A Nature Destination with a big view: Maddox Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador
I’m going to be honest, I’m not a bushwhacker at heart.
I’ve done field work for more than a decade, including coring trees, assembling plant inventories and digging soil pits in all types of forests, all over Atlantic Canada. Over the years, something has become clear: I’m not of fan of battling vegetation to get to my destination. After seemingly endless assaults from trees and shrubs, I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of a footpath, especially a footpath with a view.
Most of the properties the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) conserves in Newfoundland and Labrador are fairly remote wilderness areas, and require challenging feats of bushwhacking to get to. But at NCC’s Maddox Cove Nature Reserve, near St. John’s, we have a real treasure. Leading through the property is a well-cared-for trail, with an amazing view, maintained devotedly by the East Coast Trail Association. The trail through the property is one section of more than 300 kilometres of world-class East Coast Trail hiking along Newfoundland’s spectacular eastern Avalon coastline.
As you hike the trail, you weave through alternating sections of thick coastal forest and open coastal barrens, which provide an unobscured view of the Atlantic Ocean in all its immense glory. Seabirds flutter around the coastline, and in the summer months, you almost inevitably see whales feeding on capelin offshore. When I hiked this trail in May, I came around the corner to spot an iceberg bobbing in the ocean just past the rocky coast.
I suppose my love of trails is linked with my love of walking. My idea of a perfect Saturday involves putting on some worn-out hiking clothes, packing indulgent trail treats — ideally some chocolate and a thermos of tea — and shoving my entire family (my jolly five-year-old black Labrador included) into our car and driving to a trailhead. I’m always a bit achy when I first start moving, especially if I’m carrying my 30-pound toddler in a hiking backpack, but once I get the blood moving, I’m good to go.
There’s something about exploring nature on foot under your own self-propelled energy. Nature serves up a meal for your senses, with lots of fantastic smells, sounds and sights. One of things I like most about hiking along the coastline, in addition to the salty, fresh air, is the ocean's relentless soundtrack. People actually buy devices that play ocean sounds, and here I am hearing it in person.
Although NCC’s trail at the Maddox Cove Nature Reserve is short, at only 500 metres long, it’s the gateway to one of the most famous landmarks in the area. Hike further beyond Maddox Cove, and the trail leads you to Cape Spear, Newfoundland’s oldest surviving lighthouse, located on the most easterly point in North America. The trail itself has a variety of terrain — narrow boardwalks crossing bogs full of bug-eating plants, rocky boulders along the shore, shrubbery full of blueberries and river crossings. All this on a designated path that allows you to enjoy the landscape.
There’s no doubt that NCC’s Maddox Cove is a true Nature Destination. One of the best parts about it is that you don’t have to bushwhack your way through vegetation to enjoy the view; there’s an inviting path waiting for you to discover.
If you can’t make it to this Nature Destination in person, you can check it out virtually through Google Maps.
See you on the trail!