“The Land is Beautiful and the People are Kind”

How chasing an authentic experience is driving tourism in rural Newfoundland.
A man sits at a picnic bench playing accordion in a scenic setting
Screenshot from Leila Beaudoin’s video series

It’s one of those summer evenings in Port au Choix, located on the west side of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula, where things just don’t feel real. Looking out at the water, 29-year-old Brendon Gould takes it all in. Like everything else this time of the day, his giant head of curls is glowing under the warm buttery light.

But nothing about this scene is unusual to Gould. Unlike most people his age, who grew up in an outport town where opportunity was defined as elsewhere, he never left rural Newfoundland for something better. 

“I don’t think I’d ever move anywhere where I can’t go out my door and walk down to the harbour and go for a swim, or go out in boat, or go see the caribou whenever I feel like it,” says Gould, who works odd jobs in the town, keeping a close eye on the budding tourism industry. 

West of Port au Choix, Mona Smiley and Doug Rosenwinkle share Gould’s same love of Newfoundland—except they’re a long way from their home in Arizona.

“I love the ocean and just exploring,” says Simley as she shows off her collection of sand dollars. Alongside her partner Doug Rosenwinkle—who’s wearing a t-shirt that says ‘I was social distancing before it was cool’—the two are, like Mona’s last name suggests, very happy to be in Newfoundland. 

Leila Beaudoin visits Port aux Choix

Today, they’re tenting in Gros Morne National Park just outside Cow Head. A quick rain shower takes us inside their tent where the couple, still smiling, says there’s no place they’d rather be.

“To me it’s like a little paradise, the Garden of Eden,” says Smiley. “Especially when you have those foggy days.” 

It’s not the city they’re looking for, but places like Cow Head where they can meet locals and enjoy a way of life that can only be found in rural spaces. Sitting in a camping chair as a soft rain continues to fall on the park Rosenwinkle says: “people always say to me, how come you spend so much time up in Canada? And I always say, because the land is beautiful, and the people are kind.”

According to a new travel report, numbers will reach pre-pandemic levels in 2022. It’s evident on the buzzing stretch of the island that runs from Deer Lake into the majestic mountains of Gros Morne, settling along the giant shores of the Northern Peninsula that a part of that appeal is the wide open spaces and the people who call these rugged and remote areas home. 

“It’s been a steady flow of traffic in and out of town ever since May, there’s been a lot of RVs, an extreme amount of RVs coming through town,” says Gould. “Especially out at our little cove that we live at, the little aquarium I have on the wharf has lots of people coming to see that.”

Leila Beaudoin visits Cow Head

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