The Trans-Labrador Highway is now fully paved. It is a remote road with rare cellular service. Now tourists can enjoy a smoother ride along the way. With this in mind, we decided to take advantage of this and travel through Labrador. Therefore, we made our way from town to town for this bewildering Labrador road trip driving the Trans-Labrador Highway in its entirety.
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Where is Labrador
Labrador is on the east coast of Canada. This region, commonly known as The Big Land, is part of Newfoundland and Labrador. Its shores follow the Strait of Belle Isle, the Labrador sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Why Visit Labrador
Coastal Labrador will charm its visitors with stunning rugged coastlines, abundant wildlife and fishermen communities. Furthermore, the interior lands are full of untamed nature. Still, the scattered towns are rich in history and culture and eager to share their story.
How long is the Trans-Labrador Highway?
The Trans-Labrador Highway is 1100 kilometres long, starting or ending at either end, near the Labrador-Québec border near L’Anse au Clair in Coastal Labrador or near Labrador City in northern Labrador.
The Trans-Labrador Highway consists of two highways; the 500 and the 510. Highway 510 goes from L’Anse au Clair to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, where kilometre markers go up for the next 600 kilometres.
From Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the Trans-Labrador Highway continues on the 500 to Labrador City for 500 kilometres, with the markers going down. Hence, Happy Valley-Goose Bay is roughly the middle of the trip.
A bit of History
A popular choice for a souvenir is any jewellery made with labradorite. The stone is found in Labrador and some parts of Newfoundland.
The legend tells the story of the auroras trapped inside the gemstone, giving it its colourful, glittering look. Then, a courageous warrior freed the auroras by stabbing the stones with his spear. Finally, the auroras are back where they should be, in the northern skies.
Driving the Trans-Labrador Highway
Our trip started in Blanc Sablon Québec, just 6 kilometres outside the border of Newfoundland and Labrador. Since we had just finished our road trip across Newfoundland, getting off the ferry in Blanc Sablon, we kept driving east towards Labrador.
It is only a few minutes’ drive across the border from Blanc Sablon into Labrador, the Big Land, at kilometre 0 of the Trans-Labrador Highway.
Time zones on the Trans-Labrador Highway
You will go through two time zones as you drive the Trans-Labrador Highway. You will be on Newfoundland Standard Time from L’Anse au Claire to Black Trickle. Watch for the sign on the highway that will let you know when it is time to set your watch back. The rest of Labrador is on Atlantic Standard Time.
Road Trip Through Labrador
Each stop on the Trans-Labrador Highway has its charms. You will find the attractions for each town in the next section of this article. So whether you want to visit, hike or shop, you can use this to plan your epic adventure in the Big Land.
L’Anse au Clair
The first town you will come through as you cross the border into Labrador is L’Anse au Clair.
Visit the Gateway to Labrador Visitor Center. An old restored church turned into an interpretive center. Discover the history of Labrador going back 9000 years.
Hike part of the Labrador Pioneer Footpath, an old system of trails used by the first settlers to get around from town to town. The footpath comprises several paths, each section ranging from 6 kilometres to 15 kilometres, mainly easy to moderate hiking. In addition, keep an eye out for whales and icebergs on the trails. The footpath goes through a few communities along the coast.
Shop at The Northern Light Inn Gift Shop.
Visit the Maritime Archaic Burial Mound National Historic Site of Canada, where a child was buried over 7500 years ago. It is the oldest known burial site in the New World. Some artifacts uncovered on this site are displayed in the Labrador Straits Museum at L’Anse au Loup.
The Point Amour Lighthouse Provincial Historic Site is the main attraction at L’Anse-Amour. It was built in the mid-1800s. You can climb the 132 stairs to the top of the lighthouse for panoramic views.
Hike along the coastal trail at Point Amour while keeping an eye out for whales, icebergs and shipwrecks. The Raleigh Trail is an easy 2-kilometre hike that will take you to the wreck site of two British warships.
Visit Parks Canada’s Red Bay National Historic Site on an old Basque whaling station that produced oil for lamps.
The Saddle Island Interpretive Center depicts the history of the last 500 hundred years of whale hunters and whale oil production.
The Right Whale Exhibit Museum has everything and anything about whales and their protection.
Hike up Tracy Hill Trail. You will climb the 689 steps to the top of the hill, where incredible views of the bay and the town await hikers.
Shop at Whalers Gifts and Designs. The store has a variety of souvenirs and crafts handmade by the owner.
#vanlife We stopped for the night in Red Bay in the Tracy Hill Stairs parking lot. It is a nice parking lot with enough flat space for a few vehicles and plenty of room to turn around. We had a wonderful view of the bay and the town.
Mary’s Harbour is a small community with dirt roads full of potholes to ensure no one exceeds the speed limit of 30 km/h. However, it is a charming town with sympathetic residents that will heartily welcome you.
Hike Gin Cove Walking Trail an easy 20-minute hike with an old boardwalk and wooden stairs leading to the ocean. The White Water Falls Trail is an easy 2.5-kilometre hike that brings hikers to waterfalls.
Shop at The Great Caribou Studio. The store is an excellent place to stop for good coffee and pastries. In addition, they have arts and crafts from local artists on display and for sale.
In Mary’s Harbour, you can catch a ferry to Battle Harbour. This tiny island off the coast of Labrador, where time stood still, has charmed visitors for years. So don’t miss your chance to step back in time with a visit to Battle Harbour and experience life as it was when settlers first came to the island.
