest of the afternoon.

In the town of Burnt Islands I wanted to take a look at the Colombier Islands Lighthouse, one of the 19 lighthouses I have yet to visit in this province. I've stopped and looked at this same scene before, but I always forget the lay of the land and enjoy taking another look.

Colombier Islands is a silly one because it's a modern steel structure and so close to shore. It's clearly going to take social engineering and hanging around the wharf in Burnt Islands if I'm ever going to get out there.

Or I could learn how to sea kayak.

As Steve had never stopped in any of these communities, we ended up driving around and getting out of the car more than usual.

The above picture is still Burnt Islands, but it's on the other side of the harbour. Getting out at the fish plant, the sea had turned all of the underfoot surface into a layer of ice. With how windy it was, it was one of the most treacherous surfaces I've ever walked, the strong winds moving you atop totally flat, slippery ice. I can't remember if Shelloo even let go of the car, while Stevie & I shuffled and ninja'd our way around.

We walked away from the cloudy conditions at the teal fish plant, then cut through a yard towards a small staircase in a snow flurry, then the sun came out as we stood on top of a small hill. I obviously don't love dangerous whiteouts or black ice, but fun weather changes like this make these winter trips great.

From Burnt Islands we continued east, pulling down the road for Diamond Cove just before Rose Blanche. This is one of those rare villages where I didn't have a picture from previous trips, Diamond Cove being a case of someone being outside putting out clothes to dry and me hurrying back to my car to leave (it was a while ago and the social awkwardness was strong).

There might have been a better Diamond Cove picture to be had by climbing the rocks behind the town, but we only looked at the ocean for a few minutes before the freezing winds sent us hurrying back to the car.

We'd all been to Rose Blanche before, but it's such a pretty, picturesque town from any number of vantage points, that we ended up at yet another dead end, parking the car and cutting through a yard to reach this seaside point of land.

Yet again we hurried back to the car. It was clearly cold enough to make one think twice before setting off for the short lighthouse hike here.

Bundling up, but also thinking that it would only be 10 minutes, the wind out on this point of land was incredible. It was hard to take pictures because your eyes were stinging and watering from the onshore wind. It was actually hard to even look into the wind, let alone open your eye around a viewfinder. Regardless, Steve was determined to get out to the lighthouse, and even as I didn't need to, I ended up going out there in the end as well.

The heat would get turned up and stay turned up when we got back to the car. Stopping at the groceteria (convenience store) all of 3 minutes later, the hospitality of Newfoundland paid off yet again.

While they didn't have any coffee for sale, the lady working made us some of her own personal instant coffee upon us asking if there was any coffee. Charging us nothing and sending us on our way, it was warming in terms of needing afternoon coffee, warmth from the boiling water and the lovely gesture.

In addition to Diamond Cove, you also need to turn down the 850m Harbour Le Cou Road if you want to count visiting Harbour Le Cou on your checklist of Newfoundland villages.

I had been down here with my friend Johan, but today we popped down again as this was new territory to both Shelloo and Stevie.

The two of them walked out on the long wharf while I snapped pictures of my favourite thing about Harbour Le Cou - that is, how the road is crowded with houses because the road was clearly an afterthought.

(If you're in the area, Harbour Le Cou is worth the 5 minute detour because of a handful of old homes & the fishing village feeling along the narrow strip of inhabitable land.)

The last place to stop was almost back in Port Aux Basques. It's 5 minutes out of town that there's a 4.3km/2.7mi road that leads down to the two villages of Margaree and Fox Roost.

Of course Steve parked and got out for a walk at the fish plant in Margaree. If I traveled with Steve more often here, I swear I'd have seen every fish plant on this island by now.

Having only been to Fox Roost once before, this was another place I wanted to take a picture (especially because of the village's excellent name). Unfortunately for what I enjoy in life, there was a lot of white vinyl siding and modern vinyl sided-houses in Fox Roost. I was left climbing a snow bank to get a picture of their church.

(There was a commotion of multiple trucks near the end of Fox Roost, so we turned around before reaching the absolute end of town. Maybe something better was up ahead.)

The view from the Shark Cove Suites.

Back in Port aux Basques, we had dinner before settling in for the night at our Shark Cove Suites. The PAB has always been a place I'd avoided for overnight trips because I thought they only had two expensive hotels, but finding the Shark Cove Suites was amazing. For $86 taxes in, the three of us had a whole apartment with multiple bedrooms to ourselves.

Our digs were also in the heart of Port aux Basques, so even though it was a bitterly cold, frigid night, I put on my parka and long johns and went for a walk. Maybe I should have brought my tripod, but regardless, I distinctly remember how nice it was to wander down by their lighthouse under the night sky. It was one of those icy cold nights with a sky full of stars, as the lantern rotated and illuminated various surroundings.

In addition to stopping at fish plants, having three of us on this trip meant that we actually listened to the Shark Cove Suites lady when she recommended going to the dance at the Shark Cove Restaurant. In a building warmed by a stove, there was a band playing and everyone was out for the night in what must've been an old high school or Legion hall. It ended up being a pretty good time & no one vibed us at all. I ended up in one of those situations where there's outport Newfoundlanders I can't understand normally, but then they're three sheets to the wind and I'm left nodding and saying "yeah huh" while I don't understand a damn, slurred thing. Good times.

We'd acquire some much-needed breakfast grease at the Harbour Restaurant in the morning. Getting out of the car, I've always gawked at this stately red house across the street and today took the time to thankfully take a quick picture. Sadly, I was in Port aux Basques recently and saw that they tore down this prominent old home. I should have taken more pictures.

After breakfast it was snowing as we headed for home. This amused me as Steve didn't slow down for the conditions and I could see that Shelloo wasn't all that comfortable with his Jacques Villeneuve ways.

In the end we'd end up getting back to Corner Brook just fine, putting the dot on the i of another good Newfoundland winter trip.


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