Hiking, craft beer, the freshest calamari we've ever tasted and a bay-cation in a colourful biscuit box house made this stay-cation "best kind" as Newfoundlanders would say.
I'll give you a bit of back story before we dive into all the adventures we had during our stay-cation. This weekend didn't start out how we had planned. When we originally booked our mini-trip for our actually anniversary on the Canada Day long weekend (July 1, 2019) but I had an accident and we had to reschedule. After needing 12 stitches on the bottom of my foot, it quickly became evident to us that celebrating on our anniversary wasn't going to be ideal. Luckily the couple who we rented our AirBnB from was understanding and we happily moved it to the end of August.
Pushing the date actually worked out perfectly because we had incredible hot weather, by hot I mean 25+ degrees Celsius, for the majority of our vacation and very little rain, which is almost unheard of here.
Of course our first stop after we settled into our home in Bay Roberts and were warmly greeted by the hosts was to hit it up the closest craft brewery, the Baccaleiu Trail Brewing Co. Located right on the causeway off a main road that runs through Bay Roberts it is perfectly situated. You get sweeping views into a bay that is also a well known birding estuary.
Just like every place we've had the chance to visit, Baccaleiu brewing offers a warm, friendly, atmosphere that you quickly become accustomed to when you travel around Newfoundland. We quickly sparked a conversation with the Bartender, who also happened to be the Head Brewer's sister and learned a bit more about this sweet spot. She gladly walked us through what they had on tap and gave us their brief history as they had just opened in 2018.
When we visit a new brewery we usually start with a flight, helping us experience as many flavours as possible. With my husband working in the craft brewery industry he helps me pick beers that he thinks I will like, which are usually quite different from his selections. Firstly I love sours, their fruity, refreshing and hit the back of your mouth with a kick. Speaking of spice I also love the bold flavours that come from stouts and porters and of course I can put down any lager any time. Now that you know my beer preferences so there are no doubts why my flight is so varied in colour.
These handmade flights are also one of my favourites that I've seen in a craft brewery. The little clip holding the beer selections for your flight are too cute.
As the afternoon slipped by we sipped and the hot sun as Roxanne (our dog) lazed on the their deck with us. They had many great beers so we decided to fill up a few growlers and headed back to our cottage for a BBQ and night around the fire pit.
The next day was just as beautiful so we took the day to explore on foot. Our first hike of the weekend was the "Mad Rocks trail" a.k.a the Shoreline Heritage Walking Trail. As far as hikes go in Newfoundland this was fairly easy, with not too many steep inclines and mostly grassy paths. One feature at the start of the hike is an ode to the furriest Newfoundlander. Known as Fergus Island after Scottish merchant John Fergus, it looks like a lazy Newfoundland Dog sleeping on the ocean.
As we continued along the trail we were met by unique historic sites including root cellars, stone walls from past homes and a marked grave site. You can take your time reading the signs that are posted throughout the trail, offering historical tidbits and a glimpse into past centuries.
This coastal hike offers constant breathtaking views of the crystal blue waters of multiple bays and coves. On a clear day such as this you can see right across Conception Bay to Bell Island. Put simply, it is spectacular.
From start to finish the walk is about 5 kms, which if you were walking quickly you could easily do it in under 45 minutes, but we took our time to stop for photos and breathe in our surroundings and of course chat with a few locals along the route.
At the end of the trail you will come up to a tiny working cottage, known as Madrock Cafe. I would strongly suggest waiting for one of their homemade dessert or if really hungry dig into a traditional brunch of toutons, fish cakes and baked beans.
We definitely worked up a sweat along our sunny hike and after some rest made reservations for the most well-known restaurant, the Stone Jug, located just 25 minutes drive up the main highway from Bay Roberts. This historic restaurant was built in the 1800's to serve as trading post for merchants and fishermen in the area. Inside you can see a blend of the traditional architecture mixed with funky industrial pieces. If it wasn't so bustling I would have taken more photos indoors but you'll just have to go and see it for yourself.
Here is where Josh and I tasted the freshest and most delicious calamari we have ever had! There was no doubt that the squid had likely been jigged just that afternoon as it melted in your mouth and was perfectly cooked over a fire. We heard their pizza's were incredible but I went ahead and ordered their shroom burger which was also great. Even with 3 floors this place is busy in the summer so we would recommend you book a reservation and expect some waiting while you're there, remember you are on Newfoundland time now.
Since we were so healthy, hiking the day before we decided to use day 3 and visit another beer hot spot, Dildo Brewing Co. and Museum. You may have heard about this place because of their town name and because Jimmy Kimmel hilariously ran for mayor of the town last year, making the brewery the centre of the spectacle. Today was no different, cars were lined up just so people could get a photo with the "Jimmy hearts Dildo" signs posted everywhere. We were pretty lucky to get a standing spot on their deck, which is actually the best place to enjoy beer anyways. We listened to live music and cheers'd as dolphins swam in the bay and boats waved as they passed by.
In this picture you can even slightly make out the Dildo "Hollywood" sign that they erected (sorry for that pun) on the hillside behind me. As you can see we couldn't have asked for better weather or a better day.
The next day we took another hike, this time mostly uphill in the nearby town of Cupids. This was a more challenging trail as it leads you right up a 100 meter climb to the “The American Man” – a stone cairn that has stood in one form or another, on the Head’s bald summit for generations.
From the top of the trail you can see all the way across Conception Bay and trust me you'll want to throw your arms up in triumph when you see these views and reach the summit.
Along this trail you will also find that blueberries are abundant, depending on when you walk it. Since we were there on labour day weekend people were out with buckets picking along the first leg of the walk. It also makes it easy if you forget to pack a snack as you can take a few from a nearby bush on the route.
With two days of hiking, some pints at nearby craft breweries and delicious local food all checked off our stay-cation bucket list, our last day was dedicated to finding the quintessential Newfoundland watering hole for a swim. The one thing about this province is there are literally little ponds and lakes everywhere. The one we found was actually located off a trail behind a garage in Hearts Content. This spring fed pond was very chilly but the perfect place to take in the sun on the deck and just enjoy the rugged landscape that surrounded us. Making it the perfect end to a perfect stay-cation along the Baccaleiu Trail in eastern Newfoundland.
I know we are all safe at home for now, but I also know that one day we'll be able to explore again. I hope that if you are already in NL that you take the opportunity to explore your home or if you are wanting to come from away, that this inspires you to keep a trip to our beautiful province at the top of your "must visit" list.