The sleepy town of Tors Cove should be on the bucket list for anyone visiting the Witless Bay and greater Marine Ecological Reserve area here on the Avalon Peninsula. Tors Cove Village is a short drive from St. John’s and makes for a fun day trip. If you’re staying at Whale House Guest House, a hotel, or bed and breakfast in the town of Mobile, Tors Cove Village is easily accessed directly by hiking The East Coast Trail Tinker’s Point Path.
Originally known as Toads Cove, the historic village of Tors Cove has always been tiny. In the 1950’s the village had 279 residents and in 2018 the population was hovering around 300 people, virtually unchanged. Tors Cove is one of our favorite places to visit, and for a little historic fishing community, it has a lot to offer. Tor’s Cove has one of the best views of the Witless Bay Marine Ecological Reserve and is home to “The Cribbies”, the most photographed coastal meadow in Newfoundland. In 2016, a 17th century archaeological site was discovered in the village that suggests migratory fisherman have been coming to this area long before the town’s official inception, with the dig turning up clay tobacco pipes, small nails, and ceramics. Just looking out at the islands from the community wharf will make you feel like you’re in a fairy tale. No wonder people have been coming here for so long.
Our favorite book store and printing press is also in Tors Cove. It’s called Running the Goat Press, and it’s a beautiful independent book shop offering the best variety of handmade books from a surprisingly large selection of Newfoundland and Labrador printers. The printing press in the bookshop is more than 180 years old and a visit to Running the Goat Press lets you experience first hand how books were made several centuries ago. If you love books and folktales, you won’t be able to resist stopping into the local book shop during your visit.
Another reason to visit Tors Cove is whales and capelin. Humpback whales love to feed on capelin, it’s one of their favorite foods. The sandy beach and islands surrounding Tors Cove make an ideal place for capelin to spawn, and you can witness capelin rolling on the beach almost every summer. It’s quite an event when the capelin are rolling. People of all ages are out with their buckets and dip nets scooping fish out of the water that’s teeming with spawning capelin. In the background, humpback whales are driving the capelin further towards shore as they feed, slap their fins on the water, and sometimes even breaching by fully jumping out of the water and into the air. It’s an amazing experience and Tors Cove Village is easily the best place to watch whales from land for this very reason. The islands in the backdrop have traditionally been used to keep sheep during the summer, and still today sheep farmers use the islands for this very reason, loading up their boats with dozens of sheep in the spring, dropping them off on Fox Island and Ship Island to graze for the summer, and then collecting the sheep again in the fall.
Sea Kayakers, Paddleboarders, and Scuba Divers also gravitate to this area since the water is generally calm, clear, and rich with marine life. The islands offer protection from ocean swells, and paddlers can explore hidden beaches, sea caves, and thousands of rare seabirds concentrated in one area. If all this isn’t magical enough for you, Fairy Door Tours operates a fairy lore nature trail walkabout through the Tors Cove Village area, adding enchantment to your adventure.
To access Tors Cove by the East Coast Trail, start your hike at Whale House Guest House in Mobile just off Lower Road and hike the easy coastal trail for 5 kilometers. If you’re hiking at a relaxed pace, the trail takes less than 3 hours to complete and is one of the most rewarding East Coast Trail Hikes because of the stunning coastal scenery and uninterrupted views of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. The hike is rated as easy which means it’s perfect for beginners, families, and kids looking for a first time experience on the East Coast Trail. The Tinkers Point Path is an ideal first hike of the season and a great way to kick off your Newfoundland adventure. Along the hiking trail you have plenty of access to freshwater streams, beaches, and coastal meadows well suited for an afternoon picnic or just relaxing near the water. Although the hike is straightforward, having a map is recommended. You can pick-up an East Coast Trail Map at the Whale House Guest House Adventure Shack, fill your water-bottles from their onsite freshwater spring, and get current information on trail conditions, weather, and even register your hike all for free.
Have you visited the village of Tors Cove Before? What was your favorite part? Post in the comments below and let others know what your experience was like.