Mine tours, wildlife watching, and stunning scenery make a trip to Bell Island special. Cross the Bell Island Tickle by ferry to explore a unique community.
Located in the scoop of Conception Bay to the north of the Avalon Peninsula, Bell Island remains a relic of WWII history and iron ore mining. The stunning scenery of jutting cliffs contrasts the mine shafts that poke above the surface. Tour a cold mine shaft that brought prosperity to the island, see the location of the only German land-attack in North America, or explore the murals and local haunts of Wabana, the islands largest town.
Bell Island Mining Attractions
In the 1890s, the heavy rocks of Bell Island became valuable for their iron ore. Through to 1966 when the last mine closed, mining was Bell Island’s foremost industry. Surface and submarine mines allowed hard-working miners to extract more than 3 billion tons of iron ore from beneath the rocky island.
Today, only the mining shafts and labyrinths of dirt roads remain, along with rich community memories, an informative museum, and a unique tour. The Bell Island Mine Museum is also the site of the No. 2 Mine Tours (709-488-2880), which take visitors underground into the cold, abandoned mine shafts. Tours run daily from June to September.
For more insight into the mining history, watch throughout Wabana for large colorful murals that depict mining scenes.
More Bell Island Attractions
Beyond its mining past, Bell Island also has a compelling WWII history and stunning scenery. While on the island, and driving the single route that rounds it, visit the:
Bell Island Gunsite: When arriving by ferry, look to the top of the cliffs to see guns used to protect the area during WWII.
Bell Island Lighthouse: On the northern tip of the island, the lighthouse makes a great spot to watch for birds and sea life.
Bell Island Sports Hall of Fame: The local curling club doubles as the local hall of fame.
Grebe’s Nest: Near Wabana, a dynamite-blasted tunnel leads to a hidden beach.
Lance Cove memorial: On Sept. 5, 1942, German U-boats sank the S.S. Lord Strathcona and S.S. Sargarnaga off Lance Cove. Within two months another attack targeted the S.S. Rose Castle and P.L.M. 27, a freighter. When a torpedo hit Scotia Pier rather than its target on the second attack, the explosion became the only German land attack on North America during WWII.
Getting to Bell Island
Bell Island is accessible by ferry and plane. Most visitors, and even daily commuters to St. John’s, travel by ferry across the Bell Island Tickle. Two ferries makes dozens of runs daily between Bell Island and Portugal. In summer, line-ups for the ferry often mean waiting for an hour or more. In winter, the crossing is sometimes hampered by pack ice.
Bell Island also has full services for a longer stay. There is a bed-and-breakfast, a grocery store, and a gas station on the island, along with various social clubs and pubs.