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Newfoundland Part Two

Newfoundland Part Two

Newfoundland – Part 2

Jellybean Row House mailbox

One of the best parts of visiting Newfoundland is meeting the locals. They are warm, welcoming and hospitable! Newfoundland’s people are from varying backgrounds but predominantly from European origin like England and Ireland. There are also some pockets of French and Scots and some aboriginals. St. John’s has a lot of Irish heritage and throughout the province you may notice some different dialects. It’s fun to hear the accents and unique phrases and try to interpret what they are saying! You can even buy a Newfoundland slang dictionary! But no matter where they originated, Newfies are a friendly bunch, perhaps because they must rely on each other when times get tough.

Gander Airport on September 11, 2001

Their true colours were shown during the Canada’s Yellow Ribbon Operation on September 11, 2001 when civilian airlines were diverted to Canadian airports during the attack on the USA. Newfoundlanders opened their homes and hearts to help 38 planes full of 6,122 passengers and 472 crew stranded in Gander while planes were grounded when US airspace was shut down. This made such an impression that a musical production was recently made called “Come From Away”.

Cabot Tower on Signal Hill, St. John’s
St. John’s Harbour
Jellybean Row Houses

Labour in the province was at one time primarily fishing. Since the decline of the fishing industry, Newfoundland’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in Canada, and at times was double the national average. Cod fishing is now limited and the industry is now primarily shellfish. Other industry includes pulp & paper mills, hydroelectricity and iron ore mines, off-shore oil drilling and, of course, tourism.

Cape Spear Lighthouse

In addition to the incredible scenery, the arts play a large role in the experience of the province. The art and culture is well known within Canada. The comedy group CODCO including the likes of Mary Walsh, Bob Joy, Cathy Jones to name a few, became a local sensation with their Newfoundland sense of humour and inspired a whole generation of comedians and political satirists including Rick Mercer, Mark Critch and Shawn Majumder. One of Newfoundland’s esteemed songwriter’s is Ron Hynes and groups such as The Irish Descendants and Great Big Sea have recorded his songs. Celtic and folk music is a staple in the Newfoundland scene. When in St. John’s, just stop by any pub along George Street to take in the sounds of local musicians. You can also experience local groups and musicians in almost any small town pub. There are also dinner theatres throughout the province showcasing local talent. If you’d rather not go to a pub, try the Resource Centre for the Arts.

Quidi Vidi Fishing Village

There is so much to see and do that it is hard to fit everything into 10 days. Really you could go back and have an entirely different itinerary the next time! But I think we lucked out not only in weather, but also for timing of events and activities. Here’s an outline of our trip:

Our 10-day Itinerary:

For our 10 day trip we opted to leave out some of the suggested landmarks due to driving distances. L’Anse aux Meadows was one and the other was more of the Avalon Peninsula (down to Cape St. Mary’s). These both require staying overnight, but you could easily extend this itinerary to 2-weeks to include these areas. Note that at each location there are lovely hiking trails.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

  • Drive to Twillingate
  • Long Point Lighthouse, see icebergs

Day 5

  • Iceberg boat tour, eat fresh seafood
  • Drive to St. John’s

Day 6

  • Explore downtown & harbour in St. John’s on foot
  • Tour Canada C3, Water & Duckworth Streets, Terry Fox Memorial Mile 0, Jellybean Row Houses
  • Signal Hill, Ocean Sciences Centre

Day 7

Day 8

  • Whale & Puffin Tour (Gatherall’s)
  • Explore small towns along the coast (Witless Bay, Mobile, Tors Cove)
  • Cape Spear (most easterly point) see whales
  • Take in a comedy show

Day 9

  • Explore northern shore starting at Holyrood
  • Conception Bay South, Portugal Cove, Pouch Cove, Torbay

Day 10

  • Visit Cape Spear one last time
  • Fly home direct from St. John’s
Humpback Whale feeding on capelin

What to take:

In addition to the usual travel items and clothing, make sure to include:

  • Good footwear for walking and hiking
  • Rain gear
  • Binoculars
  • Good camera
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Federal park pass
Living creatures at the Ocean Sciences Centre

Things to do:

