Cartwright (Labrador)

Cartwright is a tiny coastal fishing village on the southeastern coast of Labrador with a population of just over 500 people.


Captain George Cartwright in 1792

Captain George Cartwright, an English merchant, established a fish and fur trading business on the eastern side of Sandwich Bay in 1775, one of several established along the Labrador coast from 1770 to 1786. Two cannons on Flagstaff Hill guard the harbour from pirates and privateers. His book "Journal of Transactions and Events During a Residence of Nearly Sixteen Years on the Coast of Labrador" provides a detailed historical picture of the era. He sold the trading businesses to Hunt and Henley in 1815; they were purchased by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1873.

Cartwright was incorporated as a town in 1956, but was accessible only by a coastal ferry (based in Lewisporte) until the Trans-Labrador Highway linked the town to Red Bay/Forteau in 2002 and to Happy Valley-Goose Bay in December 2009. Many points beyond Cartwright still rely on the coastal ferry.

The Cartwright Hotel was destroyed by fire in 2013 and has not been rebuilt. Originally a wooden structure with twenty rooms, a restaurant and bar, the hotel had employed at least a dozen locals. There is a tiny, six-room motel and tent/trailer camping; as space is very limited (and the next village nearly 200km away), don't go without reserving lodging in advance.

A Gannet Islands Ecological Reserve 40 km (25 miles) northeast of Cartwright is the largest and most diverse sea bird breeding colony in Labrador, but is closed to all visitors except accredited scientific researchers. There are abandoned native or Métis villages and archaeological sites in the area, in some very awkward locations unlikely to be reachable except by boat. There is one local industry in the village, a Labrador Fisherman's Union Shrimp Company factory with 100-150 people packaging crab. The commercial cod fishery is largely gone due to a 1990s moratorium (like most Newfoundland communities) but there is recreational salmon fishing on the nearby Eagle River.

There is a fuel station and an Anglican church in the village, but no bank and no repair garage. The highway in this region is gravel with no fuel and no services on 393km (250 mi) of road northwest to Goose Bay (a sprawling 7700-person metropolis), or on the 187 km (120 mi) southward to tiny Port Hope Simpson (population 500). Cartwright's location is isolated, but represents a last chance for fuel, food and basic essentials before a very long journey to the next village. Labrador is sub-Arctic and winters are brutal. To the north, coastal native communities (mostly Innu) are accessible only by sea or by air.

Get in

By car
Cartwright is on Route 516; exit the main Trans-Labrador Highway 510 at Cartwright Junction (no services) and drive about 90km (55 miles) north.
By ship
A seasonal coastal ferry service, based in Lewisporte, calls at Goose Bay to take on supplies for communities further north with no road access. One still can reach Rigolet-Cartwright-Black Tickle from elsewhere within Labrador on this ferry, although service has diminished in communities where a road is now open.
By air
Air Labrador (+1 709 938-7476) stops three times weekly (Mon, Wed, Fri) at Cartwright's small airstrip en route to/from Goose Bay. This flight follows the coast through a long list of Labrador villages (Black Tickle, Charlottetown, Port Hope Simpson, Williams Harbour, Fox Harbour and Mary's Harbour) southward to St. Anthony on Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula. Another coastal flight runs from Goose Bay northward to Nain, stopping in various native communities unreachable by road.

Get around

There are no taxis, buses, SkyTrain, subway or métro stations in Cartwright. There's also no commuter rail. One may travel on foot or by car within the village, which is a tiny and compact settlement. The coastal ferry docks are centrally located in the village, but the airstrip is a couple of kilometres (about a mile and a half) from the middle of town.

A few small outports in-region with no direct road access use ferry links to Cartwright as their access to "the beaten path" - although evidently the term in this context is relative.




The Northern Store (Northwest Company) is the one de-facto general store and the main grocer in the village; there's also one convenience store and a fuel station.

The Mealy Mountain Gallery operates seasonally as part of Experience Labrador Tours, carrying native and local crafts, T-shirts, quilts and patches, carvings, pottery, jewellery, painting, photos, postcards, traditional cotton duck cossacks and outerwear.



Liquor is available at the Northern Store; as of 2004, a Northside Pub had opened beneath the Northside Motel, facing the harbour.


Options are limited; the village's lone bed-and-breakfast house removed its online listings (two rooms) in 2015 and the Cartwright Hotel was destroyed in 2013. Experience Labrador offers seasonal accommodations (a trailer, tenting experiences and tent rental sites) and reports the Northside Motel to still be operational.


There is no mobile telephone service in or around Cartwright. There is a small post office.


Eagle River

Well known for salmon and fly fishing, Eagle River is accessible by sea or by float plane. The river ends on the opposite side of Sandwich Bay, approximately 18 miles west from Cartwright. There are multiple fishing camps operated by various outfitters, who typically bundle food, lodging, boat and motor rental and the services of a guide into one big, expensive package. Other activities include kayaking and sightseeing by boat or aircraft. Operations are highly seasonal; operators begin to scale back activity by late August. Speckled trout, northern pike and Atlantic salmon are caught mid-June to mid-August; salmon fishing continues through August and September. Trout season officially ends September 15.

Eagle River is off the grid and has no roads, but is reachable by float plane (from Goose Bay) or boat (typically from Cartwright). Baggage capacity on these small aircraft is limited, so anything beyond fifty pounds (such as food/drinks and supplies) will be brought by sea. The lodges and cabins typically offer most of the comforts of home, but the power comes from a generator and network access from a satellite. Telephone calls to the camps are carried by satellite or Internet telephony (often listing an out-of-province telephone area code), cookstoves use propane and any pumps or filters to deliver running water are installed locally.

Go next

Cartwright is the end of the road.

If heading south, there is a half-hour time difference between Cartwright (Atlantic time, AST/ADT) and Port Hope Simpson (Newfoundland time, which continues to Forteau). The only way out by road is to rejoin the Trans-Labrador Highway mainline 90km south at Cartwright Junction (there's nothing at this crossroads, no services, no fuel). One may then continue northwest to Goose Bay or south to Port Hope Simpson, Red Bay and Blanc Sablon-Forteau.

A full tank of fuel (or even a spare can) is advised as the 400km of empty wilderness between Cartwright and Goose Bay provides no refuelling stops.

The other options are to depart by sea for Nunatsiavut in the north or Lewisporte in the south, or to fly out to Goose Bay or St. Anthony.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, September 08, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.