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No Wi-Fi, no vehicles, no streetlights—no problem.

Last summer, Liam and I, along with his family, enjoyed one of the most unique destinations I’ve ever visited. Hidden along the coast of Labrador, the small village of Battle Harbour welcomes visitors in the summer and early fall, inviting them to experience a taste of what life was like as a fisher before the collapse of the cod fishery.

The setting sun shines beyond the clouds through the railings of a building on Battle Harbour. In the foreground is tall green grass shining in the sun's rays, with a beaten footpath leading away. In the background are several old white houses, and the ocean just beyond them.

The visitor experience is a heightened version of what the residents of Battle Harbour once lived—having three high-end meals made for you every day, for example. But the feeling that the small community cultivates makes it easy to understand what kept the village going, and why those involved are so passionate about sharing their small piece of history with the world.

What is Battle Harbour?

Battle Harbour is a preserved fishing village, first established between 1770 and 1785. It was a thriving fishing community with year-round residents until government resettlement in the 1960s, but remained an integral summer fishing port right up until the cod moratorium of 1992. This single event put over 30,000 people out of work, and in a way ended many communities like Battle Harbour. So many of the people in these thriving fishing villages faced resettlement, which meant leaving for good the rugged coastlines they called home.

A rusted boat with a black hull sits inland on the grass amongst buttercups and other flowers in Battle Harbour, next to a walking trail. In the background are several white houses under a cloudy sky.

Those loyal to Battle Harbour, however, were unwilling to let it become the ghost town that so many other fishing communities became. At the time of the moratorium, it was owned by the Earle Freighting Service Ltd. Soon after the fishery collapsed, the Earle family sold Battle Harbour buildings and operations to the Battle Harbour Historic Trust for the hearty sum of one dollar.

These days, Battle Harbour is a tourist attraction and island retreat of sorts where one can experience life like it was in the fishing villages of old. At least to some degree. While there’s no longer floor-to-ceiling levels of salt in the Salt Store, the buildings are still literally pickled and seeping moisture from salted cod of days long gone.

The view from where Battle Harbour residents once dried the freshly caught cod, looking up at the buildings and residences of the community. To the left, the Labrador flag flies in a sunny sky.

More importantly, the people of Battle Harbour are no re-enactors. These are people whose family has called Battle Harbour home for generations, and they want to share their love and passion they harbour for their home, lest it fade to memory like so many other fishing communities.

How to Get To Battle Harbour

Battle Harbour is a place that you have to want to go to, because you can’t exactly stumble upon it. Getting to the island requires catching the ferry from Mary’s Harbour. The ferry only runs once a day, at 10 a.m. and takes an hour to get to Battle Harbour. 

A white, private boat sits in the water, tied to the Battle Harbour wharf in the evening. In the background is the white building with a red roof that once housed salted cod. It now serves as a museum. Beyond it is the rocky coast leading out to sea.

There are a couple of ways to get to Mary’s Harbour:

  • Fly to Blanc Sablon and rent a vehicle. This is the way with the least amount of driving, with a roughly two-hour drive between Blanc Sablon and Mary’s Harbour. Keep in mind that Blanc Sablon is a small town, and vehicle rentals may be scarce.
  • Take the Labrador Ferry. If you’re driving from Newfoundland, there is a ferry that runs between St. Barbe and Blanc Sablon. The ferry crossing takes roughly an hour and 45 minutes, followed by (again) about two hours of driving to Mary’s Harbour. This gives you the option to fly into other points of interest on the island of Newfoundland, such as St. John’s or Deer Lake, and rent a vehicle to drive around the island before heading to Labrador.
  • Drive from mainland Canada. If you don’t mind long car rides, Labrador is accessible by car by passing through Quebec. 
  • Dock your own private vessel. If you’re a sailor, Battle Harbour welcomes you to dock. Contacting them ahead of time is encouraged, especially if you’re going to treat yourself to some of their gourmet meals. There is a National Historic Site admission fee, as well as a wharfing fee for overnight stays.
  • Join a group tour. Throughout the season, there are several group tours that find their way to Battle Harbour. With a quick Google search, you can easily find a tour to fit your interests and needs.

What Makes Battle Harbour Special?

It would be too easy to say “everything,” but that’s not far from the truth. For those who want to get off the grid, Battle Harbour gives you that disconnect. There is no cell signal on the island—every cabin is equipped with a walkie talkie and instructions in case of emergency. There are no cars, just a few ATVs, and there are no street lights.

The view from Grenfell Cottage, looking down on the wharf area of Battle Harbour at night. The moon is hidden behind some clouds, but stars are visible above the black outline of the land behind the buildings.

The lack of light pollution makes Battle Harbour a haven for stargazers. On a night with little to no cloud cover, you can see the stars more clearly than any city, or even most small towns. Depending on your luck and the time of year, that stargazing can even include the Northern Lights. Labrador is inextricably tied to Aurora Borealis thanks to the Inuit legend that the lights were once upon a time trapped in the rocks of Labrador. An Inuit warrior broke the stones with his spear to set the Northern Lights free, and the rocks that remained became known as Labradorite.

