Beyond Boyd’s Cove in Newfoundland, causeways link an archipelago of islands lying close to the mainland. Along the way, narrow Route 430 passes farmland (where you might catch a glimpse of the rare Newfoundland pony); gentle, island-filled bays; and tiny outports to finish at South and North Twillingate islands. The archipelago’s most northwesterly point, the islands are washed by the Atlantic and shouldered by Notre Dame Bay. The road crosses the southern island and eases into the tiny port at Twillingate Harbour.
Icebergs, which wander offshore and sometimes ditch at land’s end in Notre Dame Bay, are one of Twillingate’s main claims to fame. The spectacular icebergs that float past Newfoundland and Labrador every summer originate from southwestern Greenland’s ice cap, where great chunks of ice calve off the coast and cascade into the bone-chilling Davis Strait. The young bergs eventually drift out to the Labrador Sea, where powerful currents route them south along the watery route known as Iceberg Alley. The parade usually starts in March, peaks in June and July, and in rare cases continues into November.
Although no one actually counts icebergs, an educated guess has 10,000-30,000 of them migrating down from the north annually. Of those, about 1,400-2,000 make it all the way to the Gulf Stream’s warm waters, where they finally melt away after a two- to four-year, 3,200-kilometer journey.
No two bergs are exactly the same. Some appear distinctly white. Others may be turquoise, green, or blue. Sizes vary too: A “growler” is the smallest, about the size of a dory, and weighs about 1,000 tons. A “bergy bit” weighs more, about 10,000 tons. A typical “small” iceberg looms 5-15 meters above water level and weighs about 100,000 tons. A “large” ice mass will be 51-75 meters high and weigh 100-300 million tons. Generally, you’ll see the largest bergs—looking like magnificent castles embellished with towers and turrets—farther north; the ice mountains diminish in size as they float south and eventually melt. No matter what the size, what you see is just a fraction of the whole—some 90 percent of the iceberg’s mass is hidden beneath the water.
Occasionally, a wandering berg may be trapped at land’s edge or wedged within coves and slender bays. Should you be tempted to go in for a closer look, approach with caution. As it melts and its equilibrium readjusts, an iceberg may roll over. And melting bergs also often fracture, throwing ice chips and knife-sharp splinters in all directions.
The best website for information and tracking data is www.icebergfinder.com, which includes up-to-date satellite images of where icebergs are located.
If you’re interested in local lore, stop at Twillingate Museum (1 St. Peter’s Church Rd., 709/884-2825; mid-May-early Oct. daily 9am-9pm; adult $4, child $2). The whitewashed wooden building sits back from the road and is bordered by a white picket fence—altogether as proper as a former Anglican manse should be. The museum’s extensive exhibits include historic fishing gear and tools, antique dolls, and several rare Dorset Inuit artifacts. One room is devoted to the career of Dr. John Olds, Twillingate’s famous expatriate surgeon who came from the United States to pioneer medicine in remote Newfoundland. The intriguing medical artifacts include a collection of early 20th-century pharmaceuticals and glass eyes.
Twillingate Iceberg Viewing
If you’re interested in getting up close, take one of the three daily cruises offered by Twillingate Island Boat Tours, based at the Iceberg Shop (50 Main St., 709/884-2242 or 800/611-2374, adult $55, child $35), on the south side of the harbor (turn right as you enter town). Tours operate May-September, although the best iceberg viewing is late May-mid-June. Departures are daily at 9:30am, 1pm, and 4pm, and tours last two hours. They are operated by Cecil Stockley, who steers the MV Iceberg Alley to wherever icebergs have grounded in the vicinity of Twillingate.
You may also see an offshore iceberg from Back Harbour, a short walk starting from the museum and passing by a cemetery. Otherwise, head for Long Point, the high rocky promontory that juts into the Atlantic Ocean beside Notre Dame Bay. To get there, take Main Street around the harbor (past the museum and Harbour Lights Inn) and follow the road all the way to Long Point for the best land-based iceberg viewing in the area. In addition to a photogenic lighthouse, trails lead down through the boulder-strewn point and across to a couple of pebbly beaches.
Visitors to Twillingate often find themselves captivated by the town’s charm, and because of this, numerous accommodations can be found. Harbour Lights Inn (189 Main St., 709/884-2763, Apr.-late Oct.; $120-155 s or d) is a restored early-19th-century home overlooking the harbor. The inn features nine guest rooms decorated in smart colors and appealing furnishings, each with an en suite bathroom and wireless Internet access; two rooms have whirlpool baths. Rates include a cooked breakfast.
If you prefer more privacy, consider Cabins by the Sea (11 Hugh Ln., 709/884-2158, $89 s or d), comprising seven small self-contained cabins overlooking the ocean. If the timing is right, you may see icebergs.
Excerpted from the Eighth Edition of Moon Atlantic Canada.