  • Deer Lake
    • Stop by the lake and see the fly fishermen in action
    • Insectarium
    • Big Falls at Sir Richard Squires Memorial Park
  • Gros Morne National Park
    • Rocky Harbour (great place to stay)
    • Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse
    • Cow Head dinner theatre
    • Western Brook Pond Tour
    • Green Garden Trail
    • The Tablelands
    • L’Anse aux Meadows (overnight trip)
  • Other Areas south of Gros Morne
    • Corner Brook
    • Channel-Port aux Basques
  • Twillingate
    • Iceberg boat tour
    • Long Point lighthouse
  • Other areas en route to St. John’s
    • Fogo Island
    • Gander
    • Grand Falls-Windsor
    • Bonavista
    • Terra Nova National Park
    • Dungeon Provincial Park
    • Sherwink Trail
  • St. John’s
    • Signal Hill & Cabot Tower
    • Johnson GEO Centre
    • Jellybean Row Houses
    • The Rooms Museum
    • Basilica Cathedral
    • Terry Fox Monument
    • Memorial University Botanical Gardens
    • Quidi Vidi Fishing Village
    • Cape Spear Lighthouse
    • Bell Island Mine Museum
    • Whale & Puffin Tour
    • Conception Bay coastal drive
    • Avalon Peninsula
    • East Coast Trail (any part)
    • Ferryland (picnic by the lighthouse)
    • Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve (overnight trip)

 

Newfoundland is indeed a very special place…

What’s your favourite part of Newfoundland?

 

See Newfoundland Part One

Visit Newfoundland’s Official Tourism Website

Newfoundland – Part One

Newfoundland – Part One

Newfoundland – Part 1

Newfoundland is an island, which is part of the province known as Newfoundland and Labrador. It is Canada’s most eastern province, where the sun rises first. It is also home to the oldest settlement yet it is Canada’s youngest province. With vast amounts of land and one of the lowest populations, it is home to some of the friendliest people you’ll every meet. You can experience its natural wonders with stunning cliffs, whales & icebergs as well as the mountain ranges, rivers, waterfalls and winding coastlines by immersing yourself in outdoor adventures like hiking, boating and kayaking. You can embrace its vibrant culture through the quaint coastal villages, meeting the locals and taking part in theatre and musical shows. Go to Newfoundland to witness the spirit of close-knit communities whose hospitality endures to this day.

Newfoundland was on my bucket list and I can’t believe it took me so long to get there, but am I ever glad I did! To get to the island of Newfoundland it is easiest to fly (into Deer Lake, Gander or St. John’s), but you can also drive and take the ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Channel-Port aux Basques (south-west).

Map of Newfoundland

There are four distinct regions of Newfoundland:

  • West coast – dominated by the table-top long-range mountains, formed by glaciers with fjords and home to Gros Morne National Park
  • Interior – more plateau-like with undulations and large rivers
  • North coast – comprised of many bays, coves and islands and the best place to view icebergs
  • South coast – includes areas like the Avalon Peninsula, with deep cliffs, with more vegetation inland and many coves and bays along the shoreline – home to migratory birds
A small coastal village
Long Point Lighthouse
Geological Site at Green Point

The climate varies considerably and Newfoundlander’s themselves recommend visiting during July-August (unless you want to experience winter!). If you want to see icebergs they suggest end of June, beginning of July. It can vary year to year; some years there are several icebergs, but other years very few. The best way to see the province is to drive. The people are very friendly and you will feel right at home! Stay in Bed & Breakfast accommodations especially on the west side within Gros Morne National Park. They will give you a welcoming place to stay and lots of excellent advice on where to go and what to see. You’ll want to book a few months in advance, especially in the touristy areas like Gros Morne National Park. Two B&B’s I can highly recommend are Sea Breeze B&B in Cow Head, run by Robert & Roberta and also Candlelight B&B in Rocky Harbour run by Peter & Diane. You will also need to purchase an entrance pass for the park to get to both Rocky Harbour and Cow Head. Cow Head is farther north up the coast from Rocky Harbour and also home to Theatre Newfoundland Labrador (TNL) and this is where we experienced the S. S. Ethie dinner theatre show where the actors even served dinner!