The time zone changes somewhere between Port Hope Simpson and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Watch out for the road sign that will let you know to set your watch back by half an hour. However, if you rely on your phone, you will have to wait until Happy Valley-Goose Bay, as there is no cellular reception until then.
Happy Valley-Goose Bay – The Heart of Labrador
Happy Valley-Goose Bay is the Heart of Labrador. This is roughly mid-way into our road trip across Labrador. Driving the Trans-Labrador Highway from L’Anse au Clair to Labrador City, this is a little more than halfway through.
To do in Happy Valley-Goose Bay
Visit the Labrador Military Museum. The exhibits go back to WWII to tell the story of 5 Wing Goose Bay and the military history of Labrador.
Geocaching is a popular activity in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Hike in the Birch Island Conservation Area. It is a beautiful small park with boardwalk trails through wooded and bog areas. Also, picnic tables are on the premises.
Hike Peace Rock and Scenic Waterfalls. The easy 1-kilometre hike is short but full of beautiful sights.
Shop at the Northern Lights Building, where they have a bit of everything and anything.
#vanlife There is an abandoned campground with room for the night. Gosling lake has a boat launch and a small beach. Some campsites are overgrown, but some are still usable. In addition, there are two overflow parking lots with plenty of space for large vans or big rigs.
North West River
A road trip to Labrador is not complete without a stop at North West River. It is the oldest Labrador community, founded in 1743 by fur trader Louis Fornel. It borders Melville Lake and Grand Lake (or Churchill River). On the opposite shore is the First-Nation Community, Sheshatshiu.
To do in North West
Visit the Labrador Heritage Society Museum, which is the original building by the Hudson’s Bay Company for fur trading back in the day. They have an impressive collection of artifacts, pictures and documents from the last two hundred years, mostly donated by the town’s folks.
I was highly impressed by the few dozen models and sketches a local did. They tell the story of the town and its people, the natives, the settlers and their way of life.
Visit the North West River Interpretation Centre. The exhibits in this center depict the lives of native Innu and Innuit and the settlers in the area. Learn about the area’s history dating back to before it became North West River and since. Particularly the hardships endured by the people during the summer and to survive the long winters. Visual and audio presentations turn it into a storytelling experience.
There is also an auditorium with a list of videos and movies from which you can choose. We decided on the film Torngat Mountains, Northwords. It was an inspirational story, including the fantastic scenery of Northern Labrador.
Hike the Lookout Trails from the North West River Interpretation Center. The trailhead is at the right end of the parking lot.
Stop by the Sunday Hill Lookout for a beautiful view of the town below and the immensity of Melville Lake with the Mealy Mountains in the distance. Not only does the area has campfire rings and a picnic table but also a pit toilet. Because it is higher in altitude, expect wind, although it does keep the bugs away.
Churchill Falls is a company-owned town. As you drive through the city, it is very peculiar; you will see rows upon rows of identical square houses of the same light colour. The only difference is the cars parked in the driveways. It almost looks like something out of the movie Vivarium, where all the houses are identical. However, the other buildings in town are pretty modern looking and colourful contrasting with the off-white and pale beige of the houses.
To do in Churchill Falls
The Churchill Falls Generating Station is a significant hydroelectric power centre. Visits and tours are available, but reservations are required.
Hiking in Churchill Falls
Hike the Bowdoin Canyon Nature Trail. It is an easy hike to the viewpoint of Churchill Falls. The path is wide and barely rugged. In addition, there are makeshift wooden stairs, but many of the steps are rotten, so be careful. Most hikers seem to forgo the stairs and walk down the path beside the stairs as it is not that steep. The elevation is minimal, but there are a few ups and downs.
As you hike along the trail, there are a couple of viewpoints where you can admire the canyon and the water down below. However, the lookout at the trail’s end offers a direct view of the falls with the metal bridge far behind them.
On your way back, keep an eye out for one of the first lookouts in the canyon. There, you will find a rope that leads down the slope to the bottom. If you have an adventurous soul, you can venture to the bottom of the canyon and walk on the rocks on either side of the river cascading down the canyon. Admittedly, it is an amazing landscape and well worth the effort required to hike back up the slope with the aid of the rope.
The metal bridge is a one-lane bridge, one vehicle at a time. The narrow metal bridge that crosses the canyon and river offers beautiful views. However, don’t stop on the bridge as it is only narrow enough for one vehicle.
#vanlife We spent the night in the rest area on the west side of the bridge. It was a quiet night. The parking lot is large and level.
Labrador City is the last stop on our Labrador road trip and the last city driving west on the Trans-Labrador Highway. This is the largest city in Labrador and is known for its mining industry.
Visit the Gateway Labrador Information Center for its interesting exhibits on the history of the city and Labrador.
#vanlife We spent the night on a sandy peninsula by the water on Wabush Lake. It is a bit noisy with the traffic from the highway close by and the train that comes through every once in a while. On the other hand, the view of the water and the hills behind is beautiful.
The End of the Road Trip in Labrador
Twenty kilometres from Labrador City is Quebec’s border, where this road trip in Labrador ends, but other adventures begin in Fermont, Quebec, on route 389 to Baie-Comeau. After 1100 kilometres, a few towns, small cities, and countless miles of meadows and forests, our Trans-Labrador Highway road trip is complete.