Red Bay Museum Interpretation Centre

(click here to find location on the map)

When you get off the Labrador ferry at Blanc Sablon, Quebec, follow the road up the hill to Highway 138. Turn right (east) and follow 138 to the Labrador border. The highway number changes to Route 510, which is also the Trans Labrador Highway. It’s only 80 km to Red Bay, but plan on a 1.5 hour drive. The road is paved but currently (2016) most of it is in pretty rough shape. You will come down a steep hill to enter Red Bay. Stay on the asphalt road and follow the signs into Red Bay. On your right you will be following the “basin”. You will pass the Orientation Centre and the white church on your right. Follow the road down the hill. The Interpretation Centre and Whaler’s Station share a parking lot. You will be able to see Saddle Island, behind the Interpretation Centre.

The Interpretation Centre provides a large overview of the entire UNESCO site, the research, the discoveries, and what they were able to determine about the Basque whalers and their habitation of this area for over 70 years.

The story begins with Selma Barkham, continuing the research started by her late husband. Through extensive investigation she was able to pinpoint the existence of a whaling ship in Red Bay Harbour. In 1978 underwater exploration began and almost immediately evidence was found to support her thesis. Red Bay became a national historic site in 1979 and received UNESCO status in 2013.

The Interpretation Centre is located across the bay from Saddle Island. The parking, entry and interior are handicap accessible.

This building guides you through the history of how this became a UNESCO site and the story of the Basques whalers who frequented these shore for more than 70 years until the whale stocks were depleted.

The discovery of the ship wreck, the research conducted on it and the evidence it provided are thoroughly documented. The whales that provided a livelihood are detailed regarding diet, migration routes, physical attributes and how they were hunted and processed. The lives of the whalers are described based on gathered evidence and studies conducted on bodies from the grave yard on Saddle island.

Actual clothing articles may be viewed, having withstood burial for over 400 years. Based on research,  items were replicated and stand on display.

On the lower level, accessible by stairs or elevator, the focus are the ships themselves and how the harvest was shipped back to Europe. A large cross section shows how the ships were loaded with the barrels. There are even ceramic vessels used for food storage and cooking that were salvaged from the wrecks.

The third component of this UNESCO site is Saddle Island. A very short boat ride will take you to the island for you to explore on your own or with a guide.

Red Bay Attractions & Services:

Red Bay is home to a UNESCO world heritage site. There is also a whale museum at the town hall. There are several excellent trails. If you like to take pictures, you’ll love Red Bay.

BNL is a convenience store that will cover your basic grocery needs. The closest well stocked grocery store is in L’Anse-au-Loup. There is a liquor store at the atv dealer in L’Anse-au-Loup. There is also a fully stocked lumber yard in L’Anse-au-Loup. If you’d like to go in the other direction, there is an amazing store called Mona’s Place in Lodge Bay. They call it Labrador’s Walmart.

Whaler’s Station is another must see in Red Bay. They have one of our favourite restaurants in Newfoundland and Labrador. They also have an excellent gift shop. If you want a Labrador t-shirt or ball hat, you’ll find it here. If you’d like hand-made crafts, go into the lower level of the National Historic Site building across the parking lot.