Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Cool Places to Shop

Country Crafts is only 30 minutes from the ferry terminal in Port aux Basques. The shop is inside the Grand Codroy RV Park. Just drive into the park and it's on your right.

Arlene carries the best selection of made-in-Newfoundland crafts that you'll find anywhere in the province. You're able to find keepsakes and gifts to fit any budget. Arlene is also a great source of information for neat places to visit from Rose Blanche to Port-au-Port.

Linda loves her hand knit Newfoundland slippers by Esther Keeping. I like the hand-made boats. I have one for myself and have purchased one for a gift.

Corner Brook is the home of the Newfoundland Emporium. It's a large multi-level store in downtown Corner Brook. They have a large eclectic collection of everything Newfoundland. In addition to crafts, you can browse through second hand books, antiques and collectibles. My find was a Joey Smallwood hologram. Newfoundland's first premier handed these out in an election campaign.

Pic a Tenerife is in the south side of Gros Morne National Park. It's on your left just as you are driving into Glenburnie. Their specialty is hand-made quilts. They also have a good selection of knitted items and other hand-made crafts.

Read our rug hooking blog for a couple of other shops we really like. Molly Made Fibre Art Studio is in Woody Point. We'd also recommend that you check out The Roost which is in York Harbour.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Stephenville Area Trails

Stephenville is the gateway to the Port-au-Port Peninsula. If you like to hike, there are several great trails in the area ranging from easy to fairly challenging.

In this blog, links are orange. If you'd like more information about any of these trails, click the link which will take you to our Bob's Newfoundland page about that trail.

Erin Mountain Trail in Barachois Pond Provincial Park is quite challenging. The reward is a spectacular view of the park and Bay St. George. It is also very interesting to see the back country on the other side of the mountain.

The first section of the trail is very easy hiking with well maintained boardwalks and stairs. It takes you about 1/3 of the way up the mountain to a very nice lookout. The rest of the trail to the top of the mountain is fairly challenging. There are stairs, but there are also fairly steep climbs through a very rocky trail. In the Spring, you may be hampered by melting snow runoff, which tends to run down the trail.

When you reach the top of the mountain, take care to stay back from the edges. It can be very windy and weather conditions on the top of the mountain can vary a lot from the base. We went up on a very nice day and had lunch at the summit before our return hike. The total return time for us was about 4 hours.

The Blanche Brook Trail starts right in Stephenville and runs behind some businesses and homes. It's an easy trail that leads to remnants of a petrified forest. You don't have to be a geologist to easily identify the rocks in the stream bed that look like pieces of wood.

The Port-au-Port Peninsula is joined to Newfoundland by a narrow isthmus called The Gravels. It's natural, but looks like it's man-made. The parking lot for The Gravels Trail is on your right just across the isthmus.

The trail is easy hiking and is incredibly well maintained. It's quite lengthy with a couple of offshoot trails. You can decide to do part of it if you like, because it follows the shore of Port-au-Port Bay. It's spectacular scenery all the way.

Don't miss out on driving The French Ancestral Route around the Port-au-Port Peninsula. You will want to stop at the Hidden Falls in Sheaves Cove. It's well named, you could drive right through town and have no idea it was there. If you are not a hiker, you can see the falls from the parking lot. You'll be amazed to learn that all the trails were built and maintained by a local lobster fisherman and property owner. There are two trails. One takes you closer to the foot of the falls. The second trail goes along Bay St. George to a second waterfall that's right at the edge of the bay.

Boutte du Cap at Cape St. George is home to some of the most spectacular scenery on the peninsula. When you drive into the park, the first things you see are the Acadian Monument and a traditional bread oven. The Bread Crumb trail starts behind the bread oven. It's an easy trail that's not really long.

