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Witless Bay on the Avalon Peninsula

August 2022

When I booked our site at the Celtic Rendezvous By The Sea back in the winter before our big trip the communication that asked which side we had our view windows on got me looking forward to it and now the day had come. The drive took us on the trans Canada towards St John then on bumpy roads and eventually little winding coastal roads through what looked top be vacation coast for St Johns. None of that was thrilling Jim….but then we pulled up a little hill and out on a flat ledge bluff and found ourselves in the primo spot overlooking the islands in Witless Bay. There were just a small group of sites and a major view area had a fire pit and a gazebo for all to use so it was a convivial group of campers each night. Waking up to the view and seeing it at dusk every day was something special. We even saw a bald eagle across the little cove one day.

The very first morning after hiking part of the East Coast Trail from Mobile I booked myself on the Molly Bawn Whale and Puffin boat tour out into the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. A small boat took 5 of us out (plus a baby) to one of the island where puffins and seabirds gather. It was fantastic to see and photograph them flying and swimming plus I captured a juvenile bald eagle on film. We also saw a seal and plenty of seagulls, cormorants and kittiwakes. On the way back it was the search for whales, aided by Arlen the Whale Sniffer Dog. Having grown up in a fishing town I am aware that seeing whales is never a guarantee - I was there for the puffins. We did however have a Mr and Mrs Sourpuss onboard. They doubted the marine tour guides info and seemed personally offended at not seeing whales. I preferred the young family whose son said his new word “Wow” because all he’d heard them say through Newfoundland was “wow, look at that!”.

After I got back where Jim and the dogs were waiting we drove up to Cape Spear Lighthouse by way of Petty Harbor, a little fishing town so cute my camera was snapping double time. The lighthouse grounds were filled with strolling tourists so we took turns. There is a WWII bunker built underground with remains of the Ready room and push button voices etc that I knew Jim would enjoy seeing and he did. The view towards St John was spectacular.

We drove through St John- a very captivating seaport -and stopped at the Johnson Geo Centre. The mom on my puffin boat, a geologist, had recommended the Centre and Jim did enjoy it. He even got to email an expert about his soapstone find from the eastern part and learned that it likely is not a relic but just an unusual mark. While he was underground I walked the dogs through the gardens there. I tried to pose them with they statue of the Newfoundland and Labrador dog (get it?) but they totally freaked Chloe out. The gardens look out over the whole harbor.

Signal Hill was right above us but I enjoyed the platform that sticks out for a view of the whole harbor. On the way home we stopped at Landwash Brewery where Jim picked up some beers for the RV fridge and awesome ice cream sandwiches.

The next day was reserved for going to the Baccalieu Peninsula. There is a town there called Heart’s Desire that a close friend’s great grandparents lived in and I’d promised to photograph. There is also a town called Dildo so you can possibly see why the Baccalieu Trail would attract the tourist buses etc! As it happens, despite our intentions to get a t shirt at Dildo Brewing or a selfie with the sign we breezed right by without feeling motivated to. We found a Little Rock beach with a view of the limpid waters of the bay that day and the dogs got their run.

We found Heart’s Desire between Heart’s Delight and Heart’s Content and took the photos. I had read about the sight of the first cable to connect to Europe at Heart’s Content but wasn’t particularly moved to see it. Well, as it turns out its right next to the Baccalieu Gallery where we had a lovely talk with the woman working there, Jim saw more examples of raw labradorite and I picked up a children’s book about a Puffling (baby Puffin) for future grandchildren. Then we cut across the Peninsula and headed through Harbour Grace (known for an Irish Princess kidnapped by pirates who married one as well as Amelia Earhart’s successful 1932 solo flight) and Cupids where we thought to hike Burnt Head Trail only to be foiled by the sign urging silence so as not to disturb the Perchance Theatre production that is uniquely open air there (not going to work with the dogs!) and Bay Roberts where we had an excellent lunch out on their deck WITH our pups behaving (mostly) at our feet.

Overall the Baccalieu trail underwhelmed, at least for the things we like. My favorite parts were seeing what I was sure was a Newfoundland pony in someone’s front yard and a field of past season lupines at the rock beach, as fabulous in their shades of gray as they were in their bright colors.

The next morning we soaked in our view with our morning coffee then hit the road heading backwards towards the ferry. Next stop was Terra Nova Provincial Park Campground.

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