Carbonear is a town of 4800 people (2016) in eastern Newfoundland. There are many things to do in Carbonear, including boat tours, shopping, restaurants, and other tourist sites.
Carbonear overlooks the west side of Conception Bay and had a history long tied to fishing and shipbuilding.
Carbonear is one of the oldest permanent settlements in Newfoundland and among the oldest European settlements in North America. The harbour appears on early Portuguese maps as early as the late 1500s as Cabo Carvoeiro (later anglicized as Cape Carviero). There are a number of different theories about the origin of the town's name. Possibly from the Spanish word "carbonera" (charcoal kiln); Carbonera, a town near Venice, Italy where John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) had been resident; or from a number of French words, most likely "Carbonnier" or "Charbonnier," meaning "coalman".
The British began permanent colonization of the island in the early 17th century. Legend tells of an Irish princess of the O'Conner family, Sheila NaGeira, who settled in Carbonear after being rescued by privateer Peter Easton and marrying his first officer Gilbert Pike. Much is known about Easton and his exploits, but evidence of NaGeira has yet to be found. The legend's combination of romance, pirates, and New World adventure has inspired much research and numerous works of fiction on the topic.
Carbonear became a target for England's enemies, and privateers. When war broke out with France, Carbonear was attacked by the French. The citizens survived by retreating to Carbonear Island, which they fortified. The town, documented by the French as containing properties that were "the best-built in all of Newfoundland", was burned to the ground. By the end of March 1697, only Bonavista and Carbonear Island remained in English hands.
Over the next hundred years, Carbonear was attacked and burned twice more by the French in their attempts to control Newfoundland, and then later by American privateers. The town developed as one of the most important in Newfoundland in this period. With new French threats, the British finally erected a fort and garrison on the island in 1743. During the Seven Years' War, the French invaded and gained control of the fort, burning its buildings and tossing the cannons over the cliffs in 1762. They can still be seen on the beach below.
With the rise of the seal hunt and the Labrador cod fishery, Carbonear became a major commercial centre in the 19th century. Violent political riots here in the early and mid-19th century led to the dissolution of the Newfoundland Legislature in 1841 and the suspension of the constitution. Political riots were so common here during this period that the term "Carbonearism" was coined to describe the behaviour.
In the late 20th century, the economy was forced to diversify. The seal hunt and the Labrador fishery had almost disappeared. Carbonear's importance as a shipbuilding centre and international port of trade had much declined. Fish processing continued to be the primary industry until the collapse of the cod fishery in the early 1990s. To counter these changes, Carbonear is evolving. With two college campuses, a shopping centre, a major hospital, and three long-term care facilities, the town has built on its importance as a regional retail, service, transportation, government, and cultural centre, earning it the nickname "Hub of the Bay".
Carbonear is 110 km from St. John's southwest on the Trans-Canada Highway (#1), then north on the Veterans' Memorial Highway (70/75).
The nearest major airport is in St. John's. There is no bus or train service.
- A-1 Taxi, ☏ .
- Jim's Taxi, ☏ .
- 1 Rorke Store Museum, 215 Water Street, ☏ . Balancing the Scales exhibit chronicles the history of the fish harvester and merchant relationship between Carbonear and the Labrador.
- The Princess Sheila NaGeira Theatre, Conception Bay Regional Community Centre, 256 Water Street, ☏ . A 379-seat, air-conditioned and wheelchair-accessible facility. One of the most beautiful outdoor settings in the province facing the Carbonear harbour. Live theatrical performances with popular acts from the world stage and beloved Newfoundland performers.
- George W. Earle Promenade. A beautiful promenade set in the centre of the town surrounding two ponds. This 974-metre board walk is named for a former mayor.
- Nell’s Walking Trail. The trail starts from Pondside Road and runs to Columbus Drive. The trail was dedicated to Nell Finn, the first female council member in the town of Carbonear. The 2.1-km route and runs alongside Rossiter’s Pond.
- Harbour Rock Hill. A spectacular view of Carbonear Harbour, including Carbonear Island. The guns installed in 1812 to protect the town from American privateers which can be seen today. The events through the years are explained by a series of storyboards.
- Carbonear Wharf. The government wharf is actively used by fishers, boaters, and tour boat operators. It provides a panoramic view of Carbonear Harbour.
- Carbonear Triathlon & Try-a-Tri, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. July or August. 500-m swim in Freshwater Pond, 18-km bike ride back through Carbonear, up the hill, into Freshwater and through town again finishing by the pool in Carbonear. 5-km run out and back through the town & one lap on the track brings you across the finish line. The Try-a-tri is a shorter version: 300-m swim, 6-km bike, and 3-km run.
- Carbonear Days Weekend. 5 days in early August. A celebration of the town’s history and culture: children’s activities, walking and boat tours, and various types of entertainment including some traditional food. Accordion Fest, Raisin Bun Bakeoff Contest, Carbonear World Cup of Tiddly, and the Carbonear Day Parade.
- Annual World Cup of Tiddly. First Sunday in August. Tiddly is a Newfoundland game played with two sticks, and the World Cup of Tiddly is a unique event.
- Annual Show N’ Shine, Paddy’s Garden. in August. Antique, classic, tuner, imports, trucks, drag cars, Concessions on site $3 (kids under 12 free).
- Water Street has traditionally been the primary commercial area.
- Columbus Drive is the terminus for Veterans’ Memorial Highway (Route 75), the main route between the Baccalieu Trail and the Trans Canada Highway (Route 1). It has become the main business area of the region. Along both sides of the highway are restaurants, banks, national and international chain stores, smaller local businesses, and fast food franchises.
- The Trinity Conception Square Mall, 120 Columbus Drive (Route 70). M–W 10AM–5:30PM, Th F 10AM–9PM, Sa 10AM – 5:30PM, Su noon – 5PM. 30 stores.
- Powell Drive connects Columbus Drive to Water Street. It has about 26 businesses.
- My Place Restaurant, 120 Columbus Drive, ☏ . M-W Sa 9AM – 5:30PM, Th F Th 9AM – 9PM. Homestyle Newfoundland food.
- Stone Jug, 232 Water Street, ☏ . Su W Th noon-8PM, F Sa noon-10PM. Gastro pub fare, on-tap microbrews and a selection of wines in a beautiful 1860 heritage building.
- Hotline Cafe, 179 Water Street (in the Old Telephone Exchange Office), ☏ . Th F Su 10AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-5PM, Tu 11AM-7PM, W 10AM-7PM.
- Baccalieu Trail B & B and Fine Dining, 170 Water Street, ☏ . Hot breakfast included. $129-185.
- Carbonear Motel, 1A Highroad North, ☏ .
- Merchants Manor, 152 Water Street, toll-free: . The former home of Newfoundland Premier, Frank Moores, Merchant’s Manor was built in the 1920s by his father, a prominent businessma. Serene ocean views, park-like grounds and many Arts & Crafts style features of its period.
- Sophia's Heritage Inn, 150 Water Street, ☏ , toll-free: . The 1890s home of the mercantile Duff family. Four tastefully appointed guest rooms and a fine dining restaurant. King & Queen size beds, in room whirlpools, down duvets, fireplaces. Hot breakfast included. From $135.
You can get out of Carbonear via the highway, in which you can go in the direction of St. John's or towards the ferry in Port aux Basques