We slept in, enjoyed a scenic breakfast in our cabin and then made our way into Stykkisholmur to check out the cute fishing village and port as well as pick up a few treats at the local bakery. We made our way counter clock-wise around the Snaefellsness Peninsula to the national park protecting the Snaefellsjokull glacier. After the West Fjords, Snaefellsness didn’t impress us to the grandness we had just left behind, but we had to remind ourselves how quickly we’ve become desensitized to ASTOUNDING beauty in this country. I think we were all a bit tired and cranky and needed a break.
We took a side trip to Sudureyi as per the local guidebook’s recommendation to feed the “friendly codfish the greet the town’s visitors”, but weren’t able to locate the pond that they were living in (the only pond we found was really shallow and appear to be in somebody’s back yard). Oh well, scenic drive. The route to this town involved a trip through a 9km long (and in parts one-way!) tunnel with a fork in it to choose which town you wanted to go to. Talk about crazy, but there were plenty of pullouts. Guess it made more sense to go through the mountain, rather than build precarious, avalanche-prone roads around them.
It was really difficult to leave our idyllic cottage in Hvammtangi, but we knew we had a long drive ahead of us, so we did our best to mobilize at a reasonable time. On the way out of town, however, Audrey spotted a wool shop and wanted to check out their wares. Autumn got a pair of mittens, Audrey a hat and sweater. JD took Autumn to the back to check out the weaving looms that you were welcome to watch as the ladies turned out the most beautiful knitwear you could imagine.
We awoke this morning to a wonderful spread of fresh bread, waffles (Autumn’s favorite!), fruit, cereal, meat, cheese and coffee. We had high hopes of going whale watching in Husavik, where 11 different species of whale are seen every summer (including BLUE WHALES!). We called ahead to confirm if there was space on the 11am tour (seems impossible between jetlag and yummy breakfasts to mobilize quickly in the mornings, but that’s alright given that there’s no daylight cutoff at the end of the day)! Both companies we called had space, but warned us of really rough seas (they had to cancel most of yesterday’s tours), which would make it not ideal for adults, let alone a nearly 2 year old! We were bummed, but appreciated their honesty, so we decided instead to backtrack slightly to Myvatn to check out some of the stuff we ran out of time to do yesterday. We did the scenic road around the lake that is home to over 115 species of birdlife, many of which only live in that area. Of particular note were some of the cool duck species and these giant geese/swans that we’ve seen all over the northern portions of the island. We admired the lava fields and hiked up to Hverfjall cone/crater. It was a bit blustery up top, but the 360 degree views of the surrounding Martian landscape were totally worth it!
We enjoyed a spread of toast, cheese, cereal, juice, coffee and swapped stories with a lovely newlywed couple from Ireland and another couple from Scotland. We felt the need to walk off breakfast a bit so we strolled the village once more and Autumn requested a repeat visit to the playground. (Interesting observation: their playgrounds seem to have much more “active” play and climbing elements…fitter kids and less helicopter parenting?). We drove the mountain pass back out of the Seydisfjirdour valley and were pleasantly surprised by the breathtaking views that were obstructed yesterday due to the weather. We took some photos and tried not to freeze in the cool, damp near 0C temps.
We set out from Hofn and snaked our way along the coast, into and out of cove after cove (I’ll reserve the word fjiord for when we finally hit the big ones on the east coast. We saw a couple of neat waterfalls along the way (what would warrant a road side attraction complete with snack bar and gift shop in the states doesn’t even have a sign or a name in this country – there are just TOO many waterfalls!!!).
We stopped for lunch in this sweet little village named Djup??? – definitely a stopover for many a tour bus, but the old wooden fishing cottages were adorable. We had some fish soup and traditional Icelandic bread and butter plus coffee… much needed since it was a blustery 40F! Autumn enjoyed the opportunity to stretch her legs down by the fishing docks before we continued on to Seydisfjirdour.
