News Environment and Territorial Policy

Red Bay is currently recreating its 16th century Basque origins

2015 July 14

•          The Basque whaling station is bringing its history to the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador


The town of Red Bay, an old Basque fishing station in the Canadian province of Labrador/Newfoundland, is currently holding different cultural and tourist activities that recall its founding by Basque fishermen in the 16th century.

 Next Saturday the 18th, beginning at two in the afternoon, along with Canada’s Parks Day, a group of actors will be interpreting a historical montage, “Echoes from the Past," on Saddle Island. The performers will be dressed in the garments worn by the Basques that reached the site in the year 1540, creating a whaling station where they lived for long seasons. This was the origin of what is today called Red Bay, as documented by historian Selma Huxley Barkham. Local musicians will enliven the experience with a musical interpretation of different compositions.

Just like other towns in Newfoundland and Labrador, with origins hearkening back to Basque fishermen from the 16th and 17th centuries, Red Bay is currently publicising different summer activities to promote its culture and develop relations in North America.

A few days ago, Red Bay held a workshop on old local games, presented by Joe Goudie at the tourist and interpretation centre. Last July 1st, the town celebrated Canada Day and its appointment as a site of worldwide historical interest.


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Red Bay National Historic Site of Canada


  • Parks Canada Red Bay National Historic Site PO Box 103 Red Bay NL A0K 4K0
  • Parks Canada Red Bay National Historic Site c/o Western Newfoundland and Labrador Field Unit
    PO Box 130 Rocky Harbour NL A0K 4N0
  • Port of Call, Red Bay


RedBay is an ideal harbour that has attracted fishers through the centuries. By the 1540's, ships from the Basque provinces of France and Spain were braving the cold waters of the North Atlantic to seek their fortunes by hunting the right and bowhead whales in the Strait of Belle Isle. The Basque processed oil for the lucrative European markets at numerous ports in Labrador but RedBay, known as Butus, was one of the largest and busiest. The seasonal whaling activities that took place at this historical port constituted the first industry of any kind in Canada.

Archival research by Selma Barkham was the foundation for the great discoveries in the RedBay area, including a 16th century Basque whaling ship, believed to be the San Juan. These discoveries lead to Red Bay being designated a National Historic Site in 1989 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013. Red Bay has survived as a small fishing community. And its quiet, picturesque, charm is as much an attraction for visitors today as is its history.



Whales, Ships and Men

The Basque Whalers of RedBay

Discover the incredible stories of hardship, exploitation, and profit of 16th century Basque whaling and the role that it played in the history of Canada. Tour the artifact collection and interpretive displays, including a restored 16th century whaling boat. Optional add-on: Visit to the Right Whale Exhibit at the Selma Barkham Town Hall.
Parks Canada Cindy Gibbons 709 920 2142



Echoes of the Past

A special interpretative program offered by Parks Canada on Saddle Island. Parks Canada. Cindy Gibbons 709 921 2142 A Basque Whaler and His Wife. A special interpretative program offered by Parks Canada at the Orientation Centre  Parks Canada. Cindy Gibbons, 709 921 2142



Digging Through Time

Learn the secrets revealed by the archaeological sites on Saddle Island.Interpretation highlights the natural features that made Red Bay one of the most important 16th century whaling ports. Parks Canada   Cindy Gibbons 709 921 2142



Walking and Hiking

Stroll Through Historical RedBay

This 2 hour guided walking tour takes you through the village of Red Bay visiting local landmarks and the Parks Canada National Historic Sites. Learn about the history of the community, and some of the recent culture. Learn how the land and the sea has been exploited for centuries in Labrador for its abundance of resources. Labrador Adventures

Carmen Hancock, 709 931 2055



Going Coastal

A 6 or 4 hour hiking excursion on the Labrador Pioneer Footpath, a traditional footpath that has been used for centuries by the people of Labrador. The hiking tour begins with a short drive through villages along the coast to access the trail. This ia a great opportunity to view whales, icebergs, wildflowers and berries. A local guide will provide interpretation of how people lived off the land and sea, in sometimes unforgiving conditions.  Labrador Adventures

