My first sea kayaking adventure of 2007 brought me back to Newfoundland’s south coast to the Ramea Islands archipelago. The southern coast is not well known to visitors but those that have made the trek all agree that it is one of the most scenic areas of the province. It is a great sea kayaking destination that offers endless opportunities for adventure. There are 365 islands in the archipelago, one for every day of the year! I was long overdue for a kayak trip in this area and when the opportunity arose I jumped at the chance. I was also looking forward to using my new Epic paddle for the first time.
To reach the town of Ramea you first have to make a 150km detour from the Trans Canada Highway to the town of Burgeo, which serves as the economic hub for the south coast. From Burgeo you can catch the one hour ferry that travels several times daily to Ramea. The ferry is government subsidized and an adult fare will cost you just under $4 one way. Students receive a discount and can make the trip for just $2. It will cost you an extra $12 to take your car but you won’t need it to traverse the 3km of granite that makes up the Northwest Island, which is where the community is situated. My friend and I brought mountain bikes but we still ended up walking most of the time.
Just a short walk from the ferry terminal is an adventure hostel operated by Bob Vlug of Eastern Outdoors Adventures. The hostel serves as a home base for several different activities such as hiking, mountain biking and of course, sea kayaking. Bike and kayak rentals are available and guided tours are offered during the peak summer season. The caretaker Darlene is a very friendly and outspoken woman who went out of her way to ensure that our stay was enjoyable and at $25 a night (continental breakfast and shower included) Eastern Outdoors has found a way to make this place accessible to the masses. If a hostel is not your style then you can take advantage of one of their four traditional houses, which can be rented nightly or weekly. We had the privilege of having the place to ourselves, so early in the season.
The first day in town it was so foggy that kayaking was out of the question so my friend and I took our mountain bikes to check out the town. A 3km boardwalk runs past the lighthouse at Northwest Head before swinging back along the north shore all the way to the six wind power generators located near the northwest tip of the island. Riding back through town I was surprised to find that this small fishing community of six hundred had many modern services such as a modern school, a local broadcasting station and a bank. I was not surprised, however, by the wonderfully friendly people that always had a smile and a hello for us as we made our way around the island. After riding around the streets for a while longer we called it a day and went back to the hostel to get some rest.
The next morning brought more fog but by noon it had cleared enough to launch our kayaks and do some exploring. We started out by paddling through the harbour and past the town until we reached the lighthouse at Northwest Head. From here we crossed to the outside of Southwest Island. There was an abrupt change in the swell as we moved away from the protection of the sheltered harbour and out into the wild Atlantic beyond. From this southerly point I could imagine pointing my kayak due south and not reaching land again until South America or Antarctica.
From the end of Southwest Island we made our way into Ramera Harbour and along the shore of Grip Island. I was amazed at the abundance of life that we encountered. Gulls, Terns, Ducks, and Black Guillemots filled the air and the clear blue water was alive with sea butterflies, urchins and several types of shellfish. The clarity of the water is a well known feature to kayakers around the province but the depths that could be seen from the surface around Ramea is something that must be seen to be believed. You can easily pick out features that are located well over a hundred feet below the surface. It is quite mesmerizing actually, and I had a hard time keeping my eyes ahead of me as I paddled.
After exploring the harbours around Grip Island we made our way along the back of Harbour Island and into a long narrow channel flanked by four rocky islands. From here we paddled past Puffin Island which unfortunately did not have any Puffins. I found out later that Turr Island, 2km southeast, has a healthy population of Puffins, Murre’s. and Razorbills. By now the sun had burned up most of the remaining fog and we were treated to a couple hours of sunshine to explore the many small islands around the southwest corner of Great Island, ranging from barren chunks of rock to forested stands of spruce and fir. Many of these islands are accessible but remember to leave no trace is you venture on shore. Many of these islands are used as nesting sites by the various species of seabirds.
Paddling back to the north we made our way into a small rocky harbour to take a break and after a short rest we climbed to the top of a nearby hill to get a view of Ramea. Unfortunately by the time we reached the top the fog had rolled back in like an impenetrable grey wall and we didn’t get much of a view. We spent a little extra time exploring the beach and listning to nothing but the foghorn ringing out across the harbour. Having to catch the 6:30 ferry we decided to head back through the fog for the last 2km stretch and as we pulled into the harbour the fog lifted again and we were able to explore the last section of harbour before pulling out and ending our adventure.
My kayaking trip to Ramea is one of the best day paddles that I have done in Newfoundland and Labrador. The combination of rugged seascape and rich animal life make an ideal place to enjoy the many wonders that kayaking in the province has to offer. The many islands create a great sheltered area that can be enjoyed by paddlers of all ages but the fog is very common and makes paddling much more dangerous. The good folks at Eastern Outdoors are happy to help you plan your visit to Ramea and will take care of your every need for a very reasonable price. The great kayaking and wonderful hospitality I enjoyed during my stay has ensured that I have not made my last trip to Ramea.
For more information on Eastern Outdoors – Ramea Retreat visit http://www.easternoutdoors.com.
From TCH take route 480 to Burgeo (150km - 2 Hrs). From Burgeo you must take 1+ hour Ferry to Ramea. Eastern Outdoors is located right across from the ferry terminal.
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