We took off Friday afternoon to start making our way up to NJ – we have a wedding to attend, so we booked our flights into and out of Newark, NJ. Autumn slept most of the car ride (yay for coordinating car trips with nap time), and we stopped for a picnic dinner at the most AMAZING playground we’ve ever seen in Harrisonburg, VA. (For those interested, it was called “A Dream Come True” playground. The weather was perfect and we had a blast on the slides, ramps and kick bikes they provided for the children.
We drove an hour further and took a break for the night in Winchester, VA. We then drove the remaining four hours up to Union, NJ to visit Audrey’s great Aunt Terri. She hadn’t seen Autumn in a year and was amazed at all the cool new tricks she’s learned since our last visit. We went to a good old-fashioned Jersey diner for a monstrous dinner before our flight. Terri’s neighbor was kind enough to shuttle us to the airport, which was a relief, given we were managing two weeks’ worth of luggage plus a hiking backpack and car seat.
The trip by numbers:
- -2000 kilometers driven
- -60 kilometers hiked (with baby on board!)
What surprised us the most:
- -How friendly the people were. Many people walked right up to Autumn and reached out to grab her little hand and say hello. Thankfully we’re not overly protective. Autumn liked having all sorts of people to look at and interact with. Everyone commented on “those eyes!” We even heard a new phrase coined “blueberry eyes” – we like it!
- -How cloudy and gloomy it could look in the morning and by afternoon it could be all cleared up.
- -Food prices. I guess we forgot the Newfoundland is an island – nearly everything has to be imported! $1.29/lb for bananas! (It’s $0.39/lb back in NC).
- -How few Americans were visiting. It was us and a whole bunch of Canadians (mostly from Ontario and Montreal).
- -We drove a new Ford Escape. New cars have lots of fancy features and buttons. Lane assist is crazy!
Most Bizarre Encounter:
Francis, the Trouting Newfoundlander. See Day 4: Bonavista. We were literally hijacked by an accordion-wielding Newfoundlander. It was charming and bizarre and memorable for sure!
Highlights of the trip:
- -Gros Morne NP
- -Watching the whales play in Bonavista Bay (and Witless Bay)
- -Getting to hike in 70F temperatures every day! Autumn loved hanging out in the hiking backpack. We really need to hike more often. It makes our souls so content.
Skerwink Trail – hands down, the best hike we’ve ever done. The beauty was unreal.
- -Bread and Cheese Inn (for the views!!!)
- -Island View Hospitality Home (Pat is the sweetest lady around!) It was like staying with your grandmother!
- -Anything cod (and we’re not big fish eaters) and bakeapple jam!
- -Tim Horton’s!
If we could do it all over again:
We would have skipped Twillingate – maybe it was just the weather when we were there, but we thought it was overrated and it didn’t have quite the cohesive feel to it that I would have expected for such a tourist town. The drive up there was pretty however. I think instead we maybe would have driven up to the Viking village and in L’Anse aux Meadows instead (and possibly seen some more whales and icebergs).
Lessons learned for traveling with baby:
- -Milk – have lots of it on hand! Milk quells nearly any outburst of discontent. She managed to sleep through most of the flights which was a plus.
- -Preboarding – I’m surprised I had to specifically request it (I’m looking at you, American airlines), as to me, it’s obvious that I’m going to need more time boarding a plane with a small child in a hiking backpack.
- -Dinner – after dragging Autumn all over creation during the day, we didn’t want to push our luck at dinner time. Takeout and grocery stores were key for everyone’s survival at dinner time.
- -We felt like the secret service “sweeping” the B&B room before entering to make it as child friendly as possible.
- -Walking! Autumn’s walking progressed from 4-5 steps to being able to cross an entire room and change direction in the matter of the 12 days. She didn’t want to sit still and just wanted to practice her new skill. We tried to let her tire her legs out whenever the opportunity permitted (while back in hotel in evening, at visitor centers, between flights, etc.)
Overall, Newfoundland was truly a special place. The weather can be really hit or miss, and I would say with 80% of the days being sunny and fair (or eventually becoming fair), we definitely lucked out. None of our plans were totally ruined by weather, so that’s definitely a plus. The people are so friendly (especially to babies) and we were routinely asked “why’d you decide to come to Newfoundland?” Folks were genuinely happy to have us visiting. The landscape on the east vs. west cost was totally different and we’re glad to we got to see both sides of the island. We felt like we got to experience a hidden gem and it was a great first international trip for our little family. We enjoyed the cool temps, fresh air, and laid back pace of life on “the Rock”. Thanks for a great time and lifetime of memories, Newfoundland!
