Unquestionably one of the most unique accommodation experiences on offer in Canada, Battle Harbour is a true jewel culturally, historically, ecologically and more!!
The site is a restored coastal fishing village - one of the last of what were once hundreds along the Labrador coast. What is more, however, is that the site continues to be used as a summertime community for families that have called this island home for decades, if not centuries.
Stepping off the passenger-only ferry is to step into another world, and to be welcomed by the warmest hospitality of the island community. Battle Harbour is designed to be a multi-day visit, and on arrival you will be shown to your quarters, which may be a room in the old inn, one of several restored cottages, or perhaps the shed of the old RCMP station (which is so much more than a shed once you step inside!!). Accommodations are comfortable and flavoured with the traditions of the island and the fishery that prompted its settlement. Depending on your selected accommodation, bathroom facilities are ensuite or shared; the aim is to provide a place where anyone will be comfortable.
The culinary experience of the place is true to the roots of the community - hearty home-style traditional Labrador meals served family-style in the dining area above the general store. Here is a great opportunity to meet other visitors, to meet community members who have prepared the fabulous meals, and to glean more about the history and modern-day workings of the community. Meals can range from the Sunday favourite Jigg's Dinner to codfish to desserts made with local berries, and are served with love and care by community members.
The first day of a visit will include an afternoon tour of the community from the perspective of a lifelong resident. In addition to gaining insights into the history of the place, personal anecdotes bring the tour to life. Frequent impromptu stops to chat with residents further enhances the walk-about. By tour's end, visitors are comfortable with their surroundings, and cannot help but feel a part of the community for the time of their stay!
The island includes an incredible diversity of geological and ecological treasures which can be explored at will via hiking trails that circumvent the island. For those staying multiple days, a trip across the tickle to Caribou Island opens doors to a larger island. A half- or full-day hike (take a picnic from the kitchen) would be time well spent exploring more of what this neighbouring island has to offer.
In season, icebergs are frequent visitors to the area (my room at the inn came with a view of an iceberg out of the window!!), as are whales (we had great sightings of humpbacks on the trip back to the mainland). Depending on the season, capelin and cod are still being fished by residents, and visitors are given a glimpse of the importance of the fishery to these coastal communities.
Battle Harbour is accessible via road (88km on excellent packed gravel from Red Bay or again on gravel from the Goose Bay side), air/road, or boat directly to the island. Getting there is a part of the overall experience and this should not be a deterrent to visiting this remarkable place!!
There is no cell phone service on the island, and only very limited internet, so a visit should be treated as a retreat away from the busy-ness of daily life. If you can't bear the thought of a few days without email or texting, then Battle Harbour is probably the place you NEED to be. Here you will discover the value in connecting face-to-face in community, and to authentic, rather than virtual, reality!!
The only caution: DO NOT COME FOR ONE NIGHT!!! Battle Harbour is an experience that grows on the visitor. The longer the stay, the more immersed one becomes in the setting, the community, and the relaxed lifestyle. Stay 2 or 3 nights minimum - stay a week if you can!
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