Staycation Summer: Out of This World

Staycation Summer: Out of This World

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Those involved in the tourism industry in NL are almost too good to be true. Generous individuals who are both visionaries  and traditionalists all rolled into one

This summer The Herald has had the pleasure of meeting some incredible individuals who do some amazing things as they welcome come from aways and staycationers alike to their area of the province of NL. 

One thing has stood out: these men and women all had dreams and visions they’ve tenaciously – most against all odds – made reality. They saw what others couldn’t and went for it, proving that those who work in the tourism industry really are out of this world. 

Humber River Off Grid Tours ~ Humber River, NL

Ashley Hann is a treasure of a young woman. Passionate. Enthusiastic. Brilliant. Social. Compassionate. Strong. Hann is all those things and so much more. Her passion was evident even before we met. 

A scheduling fool up meant we were running late and Hann proved she was on pins and needles waiting for us to arrive when she tracked down my phone number and enthusiastically  asked; “How far away are ya now, girl? Are ya close?” Hann was waiting when we hauled up, not because she had business to attend to – her on the Humber River tent pods and her larger and more exotically luxurious glamping dom are pretty much serve yourself – but because she’s simply proud and excited to show off all she has to offer her guests. 

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Show up with your grub, unzip, and enjoy, is pretty much all that needs to happen when you visit Hann’s little piece of heaven on earth, but Hann – along with her treasured Uncle Mel – are the real attractions at Humber River Off Grid Tours. Uncle Mel Cole, at 80, says that having Hann and her enthusiastic ways around “keeps him young.” 

Hann, who is actually Cole’s grand-niece, has lived on the property for over 20 years. While he owns both a business and a home in near-by Deer Lake, life on the river is so much more peaceful, he shared. 

“I’ve had this property about 50 years and I still loves it here. I came here salmon fishing when I was 17 and I always said if I ever found somewhere any nicer than where I’m too, that’s where I would go. But I didn’t. And I’m still here because I loves it here,” he said. 

So does Hann. What is it she loves about being on the Humber River? 

“Pretty much everything,” Hann opened with emotion. It’s easy to see why. Birds and goats and chickens literally eat right out of her hand, and she spends her time on the river just steps from her door. 

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“I live here and I work here because my business runs out of here and I just absolutely love this place,” she said.  

Being outdoors is her happy place, she added. Growing up, she “lived and breathed sports,” she said. “I was always outdoorsy and always active, always on the go, game for anything. I done forestry in school and then of course when I came over here (with her Uncle) I started picking at the gardens and doing things like that just for something to do.” 

The vegetable garden Hann and Cole have on the property is amazing, and Hann often plucks the veggies right out of the ground for cook-ups on the Humber during her kayaking tours.  

She’s also started quite the strawberry garden. “I have a strawberry u-pick for next year for my guests. That’s three acres of strawberries, 10,000 plants I planted. So when it comes to outdoor stuff, I don’t stop. It’s nonstop,” she laughed.  

This is Hann’s fifth year in the tourism business. 

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“You didn’t even think that anyone would come down this road yet it’s been booked solid for the past five years and just continues to grow.”

And they’ve hosted people from “all over.”  “People come from everywhere. It’s camping, only better. You get queen beds and all your dishes and your pots and pans and stuff like that. Same as camping, just that it’s fancier and a little bit different. You come here, you can camp, enjoy all the joys of camping without having to lug all your camping gear. Just bring food and water,” she said. 

There’s so much to enjoy. Remember, you’re off grid so there’s no cell service and no wifi, but that’s the attraction of the place and only adds to the magic of sleeping near the Humber River. 

There’s frogs and nature and beauty all around.  Hann’s is a place equally as enchanting for a romantic getaway with sunset swims or cuddles or for a family getaway – a place where a kid can be a kid and where life slows down for all. 

That’s what Hann loves about her tourism offerings. “Go back to the way things were. Enjoy each other,” she said. 

Of course Hann herself is busy as a beaver. From laundry and clean-up to tours and more, she’s got so much going on and she couldn’t be happier. A visit to Humber River Off Grid Tours “takes you back in time,”  she said.  “I feel like I’m sharing what I love and that feels great.”

Follow Humber River Off Grid Tours on Facebook and for more, subscribe to Hann’s YouTube channel, Adventures Off Grid

Smugglers Cove ~ Burin, NL

“For centuries, rogues, rascals, and renegades have found refuge here on the Coast of Legends,” the brochure for Smugglers Cove boasts intriguingly. There could be no better intro to this magical place that resembles the wild, wild west. 

