Battle Harbor Labrador City on the Trans Labrador Highway Photo: Dru Kennedy
The Trans Labrador Highway - a pristine wilderness route in northern Canada
It is comparable to such well-known wilderness routes as the Alaska Highway, the Top of the World Highway or the Dempster Highway in northwestern Canada - the Trans Labrador Highway, which connects Baie Comeau in Quebec with Labrador. The full length of the highway has been paved since July 5, 2022.
The name "Freedom Road" and what it means to the people of Labrador
Incidentally, the highway was given the nickname "Freedom Road" by the residents of Labrador, who for the first time can use a road connection to the southern part of Canada and are no longer dependent on expensive connections by ship, plane or train. The section from Wabush on the Quebec border to L'Anse-au-Clair is also known as "Expedition 51°".
Planning a trip on the Trans Labrador Highway - important considerations
Driving the Trans Labrador Highway is an experience that needs to be well planned, as there are few gas stations, places to stay and shopping along the way. And connection to the outside world via mobile phones, television and the Internet is rarely, if ever, available. Anyone who wants to protect themselves in the event of an emergency is better advised to use a satellite phone than standard mobile phones. The best way to prepare, however, is to always fill up the tank early, shop at any grocery store for the next few days for a picnic lunch, and maybe even dinner - depending on where you plan to stay. There are no luxury resorts and exclusively equipped accommodations on this route. Here it is all about finding a bed after driving through the wilderness and being served a hearty and warm meal.
Lodging along the route – mining and supply locations
The existing accommodations are located in the villages along the Trans Labrador Highway, which were founded to mine the mineral resources of the region or to harness the water and thus the energy wealth of the area. Little value was placed on beauty in these places. It's usually mining and supply locations that shouldn't be the destination of the Trans Labrador Highway journey, although there are interesting things to see there too. However, these are usually not natural beauties, but the results of human activities in the middle of the wilderness, which arose due to some economic considerations. Economic engagement in the middle of the wilderness usually only takes place when sufficient profit can be expected - such as when mining rich mineral resources or generating energy as in Churchill Falls.
A journey on the Trans Labrador Highway - the experience of solitude
A trip on the Trans Labrador Highway is made for the sake of travel, not to arrive at a specific destination. The route leads through tundra and taiga areas and through endless expanses. Wild animals are more common there than people. So you rarely meet other vehicles and people on the journey on the Trans Labrador Highway. This is an experience that is completely new to most Europeans. The views of endless expanses of tundra are breathtaking. As are views of the lakes, of which the circular Lake Manicougan in northern Quebec is just one of many.
The experience of solitude is what makes traveling the Trans Labrador Highway unique. Only a few roads in the world convey that. Even the Alaska Highway can no longer deliver this feeling today, as it is one of the main access routes to Alaska in summer. So if you are looking for the adventure of wilderness in the infinity of the Canadian north, you will find a real alternative on the Trans Labrador Highway.
Combine this route with other tours along the east coast of Labrador and Newfoundland
Combine the Trans Labrador Highway with a tour of Labrador's east coast and the island of Newfoundland. In order to save expensive one-way fees for car rental, a trip starts in Halifax in Nova Scotia. The vehicle is returned there at the end of the journey.
Frequently Asked Questions
How far is a drive on the Trans Labrador Highway from Baie Comeau to Labrador City?
A drive on the Trans Labrador Highway from Baie Comeau to Labrador City is 620 kilometers long. The duration of the journey depends on the road conditions and the driving speed.
Are there gas stations and shopping on the Trans Labrador Highway?
Yes, but they are quite rare. It is important to refill the tank in good time and to pack enough supplies for the journey.
What features can be seen on the Trans Labrador Highway?
There are many endless expanses, deep blue lakes and untouched nature to discover on the Trans Labrador Highway. There are also a few mining and supply locations that give a glimpse into the region's history. Also en route is Red Bay National Historic Site, an old 16th-century Basque whaling station. This is now a World Heritage Site. The old fishing settlement of Battle Harbor originally dates from the 19th century and is an open-air museum in the summer months.
How do I best prepare for a ride on Expedition 51°?
It is important to take enough food, water and petrol with you as gas stations and shops are scarce. A satellite phone can also be helpful in an emergency.
Can I combine driving the Freedom Road with other activities in the area?
Yes, a drive on the Trans-Labrador Highway can be easily combined with a tour along the east coast of Labrador or through the island of Newfoundland. It makes sense to start the journey in Halifax in Nova Scotia and return the vehicle at the end of the journey to save on expensive one-way fees.
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Text: © Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Monika Fuchs as well as TravelWorldOnline and Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain