Discovering the Stuff of Dreams
Atlantic Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador


Story by: Bill Nestor

Newfoundland/Labrador is populated by 500,000 people and 100,000 moose

Arriving in Port aux Basque, Newfoundland on Marine Atlantic’s Vision Ferry--a five to six hour sail from Nova Scotia—it’s not hard to summon up the wonder the Vikings must have felt when they first settled in this vast region in 986.

The vastness remains--Newfoundland and Labrador are populated by 500,000 people and 100,000 moose--as does the sense of discovery regarding icebergs, moose, lighthouses, caribou, whales, pelagic birds, northern boreal forests, distinct geologic formations, an immense open land, warm welcoming people and, for my purposes, new rivers to fish, a choice of 22 golf courses to play and unending places to explore.

Going West
I began in the western region of Newfoundland, roaming the Bay of Islands, historic Glynmill Inn at Corner Brook, checking out the many good salmon fishing spots and Gros Morne National Park of Canada (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Blomidon, Humber Valley and Gros Morne Resort--places to swing the sticks.

One of the many icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland

Torngat Mountains

 Unspoiled scenic beauty abounds in this part of Canada

Blomidon Golf & Country Club in Corner Brook, with its view of the city, mountains and Bay of Islands is a recent redesign by prominent Canadian golf architect Graham Cooke. One of Newfoundland’s oldest courses, Blomidon is semi-private, stretching 5729 yards to a Par 70. (www.Blomidongolf.com)

Humber Valley Golf Course is a Doug Carrick's signature design, favoring expansive fairways and a striking panorama of Humber Valley. Many holes combine elevation drops to rolling valley fairways that spread out broadly from the tee.  The fairway width and cascading terrain of holes overlooking Deer Lake and the Humber River accentuate both their length and loftiness. Well-protected, bunkered greens and undulating putting surfaces add significantly to the challenge. Humber stretches to 7,199 yards from the tips on the tee to green bent grass layout. It was Score Golf's Best New Canadian Course in 2007.(humbervalley.com/golf/)

Tablelands is part of the uniqueness of Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland

Gros Morne National Park is an ideal spot to hike uninhabited mountains, camp by the sea or boat under cliffs of a glacier-carved freshwater fjord. There are waterfalls, marine inlets, sea stacks, sandy beaches, and colorful fishing villages in this gateway to the northern peninsula.  The Park preserves a unique geologic formation and contains the Appalachian chain’s northernmost section of Long Range Mountains. (www.NewfoundlandLabrador.com) Some special dining can be had in the area at Java Jack’s, Sugar Hill Inn, and Neddies Harbor Inn. 

Newfoundland's Bonne Bay in the Gros Morne National Park

Just north in St. Paul’s is the Gros Morne Resort, a lodging, dining, conference facility with the pubic Gros Morne Golf Course, a links style routing by Robert Heaslip cut from a spruce fir bog set against a backdrop of the Long Range Mountains.  The finished holes are exceptionally well manicured and conditioned.  Its placement, layout, stone bridges, moose, caribou and vistas present an idyllic indigenous setting.  

The sphagnum peat bogs were dug out from five to 30 feet deep to rock bed.  The subsoil, a moss and dirt mix, was screened to produce topsoil, laid with bent grass tees and greens, with fescue, rye and Kentucky blends on fairways and other areas.  Holes are lined by impenetrable northern boreal forest.
 
It’s an enchanting impression-- tundra like terrain with rich smells of pungent confers and the sea. “When all 18 are ready for play in 2010 the par 72 course will measure 7,100 yards from the tips.  Multiple tees and the setting make it an enjoyable play and a challenge for golfers of all skill levels,” said Resort GM Chris Legge. ( kilometers north is Cowhead, at first glance a sleepy little seaside town.  But The Warehouse Theater showcases a world-class lineup of performances attracting both a star-studded list of professional artists and full house audiences from May- September. (www.grosmorneresort.com)

Labrador Golf

The Gros Morne Resort golf course.

