Taking a visit to Quidi Vidi – pronounced Kiddy Viddy – is like taking a giant leap back in time. While only minutes from downtown St. John’s, it feels worlds away. With its colourful wooden (and still working) fishing stages sprouting from the rugged harbourside cliffs, this centuries–old, postcard–perfect village – which locals refer to as “the Gut” – provides a lens into what traditional island outports were once like in Newfoundland and Labrador. Far from being stuck in the past, today’s Quidi Vidi offers up a haul of activities for day trippers to pack in.
Lace up your trail or mountain bike shoes and start the day off (at least a half hour earlier than the rest of Canada) with a hike or ride along the Sugarloaf Path, which is part of the East Coast Trail system. With designated routes for each activity, the winding, well–worn loop and stunning ocean views will get your heart racing. Be sure to have binoculars at the ready for close–up views if you spot the blow from a minke whale or the giant splash of a breaching humpback in the distance. Pack a container and fill it with wild blueberries that grow along the path.
After all that activity, it’s time to refuel with a family–style brunch at Mallard Cottage. Housed in an 18th–century heritage building patterned on a traditional Irish thatched–roof cottage, the restaurant boasts a dining room packed full of cozy charm and a mouthwatering menu featuring 90% local ingredients from land and sea – and the vast garden out back. The eggs Benedict with lamb sausage is a favourite.
Time to get out on the water – you’re on an island after all. Nothing has shaped the history, economy and culture of Newfoundland as much as the cod fish, and no one in Quidi Vidi knows as much about catching them as the boys at Quidi Vidi Charters. Kevin Battcock and Noel Browne Junior are the village’s unofficial Codfathers. They guarantee two things about their cod fishing excursion: that you’ll hook a cod and have the best fish ’n’ chips you’ve ever tasted afterward. They’ve yet to break their promise.
If all that salty ocean air leaves you feeling parched, you can easily quench your thirst back on land. Jutting right out into the harbour, Quidi Vidi Brewery must rank as one of the most scenic craft breweries in the country. Their Day Boil Session IPA is hopped up but low in alcohol, perfect for a sunny afternoon. Their Iceberg beer (in their now–iconic blue bottle) is a lager made with water harvested from 20,000 year–old bergs, and it tastes as crisp as it sounds.
If you’ve been searching for an authentic Newfoundland pub in which to wet your whistle, the Inn of Olde won’t disappoint. (To get there, look for the sign at the fork in the road that says, “Stories, beers & wood burning stoves.”) It’s dangerously easy for the hours to float away while scanning the shiny trinkets that cover every inch of wall and listening to Linda, the big boss herself, holding court behind her bar with all sorts of tales.
You can’t leave the Gut without bringing a little something back for your friends, family or yourself. Next stop is the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation right on the harbour’s edge where river meets ocean. This is a working artisan studio where you’ll discover that perfect handcrafted gift right from its maker. The leathercrafts from Modjūl fuse old–world craftsmanship with functionality in each unique item, from tote bags and purses to wallets and bracelets. Bring home a slice of Newfoundland for your wall with a woodblock engraving freshly rolled out of a vintage Kelsey press from Morgan’s Printing. Attention to detail and the delicate intricacies of quilting are on full display with a handmade blanket from Wooly Tops.
Shopping leads to hunger, so it’s back to Mallard Cottage to feast on the freshest ingredients the Island has to offer. A familiar name on “best of” lists (including the Canada’s Best New Restaurants Top 10 list in 2014) dinner at Mallard perfectly balances casual comfort with fine dining. You see it in the crowd, with flannels and Blundstones mixing seamlessly with dress shirts and high heels. Newfoundland native Todd Perrin’s menu changes daily, dictated by what was most recently netted from the ocean or picked from the ground by local purveyors. Reserve early for a table in the original front room where you can almost sense the history of the building seeping from its wooden beams. By the warmth of a roaring fire, dine on Halibut crudo served with warm flatbread, za’atar spice and lemon aioli, and sip on mixologist Simone Savard–Walsh’s Pin City cocktail, sweetened to perfection with their in–house pin cherry syrup.
When it’s time to rest your head, your pillow awaits just across the street at The Inn by Mallard Cottage. Spread over two houses, the inn has seven suites, each with a king–sized bed. Every detail, from the white–painted plank flooring and clapboard walls to handmade, brightly coloured hooked rugs sourced from a ladies’ guild in the small Newfoundland community of Jackson’s Arm, has been highly considered to capture the spirit of a traditional saltbox home with a modern–day twist. Take a seat in the intimate common lounge area or gather around the outdoor fire pit, both ideal settings for sparking conversations with other guests and telling tales about your day that would make Linda proud.