We were told that you can chip off the ice, frozen for thousands of years, from the side of the icebergs while sitting in your sea kayak. The bergs, calving off the ice sheets up north, migrate southward by the pull of the Labrador Drift. Occasionally one will float into St. John's Harbour , wedging itself against the rocks, eventually melting in the warmth of the late spring sun.
Flying on Air Nova from Halifax to St. John's, we could see the islands of Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, with their stretches of long coastline etched in cresting waves in the translucent turquoise water. Was this pale hue a result of melting icebergs or white sand beneath the water's surface, we wondered. Upon arrival in St. John's, we were keen to experience a new adventure. We arranged to go sea kayaking with Stan Cook Sr. and his son Stanley through their adventure company, Wilderness Newfoundland. We were provided with an information session where we were fitted with wet suits, life jackets and shown how to correctly paddle and manage the kayak.
With boats in tow, we jumped into Stan's jeep in search of the best spot to launch our excursion. We decided on a rocky beach along Witless Bay, where we unloaded our gear, donned our outfits and pushed off into the surf. Each kayak has a fully trained expert in the second seat, so we felt confident cutting through the choppy waves. The powerful warm wind blew off the land, providing us with an easy trip out to an island bird sanctuary where Witless Bay Ecological Reserve is located.
As we neared the island, millions of seabirds came into view on the cliffs as they dipped in the wind and swooped toward the ocean. Soon we were reveling in the presence of rare birds such as colourful puffins. As some flew just metres over our heads, others skipped along the surface of the water. Unable to fly because of overeating, this is a humorous problem common with these birds. It was an incredible sensation to be at one with the ocean in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity.
Stan is a biologist with a passion for whales. With excitement in his voice, he relayed to us his experience of viewing an aesthetically perfect humpback whale in this bay just days before. Eventually we turned our kayaks into the wind, proceeding to paddle non-stop for about an hour into the spitting salty waves, giving us a satisfying and invigorating workout. Our faces streaked with white salt stains, we pulled our kayaks through the surf up on to the rocky beach again. Upon completion of loading the boats and gear on to the trailer, we set out for St.John's to our destination for the night, Winterholm Heritage Inn.
Built as a private residence by Sir Marmaduke Winter between 1904 to 1907, this massive house of over 1,300 square metres is in the Queen Anne style of architecture, exhibiting the double bay windows and decorative shingling. In addition to 11 working fireplaces, the ornate plaster work and hand-carved oak woodwork, originally crafted in England, is still in its original perfect condition. As we entered the grand lobby we were warmly greeted by Dick Cook, the innkeeper. He and his wife, Ruby, lovingly inset their fine touches throughout this beautiful inn. We were led up the elegant staircase to our room. The curved walls, painted in pale blue, enhanced the high white oval ceiling richly carved with an ornate design. A quaint sitting area rested in the nook of the large bay window overlooking a park across the street. In front of the fireplace on a small table sat two wine glasses with a complimentary bottle of wine.
As we filled our large corner jacuzzi tub with warm, soothing water, we emmersed ourselves into the bubbles, relishing in the pampered luxury. Later that evening, curled up in front of the flirting flames of the fireplace, we uncorked the wine, toasting our incredible day.