Small town escapes: Corner Brook, NL

Head to this outdoor town, where you'll find tons of culture along with its many adventures

In the middle of the 19th century, the metropolis of Corner Brook had fewer than 100 residents. Since then, the community has gradually blossomed into the second largest town in Newfoundland. With an economy that relies less on disappearing fish stocks than it does on forestry, healthcare and education, it’s weathering life on the western edge of the Rock is better all the time. The outskirts of town fan out like a gently sloping amphitheatre onto the forested slopes of the Long Range Mountains. Downtown ends more abruptly at the saltwater base of the Humber Arm, a 40-kilometre limb reaching inland from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It’s an active person’s dream, and the population here is definitely active. For example, cycling races draw the same numbers of competitors that would be found in much larger cities like Halifax or St. John’s. In fact, the International Triathlon Union kept Corner Brook on its rotating circuit twice as long as usual because of the area’s natural assets and the unabashed enthusiasm of the hometown hopefuls.


Outdoor lowdown

Hiking: Just west of town, the Blow Me Down Mountains offer truly exceptional hiking. Some 360 million years old, they consist largely of peridotite, a rock type usually found deep in the earth’s mantle that is poisonous to most plant life. It’s the same barren red rock that makes up the Tablelands area, 60 kilometres north in Gros Morne National Park, home itself to 100 kilometres of hiking routes that flirt with the 2,000-foot walls of its famous fjords.

Biking: Local cyclists saddle up for a 45-kilometre ride that passes through small fishing villages on the way to Bottle Cove on the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Fishing: More than 70 percent of Canada’s viable salmon rivers are found in Newfoundland, and none have a greater run than Corner Brook’s own Humber River.

Skiing: Just above the Humber, Marble Mountain’s 1,700 vertical feet host 34 of the East’s best ski runs. But if chairlifts seem too mainland, head for the backcountry. Blomidon Cat Skiing in the Blow Me Down Mountains is the only cat-skiing operation in the East and promises 13,000 vertical feet in a day.


About town

Corner Brook has culture coming out the wazoo. It’s home to Theatre Newfoundland Labrador, one of the province’s only professional theatre groups, which puts on a number of productions each year and the Gros Morne Theatre Festival every summer. Corner Brook’s Arts and Culture Centre also hosts touring ballet companies, comedy acts and musicians. When it comes to food, Corner Brook has an impressive number of pizza joints (perhaps because it’s a university town—College of the North Atlantic and Memorial University). For those wanting something a little more upscale, there’s Sorrento, recognized as one of Corner Brook’s top eateries for its fresh organic ingredients and hand-kneaded pasta.


Other factoids

British explorer James Cook first surveyed the area in the summer of 1767 » hosted the 2001 Raid the North Extreme adventure race » twice hosted MuchMusic’s SnowJob » the town’s pulp-and-paper mill was once the largest in the world