We’ve seen a sign near our house that says “Bell Island Ferry” so we made an impulsive decision to go off for an adventure and headed down to the ferry landing which is just a few minutes from our house in Portugal Cove! Turns out we got there just in time for the ferry, so we parked the car and walked aboard. Bell Island is about 30 mins away by ferry, and there’s a substantial year-round community there, some beautiful beaches, caves and tunnels and old mines, that’s about all we know!
Seeing the cliffs and the shoreline from the ferry was beautiful and the ferry ride was so exciting for the kids. They were totally amazed, a little overwhelmed by the noises and strangeness of boarding and setting out, but once we were underway, they liked the wind on their faces and the soothing noise of the engines. It was a quick ride, soon we could see the caves & pebbly beaches along the front of the island, and then we were docking and climbing down. We realized that we were the only ones who’d walked on to the ferry, everyone else had cars. That made us wonder if we’d miscalculated- can you actually see or do anything on this island without a car?
Yes! we had fun walking around! Lunch of fish & chips down by the ferry landing, then we headed up that big hill to take a look back at the mainland. We spotted a little pathway up, it started out with a zillion wooden steps (actually, Harriet counted… 73!) and kept going up up up at a very exciting and slightly insane pitch. We were climbing up through a beautiful meadow full of wildflowers, and thankfully the girls were more interested in charging on ahead rather than rolling down the hill to crash off the cliff’s edge and into the ocean below! Newfoundland is so full of terrifyingly steep paths and scary places to hang out with small children. But it was super beautiful and the kids loved adventuring up a very steep hill and into the unknown.
The path wound through some pines and then passed a pair of WW2 guns mounted high up on this hillside, pointing back towards the Strait. Apparently Bell Island was an important supply depot for trans-Atlantic convoy routes, and this island was one of the few places in North America that was directly attack during WW2. In 1942, German U-boats attacked twice, sinking four boats and killing 60. Hence the guns, I guess. War sucks. Past the guns, the path kept going straight up and up, and finally into a cemetery! We’d caught sight of it from the ferry and wondered what it was. What a beautiful, windswept spot.
Seemed like a good spot to turn back. We descended carefully and had just enough time for ice cream cones before lining up for the ferry home! Definitely planning to come back to Bell Island again, and we’ll try bringing the car next time because it’s a big island and I think there’s so much more to see! I heard there’s a creepy tunnel into a cliff that comes out on a beautiful beach at the other end? Also there must be farms out here, because Mike says the provincial vets do farm calls out to Bell Island sometimes.