Just 5km apart and 15km from Québec, the twin mining towns of Labrador City (population 7400) and Wabush (population 1800) are referred to collectively as Labrador West, and this is where the western region's population is concentrated. The largest open-pit iron ore mine in the world is in Labrador City, and another mine operates in Wabush.
Making up the territorial bulk of Labrador, the central portion is an immense, sparsely populated and ancient wilderness. Paradoxically, it also has the largest town in Labrador, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, home to a military base. The town (population 7600) has all the usual services, but unless you're an angler or hunter, there isn't much to see or do.
Forteau to Pinware
Continuing northeast on Rte 510 you'll pass Forteau, L'Anse Amour, L'Anse au Loup, West St Modeste and Pinware. Labrador Adventures provides knowledgeable guides for Straits-oriented hikes or day tours by SUV. It also arranges all-inclusive overnight packages. This is a terrific way to see the area, especially if you're short on time or car-less.
Blanc Sablon to L'Anse au Clair
After arriving by ferry or plane in Blanc Sablon and driving 6km northeast on Rte 510 you come to Labrador and the gateway town of L'Anse au Clair. Here you will find the Straits' excellent visitors center in an old church that doubles as a small museum. Be sure to pick up hiking trail information for the region. The town makes a good pre-ferry base.
Spread between two venues, Red Bay National Historic Site – which was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 2013 – uses different media to chronicle the discovery of three 16th-century Basque whaling galleons on the seabed here. Well preserved in the ice-cold waters, the vestiges of the ships tell a remarkable story of what life was like here some four centuries ago.
Mary's Harbour to Cartwright
After departing Mary's Harbour you'll pass through Port Hope Simpson 53km up the road, and then there's nothing for 186km until Cartwright. Cartwright-based Experience Labrador runs adventure trips that range from 2½-hour kayaking jaunts ($50) to day-long boat and hiking tours ($250).
Sitting on an island in the Labrador Sea is the elaborately restored village and saltfish premises of Battle Harbour. Now a national historic district, it used to be the unofficial 'capital' of Labrador during the early 19th century, when fishing schooners lined its docks.