The Surprising Beauty of Newfoundland

Doug and JoAnn Dubrouillet can’t recall how they decided to visit Newfoundland – a raw, rocky island with a fierce, independent streak located just off the coast of Quebec, Can.

But it was likely the good reviews they kept hearing from other RVers, who had nothing but raves for the unblemished simplicity of Canada’s easternmost province.

The Dubrouillets were no rookies at RVing. He’s a retired stockbroker, she’s a retired minister. After six years of part time RVing, they’d already covered 47 states, Canada and parts of Mexico.

This year, they’ve become bona fide full-timers, moving up to a 32-foot fifth-wheel and abiding by their own motto: “Now is the time to grab your dreams – tomorrow may be too late.”

So they felt up to the challenge of tackling a remote Canadian island, not widely known as a hot RVing destination.

What they discovered there won’t soon be forgotten. From the picture-postcard fishing villages to the rocky, windswept shorelines, from friendly locals to amazing seafood and a nostalgic 1940s simplicity, it proved to be a place that was hard to leave.

Doug sums it up this way: “It’s a beautiful country; a comfortable country; a quiet country. There is a magic in this land that tugs at the heart of all those who touch it…”

Doug: “For years we made our home in Panama City, Florida. In 2000, we started going out for three, six or seven months – mostly in a truck camper. A year ago, we bought the fifth-wheel. But with all the RVing we’ve done, it’s hard to say there is really one favorite spot…

“As far as destinations that proved to be a very pleasant surprise, I would have to say Newfoundland tops the list. It’s somewhat difficult to get to – we ferried over from Nova Scotia. But there’s just something unspoiled about this place. The feeling there, it’s as if you were back in the 1940s. Everything is so open, so simple, so warm and friendly. It’s very trusting.

JoAnn: “We wound up driving around the perimeter of the island. You could probably just pull off the road to spend the night, but they have parks (including two national parks) and private campgrounds, where we stayed most of the time. They’re not always up to the standards of U.S. campgrounds – some are hard to get to and they don’t always have hook-ups. But they’re definitely adequate.

Doug: “Newfoundland is literally a rock in the water. For thousands of years it’s been a thriving fishing community. Now, it’s an economy in transition. In 1992, the government banned most commercial cod fishing, placing the industry under a five-year moratorium because of the depletion of cod. So in many ways, it’s a very poor province. Some of the old fishing towns almost look deserted – but they’re not.

“The tourism business began to turn things around for them shortly after 9/11 when so many airplanes were diverted and the Newfoundlanders (or “Newfies”) reached out and took those passengers into their homes.

“Since then, word of mouth has been spreading. Go now, and you’re just seeing the start of a tourism business.

“You’ll also see a lot of working boats – almost no pleasure boats – and very few franchises, few restaurant chains. Most of the restaurants were Mom-and-Pop outfits featuring home cooking. And most of these places all had their own recipe for fish and chips. The seafood was great. We literally made our way around the island eating fish and chips, and they just kept getting better.

JoAnn: Most of the grocery stores were fairly small, but you could get what you needed. Actually we ended up eating out much of the time, because the seafood was so good.

Doug: “Food and gasoline prices, you don’t even want to talk about (laughter). Let’s just say, they were high compared to U.S. prices, but everything has to be transported onto the island. Aside from a few guided RV caravans, we actually saw few U.S. license plates.

JoAnn: “You could also find some surprisingly gourmet meals in out-of-the-way fishing villages. We were pleased to discover The Seaside Restaurant in Trout River (population 250), which wound up being this internationally recognized restaurant noted for its superb food.

“We spent time touring their museums, did a lot of hiking and touring different places on the island. The scenery is absolutely magnificent!

Doug: “The villages are colorful – bright paint is everywhere – and the villagers are just as colorful.

“The people were just great, so friendly, and so eager to tell you the story of their community. It’s a land of immigrants. You may find Irish accents on one side of a peninsula and English on the other. They all have different dialects – it’s like visiting several countries on one island.

JoAnn: “The only drawback is this: Tell people not to expect smooth roads (laughter). They’re paved; they’re just not maintained very well.

Doug: “The streets were adequate, but Newfoundland just doesn’t have really good roads. There was one place that they called a ‘pothole’ – and I saw fish jumping out of it!”

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