Gaultois and McCallum are isolated fishing settlements on the south coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, in the area known as the Coast of Bays.
To visit these unique outports you have to travel southbound on Route 360, the Bay d’Espoir Highway, to Hermitage, where you take a passenger-only ferry. There are no cars or roads in Gaultois or McCallum, only gravel footpaths, wooden boardwalks, and concrete laneways, wide enough for ATV’s and ski-doos. Depending on your length of stay, be prepared for lots of walking and changing weather conditions, so dress accordingly and bring a lunch!
If you haven’t been down the Connaigre Peninsula before you are in for a real treat! The further south you drive the more spectacular the landscape becomes. With heavily forested mountains as far as the eye can see, a highway that meanders through steep valleys and high hilltops, one cannot help feeling awestruck by the rugged landscape. As the sun sets, the boreal hills become soaked in an orange glow while opposing ridges unveil a crisp, fine-line, blackest of black silhouette.
The Hermitage-Gaultois-McCallum ferry departs from the town of Hermitage. Hermitage to Gaultois is a 20 minute boat ride (6kms) with frequent, daily runs. The cost is $2.00! McCallum, more remote than Gaultois, is a 90 minute ferry ride (27kms). The fare is a mere $6.25. Getting to McCallum takes a little more planning and can be a challenge if you want to spend more than the 10-15 minutes it takes the boat crew to offload freight, disembark passengers and leave again. We opted for a 8 hour long-stay option which can only be done 2 days a week.
The ‘MV Marine Eagle’, currently operating on a revised Covid schedule, only takes 20 people so be at the wharf an hour before during the summer months, because when they say they only take 20, they only take 20. Also keep in mind that adverse weather, wind or mechanical issues can also interrupt your plans.
- Schedule Information: 1-833-(653-3779) or 709-729-3835
Hermitage is the port for ferry service to the isolated communities of Gaultois and McCallum. You can leave your vehicle on a small hillside parking lot that leads down to the wharf.
Gaultois, a small, remote fishing village on Long Island, nestled in the fjords in Hermitage Bay, is known for its four quaint areas: The Room, The Valley, The Point, The Bottom.
There is only one accommodation here (The Gaultois Inn), one general store (Ronnie’s Groceries), one signed trail (The Piccaire Memorial Trail), a Post Office, a School, a Church and a closed Fish Plant (1990). You won’t find any coffee shops and fancy stores here and, I promise you, you won’t miss it.
Arriving on a warm and foggy evening, we were greeted on the wharf by a gentleman in a side-by-side, ready to take our backpacks up to the inn. He offered to drive us up the hill but we chose to walk the picturesque, red and white, wooden boardwalks that make up the ‘roads’ of this tiny town. Upon reaching The Gaultois Inn, checking in and obtaining our room key, the lady at the reception counter declared … “We just ran out of cod, so what would you like for supper?” and handed us a 3-page handwritten menu. Upon placing our order she added, “It will be ready at 5:30!”, so with 30 minutes to wait we went up to our green, tartan-patterned room, unpacked and freshened up so that we could enjoy the only home-cooked meal we would have for the next 2 days.
After supper, with bellies full, we decided to take advantage of the remaining daylight and walk the cliffside boardwalks and gravel pathways to the other side of Gaultois where the general store is located. Though the store was not open (it was a Sunday night), we enjoyed the walkabout nonetheless, taking in the uniqueness of this tightly-knit community, its hand-crafted stop signs, uphill clothesline’s, quirky man-shed décor, curious cats and barking dogs. Sadly, we passed many abandoned houses with shucked-out power meters, curtain-drawn windows, and overgrown doorsteps … houses frozen in time.
The harbour-front is where you will find the colourful, historic buildings of days gone by. The ‘Newman Fish Store’, a mercantile fishing premises with its high-pitched gable roof and red wooden siding, built around 1860 and the ‘Thomas Garland Building’ constructed in 1925, the general store that supplied everything from cod-jiggers, to clothing, to candy!
