22nd November 2017
Debbie Flynn and son set off for a seriously cool adventure in Newfoundland and Labrador
Forming the most easterly Province of Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador is a mere five-and-a-half-hour flight from London, making this wilderness destination entirely possible for those seeking a long weekend that feels worlds away from home.
Quaint villages awash with candy-coloured buildings punctuate a formidable wilderness of muscled mountains, dense forests and dark blue waters. Newfoundland and Labrador feels nothing short of magical, which has only been accentuated by the herd of icebergs that have slowly clinked their way down from the Arctic in the past few weeks.
This was the basis of my two-day adventure with Jake, my 12-year-old explorer, who, having been glued to the recent news of a 670 feet long iceberg, was eager to see these natural phenomena for himself during May half-term.
Ordinarily these icebergs have a short season with around 600 icebergs appearing all year, but five months in, this figure has already been surpassed with a bumper pack of some of the biggest bergs the Province has seen, and a season that is predicted to last until August.
We flew into St. Johns, widely regarded as North America’s oldest city, and yet inhabited by a vivacious generation of musicians, artists and determined young chefs.
Rows of clapboard town houses, craggy faced fishermen, and perilously perched lighthouses might feel like they’ve been taken straight out of a time-worn fairy-tale, but the city has an undeniably cool and quirky atmosphere; as if the best bits of San Francisco have been carefully selected and dropped into one of Canada’s wildest corners.
The people of Newfoundland and Labrador only heighten the perception of Canadians as some of the most well-natured and thoughtful people on the planet, and setting off for our first water-based iceberg hunt, there was already a feeling of camaraderie on our boat and a shared anticipation for the giant sculptures that lay ahead.
The sheer size of these icy monsters is simply dazzling. While the North Atlantic Ocean is almost black in colour, the water sloshing up against the icebergs is a clear Maldivian turquoise, only adding to the sense of otherworldliness and the mystery that what we were looking it is only a quarter of the size that lies beneath the surface; an unfortunate factor that destroyed the Titanic in 1912, which rests only 370 miles south-east of the Province.
Following our first boat ride, I was bullied into activity I would have rather left to my son who decided that a puffin-eye view was instrumental in his exploration. Zip-lining is one of the adventure activities that Newfoundland and Labrador offers; ensuring picture-perfect views over what feels like the entire Province, and an ideal way to assess the magnificent size of the icebergs against the toy-town harbour.
While Jake cut through the air with a youthful exuberance, I stayed suspended amongst the treetops, legs dangling, clutching my guide, trying to remain calm in front of my son who was quite happily filming the entire fiasco and urging the zip-lining team to ‘leave her up there’.
And having seen the icebergs from the sky, it was our mission to get close enough to touch. While there is an option to hike the meadow dappled mountains for prime views of the bergs, with a teenager as a companion, sadly dry land was not an option.
We met the fantastic team at Island Rooms who shared our determination in getting Jake as close as possible to these formidable glacial hunks, via a small but perfectly comfortable fishing boat for four. The family owned business works with local children during off season by teaching them about the glacial wilderness that surrounds them and the bounty of fish that earmarks Atlantic Canada as a destination for foodies. But there is chance for tourists to get involved, as the company runs the same adventures during the spring and summer months. So, we set off, sights set on icebergs and stomachs growling for freshly caught fish.
Puffins swooped overhead, cerulean waves crashed against the fishing boat, and wind-swept anticipation filled the air as we approached the ‘berg. Waiting for the right wave to gently ease us nearer, finally we were close enough for Jake to run his hands over the smooth, polished finish and to even hold a chunk of 10,000-year-old ice in his hands.
The happy glow on his face is all part of the Island Rooms mission; to engage children in the fishing heritage that holds so many Newfoundland and Labrador communities together.
Our next step was to learn the ancient art of handline fishing; a technique passed down for generations, and yet deceptively achievable with the Island Room guides. We took our spoils back to shore where expertly prepared, freshly caught, gently salted fish was eagerly devoured, all in the name of educating children, obviously.
Of course, with any pre-teens in tow, food is always a huge part of our travels after a day of unbridled adventure, and hand caught fish was only the beginning. A rising culinary scene that stretches from St John’s and seeps into surrounding towns and villages, selecting where to eat was one of the most challenging parts of the entire weekend, zip-lining debacles not included.
Rosy cheeks warmed by steaming bowls of mussels, artisan stone-baked pizzas in downtown St. Johns, and of course, the freshly caught lobster so proudly endemic to the Province, the gastronomic flair of Newfoundland and Labrador is the charming result of teams of old traditional fishermen and a burgeoning wave of hipster-esque eateries.
After a packed two days of ‘berg hunts, flying through tree tops, and sampling as much of the local cuisine as possible, I sink into my five-hour flight back to London, a sleeping 12-year old by my side. Work emails blinking away and beckoning me back to a hot and humid London, I concentrate on my much-needed Newfoundland and Labrador Iceberg vodka and tonic; watching the ice as it gently clinks against the glass.
Debbie travelled to Newfoundland and Labrador in Atlantic Canada, courtesy of Atlantic Canada Holidays and Discover the World who offers a 7 day Newfoundland and Labrador Self Drive HolidayPrices start from £2,130 for a family of four and includes 6 nights accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis, car hire, one boat trip from Bulls Bay to see whales, puffins and icebergs, and a historic sites pass. Flights not included. Flights with Westjet start from £402 per adult and £326 for children under 12.