After yesterday’s early start to make the boat tours, we enjoyed sleeping in this morning (the time change hasn’t been bad, but being 1.5 hrs ahead makes it a little bit harder to wake up in the morning). We planned to hit the northern reaches of the park today. First stop was Shallow Bay, just past Cow’s Head. We walked for several kilometers along the beach and enjoyed picking up sea glass along the way.
On the return, since we were walking into the wind, we decided to take the old mine path and Autumn enjoyed brushing her hands against the junipers as we walked through the forest.
Next stop was Broom Point fishing village, which Parks Canada has restored to look like what it did back in the 1960’s when a family lived there during the summer. The park ranger explained how the lobster traps and cod nets worked, then we checked out their little cabin that housed 10 people back in the day. Fishing was/is a hard living! Now a-days cod is no longer king in the area (post moratorium) – lobster and crab fetch a better price at market and less labor intensive.
Autumn was looking like she needed a nap, so we figured a little bit of driving would do her some good; we headed back down to Norris Point to check out the Bonne Bay Marine Station Aquarium. Autumn woke up just as we were pulling into the parking lot. She enjoyed checking out Kraken the green lobster, Bruce the sea cucumber, Apollo the Lion’s Mane jellyfish and some of their other more touch-friendly friends in the petting tank (she mostly enjoyed splashing the water).
Next up was The Cat Stop for some cod nuggets and a hot dog. We noticed a trail that looked pretty gentle leading out to a point in Bonne Bay and took the leisurely stroll to get some awesome views of Neddy’s Harbour and Norris Point. On the return trip, there was live music and we had to stop and take in the awesome views and savor the moment.
We returned to the B&B pleased with such a relaxing and rewarding day. After freshening up, we made our way out to Lobster Head Cove lighthouse for our third spectacular sunset in the Rocky Harbour area. Gros Morne was beautiful throughout our stay and we cannot recommend it enough!
Today was a day of boat tours and pleasant weather surprises. We woke up to gray skies and a forecast for thunderstorms. I called to confirm if our 10am Western Brook Pond tour was still on this morning and was told “of course!” (I guess one can’t be easily deterred by the weather in Newfoundland). We drove north in the park and could barely make out the Long Range Mountains in the clouds/fog. The hike up to the Western Brook Pond (it’s a 3km hike across boardwalks through the bogs) was gray and rainy and I had my doubts about the point in going on the boat tour in such weather.
After boarding the boat and making our way further into the glacially carved fjord, the sun came out and created the picture perfect scenes that had been promised in the tourism brochures.
I’m not sure if we just got lucky or if it’s common for the valley to be protected from the weather by the 1,000 ft. plus high cliffs, but either way, we were grateful for the unexpectedly pleasant change in the weather. There was a senior tour group aboard the boat and it was as if Autumn had 40 adopted grandparents aboard the boat.
After the amazing Western Brook Pond tour we had to hustle back to the car for the 2pm Bonne Bay tour. The focus of this tour was more on the wildlife, geology and history of the area. The guides we very knowledgeable and humorous. We spotted several bald eagles, a multi million dollar yacht and some historical fishing cottages.
The more relaxed pace was much needed and Autumn napped the entire tour (poor tired baby!) Afterwards, we grabbed a bite to eat (seafood chowder) and an iceberg beer at the little café at the dock then made our way back to the B&B.
After freshening up, I headed out to the local grocer to pick up a few breakfast provisions and the little gift shop for some Bakeapple jam (local speciality – like a mild orangish raspberry). We decided to go checkout the Coastal Trail and watch the sun set while the waves came crashing in on the rocks on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Watching the sun drop steadily behind the horizon was so wonderful. The fresh, crisp air has us longing for autumn back home.
Tomorrow we’ll go check out the Northern portions of the park.