Monday, February 14, 2011

Road Trip on the Viking Trail

If you want your road trip to be something of a trip back in time then you should consider this route along Newfoundland’s Viking Trail. Visit L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site—a Viking settlement that dates back more than a thousand years!—and drive through gorgeous vistas complete with mountains, valleys and stunning coastlines. A tour of this area can take from 2 to 10 days, although our recommended route is for six days full of falls and fjords, vistas and Vikings. Truly a road trip you’ll never forget.

Day 1
If you’re flying in you will arrive at Deer Lake Airport, alternately you can take the Marine Atlantic ferry from North Sydney to Port aux Basques. The beginning of the Viking Trail can be found where Route 1 and Route 430 meet close to Deer Lake. Get a good night’s rest in Deer Lake or, if you choose, Gros Morne National Park.

Day 2
If you haven’t yet visited Gros Morne do so this morning, beginning your journey along the Viking Trail to Tablelands in this beautiful national park, also home to gorgeous ocean scenes, fjords and mountains. When you reach the Tablelands you may have to look twice. Look more like a desert than Newfoundland? That’s thanks to the peridotite, an ultramafic rock that this area is made up of.

Activities in this area include a tour of the park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, including a boat tour of the Western Brook Pond and Trout River fjords. When the day starts to wane you should be at the Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse to watch the sun set over the ocean. You have your choice as to where to spend the night with towns like St. Paul’s, Cow Head (the story is that explorer Jacques Cartier first lay anchor in Cow Cove) or our choice, Rocky Harbour, nearby. Close to Rocky Harbour you’ll also find an indoor swimming pool where you can kick back and relax for awhile.

Day 3
When you’re ready to hit the road again drive north towards Broom Point and its Fisherman Museum, and The Arches Provincial Park, either of which is worth a stop. A great idea is to head to the St. Barbe Ferry Terminal where you can board the MV Apollo to sail Iceberg Alley, where you can view the icebergs that have made their way down from Greenland.

Once you arrive in Labrador you will head north again, this time to Red Bay National Historic Site, which houses a 16th century Basque whaling station, circa 1550-1600 AD. Mary’s Harbour is just down Route 510 and there you can reach the picturesque Battle Harbour National Historic Site and its fishing community with only a short boat ride. Like lighthouses? Point Amour Provincial Historic Site boasts the tallest in Atlantic Canada.

You can spend the night in L’Anse au Clair or in West St. Modeste if you prefer.

Day 4
Today is all about L’Anse aux Meadows. After taking the ferry out of the Labrador Straits visit this World Heritage Site, where you can view the onsite museum and the archaeological site where Vikings landed 500 years before Christopher Columbus ever discovered America. Only two kilometres from L’Anse aux Meadows is Norstead and its Viking Age port, which has been named one of Canada’s hidden travel gems. The not-for-profit Norstead site will help you imagine what life was like in this area centuries ago. You can also walk to Tea House Hill and visit the Grenfell Historic Properties museum. Nostead often hosts entertaining dinner theatre in the summer, check for availabilities for your trip.

If you so choose a boat tour down Iceberg Alley can also be arranged from this point. Overnight in Plum Point, St. Anthony or Roddickton.

Day 5
While taking Routes 432 and 433 South, along Grenfell Drive Highway, keep your eyes open for roaming moose. This drive will also take you past many small communities, made up mostly of loggers, as well as historically French shorelines. Visit the Port au Choix National Historic Site, site of a fascinating archaeological dig uncovering artifacts from three different civilizations, which occupied this site over a thousand years ago. At night stay in Port au Choix or venture over to Hawke’s Bay, located on the Torrent River, for a change of scenery.

Day 6
Make your way back to Deer Lake where you can visit the Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion, which showcases everything from spiders to scorpions. At this point you will divert from Viking Trail to find your way back to the airport or ferry.

If you’re looking for a unique road trip that mixes history with natural beauty then you’ll definitely want to consider the Viking Trail for your vacation. Of course, the above suggestions and sights are just some that you can touch on during your drive through this fascinating part of Canada.

Written by Connie Limoncelli

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