Newfoundland and Labrador has an abundance of popular destinations for the traveller. Easy accessed and well adorned vacation spots litter the province, welcoming newcomers from everywhere.
My wife and I spend a lot of time on the Rock. Over the past three years, we have travelled extensively throughout the province. Armed with cameras and an ambitious desire to see new things, we usually like to set our sights off the beaten path. Discovery is the key word here, a word that describes Newfoundland and Labrador perfectly.
One part of Newfoundland and Labrador we haven't had the chance to explore is the southern coast. Stretching from the Burin peninsula, all the way to Port Aux Basques, the southern coastline is mostly accessible by ferry. However, if you head south down Highway 360, it will eventually pop you out at a small town called Harbour Breton. The trip takes trough classic Newfoundland tundra and Boreal forests, and if you're lucky, you'll spot some grazing caribou.
Then something magical happens. The views open up and you realize how much elevation you've gained. You'll see rolling hills that turn into mountains. Fjords will appear, and the ocean can be seen in the distance. From this vantage point, you've almost completed the journey. A few steep descents later and civilization reappears - the town of Harbour Breton.
The cliché, "The light at the end of the tunnel" was originally coined for Harbour Breton. That's not a real fact, but what is real is the beauty of this hidden gem. Upon arrival, you're greeted with a hustle and bustle saved for larger towns on the Avalon. Shops and businesses are busy and locals are smiling. And you see why. Harbour Breton is stunning. Its narrow, long harbour is flanked by steep hillsides and well kept homes. As you might expect, people are friendly and welcoming.
The first thing we did was hike to the top of the Gun Hill lookout. A short 1.3km hike almost straight up - get ready for a work out! This climb consists of hundreds of stairs, boardwalks, and a little taste of natural terrain. Hikers who ascend the peak are greeted with 360 degree views of... everywhere! Look back on where you came from and the entire town of Harbour Breton. Take a gander to the other side and steep mountains and fjords are spotted in the distance. On a clear day, you can spot not only the Burin peninsula, but the French islands of Saint-Pierre et Miquelon. If you love capturing the moment (there are lots of them), a camera is a must.
After snapping about a hundred photos, we headed back down and visited the Rocky Point Lighthouse. An easy walk takes you to this small beacon that overlooks Jersey Harbour. If you have a set of binoculars or a telephoto lens, you can spot a shipwreck on the other side of the harbour.
We headed into town and checked into our hotel, the Southern Port Hotel and Chalets. The owner of the hotel greeted us with a smile and we proceeded to share the story of our mini adventures. He recommended that we grab a bottle of wine and head over to Deadman Cove beach trail. Already satisfied with the Gun Hill trail, we took him up on the offer. My wife and I grabbed a bottle of Cab Sav from the liquor store down the street and departed for the trailhead.
Deadman Cove Beach Trail is not what you would expect. And by that I mean, you're not prepared to see a white sand beach in this part of the World. We were in awe of this vast, almost tropical looking oasis that lay before us. After I picked my jaw up off the ground, I thought how fortunate are the townsfolk of Harbour Breton to have this large crescent shaped playground at their disposal. Anywhere else in the World and this beach would be inundated with people. But here on this day, we were the only ones there.
We walked to the other side of the beach, shared a snack and some wine, and watched a warm September sun dip below the horizon. What an amazing day, filled with surprises and sensory overload. Harbour Breton is off the beaten path, but very much worth the journey.