Western Brook Pond walk
Western Brook Pond

While staying in Gros Morne National Park, we thoroughly enjoyed the Western Brook Pond boat tour run by Bon Tours. The staff were incredibly organized, knowledgeable and entertaining and we thought it was excellent value. Be aware that space needs to be pre-booked well in advance to ensure a spot. There is the chance that it may not depart depending on fog and weather. Get in touch with BonTours to make sure the trip is still on. There is also a 3km pleasant trail walk through a bog to get to the departure point, which is where you pay for the tickets. If you are really adventurous you can arrange to be dropped at a dock the end of the 16km boat ride and hike through the forest for 3 days to get back! I heard this was extremely buggy very few people choose to do this. Nobody on our boat got off and we were quite happy to stay on the boat!

View from walking trail at Bonne Bay

Go for a walk on any of the trails within Gros Morne National Park and learn about the geology and history of the area. With so many to choose from, Gros Morne has a hike that’s perfect for everyone. Check out the Parks Canada website for descriptions of each trail and a table showing difficulty levels. If you’re still not sure, stop by the Visitor Information Centre for advice. Some of the most popular trails include Green Point coastal trail, Lobster Cove Head trail, Baker’s Brook Falls, Tablelands and Lookout. There are also lots of walking trails around the small towns including Rocky Harbour and each spots has it’s own unique vistas. Depending on the weather conditions, make sure to take layered clothing, a hat, bug spray and rain jacket, good walking shoes and water to drink. The weather can change quite quickly, according to the locals. We had mixed skies including sun, cloud, fog but it never rained more than a sprinkle or light mist. When the sun came out it felt hot.

Newfoundland’s provincial flower – the Pitcher Plant
Wild lupins at the side of the road

The provincial flower is the purple pitcher plant, which is used in their logo and on their car licence plates. We spotted it twice: along the 3km walk in to the Western Brook Pond boat tour as well as at the Memorial University Botanical Gardens in St. John’s. As you drive around the province you will also notice wild lupins along the side of the roads adding lovely colour. They were especially noticeable on the road to Twillingate. There are also many, many walking trails all throughout the province, each offering their own special vistas with endless opportunities for that special photo. But nothing comes close to being there. No photo or video can replicate the feeling of standing on a dramatic, rocky cliff looking out to the sea, with the sun shining on your face, the wind blowing your hair while you hear the humpback whales blow as they feed offshore.

Icebergs off the coast of Twillingate

Newfoundland’s rich history is honoured in several national parks:

We chose to omit the overnight trip to L’Anse aux Meadows simply due to lack of time. From Rocky Harbour it is about 4 hours drive so you’d really need an extra night to do this. It will be on the list for our next visit! It is the oldest Viking settlement in North America so rich in history and a well-known historical interest point. It’s also another really great place to spot icebergs.

Dramatic sunset near Twillingate

Stay tuned for more information about Newfoundland – Part 2 coming soon…

…including details about St. John’s, a travel itinerary, things to do/see and what not to forget to take…

 

Visit Newfoundland’s Official Tourism Website

 

 

Bird Watching

Bird Watching

Bird Watching

Blue Jay

Bird watching is an excellent activity at any time in life but especially during retirement. You can do it alone or in a group. It’s a great way to get outdoors, close to nature in a new environment or simply in your own backyard. Getting close to nature has been shown to be good for your health. It’s calming and an activity that can’t be rushed. Bird watching (or birding) helps us appreciate Mother Earth and reminds us to be kind to our environment. It’s really fun to try to find a new species to add to your list and try to figure out what you saw.

White-Breasted Nuthatch

To begin bird watching, you need a few things:

  1. Binoculars
    • Borrow some first to see what you like. It’s really worth spending a bit more for better viewing. Also you have to carry them around so make sure they aren’t too heavy! I love our Nikon 8×42 waterproof binoculars (which by the way are great for boating too).
  2. Camera
    • To start out you don’t need a camera, but if you intend to document what you’ve seen, then you’ll need a zoom lens. But even a blurry picture can help you identify a bird.
  3. Bird Book
    • Find a good bird book for your area that has good images and descriptions of behaviour, calls and habitation and migration information. You can also search on the web for information.
  4. Bird Feeder
    • A quality bird feeder that keeps squirrels off will help attract birds to your own backyard. Clean it every once in a while to prevent birds spreading disease. Keep it filled so birds learn to come back. Also consider putting out suet, which attracts woodpeckers. A great option for your regular feeder is the Squirrel Buster available from Lee Valley Tools.