Labrador’s two golf courses are 300 miles apart. The nine-hole Amaruk Golf Club, in downtown Goose Bay, opened for play in 1969.  It’s the only game in town but ideally located and well maintained, with bent grass greens and winter rye fairways.  There are 20 bunkers and no water hazards.
 
Labrador City’s 6,110-yard Tamarack Golf Club is the only 18-hole golf course north of the island of Newfoundland and the northernmost golf course in eastern Canada.  Tamarack’s natural valley setting in a Black Spruce forest along with its tournaments and clubhouse activities have attracted locals and visitors to meet, play and relax since opening in 1970.

Life at the Center
East of Gros Morne, Newfoundland’s central region juts into the Atlantic Ocean.  A lovely area around historic Twillingate finds B&Bs and coastal charm meeting head on with floating islands of ice.  Golfing opportunities include Gander, Grand Falls and Terra Nova.

Gander Golf Club occupies a scenic site of gently rolling land overlooking 35-mile long Gander Lake.  Local gofers created the original holes by hand in 1975.  The natural topography of gentle hills was retained and the manually sculpted fairways, greens and tees were etched from a woodland forest.  Douglas Carrick’s design led to the present day par-71 course in 2001. 

Today it operates as envisioned, a community golf club that hosts local events and greets visitors as though they were neighbors.  Although it only stretches to 6,137 yards, the 131-slope rating offers fair warning.  

“Gander's distant, peaceful vistas, combination of holes playing both up and downhill with large bunkers and greens provide a very playable but challenging routing.  More than 25,000 rounds are played annually at our family friendly club,” said member Bert Peddle. (www.gandergolfclub.ca)

The legendary Exploit River borders links style Grand Falls Golf Club

The legendary Exploit River borders links style Grand Falls Golf Club. The panorama and moving water along many holes with wide fairways and small undulating greens make focus and approach shot accuracy a must.

The flat open expanses and short length provide a good walking course on this par-71, 5,875-yard course. The approach shot at #18 over Rushy Brook is touted as the best finishing hole in Newfoundland. (Terra Nova National Park is Terra Nova Resort, which includes the nine-hole Eagle Creek Course, named after the bald variety of the bird, frequently seen at this par-35, 2,593-yard picturesque routing.  The 2001 design by native Robert Walsh is a favorite of players wanting a challenge or shorter round.
 
The par-71 Twin Rivers tips to 6,545 yards, approachable by all yet still a challenge for better players, as it winds its way with scenic ocean views, secluded spruce-lined fairways and open links and river holes. (www.grandfallsgolf.ca)  

Robbie Robinson's nine opened in 1984.  Architect Doug Carrick's nine, added in 1991, showcases his characteristic accommodating fairways.  But the forgiving landing areas are more than balanced by strategically placed, protected, and bunkered greens.
 
Manager Scott Hatchard, a veteran golf operations professional, said, “The contrast of manicured fairways and greens set amid the rugged beauty of the forest, rivers, and ocean, complete with moose, bald eagles and salmon fishing, make a round of golf and stay at Terra Nova Golf Resort a unique experience.”

St John’s and Surrounds

Newfoundland’s commercial center is St John’s. Almost half of the province’s population lives here and more than half of its golf courses are on hand, along with an abundance of museums, shops and dining opportunities, all among equally rich natural land and water habitats. 

The Delta St John's Hotel

The downtown location of the spacious and comfortable Delta St John’s Hotel makes for short walks to restaurants and shops and easy-access for travel to golf courses and other destinations. (www.deltahotels.com)

Bally Haly Golf & Curling Club dates back to 1896 when Scotsman Ned Shannon laid out the original track on a hilltop overlooking St. John’s.  The club takes its name from the Gaelic word for farm--Haly--and surname of a local Anglo-Irish family who worked Bally Haly.  The present day course occupies a different site. It opened in 1908, allows limited public play, but maintains its position as a venerable private member club.
 
