The Extravagant Place Across The Bay

Harbour Breton, Sandyville & Pass Island (Bay d'Espoir), Newfoundland (Map)

Summer 2016


Sunny Cottage sits in the regional hub of the remote Bay d'Espoir, an opulent home that I discovered on my first visit to the region. After returning home and seeing that it was a museum, I was determined to get back and up to their widow's walk (the platform on the roof hemmed in by those railings). The online pictures from up there were great & I already enjoyed the views of Harbour Breton simply from the roads and hiking trails - standing on top of Sunny Cottage would be worth the effort.

During my second, third and fourth trip to the Bay d'Espoir region, I would stop every time at the Sunny Cottage, but it was always outside the tourist season or too late in the day.

Finally, on this my fifth visit to the Bay d'Espoir, I fortuitously found someone mulling about the home.

Finding out that we were a few days early for the museum's seasonal opening, we were still invited inside and went right up to the top floor, which was made up of a narrow and strangely-shaped hallway. There was a workshop up here, as well as a set of stairs that led to the coveted widow's walk.

The person showing us around apologized and felt bad that we were here early, because it meant missing out on the tea and baked goods they prepare in season for tourists. I was still more than happy with where I was standing, although I suppose a tea bun would have made it even nicer, haha.

Sunny Cottage was built in 1907 by local merchant John Joe Rose. Mr. Rose owned a fleet of schooners that fished the nearby banks, ships that fished closer to shore, he dealt in exports and he was the major employer of Harbour Breton. His house, built in the Queen Anne Style, stands out in Harbour Breton and is said to be "an extravagant dwelling amid the relative poverty of an isolated outport community" by Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador.

Sunny Cottage certainly continues to stand out in Harbour Breton, but its presence makes a bit more sense after I read that turn of the century merchants preferred this style of home and many built theirs in Grand Bank (located on the other side of Fortune Bay). I've seen these homes in Grand Bank and they don't stand out so much because there are a few of them instead of just one (and the Sunny Cottage would fit right in in Grand Bank).

Both Rose & his wife died in 1952, leaving the house to one John Stewart. Stewart continued to live in the house afterwards...and then it became a museum at some point.

Neither the provincial website or the Sunny Cottage website says when this home became a museum, but Sunny Cottage received a historic preservation award in 1997 and was on the front page of the NL Vacation Guide in 2002.

In 2008, the Sunny Cottage added a display room featuring stories of resettlement from around the area. The coast around here is rugged and not as developed as other parts of the island, so you had a lot of communities that disappeared over the years.

It was special for me because there were displays on places I'd been, like Grole.

And some were even more special because they were for places like Piccaire, where I found very little information online after my visit.

Speaking of Grole, here was the organ from their church! After seeing the front steps and foundation of the Grole church in person previously, how cool was this?

I should have taken notes during this great tour we were getting, but I at least remember one of my favourite features of the house: this removable piece of floor for stashing and distributing booze during prohibition and card games.

I also loved the crazy living room, even if I failed to take a good photo of it. It was such a place where someone would take a close-up photo without an explanation, then sit there as 15 people comment wondering where they were. Either that or something out of a Trent Reznor video.

Looking back at Sandyville. It looks much nicer on a sunny day.

Unlike my other trips to the Bay d'Espoir where I usually have to make multi-part updates because I shoehorn in so many activities, there wasn't much else of note besides the Sunny Cottage.

One thing is that I finally managed to stay at the inn/efficiency unit in Sandyville after passing the small village a bunch of times en route to Grole and/or Pass Island. The Sandyville Inn is one of those places situated on a cove with a big window facing out towards Connaigre Bay, so in a case where we had the shared areas to ourselves, it was a pretty nice place to stay.

There's a spit of land that extends into the cove at Sandyville and I walked down there to see all of the fishing stages and wharves. I came upon a lone headstone at the end of the road, but with people around I figured I would look up the headstone on the fantastic NL cemetery website when I got home...but as it turns out, this is the first cemetery I've ever came upon that isn't on that website. Damnit!

Therefore, it's a mystery headstone.

The only other excitement was driving onto the western finger of the Connagire Peninsula, past Sandyville and Seal Cove, and on to the rough, pockmarked road that leads out towards Grole & Pass Island.

This is one of my favourite places in Newfoundland due to a mix of the isolation, rocky/barren landscape, human settlement history and how it's a headland marking the end of the island (and feeling like you're at the end with the aforementioned isolation).

I camped out here in May of 2012 and hold dear the memory of sitting at the end of this road with the setting sun staining all of the surrounding rocks red. I really enjoyed being back after pondering if I ever would be.

In the above picture you can see Pass Island off to the left, located where there is a narrow tickle separating it from the main island of Newfoundland. There used to be a lighthouse out on Pass Island and it would truly be one of the hard ones to get with the lack of fisherman about.

Water flowing from an unnamed pond into Beck Bay.

Today I had another outstanding time here after I decided to take off my shoes and roll up my pants. I had sized up this stream that was preventing me from exploring the beach here at Beck Bay, and after only going up to my knees at most, suddenly I was exploring even further upon this distant reach of the island.

Digging the crashing sea and how I was coming to an open face of the island, I walked the duration of the sandy beach until I came to the end at large boulders. We had to get going, but I don't think it would be all that hard to backpack and round this headland all the way back to Seal Cove.

I guess that's just yet another idea for future Bay d'Espoir trips.


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