Tree-covered and nestled in a valley at the bottom of the Bay of Islands, Corner Brook has undeniable striking beauty. And yet, it’s often left off the “places to visit” in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) lists. That’s because Corner Brook is admittedly the poor cousin to other western and northern Newfoundland destinations like Gros Morne National Park and nearby Humber Valley. But Corner Brook is every bit a hidden gem and one you ought to bucket-list in 2019.
I wrote about Corner Brook Come Home Year (CBCHY) in the September 2018 issue of Downhome Magazine and you can read about it.[i] In researching the story, I came up with more travel tidbits than my feature could include, so I’m pleased to share that information here.
The city’s official “Come Home Year Week” is a ten-day event taking place July 19-28, 2019 and it’s the perfect time to visit this western NL city.
“I have a dream of when people come home, to have a carnival like atmosphere, like winter carnival we have each February,” writes Gladys Batten to the CBCHY Facebook group.[ii] Batten and the organizing committee are envisioning a number of planned events and activities. Topping her list is food – “soup and homemade pies and desserts, cabbage rolls, moose soup, moose burgers, cold plates, BBQs, hamburgers, chips and gravy with dressing,” Batten writes. She’s also hoping for entertainment day and night that’s suitable for all ages and features Newfoundland and Labrador-based artists and entertainers.
When I visited home in July 2018, I started a list of places to STAY, EAT and things to DO. If I’ve missed your favourites, please leave a comment. For starters, here’s a little history and information about the city of Corner Brook.
ABOUT CORNER BROOK
Formally incorporated as a city in 1956, Corner Brook celebrated its 60thanniversary in 2016. Even before that time, the region was on its way to becoming an important hub for western and northern newfoundland. Fishing in the region predated the lumber work of the pulp and paper mill, which came under development in the 1920s. Nowadays, the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, owned by Kruger, Inc. and the only mill of its kind remaining in the province, is still a major economic driver for the region. That’s even as pulp and paper was hit earlier this year with unprecedented export duties (from the United States) adding more than 30 per cent to the cost of newsprint, in fact, the highest such tariffs of any mill in Canada.[iii]
The organizers of CBCHY have a dedicated Facebook group for the event. There, more than 10,000 members are sharing and commenting on what makes them nostalgic for home. The mill features prominently. For example, a post by member, Steve Mercer, includes a photo of an old millworker’s basket – an instant marker of a permanent job at the mill for the men who carried them and the women who packed them [iv] – has 300 likes and over 200 comments and 30 shares. Meanwhile, various photo-uploads feature birds-eye views of the city, past and present. There’s also artwork, including some that’s up for auction as part of the committee’s fundraising efforts.
For many, the hospital (the old and current sites as well as the plot for the future site) is what reminds them of home. Corner Brook is home to regional specialty health services at Western Memorial Regional Hospital and is, as a result, a big employer there. The city is also home to post-secondary education at the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University, Academy Canada and the College of the North Atlantic. There are also shops, restaurants and art galleries, many of which are represented by the Corner Brook Downtown Business Association along Broadway and West Street.[v]
By population, Corner Brook is the largest city on the west coast; and the third largest city in the province, after St. John’s and Mount Pearl. It has an active port with cruise ships docking here from April to October, where the Humber River meets the Bay of Islands. Entering the port, tourists can look up to Crow Hill, where in 1767, Captain James Cook surveyed this land. Crow Hill is now designated the Captain James Cook Historic Site, offering a view over the valley and surrounding bay. Unfortunately, the port is not developed as a tourist attraction itself, so arrivals are often shuttled to other parts of the city.
Corner Brook is also home to Blow Me Down trails (cross-country) and nearby, in Steady Brook, is Marble Mountain ski resort (downhill). In summertime, the area offers access to zip-lining, ATV adventures, hiking, fishing and swimming too.
The area’s hilly terrain and waterways are a hit with adventurists and this city is not afraid to go big when it comes to hosting world-class events. In 1999, Corner Brook hosted the Canada Winter Games. The city has hosted World Cup triathlon and duathlon events too. Last year, Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada took place here too.
In March 2018, Corner Brook was selected as one of the top twenty (ranking 18/20) small cities in Canada by Cities Journal.[vi] According to the journal, “The cities on this list represent the best quality of life that Canada has to offer . . .These cities have rich historical roots, thriving economies and many leisure activities. Best of all, you can get a taste of the small-town atmosphere while having access to the same amenities that attract people to large cities.”
The Corner Brook Activity Guide[vii] shares timely information about things to do, but here are some additional ideas for your (next) visit to the region. This isn’t an exhaustive list and new venues are opening regularly, so I’d encourage you to comment and share some of your own favourites.
PLACES TO STAY
Staying in the Corner Brook region accommodates all budgets and needs. There are hotels in the area like The Glynmill Inn[viii] and the recently renovated Mamateek (now a Quality Inn).[ix] If you want more of a suite or residence, there are a number of Airbnb accommodations available.[x] Just outside of Corner Brook, are accommodations at the base of Marble Mountain (I quite like Marble Inn and Resort with its salt water bathing pool, mineral bath, Labradorite steam room and sauna).[xi] There’s a new boutique hotel and microbrewery under construction on West Street (in the old Bargain Shop location), which offers something unique to the area[xii] Of course, as is the case across Newfoundland and Labrador, there are various campgrounds and places to park your RV too.
