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This Canadian Province Is the Ultimate Destination for Iceberg Spotting

Sponsored by Atlantic Canada Agreement on Tourism

Feb 28, 2020

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Springtime brings a parade of icebergs to Newfoundland and Labrador, and the result is truly a wonder of nature.

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Motoring around the sea, you spot a towering block of ice floating quietly along. As you approach, the craggy ice becomes larger and more defined, until you’re overwhelmed by its size, definition, and mix of brilliant colors. The sight is absolutely mesmerizing.

Iceberg spotting may have first caught your attention when images of a huge iceberg in Newfoundland and Labrador went viral in 2017. But iceberg chasers have long known that this is the place to come to experience a parade of frozen floats. That’s because icebergs take up residence off the coast of this Canadian province every year. Even better, it’s easy to get a view of these icy behemoths that’s truly unforgettable.

Here’s what you need to know.


What are Icebergs Exactly?
Icebergs are the edges of glaciers that break off—or “calve”—and drift away. Since they’re formed from snow, these large hunks of ice are composed of freshwater, not saltwater, even though they float in the ocean. They come in all shapes and sizes, with colors ranging from white to bright shades of blue. The largest can tower hundreds of feet above the water’s surface. But 90 percent of an iceberg is submerged, so what you see is only a fraction of these massive formations—literally, the “tip of the iceberg.”

Why the Ice Comes Here
The most easterly province of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador is truly the ultimate destination for iceberg spotting, thanks to its geographic position. Around 90 percent of the icebergs floating down the coast originate in the glaciers of western Greenland, while the rest come from glaciers in Canada’s Arctic. Iceberg season, which starts here in spring and lasts until early summer (with May and June being the best times) is the time to see pieces that have cracked off the northern ice shelves and traveled south on ocean currents to the Atlantic, taking as long as two years to reach the province. The journey is more of a vanishing act, though, since the icebergs are slowly melting.

The stretch of rugged coastline from Battle Harbour in Labrador to the southeast coast of Newfoundland has been dubbed “Iceberg Alley” for the sheer number of icebergs passing through. In 2019, hundreds of icebergs drifted past the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador, and some make it as far as the colorful seaside capital St. John’s.


How to See These Icy Wonders
Icebergs are most abundant in late May and early June. You can check them out from the water, where many boat tours go out to spot whales and birds, in addition to icebergs. More adventuresome travelers can take a sea kayak out with a guide (while keeping a safe distance, of course).

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But you can also see icebergs from land. In Labrador, some good vantage points include Battle Harbour, Red Bay, and Point Amour, which are all accessible by car ferry from Newfoundland. On the northeast coast of Newfoundland, you can watch the drifting ice from the boardwalk in St. Anthony, a.k.a. the Iceberg Alley Trail, or take in the view from the small community of La Scie, tucked between White Bay and Notre Dame Bay. On the opposite side of Notre Dame Bay, Twillingate is another popular viewing destination. Further east, Fogo Island and Change Islands offer clear view of nature’s pageantry. And near the province’s pretty capital, St. John’s, you can catch some of the action at the Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site, which sits on the most easterly point in North America, or in the nearby fishing communities of Bay Bulls and Witless Bay.


Another Way to Experience Icebergs
Icebergs are often compared to giant ice cubes, and some of them are actually ending up in cocktail glasses. (In other words, iceberg-to-glass has become a thing.) Harvesting icebergs is an emerging industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, where “iceberg cowboys” wrangle these precious blocks for their pure water straight from the wilds of Greenland. It’s a tricky job hauling in the massive ice blocks, which they actually lasso (making sure they don’t roll). The resulting water is bottled or turned into top-shelf spirits, such as luxury vodka, aromatic gin, and Caribbean-aged rum. Keep an eye out.

Learn more about iceberg spotting—and everything else to do in this gorgeous Canadian province—at NewfoundlandLabrador.com.

Looking for bergs? Visit IcebergFinder.com for alerts and real time iceberg locations from April to September every year.

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