Carmen Hancock,709 931 2055



Explore our Culture

Labrador Boil -Up  Enjoy a lunch on the beach cooked over an open fire in company of local residents. Marilyn Bridle, Whalers Restaurant  709 920 2156   Tea with Grenfell Listen to stories of the Red Bay Co-op circa 1896 and have a cup of tea with "Dr. Grenfell" at the site of the first Co-op in Newfoundland and Labrador  Marilyn Bridle, Whalers Restaurant 709 920 2156  Labrador Coastal Drive with Lunch

The Tour begins in RedBay, home to RedBay's National Historic Site and continues along the scenic coastal highway through Labrador villages. Receive an orientation to Labrador Coastal Drive at the Gateway to Labrador Visitor Centre in L'Anse au Clair. This building was the community's first church (built in 1909 by volunteers) and was totally restored in 1992. Interior and exterior exhibits display the historical, cultural and natural heritage of Labrador Coastal Drive. Also visit the LabradorStraitsMuseum which explores the recent history of the Labrador coast. Exhibits focus on settlement over the past 150 years with special emphasis on the role of women in our history. Experience real Labrador Cuisine at a local Restaurant which will include traditional Labrador dish recipes with local berry deserts. Prior to returning to the ship, visit the Red Bay National Historic Site dedicated to the legacy of Basque whalers who spent their summers harvesting Bowhead and Right Whales many centuries ago.


Labrador Adventures

Carmen Hancock, 709 931 2055



Along the Coast

Cruise visitors to Red Bay can experience other chapters of Labrador history by taking shore excursions to explore the whole south coast of Labrador, including a visit to the tallest lighthouse in Atlantic Canada at Point Amour and to L'Anse Amour to ponder the mystery of the ceremonial burial of an Maritime Archaic adolescent who died some 7500 years ago, almost 2000 years before the construction of the pyramids.

Lighthouse Journey,

Travel along the coastal highway through Labrador communities over the PinwareRiver, along the L'Anse Amour Burial Mound to the Point Amour Lighthouse, tallest lightouse in Atlantic Canada. A panoramic view of the surrounding land and sea, and a glimpse of its historical attributes can be witnessed during the 128 step adventure to the top. See local artisans at work and sample Labrador tea. Enjoy a local refreshment prior to returning to the ship.
Labrador Adventures  Carmen Hancock, 931 2055



Labrador Berry Tasting at Point Amour Lighthouse

Embark on trip to visit nearby Labrador communities. In the comfort of a modern motor coach, you can visit the beautiful PinwareRiver valley, the communities of Pinware, West St. Modeste, L'anse Au Loup, and Labradors' smallest community, L'Anse Amour, with a population of just 8 people. At Point Amour, get a "taste" for life at an isolated Labrador lightstation, explore the landscape along short interpretative trails and enjoy majestic views, especially from the top of this Imperial tower, which is the tallest lighthouse in Atlantic Canada. Over tea and tarts filled with Labrador berries, see an art exhibit and chat with local craftpersons. On the return to Red Bay, we stop at the oldest mound burial in North America to ponder the mystery of the ceremonial burial of a Maritime Archaic adolescent who died some 7500 years ago, that's about 2000 years before the construction of the pyramids

Wildland Tours Dave Snow,



Red Bay hosts a welcome for each cruise ship visit including:

• Basque Whaler historical figure and Parks Canada staff to welcome visitors

• Town map and local information booth dockside

• A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer in formal dress to assist in providing welcome at the gangway

• Complimentary shopping shuttle located dockside( contingent on arrangements made by Town of Red Bay)




Port Specifications & Services

Latitude: 51:44'N, Longitude: 56:26'W Channel Depth at Low Tide: 6 metres # of Cruise Berths: 1 floating dock Harbour Authority: Verna Brown, 709 921 2095 Anchorage Marine Chart #4669, Western Arm and Basin Floating Docks: Located at Former Fish Plant Prevailing winds: Westerly. Services: Water, Anchorage, Provisions, Pilotage not required, Security on request (RCMP), Bank, Restaurants, Shopping, Public Restrooms and Telephones, Internet, Medical/Hospital, Police



Cindy Gibbons Red Bay National Historic Site Red Bay, NL A0K 4K0 709 920 2142 E-mail:
Bonnie Goudie Labrador Straits Cruise Committee  P. O. Box 112  Forteau, NL A0K 3K0  709 931 2013 E-mail:


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