Posted by: alexhickey | July 30, 2013

Top Ten Things to do in St. Jacques in the Summer ©

There seems to be a top ten of almost everything you can think of these days; the top ten places to visit, things to do, people to meet, places to eat, and so on. Of course any top ten list is arbitrary and dependent upon the interests of the individual compiling the list. After discussing with friends and family I have created a top ten list of things to do in St. Jacques during the summer time.  After you’ve read this, leave a comment sharing your favourite things to do in St. Jacques during the summer.

Despite St. Jacques being a small community it has a large inventory of things to do as long as you are willing to go outdoors and take advantage of the many activities open to residents and visitors alike. In an order which presents the number one thing to do last, here are my top ten things to do:

10. Dive into and swim in the cool Atlantic waters off the nearest wharf

diving off the wharf in st jacques in the summer

Diving off the Wharf

When the fishermen`s boats are not tied to the apron of the wharf it presents a golden opportunity to dive headfirst into the clean crisp water.  At high tide the water depth is approximately 20 feet.  On a calm warm sunny day water splashes and squeals of delight can be heard across the harbour as children and adults experience the buoyancy of swimming in salt water.  Most will dive or jump from the edge of the wharf while the more daring can occasionally be seen climbing atop four foot high fish vats for a higher jump-off location.  The water temperature in July averages around 17.2 degrees Celsius or 63 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to bring dry towels.

09. Hike Big Hill for a panoramic view of Fortune Bay

hiking big hill in st jacques

Hiking Big Hill

The mouth of St. Jacques Harbour opens into Fortune Bay in a southeasterly direction. Standing on the shore at night a viewer can see the lights of the town of Garnish across the Bay on the Burin Peninsula.  If you want to get a sense of the breath and depth Fortune Bay or just where most other landmarks are located in relation to St. Jacques, then a hike to the top of Big Hill is mandatory.  This is a hike of moderate challenge with a trail that winds across and gently upward in most locations. It will take about forty to sixty minutes to climb depending upon how many times you stop to pick and eat the plentiful blueberries which line the trail.   Once at the top the view is spectacular.  You will immediately wonder why something this high is called a hill instead of mountain.  The answer is that the grandeur of the view diminishes the immensity of the land-form.

08. Join neighbours at a fire on the Barachoix Beach

bonfire on the beach in st jacques

Bonfire on the Beach

Along the western side of St. Jacques harbour the ocean has washed over stretches of beach rocks since long before Captain James Cook sailed into the harbour in 1765.  These pebble beaches are ideal locations for lighting a bonfire in the evening.  Plan the event a little in advance, dress for slight temperature changes as night arrives; allow time to gather driftwood for the fire and a magical evening is ready to unfold. In determining a location for the fire and where you will position yourself, try to recall what you learned for elementary school geography about the relationship between land and sea breezes.

07. Pick blueberries along the hillsides overlooking the harbour

berry picking hills overlooking the harbour of st jacques

Berry-picking Hills

Summer sun in combination with the moisture from Spring rains nearly always ensure a bumper crop of delicious blueberries.  Step off the road anywhere, climb a hillside, or simply wander along time-worn footpaths and you will encounter this delectable berry.  Once in bloom they remain on their bushes for almost a month providing ample opportunity to harvest enough to last the long Newfoundland winter.  Picking blueberries is a solitary experience where one becomes oblivious to all others around; focused primarily on selecting the biggest and best berries from each cluster just as one would in a vineyard of grapes.  The only distractions tend to be the songbirds that flit from tree to tree mere feet from your face.  If you choose a spot where there is a slight breeze you can minimize the impact of ever-present black flies.

6. Take a boat trip to St. Jacques Island

st jacques island viewed from the western side

St. Jacques Island

Steeped in the murkiness of the fogs which frequently swirl around its jaw-dropping cliffs, the history of St. Jacques Island is still to be documented in its entirety.  Its sentinel position near the mouth of the harbour makes it a prime location for fortification in defense of the harbour.  Oral history supports such a use of the island.  Today it features a solar powered light and foghorn.   Until recently it was manned year-round by light keepers and their families.  Its 1907 cast iron lighthouse is still standing at the edge of the island ready to cast a warning light to mariners.  Known as the Fortune Bay Light, this beacon has been a friend to boaters for many generations.  As of 2012 the St. Jacques Lighthouse Heritage Corporation is in the process of acquiring the property for preservation and utilization as a tourism attraction.