New irrigation and recent design changes by Graham Cooke help maintain quality conditions and play.  Undulating fairways, few flat lies, and blowing wind present obstacles that make the 5,834-yard, par-70 course more demanding than the yardage suggests. (www.ballyhaly.com)

Clovelly Golf Club, opened in 1997, is near downtown St. John’s.  The par-62 executive 18-hole Black Duck is 3,716 yards long with seven par-4s and 11 par-3s. The Osprey 18 plays to 6,547 yards from the tips. Both courses feature shaped fairways, bent grass throughout and natural wetlands.  Clovelly is a full service club with practice areas, restaurant, one public lounge and one private. (www.clovellygolf.com)

Pippy Park Admirial's golf course

Pippy Park Public Golf is set within one of Canada's grand urban parks.  Its courses include the 6,270-yard par-70 Admiral’s Green and nine-hole Captain’s Hill course.  Both offer views of St. John’s and a good chance to spot icebergs drifting down from Greenland. 

Captain’s Hill, the original nine-hole track, was built in response to public golf demand in the mid-seventies.  Increased play led to the more demanding Graham Cooke Admiral’s Green in 1985 with bent grass greens and Bermuda fairways.  Water hazards and ponds on almost every hole make playing the 27 holes a bit more than a walk in the park.  It has hosted several national tournaments. 

The new modern clubhouse atop Pippy Park houses the bar, pro-shop, and changing rooms and provides a panorama of golf, city and sea.  (www.pippypark.com)

Within St. John’s is Glendenning Golf Course.  The newest addition to Newfoundland’s golf portfolio opened in 2000.  Stands of conifers separate each hole of the Robert Heaslip design.  The course incorporates large tee decks, contoured fairways, undulating greens and strategically placed bunkers on a rolling landscape.  Three tee positions enable players of all levels to take on the 6,214-yard par-71 layout.  Club selection and strategic shot making are keys to scoring well.

Extensive renovations to the course and clubhouse were done in 2005. The semi-private club offers seasonal memberships.  (www.glendenninggolf.ca)

Scenic beauty abounds in Newfoundland

The Wilds at Salmonier River, carved from a rugged chunk of wilderness, is a real test, especially from the 6,772-yard, 135 slope tips.  The five sets of tees offer distance options but the character of greens and undulating fairways, interspersed with natural wetlands presents a challenging round for all. 

Offsetting the trial is the captivating location amid a splendorous topography with continual visual delight. The serene surroundings are enhanced by a variety of oft-seen wildlife inhabiting the property--moose, deer and fox wandering the fairways or eagles and hawks soaring overhead. 

The resort includes a 40-room full-service hotel, 18 self-contained cabins, lounge and restaurant serving local cuisine. The nearby Salmonier River is renowned for its Atlantic salmon fishing.  (www.thewilds.ca)

Exploring Authentic Newfoundland in St. John’s Area

St. John’s is the oldest city in Canada and the provincial capital, as well as a fertile hub of culture, history, arts and entertainment.

There are a few authentic and unique experiences suggested as must do in the city and surrounding area.  Driving the Irish Loop around the Avalon Peninsula gets you to Lighthouse Picnics.  In many ways it captures the essence of the people, land, lifestyle and province of Newfoundland.

“What you see is what you get”, said proprietor Jill Curran, whose grandmother was born at the lighthouse in 1911.  Her grandfather was the lighthouse keeper even after it became automated in 1970.

Lighthouse Picnics occupies a magnificent setting.  The stroll out to the Ferryland lighthouse, a prime viewing point for whales, seabirds and icebergs, wanders a dirt road through a lush forest of fragrant spruce, augmented by refreshing salt air breezes.    