With an early rise the next morning (our ferry was departing for McCallum at 8:00am), we finished up our walking tour of Gaultois and retired for the night. It was a hot August night, both bedroom windows were wide open, the little black fan sitting on the nightstand did it’s best to circulate the mauzy air. At 5:30am I awakened, looked out the ocean-view window and what a sight to behold. The sun was not yet up, the fog was lifted and the humidity gone. The sea was a calm, orange-blue mirror. Smiling, I snuggled back into my bed for I knew it was going to be a glorious day!
McCallum, more remote than Gaultois, is a fishing village nestled between two weather-beaten hills. Established as a seasonal fishing settlement in the 16th Century, its very existence today, thought hanging by a lifeline, still evolves around the sea.
We arrived McCallum at 9:30 in the morning. Choosing to do this trip as a loop, rather than 2 separate return trips from Hermitage, we were here until 5:30pm (which turned out to be 6:00 because the ferry was behind schedule). And it was a glorious day indeed, hot and sunny, definitely a treat for late August, especially for the locals.
Landing in McCallum, like all remote south coast communities, will see you greeted at the wharf by waiting residents. Whether on foot or sitting on their quads, the folk (off all ages) watch as the massive ‘McCallum’ container is lifted off the boat by crane and gently placed on the wharf. This is the goodie box that holds their staples from the mainland, food, bottled water, supplies, and exciting packages, parcels and post. This is the tangible link that connects them with the rest of the world.
Our first stop, after our obligatory selfie by the McCallum government wharf sign, was the general store, located directly on the pier. With our face mask on, as requested by a note taped to the door, we entered to buy some fruit, snacks and water to last out the day. I asked the store clerk if I could leave my weighty backpack by the counter while we toured the community and hillsides and she was more than happy to accommodate me.
With the sun on our faces we walked around, overjoyed, knowing that had it been a RDF (rain, drizzle, fog) kinda day, with 8 hours until the ferry’s return, it would not have been as pleasant. While strolling the wooden boardwalks and concrete laneways, we noticed that, similar to Gaultois, many dwellings were boarded up, with electricity meters removed and walkways grown in with tall grass and tree branches. We even observed the old Newfoundland tradition of placing a broomstick diagonally across the front door to let you know ‘nobody is home’.
Despite its empty, eerie appearance, there is still lots of splendor and contentment to see here. Gardens are planted, utilizing what little land is available between the steep cliffs and the ocean. Where no ground can be found, the stilted fishing stages lend a hand carrying the weight of soil-filled fish tubs. Henhouses are at capacity, dogs bark to greet you as they run out of leash, bringing up solid in their attempt to see what the latest boat dragged in and songbirds flutter past, hopping from woodshed to woodshed. To sum it up, McCallum is simple and lovely.
With time to kill, and on recommendation by a local, we ventured up into the hillside behind the Anglican Church to get a panoramic view of McCallum. The land behind the church is steep in places, and the grass is tall, so care and caution are important as uneven ground makes footing questionable. Atop the hill, we were met by a refreshing, cool breeze and we decided to sit, have a snack and take in the endless beauty McCallum laid out before us.
After our hilltop hike I retrieved my backpack from the store. We decided to wait out the ferry on the wharf for the remaining 3 hours. Though the general store closed for lunch we had plenty of time to use the restroom, wash up and have a second lunch that consisted of 2 hot Keurig coffees and a coconut roll each. With the wharf at out back, the sun in our face, we observed 3 bald eagles flying in circles overhead. Without saying a word to each other, we both sat silently, sipping our coffee, soaking in the moment, wondering would we ever get back to this extraoridinary, magical place.
The Rugged South Coast
Photos of Newfoundland’s rugged South Coast taken from the ferry. With approximately 17,000 kilometres of coastline, it is unimaginable how many abandoned fishing villages lay dormant due to resettlement. A faith that someday may claim these precious gems.