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Lawrence Hill's insider guide to western Newfoundland

A glacier-carved fjord with walls 2,000 feet high in Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne National Park.

Hans G. Pfaff / Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism/Hans G. Pfaff / Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism


The ingenuity and playfulness of Newfoundlanders seems perfectly reflected in a hilarious local percussion instrument known as "the ugly stick" - a knobby length of wood shoved into a rubber boot. To find it, head to Galliott's Studio in Woody Point and ask artist Jennifer Galliott to show you (709-453-2142). Along the sides of the stick, on tiny horizontal branches, are dozens of beer bottle caps. You stomp the ugly stick on the floor to keep time for an accordionist and fiddler, and simultaneously use another stick to whack it. The overall effect seems like a glorious, cross-cultural hybrid of the tambourine and African gum boot. On the top end of the stick, one might find a tattered glove or item of cast-off clothing. They don't call it ugly for nothing. But you've gotta love it.


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Join the celebration at the Woody Point literary and music festival running Aug. 17 to 21.

Take in the Gros Morne Theatre Festival. Professional theatre at Cow Head provided by Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador.

Listen to established and upcoming musicians performing as part of the Gros Morne Summer Music concert series. Twice weekly in the heart of the summer, in various locations in the park.

Drop by the Rug Hooking Guild of Newfoundland and Labrador Rug School at Killdevil Camp, near Lomond.


As you enter the 1,800-square-kilometre Gros Morne National Park, a highway sign tells you how many vehicle-moose collisions have taken place so far this year in the park. There were 47 such accidents last year, and in early July, there had already been 15. The sign features a demonic looking moose looking over a crumpled car. It's hardly fair - after these hideous collisions, the moose don't exactly wander back into the woods reciting Joseph Boyden. "People love stealing those signs," park guide Fred Sheppard says. "I don't know how many thousands of dollars we've spent replacing those signs."


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Meet with a Parks Canada interpreter and visit the Western Brook salmon fence, where you'll feel enormous salmon brush up against your legs.

Visit the Bonne Bay Marine Station in Norris Point. It is a marine museum and a centre of study for marine biology students from Memorial University of Newfoundland. It also runs educational kayak tours.

To rent kayaks or take kayak tours in Bonne Bay, try Gros Morne Adventures in Norris Point.

For a guided boat tour of Trout River and the Tablelands, take a tour in a Zodiac with Ocean Quest Tours.

See billion-year-old cliffs and dramatic, 2,000-foot waterfalls on a boat tour of Western Brook Pond.


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At the Broom Point Fishing Exhibit, Louise Decker, who was born in 1954 as one of 12 siblings, describes what it was like to marry (at the age of 16) the man whom her father had prohibited her from meeting, and to become the first woman in the Lobster Cove area to fish lobster, cod and salmon.

Visit the Port au Choix National Historic Site to learn about the Maritime Archaic and three other ancient aboriginal groups that occupied western Newfoundland up to 5,000 years ago. Nearby, see the archeological dig at Phillip's Garden, the 2,000-year-old site of a community of seal-hunting peoples known as the Dorset Paleoeskimos.

Do you still think that Columbus was the first European to find North America? Visit L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site to learn the amazing story of the Vikings who settled in the northwestern tip of Newfoundland around the year 1000.


Check out the quilts at the Pic-a-Tenerife craft shop in Glenburnie (11 Tableland Dr., Birchy Head).

Look for the CDs by craft shop owner and accordionist Charlie Payne at the Hunky Dory craft shop in Winter House Brook on scenic Highway 431 (

Local artist Jennifer Galliott makes a mean latte and gives art classes to children in her studio and wired café in Woody Point. On a sunny day, sit in the back patio and watch for whales in Bonne Bay (10 Water St., 709-453-2142).

For information about Gros Morne National Park, visit the Discovery Centre in Woody Point or the Visitors' Centre near Rocky Harbour (


If you dine on Sundays or Wednesdays, harpist Gail Tapper will play while you eat at Seaside Restaurant in Trout River (

The Lighthouse Seafood Restaurant in Woody Point has the best fish and chips in Western Newfoundland. The pan-fried fish is great too. While you eat, keep an eye out the window - you may see a whale. Wi-Fi is available (

Try the lobster club sandwich and the lemon meringue pie at the Chocolate Moose bakery and café in Birchy Head, which is hidden behind Roy Young's general store.

Stop at Java Jack's café, art shop and restaurant in Rocky Harbour for great coffee. Hungry? Try the pan-fried scallops with mango curry, steelhead-trout sandwich, and wild moose sliders (three small moose burgers on focaccia). Sit upstairs for a view of Rocky Harbour and the Gulf of St. Lawrence (

Make a reservation for fabulous food at the Norseman Restaurant and Art Gallery in L'Anse aux Meadows (; 877-623-2018).


Seaside Suites in Woody Point is run by Ken and Darlene Thomas, the friendly owners of the Lighthouse Seafood Café (

Tuckamore Lodge, a gorgeous haven for hunters and fishers, is in northwestern Newfoundland, near the village of Main Brook and not far from the St. Anthony airport (

Camp in Gros Morne National Park (

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