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Saddle Island

(click here to find location on the map)

Saddle Island is a part of the Red Bay UNESCO site which features the remains of a a 16th century Basque whaling station discovered in the 1970’s.

When you get off the Labrador ferry at Blanc Sablon, Quebec, follow Highway 138 to the Labrador border. The highway number changes to Route 510 (Trans Labrador Highway). It’s only 80 km to Red Bay, but plan on a 1.5 hour drive. At Red Bay, where 510 continues inland you will stay to the right, on the paved road, to take you into Red Bay, reaching the Red Bay National Historic Site.

When you enter the interpretive centre you can schedule a guided tour or a self tour including transportation to the island. Since we were early in the season they called Gull Island Charters to take us over. They have a dock at the back of the building. If you tour the building first it will give you a good grounding on what you will be viewing on the island. The boat ride only takes a few minutes. While the trail on the island consists of boardwalks and gravel paths.

The buildings you first see on the island are from the abandoned homes of the lighthouse keepers. It was manned until 1971 at which time the lighthouse became fully automated. Enos Yetman was the last lighthouse keeper, responsible for it from 1949 until 1971.

The boat returns in one hour and that is more than enough time to explore the island. You will follow the trail as it loops around most of the island. There is a map of the island that Gull Island Charters gave us. The map, in combination with signs and markings on the trail take you to the various sites of note on the island. Each of these sites bore evidence of the activities undertaken at that location.

On the first section of the trail there is also evidence of much more recent activity on the island. A number of abandoned fishing vessels dot the coast. You will also see the remains of the Bernier, a ship carrying coal that ended up aground in its present location in the winter of 1966.

As you start to go around the end of the island you will find the cemetery that held the bodies of 140 men in 60 graves.

The island is also home to large colonies of nesting birds that are primarily concentrated on the south side of Saddle Island. This side of the island also provides frequent sightings of icebergs, often several at a time. Being in Labrador in JuneĀ  guarantees iceberg sightings.

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.