My Hometown: Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland

Having travelled and lived in many other parts of Canada, home will always be that “little place down by the sea.”

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Julia atop Gros Morne during a recent visitPhoto: Julia Shears

Rocky Harbour Homecoming

This great country of ours has beauty from coast to coast. I have travelled Canada by car a couple of times to the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. I also travelled the ice roads out of Yellowknife during the month of January one year, over the Great Slave Lake. Living in Inuvik for a time, I also got to experience the Land of the Midnight Sun.

There is no shortage of natural beauty throughout Canada, and our people are known the world over for the great hospitality that we extend to our visitors and those who want to make Canada their home, too.

Home for me now is Thunder Bay, Ont., but I have always called my self a displaced Newfoundlander. Like many Newfoundlanders, I left the Island to make a life for myself somewhere, but never with the intention of staying away forever. It’s something I have heard Newfoundlanders who now live on the mainland say—they always intend to go back. But somehow the years go by, new families start and Newfoundland becomes that great memory for many of us.

My original hometown of Rocky Harbour is situated on the west coast of the Island in Gros Morne National Park, renowned the world over for the natural beauty it displays. When I grew up there, it was a fishing community where seasonal fisherman would come and dock at the local wharf to unload their catch, ranging from cod and lobster to seals and herring. My uncle was a boat builder there, and many fishing boats made their maiden voyage from that local wharf.

The close-knit community with large families provided me with the means of easily connecting with others. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, and our playground was the great outdoors. Rather than a structured playground, we had our fun along the beaches, in the woods and, when the workers left for the day, among the fishing boats that were being built.

I remember in 1967, when the Confederation caravan rolled into our community, those big trucks with the trailers loaded with all things Canadian parked in front of our local school. Being only nine at the time, it was something I have etched in my childhood memory. Gros Morne National Park came into being in the late 1970s and, before I left Newfoundland, my summer job was working at the information centre, a one-room building that really didn’t have a lot of material to offer, but then again, it wasn’t a super busy place in those days. I did take a few catnaps on my shifts, but my main interest at the time was planning my trip away from Newfoundland, right after the season ended.

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Rocky Harbour waterfrontPhoto: Julia Shears

Leaving Newfoundland as a young adult was exciting—to travel and see a bit of Canada was something I looked forward to. Later, when I began to return home for occasional visits, I came to appreciate the beauty that I had grown up around. I had climbed Gros Morne as part of my job when I worked for the park, but it took the passage of 20 years before I truly appreciated the beauty that the mountain offers to hikers who make the climb.

As a child, I sat many times looking out my mother’s kitchen window, but it was only years later that I would find myself absolutely captivated by the views through her window.

The tourist industry is alive and well in Newfoundland. Many local people now make a good living, as they open their doors and their hearts to the “come from away” people who arrive on vacation every year. It doesn’t take visitors long to realize that vacationing in Newfoundland is never about the weather—it’s about the experience. And the people.

I am so lucky that I get back there to visit with family and friends a couple times a year. I am also thrilled to talk with the tourists who invariably tell me that they must come back. The local pubs have “screeched in” many a traveller, and I have watched them perform all the little rituals required to become honorary Newfoundlanders, all in the spirit of having a good time. Such a night may start out with a roomful of strangers, but end with lifelong friends.

My hometown of Rocky Harbour sits in one of the prettiest places on the planet, and people from near and far have been going there for the past 40 years to experience my little piece of heaven. I may not live there anymore, but those who know me well understand that “home” for me will always be that little place down by the sea.

Check out the 50 Most Gorgeous Parks Across Canada.

Originally Published in Our Canada