Saltscapes Travel: More than a Place to Lay your Head

It’s safe to say that George Washington never slept in any of Atlantic Canada’s historic inns. But Sir John A. MacDonald did. So did Charles Dickens, and the future King George V. In fact, these beautifully restored gems have seen their share of rich and famous during the course of their histories, and most have long stories to tell. Small inns are a romantic step back into a slower-paced time when traveling just a few kilometers was a wonderful adventure. Spending a few days at one of them is a great way to make mew friends and get to know a community intimately from the inside – to try another life on for size, just for a few hours.

Unique inns give vacationers a chance to tap into a variety of experiences

It’s hard to imagine a more rugged existence than the life of a lighthouse keeper on a remote piece of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula. What was once a lonely, cold, harsh existence is today an utterly irresistible escape for any urbanite at the end of their rope. Part ecotourism bonanza, part lighthouse aficionado’s fantasy camp, the Quirpon Lighthouse Inn gives travelers a chance to live the life ofa 19th century lighthouse keeper for a day, a week or more.

The village of Quirpon is a place where human and natural history converge. It lies just a few km from L’Anse aux Meadows, the only known Viking settlement in North America. Some historians, including the Pulitzer Prize winning author Samuel Eliot Morison, believe that John Cabot may have made his first landfall right here in Quirpon Harbour. Nearby the town of St. Anthony is the center of Newfoundland’s sealing industry and the home base of the world-famous Grenfell Mission. But the annual show that nature stages is the area’s biggest tourism draw. For one thing, this is “Iceberg Alley,” the only part of Newfoundland where iceberg sightings are practically guaranteed 12 months of the year. And in these waters, 26 species of sea mammals call the area home.

Quirpon Lighthouse Inn is located on an island in Quirpon Harbour. Guests reach the island by a quick boat ride, and then walk a short distance to their quarters in an old lightkeeper’s house beside a working lighthouse. Despite the rugged surroundings, the service is high-end with lots of amenities and gourmet meals featuring local seafood. The seven-by-two km island is great for hiking, bird watching and kayaking. Proprietor Ed English says herds of seals numbering in the thousands often attract polar bears in the early spring and whales are a daily sight year round. You don’t even need a boat to get close to them. “The water depth right at shore is about 200 feet,” says English. “Whales come so close you can literally reach out and touch them from shore.” But the best part of the Quirpon Lighthouse Inn according to English, comes when a late spring storm sweeps across the Great Northern Peninsula. “It’s a really cozy place to be when that happens. If you want to see an ocean storm at its finest, you’ve got to come to Quirpon.

Tom Mason