Mike Brennan and Paddy Kavanaugh are the duo behind Smugglers and it’s all in memory of a friend, the late Tom Hollett who died in 2016. 

In Hollett’s honour, there’s Tom’s Roadhouse, “Where fellow rapscallions have a scoff and wet their whistle.” 

Chef and partner Clint Brewer is the king of the kitchen at Smugglers, and on the day we visit he delights us with halibut, a feed well worth the visit. But there’s so much to Smugglers. 

From special events and concerts to guided boat tours to Great Burin Island, Smugglers has a little something for everyone. Ever wished you could experience a sleepover a stone’s throw away from a frontier fantasy town? Well you can, in one of Smugglers cozy rustic but romantic (and practical) bunkhouses. The real draw, however, is the ‘town’ itself. Located on 1.7 hectares of land in Port-Au-Bras, the interactive ‘town’ of Smugglers Cove is a treasure built out of wood and sweat that has to be seen to be believed. While there, take a run into the town of Burin itself and visit more of Hollett’s Legacy left for others to enjoy. From  Hollett’s legendary Jiffy Cab Bug proudly on display as it welcomes all to Burin, to hiking trails, Brennan and Kavanaugh make sure ‘Tommy’s’ vision lives on. 

No one says it better than Brennan and the team in their own captivating way on their handout.

“Celebrating our notorious history, we tip our caps to those kindred spirits drawn to our shores. What calls the adventurous rebel home? Come and stay awhile – you’ll find out!” 

For more visit smugglerscoveburin.com

Jigs & Reels ~ Green’s Harbour

n the evening we visit, Natasha Hollett was happily greeting her guests  – which just happened to include Kellie Loder – with a smile. Passionate is one word that can be used to describe Hollett. Mom to two young boys aged six and eight, she has her hands full, but she doesn’t mind one bit. 

“People have always been a passion for me and I wanted to take a chance. When this came for sale, we jumped on it,” she said.

This Come Home summer has been good to them, she added. “Come Home has definitely been helping us bring people in. People are very excited to get home for the first time in several years. But summer usually brings people around anyway and we like to think there’s a lot of reasons to come here when they do.”

Jigs & Reels is beautiful. From the decor inside to the beautiful and inviting outside space, it’s a must visit location for sure. The food is good, the beer is cold, and the staff are friendly.  

The building was many things before becoming a spot to enjoy a meal and a beverage or to listen to some local entertainment. It was a sawmill for one thing, and then a gas bar and garage.    

Since owning Jigs & Reels, there’s been weddings and other events. The space holds 148 inside with an additional 100 who can enjoy the area on the beautiful back patio area. 

“We try to have entertainment regularly, like Friday and Saturdays. Typically, depending on what’s going on in the area, as we try not to compete too much if there’s something else on the go around,” she said.  

Hollett and her husband George are just getting ready to head home to the kids on the evening we visit. Still, the two busy themselves with whatever needs to be done. “We all do a little bit of everything. We come in and we just jump in and up whenever we can to help make our dream come true,” she said.

Not that every day is easy, they add.  “Taking over a business, it’s a lot of work, and there’s always something you can’t anticipate. But the locals are here for us and they support us and we appreciate that.”

We have to ask about the name Jigs & Reels. Any shout out to OZFM and Danielle Butt? “Absolutely. I mean, anytime Danielle wants to come here and host her show from here, come on out. It’ll be a fun time for sure and we’d love to have her,” Hollett says. 

From burgers to delight to nachos to rave about, Jigs & Reels is a special place run by some special people. Hollett smiles. “The staff here are the best and our customers are a blessing. The whole experience of owning a business has been amazing because it shows how good and supportive people are.”

For more, check out Jigs & Reels on Facebook

By The Sea Inn & Café ~ King’s Point

Krista and Corey Gillingham  are the proud owners/operators of By The Sea Inn & Café in beautiful King’s Point. With so much to do in the area – from hiking trails that lead to stunning waterfall views to shopping, dining and sightseeing – By The Sea is the perfect place to settle in for a few nights or longer and explore. 

This is the couple’s first year running this ultra-modern spectacular Inn and eatery with the most eye-catching view, though Krista worked there for over ten years before buying it. “It just started as a small, very tiny coffee shop and it kind of grew from there,” she said.

It was health issues that started the ball rolling, she added. Krista worked in the kitchen, but shoulder concerns meant she had to step back from kitchen duties and take more of a management-styled role. “That experience helped me be ready, I guess, so when this place was for sale, even though we are not related, it felt sort of like the business was staying in the family.”