Once you’re set-up, start small and work on identifying the birds in your own backyard. Then venture out for walks around your neighbourhood. Perhaps there’s a pond nearby, so you can find other types of birds. Some people join groups with other birders and even go on trips to find migrating birds.

Osprey
Osprey taking flight

I started making a list of some of the birds I see frequently. I surprised myself because the list is by no means complete but it is actually quite long. I know I’ve missed many birds but it’s really amazing the variety on this initial list! In Ontario, Canada there are lots of beautiful birds including:

  • Cardinal
  • Blue Jay
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Finch
  • American Song Sparrow
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Green Evening Heron
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Common Flicker
  • Mallard Duck
  • Canada Goose
  • Rose Breasted Grosbeak
  • Common Loon
  • Common Grackle
  • Bohemian Waxwing
  • American Robin
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Crow
  • Tree Swallow
  • Seagull
  • Phoebe Bird
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Slate-coloured Junco
  • Osprey
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Owls – many types

And the list goes on! Wow! My husband and I love spotting different birds while we are out for our walks either first thing in the morning or later in the evening.

What birds have you seen?

Read also Go Outside!

Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC

Victoria, British Columbia

Victoria is the capital city of Canada’s province British Columbia. It is located on the southern most tip of Vancouver Island and is the most southern part of Western Canada. It is about 100km from British Columbia’s largest city, Vancouver, on the mainland. It is accessible by air or by boat. Greater Victoria has a population of about 365,000.

BC Parliament & Queen Victoria statue
Victoria Legislature at night
Detailed ceiling inside Legislature Building

Named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, it is one of the oldest cities of the Pacific Northwest, settled by the British in 1843. The city has maintained many of its original buildings including the impressive Legislature buildings and the Empress Hotel. It is also known as the Garden City with its beautiful flower gardens throughout. Many tourists flock to the popular Butchart Gardens.

Butchart Gardens
Victoria water taxi

The harbour is a busy place and is easily walkable. Popular for both boaters and retirees, it has the most temperature year-round climate within Canada with warm dry summers and mild, wet winters with little to no snow. Due to the mild climate, it is home to interesting birds, plants and trees. The economy is primarily technology, tourism, education and BC’s provincial government. The city is easily accessible by foot, bicycle, bus or car. Victoria’s waterfront harbour is a busy place with water taxis, private floatplanes, tour boats and private boats. If you’re thinking of visiting this lovely place, you will be sure to be impressed! The best time of year to visit to avoid larger crowds would be spring (March, April, May) or fall (September, October).

Victoria’s busy harbour
Fisherman’s Wharf
Ogden Point cruise ships
Fisgard Lighthouse

Some of the most popular tourist spots are:

Some useful links:

Have you ever been to Victoria?

Read also about Vancouver Island and Tofino.

Top Tips to Pack Smart

Top Tips to Pack Smart

12 Top Tips to Pack Smart

  1. Pack Light – If you can manage it, travel only with a carry-on. Travelling with only a carry-on makes travel so much simpler. If you need to transfer flights checked bags can be a hindrance.
  2. Wear heavier and bulkier items to avoid carrying them in your bag.
  3. If required buy what you need at your destination. Buy heavy liquid toiletries at your destination to save carrying them!
  4. Learn how to pack well. Leave no space unused. Save space in your bag by rolling your clothes instead of folding them. Stuff smaller items like socks and underwear in your shoes.
  5. Use plastic bags to compartmentalize. This makes it easier to find things quickly. Use a plastic bag for dirty laundry. Use Ziplok type bags for accessories. Old newspaper bags can be used for shoes.
  6. Pack earplugs, inflatable cushion and/or eye mask. If you can manage the cost and room in your bag, take noise cancelling earphones or earbuds. It’s important to get rest where possible.
  7. Keep a sarong or scarf in your bag. It can double as a blanket or pillow on the plane, a shawl on a cold evening, beach cover-up, picnic blanket, change room screen, etc.
  8. Take your own snacks for the plane. You’ll save money and keep hunger under control. Your food will probably be healthier too.
  9. Make photocopies of your passports. Take pictures of your passport to have a copy on your phone. Use your phone to take pictures of a rental car.
  10. Use a security wallet. Take some cash, one bank card and one credit card in your wallet. Put the remaining cash and 2nd credit card, driver’s licence, travel insurance info in a money belt under your clothes.
  11. Avoid roaming charges or only use WIFI at hotels, etc. Keep maps and travel guides on your iPhone instead of carrying maps and travel books. Keep books on your iPhone or iPad.
  12. Wear travel pants with pockets where you can store your travel documents for quick easy access. Wear (and pack) versatile, comfortable, low-maintenance clothing that is designed for travel. It is usually wrinkle-free and can be quickly washed in a hotel sink.