The island is steeped in history, for those who have an interest in the past. There is much to learn from the history of the island, and the people there. And thus we get to what most makes Battle Harbour special—the people.

As I previously mentioned, the people who work throughout the summer at Battle Harbour aren’t just people getting paid to do any job. They are working to share a place they love with anyone who chooses to come visit, and they are happy to share their knowledge and stories. I didn’t just meet and converse with Battle Harbour employees. I got to know Jan, I chatted with Peter, I was served at mealtimes by Daphne and McKenzie. And it’s no secret that what fuels them is their passion for the tiny town.

What to Do

The list of activities available at Battle Harbour depends on the period of summer during which you visit. As the seasons shift, so do some of the potential attractions. 

  • Iceberg spotting: From the season opening throughout most of July, the coast of Labrador plays host to a number of icebergs that travel from the north along the path known as “Iceberg Alley,” towards Newfoundland. You may be able to see them from the island of Battle Harbour itself, though if not they offer boat tours.
  • Whale watching: One of my absolute favourite things about living in Newfoundland and Labrador is being able to see whales in their natural habitat. During July and August, you can potentially catch a variety of whale species from the shores of Battle Harbour. Potential sightings may include minkes, humpbacks, and even orcas! Again, there are boat tours available for this adventure.
  • Hiking: What is such beautiful, rugged terrain for if not for hiking! You can hike the main island with the Battle Harbour Foot Path. There is so much to see, including two cemeteries, the Marconi towers, and the remains of an unfortunate plane crash. The scenery along this hike is also unmatched, with beautiful flora and fauna under your feet and incredible sea views all around. For more adventurous hikers, there are three other hiking trails: the Across the Tickle hike, Arch to Tickle hike, and Cape St. Charles hike. Each of these requires a boat ride, and can include a guide at an additional cost.
A view from the Battle Harbour Foot Path on a sunny day. Several visitors hike among the grass and bogs, with the rocky shore and ocean in the background.
  • Guided historical tour: If there’s one thing I insist you do, it’s this. For two full hours, Jan took our tour group from building to building, explaining in vivid detail not just the role of the structure, but also her childhood memories of day-to-day life and growing up around and in the buildings. We learned about the 250 year history of Battle Harbour’s salt cod, and how Jan’s father lovingly tagged each and every artefact on display. We saw how the buildings are literally pickled, learned that a quintal is 112 pounds, saw the progression of cod fishing methods, and the way Indigenous people used to make snowshoes with rope made of seal skin. We sat in the church, which is the only standing example of work by the architect William Grey. I don’t want to give away all Jan’s stories, but I learned a lot, and was completely taken in by Jan’s passion for her home.
A collage of photos from the Battle Harbour guided historical tour. The first photo is the original floor with a hole that holds the salt for cod.

The second photo is examples of fishing boats Battle Harbour fishermen used over the years.

Third is a collection of boat artefacts such as anchors and pulleys.

Fourth is an example of an artefact logged and tagged by Jan's father.

The fifth is a wooden box that once transported salt cofdish.
  • Fish from the wharf: For as little as $5 per lure, you can fish for connors right from the wharf.
  • Cod fishing: If you’re hankering for something bigger, during the recreational fishery season, you can try and catch your very own cod. The experienced fishermen take you out on the water where you can catch up to two fish per person. The staff will then fillet your catch and freeze it for you to take home with you.
  • Bun making: After breakfast, sign up for Daphne’s bun making class. Served with every lunch and dinner, these warm buns are the MVP of every meal. I was fortunate enough to learn one-on-one with Daphne, and had a lovely chat with her along with learning her recipe. Again, I don’t want to give away any of Daphne’s stories, but she’s a beautiful soul and our chat alone was worth the cost. The class includes a printed copy of the recipe and a Battle Harbour apron.
On a wooden table sit bowls, measuring cups, and ingredients for making buns. One large bowl is full of dough, another Pyrex measuring cup is partially full of flour.
  • Admire wildlife (responsibly): Battle Harbour is home to lots of seabirds and other wildlife. Most notably, the arctic foxes are a popular sight for admirers and photographers alike. While the foxes are generally accustomed to being the star of the show among human visitors, it’s still important to treat them with respect by keeping your distance and respecting their habitat.
One of Battle Harbour's arctic foxes, its fur brown and white, lounges on a rock, curled up amongst the foliage on a hill.
  • Indulge your inner child: Visitors can borrow a kite from guest services and make good use of Newfoundland and Labrador’s often windy weather. If you’d rather stay indoors, you can learn to play Skittles, a traditional game brought to Battle Harbour by European settlers during the 1800s.
  • Visit The Loft: Just above the general store and guest services area is the most contemporary part of Battle Harbour: The Loft. This area is part bar, part library, and a perfect place to lounge after a day of enjoying the outdoors. And for those of you who can’t disconnect completely, it’s the only place with a WiFi connection. Rustic and beautifully decorated, it’s a comfortable space with shelves full of books, and even a few instruments in the corner for those who are musically inclined. Enjoy a beverage (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), kick back, and watch the sunset through the large, ocean-facing windows.
Three photos showing different angles of the Loft, a social spot in Battle Harbour. Photo one shows the music area in the background, with sealskin and leather chairs in the foreground around a barrel table.

