Red Bay Basque Whaling Station

Photo by Michael Novins

Red Bay Basque Whaling Station comprises the archaeological remains of the largest pre-industrial whaling site in north-eastern Canada.

The station was founded in the 1530s by Basque sailors, who made an annual transatlantic voyage to the site for summer whale hunting. They processed the whales in situ and took the oil home to Europe.

The remains are mostly underwater or covered up. They include traces of buildings (including ovens for melting the whale blubber), whale bone deposits and shipwrecks.


Community Reviews

Tom Flaten - July 2014

Red Bay Basque Whaling Station is a quite new World Heritage Site (2013), but definitely worth it's UNESCO-status. It is an amazing place to visit, both the history and the stunning surroundings make this a very nice experience.

The history of the Red Bay Basque Whaling Station is told at the Visitor Centre, which is informative and well-organized, but not very big. The main sight, Saddle Island, was closed on our visit due to birds nesting (mid-June). A boat will normally take you out to Saddle Island where one can stroll around and look at the remains of the whaling station, including the old cemetery.

The many shipwrecks in and around the bay are an important part of the UNESCO-status. At the Visitor Centre one can see one of the smaller basque vessels, the chalupa.

We were truly amazed by the beautiful surroundings of Red Bay, including the magnificent icebergs drifting past. We drove up from Blanc Sablon, where one can arrive by ferry from Newfoundland, and the hour-long drive was stunning. If you visit Newfoundland and the wonderful UNESCO-sights Gros Morne and L'Anse aux Meadows, be sure to take the detour to Labrador and Red Bay.

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Site Info

Full name: Red Bay Basque Whaling Station

Site History


The site has 1 locations.

  • Red Bay Basque Whaling Station


The site has 13 connections.


  • Boats San Juan is among many other sunken ships that have been recovered
  • Cemeteries Saddle Island
  • Lighthouses On Saddle Island



  • Arctic best preserved testimony of a pre-industrial whaling station in the Arctic zone (AB ev)
  • Atlantic Ocean 
  • Basque 
  • Straits on the shore of the Strait of Belle Isle (which separates the Labrador Peninsula from the island of Newfoundland)

Human Activity


  • Built in the 16th century 'Grand Bay' (or 'la Gran Baya'), today known as Red Bay, became an important Basque whaling centre from the 1530s onwards (AB ev)


  • Cultural sites taking up an entire island Among several completely inscribed islands is Saddle Island which contains the "Try-works" (furnaces for rendering whale oil from blubber) of the whaling station and other cultural remains.