Drive to the end of the point and there are two trails that take you to kittiwake colonies. These trails are more challenging. There is a pretty good climb on the upper trail. The cliffs here are breath-taking, the photographs cannot due them justice.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Nova Scotia to Newfoundland Ferry

Most visitors that drive to Newfoundland will take a ferry from North Sydney, NS. In the summer months (mid-June to end of September) you can take a ferry to either Port aux Basques or Argentia. The Port aux Basques route runs year round. The Port aux Basques ferry takes about 7 hours for the crossing. The Argentia ferry is 14 hours.

If you are going to Port aux Basques, you can either leave at 11:45 AM or 11:45 PM. You need to purchase your tickets in advance on the Marine Atlantic website. The ferries fill up in the summer months, so book as far in advance as you can. Marine Atlantic is currently offering discounts if you book your June trip prior to April 3.

We've always taken the overnight ferry and booked a cabin. The cabin costs about $140 extra, so it's not a lot more than booking a room or bed & breakfast in North Sydney. The overnight ferry arrives in Port aux Basques at 7:00 AM, so we have the entire day ahead of us for our first day on the island.

The return trip from Port aux Basques to North Sydney is the same drill. We leave at 11:45 PM and sleep on the ferry. We get into North Sydney at 7:00 AM and have the entire day in front of us for the trip home.

Marine Atlantic has built two new ferry terminals in both North Sydney and Port aux Basques. The terminals are very nice. They have washrooms, a cafeteria, gift store, tourist information and large sitting areas with TV's. The North Sydney terminal has tourist information for Newfoundland and the Port aux Basques terminal has information for Cape Breton and Nova Scotia.

You are going to want to a have a bag packed before you load on the ferry. Once you load your vehicle you are not allowed to return to your car until the ferry docks on the other side. You may want to pack some Gravol and a small blanket. The ship is very large and we have found all our crossings to be fairly smooth. They don't sell Gravol on the ship, we have been told that you can usually get it from a purser on board.

They start loading the night ferry around 9:30 PM. They make announcements so you have lots of time to get back to your vehicle. The ship has three vehicle decks. If you are loaded on the first deck (just cars and light trucks), you'll be the first on and the last off. If you are driving an RV, you are likely one of the later vehicles to load.

Once you leave your vehicle you can go by stairs or elevator up to decks 7 and 8. Cabins are on deck 8. Deck 7 has reclining chairs, if you did not purchase a cabin. Deck 7 also has a bar, restaurant, gift shop and a snack/lunch counter. On the overnight ferry, the restaurant is only open for breakfast. I don't believe that the gift shop opens.

We book a two berth cabin which is perfect for a couple. You have a TV, two single beds, a private washroom with a shower and a small desk. There is a P.A. system in the cabins. They give you a one hour warning before you dock. That gives you time for a shower. You also have time to go down to the restaurant for breakfast.

There is no WiFi on the ship and your cell phone will only work when you are close to shore. You'll have to do your Facebook update while you are still in the harbour.

We always have breakfast on the ship. They have a short menu that allows them to offer a quick service. If you are heading to Port aux Basques, when you unload at 7:00 AM, the only place that's open is Horton's and it's pretty packed. You have to head quite a ways down the Trans Canada (over an hour) until you get to a highway restaurant. On your return trip, if you want to have breakfast in North Sydney there are quite a few more options.

When you are leaving Newfoundland and sailing to North Sydney, NS there is one difference. They actually inspect your vehicle. You are not allowed to take soil, or plants bearing soil off the island (that includes potatoes). If you've been on some muddy roads, they actually power wash your vehicle before they let you line up.

The sailing times from Port aux Basques are the same, 11:45 AM and 11:45 PM. We've always taken the night ferry. We'll have dinner in Port aux Basques or Margaree and get to the ferry terminal around 8:00 PM.

We book our return trip and cabins all at the same time as our trip to Newfoundland. You just need to print out and keep your email confirmation. You just show that along with your photo ID when you arrive at the ferry terminal gate. They'll give you your boarding passes and the key for your cabin.