 

What are your packing tips?

Please leave your tips in the comments section below…

Read also Travel Safety Checklist, How to Travel Light.

Georgian Bay by boat

Georgian Bay by boat

Georgian Bay by boat – Beausoleil Island and surrounding area

Georgian Bay is a boater’s paradise and is sometimes referred to as the sixth great lake. The Canadian Shield landscape is serene, with its windswept tall pine trees, clear blue water, rocky cliffs and beaches. It was the stomping ground of the Group of Seven painters so you might recognize the landscapes from their paintings.

Beausoleil Island dock at Sandpiper Campground
Sandpiper Campgrounds on Beausoleil Island

A common destination is Beausoleil Island, which is just off the shore and is most easily accessed by boat from Honey Harbour. If you own a boat, you will most likely moor at this island at least one night. It is part of the national parks and at 8km long is the largest island of Georgian Bay Islands National Park. It offers day and night docking, hiking, beaches, walking trails, camping as well as an information centre. There are several campgrounds if you have your own tent, but there are also cabin rentals and new oTentiks.

Make sure you have a good GPS for boating in this area. There are several rocks just below water level so it is important to know where they are so you can avoid grounding your boat! To get to Beausoleil Island from Honey Harbour, go through Big Dog Channel. It may look too narrow to get through but it is not! It’s best to plan your visit to avoid large crowds of people. Sandpiper campground has a lovely sandy beach and is a good place to go, if it’s not too crowded. You can also get higher vantage points from campsites at the north end of the island which are rockier.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

Some things to watch for: There is some poison ivy off the trails so stay on the trails to avoid it! It can also get quite buggy in the evening so take longer clothes and bug spray. Also watch for the native Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, which for the most part will try to avoid you. It’s worth a trip to the visitor’s centre on the south part of the island to familiarize yourself with these and other interesting facts. To stock up on food or gas, the closest stop by boat is Picnic Island.

Picnic Island (Food & Gas)

Nearby places to visit in the area include the towns of Midland and Penetanguishene. They have separate harbours but the towns are closely linked.

Mural at Midland waterfront

Midland (Population about 17,000)

  • Cycling and walking trails
  • King Street – main street with cafes and gift shops
  • Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre (wildlife and birds)
  • Midland Cultural Centre
  • Golfing, fishing, boat tours
  • Home to a 2nd Henry’s Fish restaurant
  • Things to do in Midland

 

Penetanguishene (Population about 9,600)

 

 

Henry’s Fish Restaurant, Frying Pan Island, Sans Souci, ON

Henry’s Fish Restaurant, Sans Souci, ON

Giants Tomb Island – This island has no permanent residents and is part of the Georgian Bay Islands National Park. It is popular for day trips and it’s best to anchor in the sandy bay on the east side and swim in the clear crystal waters, or walk along the sandy shore.

Have you been to this part of Georgian Bay?

Feel free to leave your comments below…

Read also about boating.

 

 

Boating

Boating

Boating

Do you ever had those days when you’re feeling stressed and just want to get away from it all? A change of scene and a change of pace can do wonders. One activity I love for escaping is boating.

