To celebrate my engagement, I planned a trip around the romantically named towns of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland. I booked quaint B&B’s with honeymoon suites, arranged romantic picnics and other cute excursions. Then, a month before the trip, my relationship ended. Everything was booked though, so I decided to travel to Newfoundland anyway, with my four year old daughter, Perdida. The trip would still be about love, just love of a different kind.

The weather threatened to sabotage our trip from early on: The fog was so thick going into St John’s that the pilot needed to make two attempts at landing the plane. Apparently this is completely normal. We arrived to drizzle and gloomy skies, but here we were in Newfoundland, a place I’d always wanted to visit due to having so many fabulous Newfies in my life, and seeing those stunning TV ads the province had put out. 

Puffins and Picnics

Our first stop was O’Brien’s Boat Tours in Bay Bulls for a trip out to see the puffins, and hopefully a humpback whale or two. The sun was out, and although it was a little breezy, we were told this was great weather for early June. We boarded the boat with a school group of sassy preteens, and as we pulled out into the choppy harbor there were some green faces amongst them.

Two massive humpbacks breeched the waves almost immediately, causing a collective gasp: They were huge! Then we headed out to an island where 2.5 million Atlantic Puffin nest, and by Jove they were everywhere!

It was a great boat trip, but on the way back we had to ignore the very loud puking (and discussion of it) by a good dozen of the school kids. 

After, we headed to Ferryland, a site of early English settlement in Newfoundland and home to the glorious Lighthouse Picnics, which is well worth the 20 minute trudge with a whining child from the parking lot. You choose from a menu of gourmet sandwiches, salads and desserts, which are then served to you out on the headland, where you wait on picnic blankets. Everything is made from scratch right there in the lighthouse, and is absolutely delicious. If you’re lucky, you might see a humpback cruising by, but even if you don’t, it is such a pretty spot to sit and eat. There were lots of couples, of course, but I satisfied myself by snuggling on the blanket with my baby.

Next stop was to be Cupids, Canada’s oldest English Colony, where we were booked into the honeymoon suite of Cupid’s Haven, a beautiful B&B housed in a converted church which has a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in the backyard (plays are put on throughout the summer). There was a Jacuzzi bath in the corner of the room, and I watched Perdida squeal with delight in the bubbles as I read on the big comfy bed – she’d wanted a go in the bath as soon as we checked in.

It feels clichéd to talk about how friendly everyone is in Newfoundland, but it is just an honest truth that everyone you meet treats you as though you were a long lost friend. We received a call at the B&B, from Linda Kaye, curator of the town’s museum, the Cupid’s Legacy Centre, to say that her and husband Lloyd would like to pick us up and take us to dinner that night. They showed up in her hubby’s pride and joy, a fire-red 1967 Mustang. We cruised down through Cupids to Skipper Ben’s, the other B&B in town, which has a fine dining restaurant.

My steak with cloudberry sauce was wonderful, as was the company. Linda is responsible for Cupid’s even having a museum, and it was interesting to hear how Cupids was recognized as the oldest English Colony in Canada. Ferryland also makes claim to the title but Cupids won the all the grants that finally validated them as such due to archeological evidence. I got to visit the Legacy Centre the next day, and it was the best little museum I’ve ever been to. Perdida and I were both given our own interpreters, and she was led off to explore the kid friendly version of 400 years of history, while my interpreter helped me. It was fascinating, and very interactive.

Onwards in the rain

Cupids is gorgeous, and I wished we stayed another night, but we were headed further along the peninsula to Brigus, a pretty historic town where every little whitewashed house looks like it belongs in a Christmas card, and you can get (a massive portion of) the best blueberry crisp in Newfoundland at the Country Corner Café. If the rain had given us a minutes respite, we’d have enjoyed the town more, but it was coming down in sheets, so we drove on to our next stop, Harbour Grace, the town where Amelia Earhart landed after her historic transatlantic flight.  

The Rose Manor Inn was as romantic and perfect a Victorian B&B as you can get, with antiques everywhere. We drove around Harbour Grace, because it was too wet to get out of the car, and gave up, choosing to recharge by watching a movie in bed and reading stories. We had a lovely meal in the Inn, then slept soundly, waking to be fed again before heading out again.

Driving around the Avalon Peninsula would have been a lot more fun if it wasn’t raining so hard. It was like buckets of water were being thrown at the windscreen, and I was glad Perdida was asleep so that I could run into the store and grab supplies without dragging her into the rain. I was a bit lost, and concerned that there was potentially another hour of white knuckle driving to get us to our cottage at Blackhead, a tiny coastal community where a family we know also has a cottage.

The Real Newfie Deal

We got there though, and were greeted by our friends, who’d arranged for a bit of a party in our woodstove heated shed later. I wasn’t sure what to expect, having never attended a party in a shed prior to this, but was heartened by the arrival of a crowd of loud Newfies with thick accents and a chain-smoking musician carrying in guitars and all kinds of drums.

The musician started us off with a sad sailors lament of being robbed by a hooker in Halifax, then someone unpacked a flute, someone else a fiddle, and the three of them jammed and played traditional songs.

It was magical to watch this performance in what was basically a glorified garage. The musician was fantastic, and everyone except for us seemed to know the lyrics to the songs. I just about lost my bruised heart to the musician when he sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with my daughter, accompanying them both on guitar. We drank and sang ‘til midnight.

We awoke early on our last day in Newfoundland. The weather was still terrible, we could just about see the raging waves through the fog. Despite this, I wanted to stay longer, because Newfoundland was getting under my skin and I felt like there was more I wanted to see and do before I left. Rain or not, it had been a great few days, and sharing this trip with my daughter had been delightful.

Our next destination was Dildo, which I had trouble thinking about without chuckling, let alone saying out loud. Before Dildo we went through the towns of Heart’s Lament and Heart’s Desire, and although they were prettily named there really wasn’t much to them aside from the historic cable station at Heart’s Content that is worth a visit. Maybe it isn’t so much that there isn’t much too them as it is that the towns on the Avalon Peninsular are all the same: Small, pretty, charming, rural, under-populated.

The fishing village of Dildo is a little bigger, with more restaurants, stores and B&Bs. Take note, the only Dildo signpost for taking the requisite funny picture is as you enter the village. The sun came out as we got there, and as Perdida played on wooden row boats and mugged for the camera, I sighed at how beautiful it all was. Newfoundland is glorious, just like those TV ads show us. I honestly can’t wait to go back, but next time it will be in August, where there’s a lesser chance of being drenched 80% of the time you are there.