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Red Bay Museum Orientation 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”. The Orientation Centre and a white church stand side by side.

The Centre houses a chalupa, a boat that was used by the Basque whalers during the hunt for whales. The wooden boat  was found underneath  a sunken ship discovered in Red Bay Harbour in the late 1970’s. The remains of the Chalupa were brought to the surface and it took 12 years to restore it to its present condition. This boat had been submerged in salt water since the late 1500s!

The building is situated high over the basin and has a great view of Penney Island (aka Organ’s Island) below. The parking, entry and interior are handicap accessible. Huge glass windows allow plenty of natural light and there is ample room to move around.

There are information boards and displays throughout explaining the chalupa, how it was built, and how it was used by the Basque whalers. Parks Canada staff are from the area and can provide a wealth of information, both historical and current. Many of these people grew up right in Red Bay, playing on the very beaches  that had the exposed clay roofing tiles and whale bones.

The backdrop for the chalupa is a huge mural illustrating the whalers at work on the open seas. Combine that image with the skeletal remains of the enormous left fin of a right whale. These mammals are huge and the chalupa, while generous by rowboat standards, seems puny by comparison. The story of the Basque whalers and all the supporting evidence found here at Red Bay make for a fascinating piece of history.

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.