Photo two shows the bar area, with stools and chalkboard menus. The third photo has comfortable couches and armchairs, with large windows facing the ocean. Each picture shows the beautiful architecture with original wooden flooring, exposed beams on the ceiling, and a stylish rope chandelier.


There are six properties available to rent in Battle Harbour, ranging from $265 to $695 per night. Two of the cottages (Spearing Cottage and Constable Forward Cottage) are pet friendly. The accommodations are a combination of original buildings that have been carefully restored and newer constructions that hold true to the original features. 

A collage of photos from the Grenfell Cottage at Battle Harbour. Clockwise from the top is one upstairs bedroom with a single and double beds, with a neutral brown wallpaper on slanted walls and a green ceiling. 

Next is the main level boathroom with a large soaker tub, toilet, sink, a large window, and wooden floors. with blue paneling on the lower wall and white patterned wallpaper on the top. 

The third picture is the kitchen, with a patterned wallpaper, white cupboards with light green accents, wooden floors and the original wood burning stove. 

Finally, a snapshot of the small, beige wood burning stove in the living room. It sits on a small pedestal with dark green tiles, with light green wood paneling and white wallpaper behind it.

Our party of 10 (eight adults and two children) stayed in the Grenfell Cottage, which was incredibly comfortable. It has two ground-floor bedrooms with king beds, two upstairs bedrooms with a double and twin bed in each, and an alcove with two single beds. The website says it’s popular with children, but I also think it would make a great late-night stargazing spot.

What to Expect

  • Dining: Meals are served promptly at 8 am, 12:30 pm, and 6 pm. Expect to dine side-by-side with your fellow guests, as the dining hall has communal tables for all to gather. The food is typically a high-end nod to staples of the Newfoundland and Labrador diet. Expect fish, potatoes, and freshly baked bread. You’ll be tempted to fight your neighbour for an extra one of Daphne’s warm and fluffy dinner rolls, but I’d recommend taking the class and getting the recipe instead. 
A collection of meals from our time at Battle Harbour. Pictures include multiple salads and breakfast, chili, salmon, seafood chowder, the legendary Battle Harbour buns, and some delectable deserts.
  • Weather: It’s best to be prepared for any type of weather when travelling to Battle Harbour. The town is open from early June to early September each year, and the average temperature sits around 14℃ during the months of July and August. During our stay at the end of July, we arrived to high winds and fog. The rest of the day was a battle between the sun and the fog, with a cold wind coming off the cold ocean. It gave us an excuse to use the wood stove in our living room. The next day was beautiful! With a strong sun and not too much wind, it was perfect for a family hike. That evening, a torrential downpour came on fast and quick before the sun set, but cleared up enough that I got some stargazing in before bed.

Ultimately, Battle Harbour is a perfect place to spend time disconnected from the outside world, and re-connecting with yourself, your loved ones, nature, and the past. It’s a place beloved to local musicians and artists

In just a few days there, our family came away with memories that will last a lifetime. Like watching my three-year-old nephew develop his first crush on our server McKenzie. Or watching my brother-in-law, a nature photographer, jump up from the table where we were playing a board game because he saw an arctic fox through the window. Despite the fact that a major downpour had just ended, he grabbed his camera and flew out the door barefoot. A half hour later he returned with soaking wet feet, lots of beautiful pictures, and a funny story.

A brown and grey artic fox sits among the rocks and moss of the Battle Harbour wilderness, looking directly into the camera.
Photo Credit: Stuart Rockwood

He (distantly and respectfully) followed the fox, who ended up at the front door of a resident. The homeowner opened the door and asked the fox if it wanted to come in. Seeing my confused brother-in-law, she explained that sometimes the fox liked to watch tv with them. Whether she was making a joke or not, the fox apparently decided it didn’t want to watch tv that night and wandered away.

As night falls, the artic fox sits politely on the woven, Labrador-flag doormat outside a private residence in Battle Harbour. They may be waiting to be let in.
Photo Credit: Stuart Rockwood

I cannot recommend visiting Battle Harbour enough. Whether you’re interested in the history, the landscape, or just the feeling of escape, it’s an ideal destination to let go of all the things that tether us in the day-to-day. Get to know the locals and you’ll understand their love for the village of Battle Harbour. Because it’s contagious, and you’ll undoubtedly feel it too.

A late evening photo of a Battle Harbour artic fox sitting on a damp porch after a rainstorm. In the background is the sunset trying to break through the clouds
Photo Credit: Stuart Rockwood

2 comments on “Battle Harbour: Experience History at the Edge of the World”

  1. LOVE this so much! You make me want to go there immediately. Sounds like a photographer’s paradise’s.

    • My photographer brother-in-law was in his glee! No doubt you’d love it too!

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