While COVID had its challenges – including the loss of many of their scheduled bus tour stop overs – things have been good for the most part.   “That things are going back to what they were before COVID is wonderful for us and wonderful for the whole town,” she said.  

There’s a big sense of community pride throughout King’s Point. Even the garbage buckets are beautiful. With stores galore and incredible places to visit and enjoy, it’s a must see destination on any bucket list for sure. 

“The community as a whole and our town council does a great job and everybody in the town takes pride in what we have and what we’ve got. 

Everyone is constantly looking for new ways to improve what we have here.”

The food and the service is brilliant at By The Sea. “We do cater to a lot of locals when it comes to the menu but anyone who visits also loves to eat things like fish and chips and cod tongues,” she says. 

They have two seasons, she continued, the tourist season which runs from June till September, and their regular season, and both are important. The Inn – with one suite, The Eagle’s Landing, located in the main building with others next door, is a beautiful space to rest one’s head. And there’s more coming, Krista said proudly, as construction has begun on additional rooms.    

One bonus of a stay at the Inn is free breakfast in the dining area. “I find that a lot of people mention the food. People will say, ‘Who is the chef?’ And we always say that we don’t have chefs in our kitchen. We have cooks in our kitchen that were raised here in Newfoundland in a Newfoundland kitchen by Newfoundland mothers. We don’t have trained chefs in our kitchen, and here, salt is a seasoning, but the people in our kitchen were trained in life and there’s no better training than that, is there?”

For more visit bythesearesort.ca 

Roy’s Lighthouse Retreat ~ Catalina

Kristy Sweet has an interesting link to The Herald, she begins. “I was the baby of the year in 1980, and Suzanne Somers was on front cover. The Herald means something still to a lot of people, and having you here so you can tell our story means so much,” she said. 

There’s history here, Sweet continues. “Back years ago there were houses here, but they ended up towing them into town because they wanted people in the city to just make life easier for them I guess, but I can’t see wanting to leave here,” she said as her four-year-old daughter, Gracie Joe, played nearby on this picture perfect summer day. 

The setting couldn’t be more amazing. A lighthouse near the water in the beautiful town of Catalina with nothing around us but sea, sky and a stunningly inviting walking trail along the edge of the ocean.  Sweet appreciates the setting, and what the land around has to offer. 

“My grandmother is 89-years-old, my dad’s mother, and she’s out here every summer picking berries. My  grandma picks 20 gallons a year.”     

The reason why we are visiting on this day is to talk about Sweet’s late father, Roy Sweet. “My dad was a fisherman back years ago. He had two long liners, the Laura K and  the Laura K Two.” 

Laura was the name of Sweet’s great grandmother who lived on the now resettled Green Island. “When Dad wasn’t fishing he went into the woods in the wintertime to cut logs and then he opened up a sawmill and started selling logs,” she said, reflecting on old times.  

Sweet’s father’s grandmother’s father was a lighthouse keeper on Green Island: Joseph Sweet, and those old family stories captured Sweet’s imagination as a child and beyond. Her father also loved the family’s legacy and he always loved  lighthouses. 

Sweet’s dad passed away on March 15th, of 2020 and Sweet was crushed, she said. “He was my world. I just spent so much time with Dad, and I just wanted his memory to live on and this place here helps me. I come here everyday to the lighthouse and I remember him,” she shared. 

How this stunning lighthouse came to be is one incredible tale of a daughter’s vision fueled by love and devotion. 

With no formal plans, the work began on land Sweet’s father had purchased years before his death. Birchwood Construction helped Sweet’s dream become a reality and twins Terry and Perry Cullimore took over the inside finishing work. The end result is incredible. 

The response of those who stay at Roy’s Lighthouse Retreat has been incredible, she added. “It’s overwhelming. I love to see people come and enjoy this place I built in memory of my dad. Besides Gracie, this is my everything because it brings me closer to Dad and I know he would have loved it here,” she said. 

Watching the boats and the clouds  from the deck brings peace, she added.     Sweet also owns Gracie Joe’s Place, an 88-year-old family home in Catalina not far from Roy’s Lighthouse, but it’s here that she feels closest to her dad. 

“Dad is here. I can feel it. And I know he’s looking down feeling really happy with what we’ve done on this land in his memory.” 

For more visit Roy’s Lighthouse Retreat or Gracie Joe’s Place on social media and Airbnb. 

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Pam is the Managing Editor of The Newfoundland Herald. As the mother of two, she proudly writes about a life lived simply at home on 'The Rock.' When not interviewing or writing about NL's finest, Pam can be found spending her time in the great Newfoundland outdoors.

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