Quirpon Lighthouse Inn
From wherever you stand on Quirpon Island, a small 1.5km by 7km outcrop at the northernmost tip of Newfoundland, you can see the ocean. Its wide open, lightly rolling sub arctic terrain, 60 percent of it covered in a spongy mat of moss and lichen, ensures a clear vista.
When Ed English read that the government had put the lighthouse and light keeper’s dwelling on the island up for sale in 1998, he bought it sight unseen, hoping it would make a good addition to the offerings ofhis burgeoning travel company, Linkum Tours. When he arrived the following spring to check out his purchase the house was encased in ice three inches thick. But he knew right away he had bought something special. Not only for the remote beauty of the place, have dramatic cliffs dropping off into the watery void, but because the island boasts the longest viewing season for whales and icebergs anywhere in Newfoundland.
Fish swimming out from the Gulf of St. Lawrence have no choice but to make their way through the Strait of Belle Isle that divides Newfoundland from the mainland, ensuring, English says, “they travel right past our doorstep on their way to the North Atlantic. It’s a never-ending conveyor belt of food for whales and sea birds assisted by the Labrador Current.”
This island is also the perfect trap for the whales to use as they herd fish against the underwater cliff’s “you can literally stand and watch whales drive fish into our cove,” says English. “Not only are the whales comfortable because the water is deep, but they feed easily just going constantly back and forth along the cove.”
Quirpon Island, accessible by boat, helicopter, or, for the more adventurous, by kayak, is ideal for a day’s ramble. Informal trails spread out over the mossy ground, through tussocks of tuckamore, to cliffs both terraced and sheer. And beyond, icebergs cruise majestically past, while whales ply the water for food. The rich currents also attract killer whales, porpoises and dolphins. It’s not unheard of for a playful dolphin to leap over a kayaker’s bow.
The area is redolent with history. Not just on the mainland, where the historical reconstruction of the Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows is only 5kms away, or the waters themselves which have attracted migratory fishermen since the 16th century. But Quirpon Island itself is home to unexcavated sod huts and old murder mystery drenched in myth.