Cruising on Rideau Canal

In my youth, my parents built a cottage on a small lake. The experience I had and the memories that were created at the summer cottage were priceless. My family had a canoe and small aluminum rowboat. We never needed to go far on the water and the cottage was well equipped with the basics. It was a time to be unplugged from school and work. My siblings and I would spend the summers there until we were old enough to work a summer job. There were endless hours swimming, fishing, puttering and exploring. In the evenings, there were plenty of card games, reading in the bunks and even playing hide-and-seek in the dark with other kids on the lake.

My husband has similar memories and we wanted to share like experiences with our own children. We never got our own cottage but instead we invested in a boat. We did quite a lot of research and eventually got our first boat, which was a Princecraft deck boat. Our girls were young at the time, but old enough to help. We trailered it to nearby rivers and lakes and explored everywhere we could. We anchored and fished and swam. We beached it on nearby beaches and picnicked, spending the day out in the sun. Our girls had fun being pulled around on the tube. We even took it on trips and camped on the shore along the way.

Our first boat: a Princecraft deck boat

Boating was a new way to escape! It is a hobby that forced us to slow down and not rush. Boating has its own pace and you simply can’t rush it. This is one reason we really love it now. It forces you to slow down and not get exited about delays. When you’re out on the water, you can feel your heart rate start to slow. The feeling of being out on the water is relaxing, calming but at times can even be exhilarating! The wind and sun feel energy giving and there’s nothing like having a picnic lunch in the boat after a delightful swim to cool off on a hot summer’s day.

An upgrade: 26 foot Regal cruiser

Our next boat was an upgrade. We soon learned that pitching a tent and blowing up 4 air mattresses each evening was tiring! So we sold the Princecraft and purchased a 26-foot Regal cruiser, which we moored at a marina. It slept 4 relatively comfortably and had a mini-bathroom (or head) and kitchenette. We outfitted it with solar power and anchored out many evenings. There is nothing quite like seeing the sunset and sunrise from out on the water…. So peaceful!

Back to a trailerable Princecraft fishing/ski boat

Now that our adult children have moved out, we have downgraded again to a trailerable boat – another Princecraft but this time a fishing/ski boat with a windshield. It suits our needs right now while we are only using it on weekends in the summer. For the winter months it is covered and stored.

Our dream and plans include one day purchasing a 40-foot trawler to live on for a year and travel the Great Loop. This will be a true test of our love of boating. I will be interested to compare living on a boat for a 2-week holiday versus living on it for a whole year!

Boating is a fun activity with the family

Challenges with boating:

  • Finding the right boat – consider how and when you will use it, how and where you will store it, do your research, go to boat shows, get as much info as you can, buy used
  • Ask lots of people – everyone has advice – most boaters love to tell you all about their boat and their experiences
  • Learning how to maintain a boat – changing oil, filters, etc. YouTube is a great resource
  • Learning how to launch a boat and how to trailer – if you are new to this, then practise backing up and learn how to turn the wheel to be able to back a boat down a ramp – it comes with practise
  • It can feel stressful to get your boat launched with other boaters waiting to use the ramp – remember everyone is in the same boat (so to speak) so don’t panic! Most boaters help each other – it’s a good community
  • Some boaters like to drink – this is one part I can do without – drinking and driving any vehicle is a big No-No in my books
  • Always wear lifejackets even if you know how to swim
  • Allow extra time – you can’t be in a rush!

 

Best part of boating:

  • Enjoyment of being out on the water
  • Getting close to nature
  • Fun time with family and friends – swimming, fishing, tubing, skiing exploring
  • Relaxing activities – reading, picnicking, fishing, sleeping
  • Great stress reliever, great weekend activity/hobby, great retirement activity

 

Are you thinking about starting boating?

What are your experiences out on the water?

Please let me know. Leave your comments below…

 

Read about other retirement activities.

Read about how to reduce stress.

Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos

Turks & Caicos Islands

Turks and Caicos Islands (aka TCI) are a series of low-lying coral islands owned by Great Britain. They are located in the Atlantic Ocean, east of Cuba and north of Haiti and Dominican Republic. Cruise ships dock in Cockburn Town on Grand Turk and the international airport is located on Providenciales. This is the gateway island known as “Provo” with luxury resorts, shops and restaurants. This is a common winter vacation spot (with short flights) for many Canadians and Americans.

