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Expedition 51

Drive through Spectacular Natural Splendour

 

This crescent-shaped trail is a favourite for those who love long road trips through immense stretches of unspoiled wilderness. Starting in Baie-Comeau on Route 289, the drive is 1,700 km long and will take you at least 26 hours. it crosses Labrador from west to east on Routes 500 and 510 then continues down to the Lower North Shore. Once there, a scenic detour beckons: a 150-km trip along the Chicoutai* Scenic Route, from Blanc-Sablon to Vieux-Fort and back, to view the majestic waterways of the Gulf of St.Lawrence. (*Chicoutais, or cloudberries, are small flavourful, amber-coloured berries native to Quebec's North Shore.)

Once back to Blanc-sablon, you and your vehicule could travel by ship back to your starting point of Baie-Comeau. The M/V Bella-Desgagnés brings supplies to the Lower North Shore's coastal villages. From the ship's deck, you can watch some 500 km of scenic coastline glide and stroll through picturesque fishing villages that are only accessible by sea. All too soon, you'll be arriving in Kegaska, the first place where you can pick up Route 138 for a 650-km, 8-hour drive along the north shore of the St.Lawrence back to Baie-Comeau. The sailor's life is not for you? You can always take the ferry from Blanc-Sablon to Newfoundland.

Following this trial is like a Choose-Your-Own-adventure trip; you can stay on it for a few days, the whole summer or throughout the winter. The trail passes through boreal forest to taiga; it winds in and out of charming towns and villages where you can discover the lifestyle and culture of the francophone, anglophone and Aboriginal populations, as well as the Métis and Inuit communities. There are lakes, rivers and mountains, where you can hunt and fish, rough it in the wilderness, hike and kayak, and, at the end of the day, camp out under the northern lights. The curious can visit hydroelectric dams and open-pit mines. When winter comes, the North Shore is THE place to snowshoe and ski, or to go snowmobiling and dog sledding.

By Road and By Sea

Caution is required when driving this trail; while many sections are paved, some are only surfaced with gravel. The steep and narrow roads have tight turns and no shoulder, and become slippery in wet or icy conditions, so all-terrain vehicules and motorbikes are strongly recommended. While some adventurous types have driven this trail in a regular sedan, you are the best judge of your driving skills and your vehicule's capabilities. Whatever your mode of transportation, be sure to plan your trip carefully: pack well and know where to stop for supplies.

  • For a customized trip, advice on a route, Coste travel agency specializes: 1 877 573-2678 or voyagescoste.ca.
  • On the Trans-Labrador Highway: 1 709-944-5399 or gatewaylabrador.ca

Download the Expedition 51 Guide

Route 389

Route 389 plays a key role in providing access to the natural resources of the Côte-Nord forestry and mining industry. From a tourism perspective, it's the only road to Labrador.

On 389, also commonly known as the Manic Road, the region's slogan “Nature, beyond Measure” makes perfect sense, as the road takes you on a tour of hydroelectric power plants built by Hydro-Québec: Manic-2, Manic-3 and Manic-5. A stop in Manic-5 is needed to see and even visit the largest dam with multiple vaults and buttresses in the world.

The Groulx Mountains have 30 summits of more than 1000 meters of altitude and the station Uapishka. These preferred sites for lovers of wilderness and wide open spaces are part of the Manicouagan Uaphiska World Biosphere Reserve (RMBMU). The summits offer a panoramic view of the Manicouagan reservoir, the fourth largest meteoric crater on the planet. Along this route there are many sites for fishing, hunting and recreation.

Near Fermont, the mining industry is very present. Iron ore is mined in some of the largest open-pit mines in North America.

To get to Labrador, Route 389 is the only road. After Fermont, Route 389 becomes Highway 500, then Highway 510. On these two Labrador roads, a distance of 1170 km is travelled to reach the village of Blanc-Sablon, on the Lower North Shore. From here, the Route panoramique de la chicoutai takes you on a captivating journey along the Gulf of St.Lawrence to Vieux-Fort (150 km round trip).

