Beyond Iceberg Alley
Why Newfoundland and Labrador is Canada’s most underrated destination
There are no prizes for guessing how Iceberg Alley gets its name. This section of the Newfoundland and Labrador coast is one of the best places in the world for iceberg spotting. Every spring, giant bergs break off the ice masses on Baffin Island and Greenland and are carried down along this stretch of coast. The experience of watching towering icebergs, 40 metres or more in height, slowly drifting past has to be seen to be believed.
To experience this amazing natural spectacle for yourself, head on over in late May and early June. Prepare to be astonished by the variety among the icebergs. Bergs come in every shape and size, and even in different colours. While we think of icebergs as pure white, they can actually range through various shades of pale right to a glowing aquamarine, which makes them appear like massive jewels floating on the ocean.
The richer the colour, the older the iceberg actually is. The colour is determined by the oxygen content of the ice: older bergs are more compacted, and therefore deeper in colour. If you see a bright blue berg, you may be gazing at ice that is an astonishing 10,000 years old.
Once you hit Iceberg Alley – which starts around an hour’s drive from St John's, Newfoundland and Labrador’s biggest city – all you have to do is keep your eyes peeled. The bergs are unmissable. If you want to enjoy a truly heart-stopping experience, head out on a boat tour that gets you right up close to these natural wonders, or perhaps sign up with a kayaking expedition. It’s only when you get close and can see the ice extending deep beneath the waterline that you remember that 90 per cent of the iceberg lies beneath the water.
However, icebergs aren’t the only reason to visit this remote island. Here are more reasons to consider making Newfoundland and Labrador the destination for your next Canadian adventure.
The extraordinary landscapes of Gros Morne National Park, eastern Canada’s second biggest national park, are guaranteed to unleash your inner geology nerd. The park’s otherworldly terrain is the result of repeated collisions between the North American tectonic plate and other land masses, making this a destination like no other.
Take, for instance, the barren rockscapes of The Tablelands. The eerie red rocks are utterly devoid of vegetation, in stark contrast to the rest of the park. This red rock was actually part of the earth’s mantle until it was forced up to the surface millions of years ago during a tectonic collision. As the rock contains no nutrients, nothing is able to grow on it.
While you are there, take the time to enjoy one of Gros Morne’s memorable boat trips, including the extraordinary Trout River Pond, a glacial lake that is deep enough to hold a 40-storey building. The lake shores are a study in contrasts: on one side, the rocky Tablelands, and on the other, lush vegetation.
The Rocky Mountains are Canada’s most famous wilderness destination, and it’s not hard to see why. With verdant alpine meadows, mountain-ringed lakes, dense forests and cascading waterfalls,this is a landscape that gets the blood flowing. Mountain bikers get to enjoy the best of it on the Golden Triangle, a 300km loop that crosses the Great Divide twice.
You will want to be in shape to tackle this ride; it covers more han 100km a day and has some steep climbs, including one that lasts for half a kilometre. As you pass through no fewer than three national parks – Banff, Yoho and Kootenay – the gorgeous scenery will boost your spirits.
Striking architecture? Check. Plush interiors? Check?Spectacular location? Check, check, check. Perched on its own small island off the Newfoundland and Labrador coast, Fogo Island Inn hits all the bases you would expect of a cutting-edge wilderness lodge. However, this property is much more than just another high-end getaway. The project was conceived as a reflection of the local community and also as a way of keeping that community alive. With local unemployment soaring, the lodge has helped revive traditional crafts such as woodworking, weaving and quilting, and channels its profits back into the community.
Fogo Island Inn also gives visitors an insight into Newfoundland and Labrador’s unique culture. You might borrow one of the lodge bicycles to explore a nearby fishing village, hike to a secluded artist studio, or simply relax and watch the icebergs go by. End the day in one of the rooftop hot tubs, enjoying a cocktail cooled by iceberg fragments.