 05. Watch the sun set over the western side of the harbour

sunset over st jacques harbour viewed from the eastern side of the community

Sunset over St. Jacques

Sunsets can be spectacular anywhere on earth; however, watching the sun slowly travel into evening behind Bottle Hill casting palette of reds, yellow and orange across the waters of the harbour can make your heart skip a beat.  Combine this with evening cumulus nimbus clouds which are readily seen on the western horizon and the scene is magnified.  On those occasions when tendrils of fog creep into the harbour adding another layer of atmospheric filtration to an already impressive light show the scene is complete. There`s little more one can say.

04. Take your camera on an afternoon excursion to Louis’s Cove

louis's cove viewed from eastern side of the community

Louis’s Cove

Louis`s Cove is located at the western side of the harbour mouth; a prominent headland sheltering several pebble beaches.  The view of St. Jacques harbour from Louis`s Cove is well worth the hike along the shoreline to get there.  It is a ninety minute hike over a variety of beach conditions which range from small pebbles to large boulders.  At one point a climb over a small headland is required so one must be agile to make the trip.  An alternative is to make the trip by boat.  Either way, there are places to explore amid the tuckamore evocative of secret dwellings and hidden travel routes; rock formations to examine, headlands to climb, ocean waves which invite the feet to dance, and towering cliffs which drop straight into the sea. Don`t forget the camera.

03. Organize a wiener roast on the beach below Hatchet Cliff

wiener roast on the beach near hatchet cliff on the western side of the harbour

Wiener Roast on the Beach

During afternoons when the beaches have absorbed enough heat to radiate warmth to all who sit on it the time is right to gather driftwood and build a fire.  Hatchet Cliff or Hatches Cliff as it is known to some, sits behind a section of beach that transitions from pebbles to flat rocks and then to smaller pebbles.  Cool, refreshing ground water runs from cracks in the rock face offering moist relief from afternoon heat. Along the beachhead driftwood carried in on high tides and bleached white from the sun can be found.  A few minutes of gathering will result in enough tinder get the fire started.  As it burns down to cinder, break out the wieners and impale them on the skewers you`ve just made from tree branches.  Enjoy the aroma and take in the panoramic vista of St. Jacques harbour.

02. Harvest mussels on the beach outside the point at Burkes Dock

shoreline at low tide outside the area known as burkes dock in st jacques

Shoreline at Low Tide

Harvesting mussels at low tide requires a sense of adventure and a willingness to get wet from wading among the rocks.  Burkes Dock was once a thriving and bustling business centre during the days of banking schooners and international fish trade.  Today it is a picturesque cove flanked by grass covered banks on one side and a land spit on the other.  The land spit is naturally occurring; however, throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it was shaped by a lengthy breakwater which offered shelter to sailing vessels moored in its wake.  On the harbour side of the land spit is where you can find blue mussels like none other.  Wear foot protection in the water else you may end up hobbling home with remnants of spiny sea urchins in your feet.  Look in crevices between rocks and simply reach down and pry them loose.  Take only what you need – leave some for the next group to come along.  Steam them there on the beach or take them home as an evening appetizer.

01.  Attend the South Coast Arts Festival

view of backstage at the south coast arts festival hels during the second weekend of august each year in st jacques

South Coast Arts Festival

During the second weekend of August St. Jacques hosts one of the most unique arts festivals on the coast. This three day event is held on its permanent site in St. Jacques Barachoix just below the western side of Big Hill.  This festival, run completely by volunteers including all of the performers, has been running uninterrupted since 1986.  Inside the gates is a well-developed grass covered field with washrooms, bar service, food service and emergency attendants.  Music can be heard on the main stage from early afternoon to early morning. Dance floors are located in front of the stage and in the reserved bar area.  There will be music for all tastes ranging from traditional accordion to contemporary adult alternative and rock. Keep your ears attuned for you`ll be sure to hear some of the songs written by the award winning Bud Davidge of the local duo Simani.    You never know who you will meet at this event for it attracts people from many different places in Newfoundland and Labrador and from away.  Families from the region plan summer vacations to coincide with `The Festival`. Bring sunscreen and your dancing shoes! This is without a doubt the number one thing to do in St. Jacques in the summer!


  1. I feel so blessed! I think I’ve done ’em all!

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