Highway 389 consists of asphalt and gravel sections with numerous steep curves and slopes. Travelling on this route is challenging and risky. Road conditions can change abruptly depending on the weather. Vigilance and prudence are required.

 

Local Attractions

  • Manic-2 and Manic-5, hydroelectric installations and dams.
  • The station Uapishka
  • The Groulx Mountains
  • The Severson Mountains
  • The Mont-Wright Mining Complex.
  • The municipality of Fermont and its wall.
  • Many walking paths
  • The Northern Lights
  • The remains of Gagnon, a closed mining town, in 1984, at kilometer 390.

 

Route 500 and 510 Trans-Labrador Highway

Note : the stretch between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Red Bay will be paved in 2017. To find out about driving conditions in Labrador, visit roads.gov.nl.ca or call (709) 896-7888.

Local Attractions

  • At the fateway Labrador Visitor Information Center, an exhibition displays artifacts from western Labrador and labrador, illustrating 3,500 years of fur trade and mining history, and local culture.
  • The world's largest underground hydroelectric power plant in Churchill Falls. To book a tour, call Nalcor Energy at (709) 925-3335 or visit their website nalcorenergy.com/nalcor-operations/churchillfalls/visit-churchill-falls/.
  • During World War II, the airport at Happy Valley-Goose Bay was used to refuel military aircraft on transatlantic flights. CFB Goose Bay is the largest military air base in northeastern North america and is a low-level flight training facility.
  • The Labrador Military Museum.
  • Labrador Heritae Society Museum.
  • Red Bay, which is the 16th century French settlers called Baie rouge, was a Basque whaling station. This National Historic Site of Canada was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013.
  • The Sheffer Museum in Lourdes-de-Blanc-Sablon recounts the life of Msgr Scheffer, who was the first apostolic vicar of Schefferville-Labrador from 1946 to 1966.
  • Visit the Right Whale Museum. The skeleton of a 400-year-old 17 m (52 ft) right whale is on display.
    Point Amour Lighthouse, L'Anse-Amour, built in 1858.
  • Destination Labrador

Services

(from Labrador City to Blanc-Sablon) - Gateway Labrador, a boutique, visitor information center and exhibit hall, is 35 km from Fermont. Be sure to stop by to get safety tips for your trip. Driving conditions in Labrador are available at roads.gov.nl.ca or by calling (709) 896-7888. You'll find restaurants and accommodation at these places: Wabush, Churchill Falls, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Port Hope Simpson, Mary's Harbour and L'Anse-au-Clair.

Telephone

There is NO cell phone service on the Trans-Labraor Highway. Visitor can borrow a satelite phone at designed services areas between Wabush and L'Anse-au-Clair.
  • Wabush : Wabush Hotel
  • Churchill Falls : Midway Travel Inn
  • Happy Valley-Goose Bay : Hotel North Two
  • Happy Valley-Goose Bay : Royal Inn / Suites
  • Port Hope Simpson : Alexis Hotel
  • Mary's Harbour : Riverlodge Hotel
  • L'Anse au Clair : Northern Light Inn

La Route Panoramique de la Chicoutaï

Before you take the boat from Blanc-Sablon, be sure to allow enough time to take the Chicoutai* route, a scenic, 150-km section of Route 138, that runs along the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Vieux-Fort and back. It's a unique opportunity to discover the region's scenery and hiking trails, the hospitality of the people who live "at the end of the world", and to sample the distinctive local cuisine. From early May to early July, you can watch icebergs drift by in the Strait of Belle Isle.

Local Attractions

  • The Scheffer Museum, in the church of Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes
  • The Aqua Labadie farm specializes in marine farming sfcallops at their Salmon bay facility.
  • The Middle Bay interpretation center tells the thousands-year-old history of the land and its people.
  • The Bio-Resources Solidarity Co-op in rivière-Saint-Paul sells a range of locally-made products made from the berries that grow wild on the Lower North Shore.
  • The Whiteley Museum in Rivière-Saint-Paul, named in honour of the man who invented the cod trap.

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