Newfoundland and Labrador Sights

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Witless Bay Ecological Reserve

Witless Bay Ecological Reserve Review

Four small islands and the water surrounding them make up the reserve, the summer home of millions of seabirds—puffins, murres, kittiwakes, razorbills, and guillemots. The birds and the humpback and minke whales that linger here before moving north to their summer grounds in the Arctic feed on capelin (a fish that belongs to the smelt family) that swarm inshore to spawn.

In late spring and early summer, this is an excellent place to see icebergs, which can remain in Newfoundland's waters into June and sometimes July. The loud crack as an iceberg breaks apart can be heard from shore, but a boat gets you a closer look at these natural ice sculptures. Icebergs have spawned a lucrative business in Newfoundland beyond tourism. Iceberg water and iceberg vodka are now on the market, made from ice chipped from the 10,000-year-old bergs as they float by.

The best views of birds and icebergs are from the tour boats that operate here and are the only way to visit the reserve. There is no public access to the islands themselves—only management staff and scientific researchers (with a permit) are allowed to land. If you're driving down from St. John's, allow about four hours: between 30 and 45 minutes each way for the drive, about 90 minutes for the boat trip, and a bit of time to spare.

Updated: 11-15-2013

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