On July 26 – give or take a day or two, depending on weather conditions – about a dozen two-person teams will take the helms of small wooden boats called punts and row 10 miles across open ocean off Newfoundland, Canada. The race – officially called the Great Fogo Island Punt Race To There and Back – represents three centuries of tradition on the quaint, rugged islands of Newfoundland, as well as bragging rights for the hardy souls who undertake the endeavor.
The race itself is only open to residents of Fogo and/or Change islands, just off the main island of Newfoundland, but it’s a thrill to watch. And just as exciting is the abundance of opportunities for any traveler with adventure on the agenda – not to mention the fact that the region remains deliciously undiscovered by mass tourism.
Here’s a quick roundup of adventure options around Fogo Island and Central Newfoundland, which are ideal to visit in late summer through fall. For more information, check out the superb adventure guide put out by Adventure Central at www.adventurecentralnewfoundland.com.
Hiking: Fogo Island is one of the four corners of the Earth, according to the Flat Earth Society, and a hike up Brimstone Head is the perfect way to catch a glimpse of the breathtaking views around the island. Another great hiking spot: Terra Nova National Park, the easternmost national park in North America. More than 62 miles of hiking trails offer leisurely strolls and strenuous all-day excursions, and pristine camping spots serve up waterfront space and serene views.
Whale and iceberg watching: As one of the stops along Iceberg Alley, the waters off Fogo Island are chock full of these floating leviathans, the average size of which is 15 stories high. (Titanic enthusiasts may recognize that the great ship sank just 350 miles off the coast of Newfoundland after hitting an iceberg in 1912.) You'll feel the chilly breeze from the 'bergs on boat rides, as well as learn about the six different types, which go by names including "blocky" and "dry dock."
In addition, summer and fall are optimal seasons to spot several types of whales, including minke and pilot. One outfitter, Twillingate Adventure Tours, operates four daily trips and posts updated photos of tours, including one recent shot boasting a minke whale breaching against the backdrop of a ‘berg.
Kayaking: Rugged coastlines and iceberg- and whale-dotted seascapes make this area a kayaker’s paradise. For guided tours, check out Seaknife Kayaks, owned by kayaking veteran Lindy Rideout, who also constructs kayaks himself.