Minke, moose and eerie mists -Stephanie Krahn keeps busy in Canada’s east coast colony

Where can you find whales, icebergs, mountains and lakes, and true wilderness? The answer: the island of Newfoundland, on the east coast of Canada.

And the best thing is… it’s only five hours away.

This former British colony has so much to offer yet remains undiscovered by almost anyone outside of Canada, which is why the Humber Valley Resort and Vision the Atlantic Canada hosted a trip for 11 agents and operators to showcase the diverse nature and range of activities the island can offer.

After arriving at the Humber Valley Resort Resort in the Appalachian Mountain range we checked in to four and five-bedroom chalets, set in secluded forest plots with breathtaking views of the lake, mountain or golf course, ready to start the Battle of the Travel Stars against Team North America over the next few days.

Team Europe defeated a much larger Team North America in kayaking, an assault course challenge, a scavenger hunt and a taste test, and in the final fire-building contest. Next stop was northwards to discover the UNESCO World Heritage site of Gros Morne National Park where a visit to the glacier-carved Western Brook Pond fjord is a must.

Following a long drive to the northernmost tip of the peninsula we arrived at the archaeological UNESCO World Heritage Site of L’Anse Aux Meadows. It is the first authenticated Viking settlement in North America and can best be described as a living museum.

A wet, but exciting boat ride to Quirpon Island followed, where the group caught sight of their first icebergs, which were amazing. Unfortunately the migrating minke, humpback and orca whales decided to remain elusive that day denying the group a glimpse of these wonderful creatures.

The Quirpon Lighthouse Inn, despite being a little eerie with the mist and foghorn blaring all night, provided a place to rest our heads after a very long day.

With no improvement in the weather, the groups had to trek more than three miles to the ‘safe’ port to catch the boat back over to the mainland. Six hours later and it was back at Deer Lake, waiting for the flight back to Gatwick.

Vision the Atlantic Canada founder Maria Matthews said: “I hope the agents and operators go away asking themselves why they didn’t know about Newfoundland before. There are not too many places in the world where you can experience pristine wilderness and authentic culture.

“It’s not for everyone and nor do we want it to be. We want people to come and really understand what it’s about and hope they find things here they didn’t necessarily know they were searching for.”

The province is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts with endless hiking trails and activities, wildlife, and culture and Matthews said it would appeal to any age group.

She said: “It’s definitely attracting a younger crowd, but it’s always going to be the 45-plus market, the empty nesters and people that appreciate scenery, culture, wildlife and history and want to see everything within one province. There aren’t too many places in the world where you can get all this in one place.”

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador international travel, trade and media relations Kathleen Crotty said Newfoundland is right next door, so there is no excuse not to visit. She said: “It’s five hours’ flight time…you’ve got time for a movie and a meal and then you’re on the ground. We’re not nearly as far north as people assume we are – St John’s is on exactly the same latitude as Paris, and we’re further south than London.”

The hospitality of ‘Newfies’ is also a big selling point. Crotty said: “The people of this province make you feel at home and it is very warming. Initially visitors don’t come because of the people, but they will come back because of the people.”

NB The Humber Valley Resort will no longer fund the direct flight with Monarch after the winter season. An airline committee has been set up to finalise a carrier for next summer.

Agent vox pops:

Phil Richins“The Humber Valley is absolutely stunning and beautiful and it’s really set up for golfers of all levels. This is very much up there in the top three or four courses I’ve ever played. You’ve really got to come and experience it to see how good it is.”

Phil Richins, business development director, Prestige Collection. London

Jo Brett“For people who want activity holidays it would be an easy sell especially because of the direct flight from Gatwick. There is the spa for the ladies, golf for men and women, activities and relaxation. There are plenty of activities on the resort, you can do something different every day depending on the weather.”

Joan Brett, partner, Westoe Travel, Tyne and Wear

Roz Brand“The resort was fantastic, the chalets and accommodation have everything you need to stay with a group of friends, families and even singles could stay in the two bedroom apartments. The staff bend over backwards to make you feel comfortable and at home.”

Roz Brand, tours consultant, Travel 2, Glasgow


Day one – four: Humber Valley Resort, Deer Lake. Battle of the Travel Stars

Day five: Travel to Gros Morne. Kayaking or hiking in Gros Morne.

Day six: Sightseeing tour of Gros Morne, Tour of L’Anse Aux Meadows and Norstead

Day seven: Travel to Quirpon Island

Day eight: Travel to Deer Lake airport for flight home

Top five things to see and do in Newfoundland:

1. The capital St John’s – it’s so diverse and has a strong Irish culture and it’s also the oldest city in North America. Signal Hill is a must for spectacular views of the harbour, Narrows.

2. Bay Bulls – visit the fantastic Witless Bay Ecological reserve, which has the largest colony of Atlantic puffins in eastern Canada. Take a boat or catamaran tours and in season you get to see icebergs and whales. Visit archaeological dig site Ferryland.

3. The historical community of Trinity Bay – visit the blacksmiths’ museum and the old school house, see the Rising tide theatre, go whale watching and visit Bonavista on the Bonavista peninsula.

4. The Humber Valley region on the west coast. It’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream – you can do everything from caving to canoeing to kayaking, hiking and moose calling. There’s so much for every member of the family to do whether you’re young or old.

5. Gros Morne National Park – no one can come to Newfoundland without visiting Gros Morne. You need at least two nights there to pack it in. Western Brook Pond fjord cruise is a must as well as a visit to the Tablelands.