Monday, 29 July 2013

Checking out the Harmon Seaside Links and Humber River Golf Club

by Keith and Heather Nicol
     When our son Michael comes back to visit from Vancouver we usually like to get out for some golf. One of our favourite courses is the Harmon Seaside Links in Stephenville and so with a sunny weather forecast for Monday, July 22 we booked a tee time for noon. This is an 18 hole –par 72 golf course right across the road from Bay St. George. The course is very flat so is great for walkers and we had a very enjoyable day exploring this course which we don’t get a chance to play very often. There is quite abit of water but it really only comes into play on a few of the holes and although everything appears to be wide open you need to be accurate with your tee shots to avoid the rough along the sides and fairway sand traps.  Since the course is exposed to Bay St. George, wind can often make the course more challenging and that was certainly the case on this day. The front nine however is more protected from the wind due to the trees along the fairway. The course provides good views of the Indian Head Range and the community of Stephenville can be seen in the background.  Joan Tobin, the pro shop manager, told us that they were having a great summer and that quite a few visitors had dropped by to play. For more information see:
Michael teeing off on the 9th hole in Stephenville
Another favourite course is the Humber River Golf Club in Deer Lake which is located right by the airport just off the Trans Canada Highway. We recently played this on Monday, July 29 and were joined by Ed Hynes, who plays here regularly. The fairways were in good shape and the greens were forgiving and just the right speed. The Humber River Golf Club is a perfect course for walkers since it is level and not too long and Ed told us that he usually finds the course less busy in the afternoon.  This course is also good for the average golfer since many of its par 4’s are relatively short and there are few water hazards or sand traps to catch miss hit shots. But you still need to hit your ball straight since the fairways in some cases are quite narrow and balls hit into the woods are likely to stay there. The 9 hole par 36 layout partially borders on the Humber River and some of the tee off areas have nice flower gardens that Ed told us were maintained by the members.  The Humber River Golf Club welcomes visitors for a round of golf and for more information or to book a tee time phone: 709-635-5955.  
Keith putting for par on the ninth hole at the Humber River Golf Club

Thursday, 25 July 2013

“The Belle of Bonavista Bay” makes for entertaining theatre in Cow Head

by Keith and Heather Nicol
     We saw the play The Belle of Bonavista Bay with my brother and his wife who traveled all the way from Victoria, B.C. to do some exploring in Newfoundland. Since we like the Gros Morne Theatre Festival (GMTF) so much we decided to take them to this play along with Newfoundland Vinyl –The Flip Side which was playing the same night which makes a great double bill. The GMTF explores plays with a Newfoundland connection and The Belle of Bonavista is a fine example. It deals with a Newfoundland girl (played by Stephanie Payne) who goes to England to explore her roots. We loved the set –the full scale maps of Newfoundland and the Atlantic Ocean and England serve to remind you of the strong historical connection between these 2 places. We appreciated watching all of the actors and Stephanie Payne has created a very engaging, feisty character in Daniela The play seamlessly bridges the centuries with interesting human stories and relationships.  We also liked the use of slides to depict Daniela’s ancestor sailing to Newfoundland in the 1830’s. Colin Furlong, Craig Haley, Miranda Power and Stephanie Payne are good singers and there are several songs that really added to our enjoyment of the play. The Belle of Bonavista Bay was written by Philip Goulding and directed by Jeff Pitcher. For more information on TNL’s Gros Morne Theatre Festival schedule or to book tickets to a show see- or call 1-877-243-2899. 

Gros Morne National Park has lots to entice the visitor so for people seeing a play by night in Cow Head they will have no shortage of options of what to do during the day. Previous blogs have detailed hiking trails, local sites of historical interest, boat tours and many other activities that people can avail of. But for those visitors interested in geology, Gros Morne National Park is standout. In fact it has UNESCO World Heritage status for what it tells us about plate tectonics. But equally impressive is Green Point which is just south of Cow Head. It has a world class collection of rocks that show the geological boundary between the Cambrian and Ordovician eras. And a new book which will help you learn about the significance of Green Point and 47 other sites around the province is worth picking up. It is called The Geology of Newfoundland by Martha Hild and it has recently been published by Boulder Publications of Portugal Cove, Newfoundland. We have used it for several Western Newfoundland sites that are listed and look forward to taking it with us when we travel to other places in the province. 