Lighthouse Picnics is a unique and fun place to visit.  The food is very good (a delicious homemade deli menu), but the ambiance is even better.  “All you need is an appetite.  We supply everything else--blanket, basket, food, books, and drink,” Jill said.  Lunch is brought to your colored flag placed at the spot of your choice.  After eating there are trails to explore the expansive treeless peninsula jutting into and surrounded by the ocean.  Then if you’d like, take a nap, as many do.  (www.lighthousepicnics.ca)

"We came from the mainland in 1996 and carved out a niche.  It has been a labor of love,” said John Fisher of the Fishers’ Loft Inn in Port Rexton. Peggy Fisher is the daughter of a renowned Norse academic, with whom she spent much time in remote windswept places.  Centered, thoughtful and deliberate in conversation, she’s spontaneous in her passion and pride of the Inn she now calls home and oversees in orderly fashion.  Her artsy influence on style, a tidy simple understated elegance, is evident throughout.

Wood furnishings in all the buildings are made within 17 miles of the Inn.  The dwellings created by John, Peggy and sons sit neatly on the land and offer lodging for guests in the Ridge and Hilltop houses or Mansard and Garden rooms.  The hillside setting overlooks the water and on the days I was there a floating iceberg was not far offshore.

Blomidon Golf Club with scenic views on almost every hole.

The dining room and lounge are where guests gather to eat, drink, talk and also where local artist’s display.   “After we first arrived and the initial construction, there was no money left for art, but a well-known artist neighbor agreed to hang his work.  Since then artists displaying pieces that sell receive 100% of the proceeds,” said John. “You really have to want to get here.  But once you’re here you’ll never want to leave.” (www.fishersloft.com)

Joining the Gatherall family for a Gatherall’s Puffin & Whale Watch excursion on their catamaran was a treat.  Not only is there an abundance of marine wildlife to observe (orcas, dolphins and feeding humpbacks), but also thousands of pelagic birds nesting on protected islands (puffin, murre, auk, petrel, razorbill, kittiwake, fulmar, gannet, gulls). The crew is pretty charismatic, too, with entertaining and informative narratives and songs.

An Atlantic Puffin

“Our ancestors arrived from Ireland 350 years ago and we were fishermen until the mid-eighties when the price and catch collapsed,” said one of the Gatherall brothers.  “Now we run boat tours, a gift shop and restaurant at Bay Bulls that will delight your senses and stir your spirit.” (www.gatheralls.com)

Newfoundland Food & Drink
Dining and drinking establishments in and around St. John's are as varied and distinctive as the restaurants’ atmospheres, locations and menu options--whether your preference is fish and chips, sushi, hamburger, nouvelle cuisine, picnic lunch, Asian fusion, ethnic food or a seven-course pairings fine dining dinner it can be had in or near St. John’s. 

You can literally get whatever your palate desires at Atlantica (www.atthebeachhouse.ca/Atlantica), Bacalao (www.bacalaocuisine), Basho (www.bashorestaurant.com), By the Beach, Bianca’s (www.biancas.net), Blue On Water (www.blueonwater.com), The Cellar (www.thecellarrestaurant.ca), Gypsy Tea Room, Lighthouse Picnics, Yellow Belly’s Brewery & Public House (www.yellowbellybrewery.com) or Portobello’s.

And what would traveling to a land of discovery be without trying to discover some favorite local dishes?  Say, pan-fried Cod tongue made by dipping the tongue in egg and covering with Bisquick or flour, seasoning with salt and pepper and frying until white all the way through, the tongues can be eaten hot or cold. Half of the tongue is a fish-flavored jelly texture and the other a soft meaty consistency, my preference.

Once past the tongue, so to speak, there are scrunchions, fish and brews, and varied fish chowders to explore.  But we’ll leave that for your discovery in Newfoundland’s land of adventure and dreams.


For more information:

Golf Newfoundland: (www.golfnewfoundland.ca)

Marine Atlantic’s Vision Ferry: (www.marine-atlantic.ca)

Newfoundland Tourism: (www.newfoundlandlabrador.com)

Regional Tourism: (www.westernnl.com) and (www.destinationstjohns.com)


Bill Nestor writes about travel, golf and lifestyle from his home in Vermont. nestor@sover.net