The expansive 14-mile barrier reef is a draw for snorkelers and scuba divers with a dramatic 2,000m underwater wall. The islands have a total population of about 34,000 with approximately 1.4 million visitors annually. Locals are mostly descendants of Africans who were brought in to work on the salt pans and cotton plantations. Expats are from all over the world including British, Canadians, Americans, French, Bahamians, etc. There are many private luxury homes on Provo. Some famous owners of private homes on Parrot Cay (between Provo and North Caicos) include Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Donna Karan, a New York fashion designer, Christie Brinkley, an American model and Bruce Willis, an American actor.

The Government is a British Crown Colony with a Governor being appointed by the Queen. The economy relies on tourism, real estate development and exportation of seafood. The currency is the US$ and while you will find both left and right-handed cars, they drive on the left like in Britain. There are no traffic lights on Provo, only traffic circles – remember to look right! Gasoline (in 2017) costs $5 per gallon but since the island is quite small, you don’t end up using much fuel. Most places accept credit cards but gas stations only accept cash. There is no public transportation so you’d need to rent a car to get around. Atlantic Standard Time is observed all year in TCI. Electricity is 100 volts, which is suitable for U.S. appliances. Water is produced by desalination and most people prefer to buy bottled water to drink mostly for its taste. Most items are quite dear in price but you can get almost all the usual foods in the grocery stores. The main places to shop on Provo are Quality Foods, Graceway IGA and Graceway Gourmet Foods.

Providenciales satellite image

The climate is generally warm and consistent all year. There is a “hot” season and a “cool” season. May to October are considered hot and November to April cool ranging from 75F to 95C. The cool season is the best time to travel to TCI, otherwise it is too hot during the day to get outside. In February/March when we travelled here it was 83F (28C) every day and 72F (23C) at night. There is a nice leeward wind on the north side of the island. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to September 30. Floods and heavy rains can occur during hurricane season. After it rains mosquitoes and sand fleas can be a problem, so take bug spray. The water temperature hovers around 80F.

Crime is quite low however visitors should not let down their guard. Theft is the most common crime committed against visitors. Rental cars are marked so they suggest leaving doors unlocked so windows don’t get smashed. Also don’t go to remote areas. For healthcare, there is a modern hospital on Provo run by InterHealth Canada as well as Cheshire Hall Medical Centre. On Grand Turks there is Cockburn Town Medical Centre. There are also several medical clinics and pharmacies.

To travel to other islands you can take a guided tour or take a self-guided tour. You can also fly to the other islands. The ferry to North Caicos costs $50pp round trip and takes about 30 minutes each way. To get around on your own on North Caicos, you need to rent a vehicle. I’d suggest renting a Jeep since only the main road is paved and all the side roads are quite rough. Be aware that signage is quite small and sometimes hard to find. North Caicos, the “green island” is home to the Government Farm at Kew Village, Wade’s Plantation, town of Whitby, Cottage Pond, Flamingo Pond and Bottle Creek. There is a causeway to Middle Caicos, the biggest island. Here you can see the Indian Caves (N/C) and Conch Bar Caves National Park ($20pp) only accessible with a tour guide. There is also the famous Mudjin Harbour where you can walk out to the rocks depending if the tide is out, or walk the path along the cliff for some spectacular views.

Cheshire Hall Plantation ruins
Indian Caves on Middle Caicos

On Provo itself, the main attractions are: 12-mile Grace Bay Beach, Grace Bay area shopping and restaurants, snorkelling at the Bight Reef or Smiths Reef, Turtle Cove Marina, Conch Farm, Long Bay Beach, the hole at Long Bay, Sapodilla Bay Beach, Sapodilla Hill stone engravings, Cheshire Hall Plantation. Water sports include snorkelling, diving, free diving, kite boarding, parasailing, jet-skiing, windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, fishing, glass-bottom boating.

TCI Sapodilla Bay – view from Sapodilla Hill

One of the most enjoyable activities for me was snorkelling. We made sure to get out almost every day to explore a new part of the reef. Our villa had direct beach access to Smith’s Reef, which is one (if not THE best) reef on Provo. Get directions and maps at VisitTCI.com. There was beautiful untouched coral, including (purple) sea fan coral and (yellow) brain coral. We saw many different fish like Rainbow Parrot Fish, Yellow Tail Snapper, Sargeant Major, Queen Trigger Fish, Trumpet Fish, Barracuda, Common Brown Rays, and Spotted Eagle Ray and many more!

