The Big Land

Labrador is changing, a wild land that is becoming more accessible. From Labrador City and Wabush on the Québec border to L'Anse-au-Clair, the Trans-Labrador Highway (Route 500) crosses The Big Land connecting the west to the coast. The 30,000 residents are travelling to larger centers to shop and visitors are discovering the festivals, events, and attractions that have drawn few outsiders - until now.

You can reach western Labrador via Québec Route 389, a partially paved 570-kilometer highway that runs north from Baie-Comeau. The travel time is around eight hours. About 300 kilometres of the road is paved, in two sections, with the rest being gravel. Services along the route are very limited, but the terrain is marvelous, rising from the lower reaches of the north shore to the escarpment that is the Canadian Shield.

Day 1 - Western Labrador

Begin your big land adventure in the mining towns of Labrador City and Wabush. Tour these communities during the day and at night look up into the sky for an awe-inspiring display of northern lights. When at their peak, they light up the night sky as many as 240 times a year.

Day 2 - Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Hit the road eastward to Churchill Falls, home to one of the largest powerhouses in the world. Then head east to Happy Valley- Goose Bay, established as an air base during World War II. From here aircrafts were flown to Britain across the cold, dark North Atlantic. Drive around town and you'll see vintage aircrafts parked at strategic viewing locations.

Half an hour away on Route 520 is North West River and the Labrador Heritage Society Museum. Laid out like an old-time general store, the museum has displays on hunting and trapping, living off the land, the Hudson Bay Company, and the International Grenfell Association. Nearby is the Labrador Interpretation Centre which focuses on aboriginal and settler cultures.

Day 3 - Port Hope Simpson

Today set out for Port Hope Simpson. There are several rest stops enroute that make for great picnic locations, so pack a lunch. A new national park reserve will be established in the Mealy Mountains, which lie between the central interior and Cartwright.

After the drive, relax in the town or arrange to fish on Shinney's River with the guides from the Alexis Hotel. Depending on the time of your visit and water conditions, you may be angling for a feisty sea-run brook trout or the king of the game fish, an Atlantic salmon.

Be sure to book any excursions or guides well in advance. As you travel to Port Hope Simpson, you will enter Newfoundland Time Zone.

Day 4 - Battle Harbour

In Mary's Harbour, catch the ferry to Battle Harbour - a picturesque fishing port established in the 1750s. This unique village is frozen in time, with virtually no signs of modern life.

Spend the first part of the day on a guided tour of the late 18th-century buildings and the surrounding area. This National Historic Site and District is the best-preserved traditional fishing village in the province. After a day spent hiking, viewing birds, icebergs and whales, indulge with a Labradorite stone massage or maybe a bakeapple bliss body treatment at the Wash House Spa. Stay overnight in a one-of-a-kind inn.

Day 5 - Red Bay

Catch a morning ferry to Mary's Harbour and drive to Red Bay. The Red Bay National Historic Site has intriguing displays and artifacts depicting Basque whaling operations. Learn about the hardship, exploitation, and profit associated with whaling, and view the preserved 16th-century Chalupa - a small boat from which they hunted. Red Bay is the third of the province's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Travel south on Route 510 to L'Anse-Amour where you'll find the oldest known burial monument in North America, dating back 7,500 years. Just down the road, the Point Amour Lighthouse Provincial Historic Site is the tallest lighthouse in Atlantic Canada, standing a whopping 109 feet.

Day 6 - L'Anse-au-Clair

L'Anse-au-Clair was settled by the French in the early 1700s when they first came to this region to fish and hunt whales and seals. Stop by the Gateway to Labrador Visitor Centre to view artifacts and get information. Then head to the soft, sandy beach and stretch out on a blanket. Walk along the Labrador Pioneer Footpath - once the only land route connecting the communities along the shore.

Overnight in the area and take the ferry to Newfoundland in the morning.