National Geographic Traveler: Room at the Lighthouse

The frigid waters surrounding Quirpon Island are always more crowded then the inn’s family style dinner table. That’s because Quirpon and its lighthouse inn, the island’s sole accommodation, are just off Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula in “iceberg alley,” where humpback whales swimming north meet icebergs floating south. Porpoises, seals, and polar bears also traffic the rough waters, visible from atop the island’s 200foothigh bluffs.

Quirpon Lighthouse dates to 1922; the incarnation as an 11-room inn dates to 1998 and occupies buildings that were abandoned when the 82-year-old lighthouse was automated in the 1990’s. a simple main lodge painted white with red trim houses a small sitting room (stocked with books and materials on Newfoundland lore) and a dining room, where guests feast family-style on such local dishes as cod’s tongue and whatever else comes in on fishing boats. Guests quarters are furnished with chairs and beds crafted by a local whale bone carver and covered with handmade quilts. What guests won’t see: phones, TV’s, or other distractions from the main attraction, the epic Newfoundland tableau outside their windows. In spring, one can see polar bears on the icebergs feasting on seals. Orcas are regular visitors, and northern gannets flock here in record numbers. Then there are the clusters of humpbacks – part of North America’s largest population – lazily rolling in swells. It’s a setting both dramatic and relaxing.

Officially open for business from May through September, Quirpon will accommodate off-season guests who are prepared for adventure – and some audacious weather. That might mean ramming through ice sheets on the four-mile boat ride to the inn (the only other way to arrive is by helicopter), then listening to moaning squalls that put ordinary tempests to shame. “I love the storms,” co-owner Ed English says. “This is a great spot to hunker down when the wind is howling and the waves are pounding below.” One thing you’re guaranteed no matter when you come: a most memorable experience.

David Howard