Situated off the Bonavista Peninsula Highway (Route 230 near Port Rexton), you will discover Champney’s West, one of NL’s oldest communities. First settled in 1675, 70 residents call this charming out-port village home.
Overlooking Trinity Bay, Champney’s West is part of a collection of breathtaking coastal communities that make up the Trinity Bight region. Better known as “the island”, the town is almost entirely surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean with the exception of a narrow road/isthmus.
Like most rural NL communities, Champney’s West was profoundly impacted by the collapse of the cod fishery of the early 1990s. A subsequent moratorium on fishing saw the town’s +400 year way of life literally disappear overnight.
Today, the town is on a new path, thanks in part, to the Champney’s West Heritage Group (CWHG), a non-profit volunteer based organization. CWHG’s mission is “to preserve and promote the heritage of the community and the region through the development and operation of educational focused facilities”. Some of their initiatives to date have included the heritage house museum and aquarium.
Champney’s West is an idyllic rural community with an endearing and enduring cultural heritage. It represents one of the finest in ‘off the beaten path’ Newfoundland travel. For these reasons be sure to pencil in Champney’s West while you explore NL.
Ella Freeman Heritage House
Our visit to Champney’s West first took us to the Ella Freeman Heritage House. The museum is a definite time-capsule with a treasure trove of artifacts, pictures, and written materials that illustrate the story of a resilient people from early settlement and their fishery right up to the present day.
Fox Island Trail
Fox Island Trail is a moderate, 3 kilometer (1.8 mile), 1 hour, hike (only difficult if you take the optional steep climb to the peak) which took us across meadows, through forests, along coastlines, and atop hidden beaches. To date, it is one of the most glorious hikes we have completed in NL.
Fox Island has two distinct plateaus, including a lower one called “The Porch”, where an archaeological dig in 1995 discovered evidence of trenches used as defenses during Queen Anne’s War (1701-1713).
We were fortunate to be on hand for the unveiling of Champney’s West Aquarium, which officially opened in September 2016. This state of the art facility is a unique marine learning experience with touch tanks and large viewing tanks that exhibit many of NL’s aquatic species including salmon, cod, sculpin, starfish, and crab.
Champney’s West Days
Held annually in August, this 3-day weekend extravaganza includes an old fashioned variety concert, traditional foods, and games of chance. The highlight, of course, is the famous ‘Island Girls’ who take the plank plunge into the Atlantic.
Equally famous is the cardboard boat races where brave souls set sail in creatively designed cardboard boats held together by duct tape. Here each participant makes the round trip from the beach out to the harbour and back (without sinking that is).