Queen Trigger Fish

This is not a cheap location to visit. We rented a villa at Atlantic Ocean Beach Villas, which we loved. We normally prefer this type of accommodation over a hotel. But for this we get peace and quiet and the ability to prepare our own meals. This saves money and gives us more flexibility. The Atlantic Ocean Beach Villas have 2 properties (each with 4 villas), one located right on the beach and the other just across a quiet road that also has the same private access to the beach. These villas were significantly cheaper but in my opinion better since we didn’t have people walking past our units. Ours actually backed onto a canal that lead to Turtle Cove. There were no people trying to sell us trinkets on the beach at all. The beaches were immaculate, natural and unspoiled with only a few people there at a time. With Smith’s Reef directly off the beach, we were lucky to go snorkelling nearly every day. We saw the most amazing coral and fish! All in all, this was a very successful holiday and a great way to spend a winter vacation.

Atlantic Ocean Beach Villas on “Provo”
Sunrise at Providenciales “Provo”

Have you been to Turks & Caicos?

Please leave your comments below… I’d love to hear from you!

 

Useful links about TCI:  Visit TCI and Turks & Caicos Tourism

Read also Travel Safety Checklist and How to Travel Light

 

Tofino, BC

Tofino, BC

Tofino, BC

Tofino is a nature lover’s paradise on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It sits on a peninsula within Clayoquot Sound. It’s small population of about 1800 nearly triples in size during the summer months. The wild natural scenery including the various inlets and ancient rainforest attract many visitors. Year-round surfers come to sandy beaches with impressive waves, which is part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. It’s sister town, Ucluelet, is 40km along the coast to the south. Both Tofino and Ucluelet are popular spots for winter storm watching. There are many hotels that cater to this including the well-known Wickininnish Inn.

To get there, you would fly to Vancouver Island to either Comox or Nanaimo, then drive to Tofino. You will end up driving first on highway #19 to Qualicum Beach, which is about 45 minutes from Comox (to the north) or Nanaimo (to the south). Then you drive east another 2-1/2 hours to Tofino along highway #4.

Along the other end of the peninsula lies Tofino’s neighbour, Ucluelet. The distance between is about 40km and takes about 45 minutes to drive.

Tofino – (population of 1,800)

Tofino & Ucluelet visitor information

Tofino & Ucluelet Visitor Guides

Here are a few of the activities in the area:

 

Ucluelet – (population of 1,600)

Amphitrite Lighthouse Loop Trail
View from Wild Pacific Trail

Have you ever been to Tofino or Ucluelet?

Please leave your comments below…

Read about Vancouver Island.

 

 

 

Travel Cheaper

Travel Cheaper

Tips to Travel Cheaper

It’s easy to spend a lot when traveling, but if you do some research in advance, plan as much as you can, take advantage of deals, you can save yourself some money. Here are some tips to traveling a bit cheaper:

  1. Make travel a priority. You will always find something else to spend your money on, but if you make travel a priority, you’ll plan a trip and save for it.
  2. Get free flights with travel rewards. Use budget airlines (but check their safety ratings).
  3. Watch for deals. Be willing to travel last minute.
  4. Travel in off-peak times. Research as much as possible before booking to find the best times to travel to your destination.
  5. House swap or house sit to save money on accommodation. Alternately use AirBnB or HomeAway or VRBO to find home rentals.
  6. Be food smart! Prepare your own meals. It’s ok to eat out occasionally but this can really add up if you eat out all the time.
  7. Get discount cards, tourist cards or passes for public transit like rail passes.
  8. Travel in a group. Organize a group tour for bigger discounts. Save on vacation rental by booking as a group. Carpool to share the expense.
  9. For long-term travel, consider working overseas by picking up some casual work. Get a contract in your field, or work as an instructor, or teach English as a second language.
  10. At your destination look for free activities like walking tours, exhibitions, etc.
  11. Avoid souvenir shops. Be selective about what you buy.

How do you save money when travelling?

Please share your tips below…

See how to travel light.