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Kayaking in Iceberg Alley, Twillingate, Newfoundland

If you think kayaking with icebergs sounds bucketlist worthy, then head to Iceberg Alley, a section of coastline that stretches from Labrador, south along the northeast coast of the island of Newfoundland.

Iceberg Alley is one of the top places in the world for viewing icebergs. And Twillingate is one of the few towns in Newfoundland where iceberg viewing and kayaking come together. The peak viewing time in Twillingate is May but icebergs can linger into July. Every year is different, depending on how many icebergs calved off the west coast of Greenland and how quickly they move. You can check the location of icebergs in advance of your trip by consulting IcebergFinder. Prime time for kayaking with icebergs is June and early July but that varies by year. This year is a banner year for icebergs.

I had the pleasure of a half day trip just a few weeks ago with Grant as my guide from OQ Close Encounters.

"Grant - our guide pointing out the route"

Grant – our guide pointing out the route

What he tells me before we head out is this:

What is amazing about paddling with icebergs is the context it provides. Here you are – paddling with 15, 000 ice behemoths, sculptures of the land, who themselves are gradually sculpted by the sea. It’s hard not to feel small, insignificant and sometimes that is good and refreshing.

"A chart of the Twillingate area"

A chart of the Twillingate area

It was the most perfect day possible for kayaking. Winds were light, seas were calm and the sun was shining. I was joined on this trip by my friend Judy. Both of us have loads of West Coast kayaking experience in all conditions, some of them gnarly (the polite description) and dangerous. Interestingly, for the second time in 48 hours, as two middle aged women, our skill set was not so much called into question, as it wasn’t initially considered. Oh the joys of getting older.

Grant came around with time; not only did he show us Twillingate’s Long Point Lighthouse and numerous icebergs up close but we became his second group EVER to circumnavigate Burnt Island. And that was a real treat, and not the least bit difficult in our opinion.

"Kayaking towards our first iceberg out of Twillingate"

Kayaking towards our first iceberg out of Twillingate

"Getting closer to the iceberg than I care to be"

Getting closer to the iceberg than I care to be

There is something very magical about paddling at eye level with icebergs. Icebergs are powerful and unpredictable.  They’re incredibly beautiful and each one looks very different. Icebergs can rollover on a dime, taking you with them if you get too close. They can also calve without warning and send a wave that can flip you. But if you keep a respectable distance away – either twice the height or the length of the iceberg then you should be safe.

"Iceberg Alley is straight ahead"

Iceberg Alley is straight ahead

"Iceberg and whale watching tours out of Twillingate"

Iceberg and whale watching tours out of Twillingate

"Our guide feeling rather exuberant around icebergs"

Our guide feeling rather exuberant

"An iceberg on the move"

This iceberg is stable we’re told – until it’s not

"Growlers are the smallest icebergs"

Growlers are the smallest icebergs

Heading around Burnt Island was a real highlight for us. The island is deeply incised by long channels on the north side – with towering multi-coloured cliffs. We kayaked down one L-shaped channel and entered a calm area surrounded by cliffs, a perfect place to go to contemplate the meaning of life.

"A growler on the back side of Burnt Island"

A growler on the back side of Burnt Island

Once we made it to the backside of the island, the waters calmed considerably. There are beautiful beaches that would certainly beckon me to camp on if I lived nearby – for what could be better than a beach with an iceberg view?

"The backside of Burnt Island"

The backside of Burnt Island

"Getting as close as we dare in a kayak to an iceberg"

Getting as close as we dare to an iceberg

From Burnt Island we headed back to Twillingate – a very attractive town from the water.

"Heading back towards Twillingate"

Heading back towards Twillingate

"Twillingate from our B&B - after kayaking & dinner"

Twillingate from our B&B – after kayaking & dinner

We didn’t get off the water till about 7 PM and so we were both famished. Between three plus hours of kayaking and several hours of hiking we had burnt off some calories – a good thing because we ate them all back.

For dinner in Twillingate, head for Canvas Cove Bistro. We came as close to heaven as you can get with a lobster salad that was nothing but lobster ($19) and a partridgeberry crumble. It was one of the top two meals we ate in Newfoundland.

"The reward at the end of a hiking & kayaking day - lobster salad"

The reward at the end of a hiking & kayaking day – lobster salad

"Partridgeberry crumble"

Partridgeberry crumble

And if you need a place to stay in Twillingate try Paradise Bed and Breakfast. Not only do you get friendly hosts, including Fred – one of the local hiking guides, but you get some of the best views of Twillingate. And in the morning Mildred serves to die for molasses buns with partridgeberry jam.

Back to the kayaking:

Even if the icebergs have melted this area is a fun place to explore by kayak. No matter what the day, you can count on wearing a wetsuit but bring along a fleece jacket, raincoat, sunscreen and sun hat as well. Tours with Grant start at $69 and should be reserved.

If you’re just not that into kayaking, then head for the trails around Long Point Lighthouse. You could easily spend a solid day hiking kilometers worth of trails. Here’s a teaser of a photo as there will be a full post in the future.

"Scenery from the trail near the Long Point Lighthouse in Twillingate"

Scenery from the trail near the Long Point Lighthouse in Twillingate

Twillingate was one of the highlights of my trip to Newfoundland. I really wish I had allowed for at least one more full day.

Would you like to go kayaking with icebergs?

***Thank you to Adventure Central Newfoundland for organizing part of this trip – and for helping to make it possible.***

Leigh McAdam


Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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