I was eleven years old and tenting for the first time at Blow Me Down Provincial Park. I remember the smell of our campfire, and the absolute glee of sandwiching charred marshmallows between graham wafer crackers. It was a field trip for our Grade 6 class. During the day we ran up and down Governor’s Staircase, shouting and laughing and daring each other to do the kinds of things that children did back in the day.
Adult me returns to the park as often as I can. Every step takes me back to that wonderful, carefree weekend in my beautiful Bay of Islands.
Hiking at the end of Route 450:
The South Shore Highway meanders through several communities and the drive in and of itself is lovely. Cook’s Brook Day Park is perfect for a picnic and a dip in a natural swimming hole. The majestic Blow Me Down Mountains are inspiring. Copper Mine Falls is another must see.
The aforementioned Blow Me Down Park is located in the Town of Lark Harbour, and it’s there you will find hiking trails that I consider the best kept secret in Newfoundland and Labrador. Every trail offers amazing photo opportunities and panoramic views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Bay of Islands. Detailed information can be found at https://www.obiec.ca/ and Western Newfoundland Bay of Islands Hiking (roadstories.ca) The non-profit, volunteer run Outer Bay of Islands Enhancement Committee (OBIEC) maintains the majority of the trails, developed from pathways worn by former residents and big game animals. I have startled more than one moose while hiking on the trails. There are lookouts and rest areas. Ropes help hikers ascend and descend rugged areas.
Check the marine forecast before heading out. Conditions change quickly and the wind can be unpredictable, bringing in fog where there was clear blue sky just moments before. There is cellular service, but it can be spotty on the trails. If you are unsure about a trail, or the weather, visit our friends at The Roost for advice.
Sunset Rock at Bottle Cove is my go-to place to watch the sun kiss the ocean goodnight. Photographers wait for hours to capture rainbows of colour. Some nights, the light reaches all the way to Corner Brook.
Bottle Cove is popular with local residents, day trippers, and tourists who search for sea glass on the sandy beach, or adventure around the well-trodden lookout. Kayaking is popular, and a sea cave is visible at low tide.
In a bay full of islands – there are fifteen - stories of shipwrecks abound. A freighter went aground in the late 1920s. A schooner, and a yacht, were wrecked near Woods Island.
Fish was the main reason people settled here, however only Woods Island saw its population grow to several hundred residents. Woods Island had schools, churches, sawmills, a post office, and general stores. It was an important outport before residents were relocated in the 1960s.
I grew up hearing stories about Woods Island. My parents were part of a resettlement strategy that some say came under pressure from the provincial government. Moving to the mainland was the only way parents could see their children educated. I wrote about my grandparents’ journey for Saltscapes magazine: https://www.saltscapes.com/roots-folks/661-the-mobile-homes-of-benoits-cove.html
To learn more about this fascinating piece of our history, talk to fishers at Little Port and visit Woods Island House in the Town of Humber Arm South.
Whether you come for a day, a weekend, or longer, there is much to experience in the Bay of Islands. I hope you enjoy every moment as much as I do.
Connie Boland is a freelance writer in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador. Her work is published in magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. When not creating worlds on paper, Connie can be found hiking in her beautiful Bay of Islands.