The Geology of Newfoundland is a good addition to travel literature for NL
 If you happen to be staying in Rocky Harbour or Norris Point or at Berry Hill or Green Point campgrounds and would like to access public transport to get yourself to a Gros Morne Theatre Festival production at Cow Head, contact the Festival Box Office 1-877-243-2899 no later than 2 pm on performance day to arrange transportation via the Shuttle Bus.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Beaches and History on the Northern Peninsula

by Keith and Heather Nicol     

On Monday July 15 we were again blessed with good weather as we awoke to another day of sunshine in St. Anthony. Our plan was to drive south along Viking Trail (highway 430) to Portland Creek where we were planning to stay at the comfortable Entente Cordiale Inn. On our way north we had seen signs for the Thrombolite Trail in Flowers Cove and so we stopped there first. This short 1.4 km (1 way) trail is well marked and perfectly level so is ideal for all ages. The site will appeal to those with a geological bent since thrombolites are very old life forms that lived in a shallow ocean hundreds of millions of years ago. Thrombolites are very rare and are also found in Shark Bay, Western Australia. 
The Thrombolites are very early life forms
From Flowers Cove we headed south to the community of Port au Choix where we visited the Parks Canada historic site which interprets some of the early native peoples who settled this shore. This must have been a rich site for hunter-gatherer societies since there is a whole sequence of various groups that lived here starting 5500 years ago. The earliest peoples were Maritime Archaic Indians and they were followed by the Groswater and Dorset paleoeskimos. Next were more recent Indians followed by the French and now the English settlement of Port au Choix. We also dropped into Ben Ploughman’s folk art studio where he has created interesting “one of kind”  Newfoundland scenes out of the slats from old lobster pots! Lastly we walked around the impressive Point Riche lighthouse before heading south to Portland Creek. 
The Port au Choix National Historic Site is a fascinating insight into the native people's that lived here

Entente Cordiale is located right on the ocean
Entente Cordiale ( must have one of the nicest settings of any bed and
breakfast in the province with a water front setting overlooking a broad sandy beach. Owner Paul Wylezol is busy adding a large new section to the bed and breakfast which will enlarge the dining and common area. In the evening we watched the sun slide into the Gulf of St. Lawrence to end another fine day on the Northern Peninsula.

Heather throwing a stick on the fine sand beach at the Entente Cordiale Inn

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Whales galore in St.Anthony

by Keith and Heather Nicol     
      The next day Sunday, July 14 we headed for St. Anthony were we had booked with the Northland Discovery Boat Tour ( .  Since we had a 1:00 pm sailing, we decided to see the Grenfell Interpretation Centre ( which is close to the boat tour wharf.  The Grenfell Interpretation Centre tells the amazing story of Dr. Grenfell and his selfless devotion to the health care and general wellbeing of the people of southern Labrador and the Northern Peninsula. We recommend seeing this well done display.
Be sure to see the Grenfell Interpretation Centre
The White Beaked dolphins were fast in the water
The sunny weather and exceptionally warm temperatures (28 C) meant that it was hard to figure out what to
wear for the boat tour. Although we were tempted to wear shorts, we knew that it would be cooler on board the boat. Northland Discovery's Gaffer III was full to capacity for the 1:00 pm sailing and we soon were out of the harbour keeping our eyes out for whales. Paul Alcock, the owner of the Gaffer III had told us earlier that the icebergs that had been around had drifted abit too far out of range, but that the whales were there in abundance. “We have had a 100% success rate with whales over the past 2 weeks” he told us over the loud speaker. It wasn’t too long before we heard “Thar she blows” and the first humpbacks had been spotted. It was a mother and her calf and they were busy feeding as we approached. Then all of a sudden we were surrounded by white beaked dolphins who must have come over to check us out. They were all around the boat and are very hard to take photos of since they are so fast. Then just as quickly as they arrived they were gone and we were back to searching for whales. We spotted another humpback and it was seemed to be mainly content to loaf along the surface feeding on caplin. And then just when it was time to return, the humpback decided to dive and everyone gave up a cheer as the whale’s back arched and its large tail showed momentarily before it disappeared beneath the waves.
We saw several humpbacks from the tour boat
   Back on shore we headed to the Grenfell house and after a tour of Grenfell’s home, we did the short hike to Tea House Hill where there are several lookout platforms giving great views of St. Anthony. At the top of the trail there is also a burial site for Dr. Grenfell, his wife and several other hospital staff. Then it was out to Fishing Point where we saw more whales, this time from shore. They put on quite a show lifting their large pectoral fins and splashing them into the water. It was then time to head to Triple Rose Cottage and Bed/Breakfast ( where we had planned  to spend the night. We had never stayed at this spot but fully recommend it since the 2 bedroom cottage was very large, clean and very nicely appointed. And it is conveniently located at the junction of highway 430 and 431.  
The Triple Rose has a great deck for relaxing on