Returning to the Rock: A Love Letter to Newfoundland

This travelling family of four found the people and customs of Newfoundland just as colourful as the scenery.

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French Point in Newfoundland, Canada
Photo: Amy Martin
French Point, Newfoundland.

Newfoundland: There’s Nowhere Else Like It

I have always felt that Newfoundland was almost like a country all its own, with its majestic landscapes reminding me of Scotland; yet, it is unique, brimming with friendly people who speak with an accent reminiscent of an Irish dialect, and celebrate customs that only they seem to know and understand. One I had the pleasure of taking part in was their “Screech In” ceremony. It’s a long-held tradition that they seem to take an endless amount of pleasure in performing! It’s used to christen mainlanders, making them honorary Newfies. They even have their own time zone—a whole half hour later than the Atlantic time zone.

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Scenic town of Channel-Port aux Basques in Newfoundland, Canada
Photo: Amy Martin
The scenic town of Channel-Port aux Basques in Newfoundland.

“The fog was right t’ick.”

My Newfie husband Keith brought me and our two children, Charlotte and Oliver, as well as his father Randy, to “The Rock” in early July 2018 for four days of exploring and visiting family. We boarded the evening ferry crossing from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Channel-Port aux Basques, a southwestern town founded by whalers in the 1600s, who hailed from the Basque region of France. All the cabins on the ferry were booked, but since we were planning to camp during this trip, I had all the means to make up some beds for us on the floor for the night. We adults didn’t find it very comfortable, but the kids slept well.

We arrived early in the morning to fog so thick it caused many passengers to get lost in the dock’s parking lot. As the locals would put it, “The fog was right t’ick.”

Here are 10 common Newfoundland sayings, decoded.

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Charlotte and Oliver exploring the Cambellton shoreline
Photo: Amy Martin
Charlotte and Oliver exploring the Campbellton shoreline.

“The fog burned away to reveal beautiful mountains…”

After we climbed the hill out of town, the fog burned away to reveal beautiful mountains still dotted with the June snows that the island had received the previous week.

As we travelled inland, we passed areas that reminded me of British Columbia, Scotland and even my home area in northwestern Ontario. We entered Lewisporte, known as the “Gateway to the North” and Keith excitedly pointed out places he’d once frequented as a kid. We made a stop at one of his old swimming holes, Porter’s Pit, which has since been changed by a flood.

Discover Canada’s quirkiest roadside attractions.

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Old pulp mill in Newfoundland, Canada
Photo: Amy Martin
An old pulp mill in Newfoundland.

“It was like a piece of heaven…”

We continued on to Keith’s hometown of Campbellton, a beautiful little town that hugs the north central shoreline. We explored the old pulp mill that once provided great childhood entertainment for him. It wasn’t hard to understand why, as our kids also loved climbing and exploring the crumbling rooms and dark tunnels. We also visited the little town of Birchy Bay that some of his family still calls home.

We ventured out to a hidden paradise called French’s Point not far from the family property. I fell in love with this spot, where the salty ocean breeze blew, the grass and wildflowers blanketed the pale grey rocks, and inspecting the tide pools provided endless fun. It was like a piece of heaven. I could understand why that branch of the family chose this spot to make a home.

Here’s what you’ll encounter on a road trip along Newfoundland’s west coast.

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Hunting for winkles
Photo: Amy Martin
Hunting for winkles.

“Our trip was much too short…”

The kids loved seeing their dad’s old stomping grounds and playing where he used to play, gathering flowers, throwing rocks in the ocean—Oliver’s favourite activity—finding crabs and winkles (sea snails), and in the case of my poor daughter, Charlotte, accidentally diving into a large patch of stinging-nettle bushes that left her feeling very itchy.

Our trip was much too short but as we made our way back to the ferry, we began compiling a list of other places we want to explore when we return to The Rock.

Next, read the heartwarming story that will convince you that Newfoundland is the kindest province.

Originally Published in Our Canada

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