PLACES TO EAT
Corner Brook has expanded its palate with everything from sushi (Newfound Sushi, which tops the restaurant list)[xiii] to Thai (Rinda’s Kitchen)[xiv] to Indian (recently opened Nirvana)[xv] and Italian (Sorrento,[xvi] Gitanos’[xvii] or pizza places like Louis Gee’s[xviii]). Perhaps the best spot for pizza is The Cove (located at Marble Inn Resort).[xix] Best Coast Café[xx] and Harbour Grounds[xxi] also top the restaurant list for locals and tourists alike. And don’t forget Brewed on Bernard (the sister location to Brewed Awakening), which offers more food (think lunch-time) options.[xxii] The Galley recently opened (in the old West 96 location) and is getting good reviews.[xxiii, xxiv].Even newer is Saltbox, down in Humber Arm South. And then there are the fan favourites like The Carriage Room and Wine Cellar Steak House (at The Glynmill Inn)[xxv] or something more casual like Chippers,[xxvi] or takeout options such as C&E Take Out[xxvii] and Pinchgut Restaurant. Humber Valley resort has an excellent restaurant (also topping this list) called The Eagles Perch, overlooking the resort grounds and golf course.[xxviii] Further afield in Pasadena is Café 59, which is also worth checking out.[xxix] Corner Brook has a new food truck now too – Newfoundland Comfort parks outside of Canadian Tire. And there’s a hot dog vender that locals love located outside of the visitor information center at the top of West Valley Road (across from the entrance to the golf course).
If you want a taste of home to bring back with you, the Dominion and Coleman’s sell all of your favourite Purity brand products (and Coleman’s is conveniently located next to the Liquor Store).
THINGS TO DO
Corner Brook has some of the best outdoor adventure activities Newfoundland and Labrador has to offer from hiking and walking trails (like the Man in the Mountain, Marble Mountain or the Gorge hiking trails or the Corner Brook Stream Trail Network for walking and hiking[xxx]) to biking (Ginger Route Mountain Bike Trail is one, but best to check in with Cycle Solutions for all things biking as they are truly the local experts)[xxxi] to park-hopping (definitely check out the revamped Margaret Bowater Park and newly opened Bartlett’s Point Park) and more. If you want more adventure, then there’s Marble Zip Tours[xxxii] and the Marble Spider Challenge High Ropes Course,[xxxiii] as well as kayaking (there are several venders operating kayak, canoe and raft tours). Although taking an inflatable raft down the Humber River from Steady Brook is an activity you might hear about, it’s best to stick with a company tour or rental given the do-it-yourself approach is leading to litter and disruption, particularly for residents of Steady Brook.[xxxiv] Several companies also offer recreational fishing tours.
When the weather permits, there are various swimming holes, from Steady Brook falls to Cooks Brook to the river at Margaret Bowater’s Park. Nearby Deer Lake beach and Pasadena beach are favourite destinations too. There are also options for those wanting to stay fit at the gym or in a fitness class (there’s the CrossFit Gym, YMCA as well as Yoga classes, for example, at Veitch Physiotherapy and Wellness Centre, Health and Performance and Tina Coleman Yoga).
Be sure to check out the Rotary Art Centre[xxxv] and the Arts and Culture Centre[xxxvi] for local theatre, music and other talent. Swirsky’s Theatre and Music Hall[xxxvii] often has arts and cultural events too and Picture it in a Frame![xxxviii] has a lovely curated art gallery and don’t forget the Grenfell Art Gallery.[xxxix] Whelan’s Gate[xl] has gained a reputation for its live music as well as Flynn’s Pub.[xli]
For a nice lookout over the city, Captain James Cook National Historic Site[xlii] is the best spot, but so too is the lookout from the Trans-Canada Highway (east, above the Corner Brook Plaza). To see the view from the water, I’d recommend Crystal Water Boat Tours [update: these tours have since closed].[xliii] Corner Brook is still home to various sporting sites and events – golf (Blomidon Golf and Country Club[xliv] and Humber Valley[xlv]), tennis, baseball and soccer are the summer favourites.
For those wanting a dose of history, there’s the Corner Brook Museum & Archives,[xlvi] the site of the historic train site[xlvii] and the Woods Island Resettlement House and Historic Centre (in Benoit’s Cove).[xlviii] The Corner Brook Public Library[xlix] has events for young children as does Namaste and Play[l] recently opened for tots and toddlers too.
If you’re looking for some rest and rejuvenation, you can get your spa experience at Chatters,[li] Silver Scissors Emerald Spa,[lii] the Aveda spa at the Ocean View Inn and Day Spa[liii] and Bob’s Beauty Salon.[liv]
There’s so much more to add to this list, but hopefully this helps in your planning for your next visit to Corner Brook. Comment and tell me your favourite things to do, places to see or eat too.