Town of Torbay, Newfoundland and Labrador – Avalon Peninsula

May 30, 2024

Town of Torbay, Newfoundland and Labrador

A Confident Coastal Community


Flanked by rocky ocean shores and rolling hills, this rural town on Canada’s East Coast is mighty, self-sufficient, and growing each year.

While a beautiful coastline isn’t all Torbay, Newfoundland and Labrador has to offer, it’s the first thing visitors notice. Between winding roads and sea spray from the Atlantic Ocean, this small town has 8,000 residents, though that number has increased in recent years.

“I find that a lot of people have been moving to our town in the last 10, 15 years or so,” says Craig Scott, Mayor of Torbay, “because they like the idea of having a house or living in an area where nature is right in their backyard.”

It’s hard to beat the open air of Torbay’s properties, with houses built on acres of land that sprawl across the eastern part of the Avalon Peninsula. And while the town serves its purpose as a bedroom community located 12 kilometers north of St. John’s, its history is fiercely independent, dating back to 1762, when Colonel William Amherst recaptured the area from French settlers.

As Scott mentions, Torbay’s rugged beauty – from rocky shores to rolling hills – sets the ambiance for this Canadian East Coast community. But the local economy is Torbay’s engine, unbothered by storms or snowfall and always pumping value into the lives of every resident.

And while the community is already very successful and self-sustaining, Mayor Scott has big plans to take Torbay’s local economy one step further.


A selfless community

Torbay’s proximity to St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, offers more opportunities than it does challenges. Firstly, Torbay provides a calm, safe living space for folks who work at bigger companies in St. John’s. Beyond that, though, Torbay has cultivated a distinct identity, blending urban and rural activity to differentiate itself from its larger neighboring city.

For example, Torbay caters to families. There are three schools in Torbay, offering elementary, intermediate, and high school education, a luxury in the province, as kids don’t need long, daily bus rides to get to school. These amenities, supported by Torbay’s breezy way of life, keep residents happy and flush with income.

“Our economy within our town is very good,” says Scott. “We have a lot of people that work in the oil and gas sector, the government, and a lot of young professionals. So our family incomes are relatively high compared to a lot of other places.”

You think it’d be easy for a town with a solid income and humming economy to drift away from its community roots. Not Torbay, though. Under Scott’s watch, collaboration and volunteerism are two main themes that help Torbay’s economy run smoothly. He paints a picture of a dynamic group ready to take agency in the health of the community.

The Torbay Lions Club takes charge of local initiatives, Scott says, as do the volunteers who step up to serve on trails and environmental committees. In Scott’s eyes, progress is more sustainable from the ground up, rather than the municipal government barking orders and everyone following suit.

“All of those [volunteer groups] are very important for us to be able to provide services to residents in a way that makes them more involved and have more ownership in [community initiatives],” explains Scott.

Volunteerism has a profound impact on Torbay, and that selfless spirit has opened the door to cooperation with surrounding municipalities. This wasn’t always the case, Scott says, but times have changed. For example, Torbay’s efforts to create a bypass road also benefited the nearby towns of Flatrock and Pouch Cove, which cut down the commute to schools in Torbay.

“I’m a big believer that what’s good for one is good for others,” says Scott.

Culture, tourism, and natural beauty

The COVID pandemic opened Scott’s eyes to how the residents of Torbay used their outdoor amenities. For example, the East Coast Trail runs right through Torbay and neighboring municipalities. The beautiful coastal hiking trails became an outlet for mental and physical restoration for folks cooped up while working from home.

“The trails that we had built were tremendously used,” says Scott. “It reinforced for us that that was the right direction that we should go and spend money on that type of passive recreation.”

The trails set a baseline for Torbay’s summer and winter tourism. In the warmer months, whale-watching tours debark from the coves, while fishing enthusiasts can cast a line off the pier. The sights are just as majestic as the temperature drops below zero when sea ice forms in the Atlantic Ocean and drifts past the coast.

For a rural area, Torbay has some big draws that extend beyond natural offerings, too. Scott raves about the area’s rich history, which is part of why the town in 2017 purchased and renovated an old church rectory – one of the last heritage structures remaining – into the revamped Torbay History and House Museum. Last summer, after about $1 million in renovations, the town hosted a grand opening for the museum, and 2,500 people visited the site in the first calendar year.

The museum is also a venue for local culture, where artists can sell their paintings and drawings in a gallery room above the main building.

“That was a tremendous success,” says Scott. “And we were able to do things that we’ve never done before, simply because now we have the infrastructure to be able to do them.”

The facelift to these amenities comes as a product of what Scott calls “diversifying leisure time.” The mayor wants to see folks enjoy a wealth of different options for fun, such as the town’s new museum or community center, which is decked out with a water park and skatepark. These upgrades enhance the local quality of life while also refreshing the experience for traditional tourists or even the 10 or so cruise ships that arrive at St. John’s every year.

After those ships dock, some shuttles bring passengers to Torbay, where they can enjoy everything the town has to offer, including a vibrant new tap house overlooking the ocean. This restaurant, with its dazzling food and drink selection, was originally the town’s old post office, and that theme is reflected with subtle postal decorations covering its wood-finish interior.

The Post Taphouse, located next to the well-known Lorina’s Restaurant down the road, provides delicious small plates, and a serene atmosphere, and serves as another illustration of Torbay’s peaceful economic growth.

“Those types of businesses are doing well here, simply because we do have a high disposable income in the town,” says Scott. “And if you put a good product there, people are going to go out and support it.”


Diversified housing is atop the priority list

One of Council’s and Staff’s top priorities is to modernize the town plan. And like with many towns across North America, big and small, quality housing will only brighten the area’s economy.

“We want to make sure that we are prepared for the future that’s coming in terms of diversified housing,” says Scott, emphasizing the need to cater to all income brackets in Torbay.

The town’s council recently approved a development plan for 45 apartment units in what’s shaping up to be a very impactful project. Since the vast majority of homes in Torbay are single-family dwellings, sometimes with a basement apartment unit, this new initiative is geared toward improving the area’s rental market, an element Scott says is lacking.

In a perfect world, bolstering the town’s rental offerings will attract students from the nearby Memorial University of Newfoundland and the College of the North Atlantic to live in Torbay. Additionally, the rental effort comes as a response to a growing number of seniors who have sold their homes in Torbay and downsized to retirement complexes in St. John’s.

“It hurts my heart to see [seniors] who had to leave our beautiful town to move into the city after living there for their whole lives – 60,70, 80 years in some cases,” says Scott, who, as a longtime resident of Torbay, knows many of these people on a personal level.

As Council rectifies that situation, the town has plans to develop property behind the town hall into a residential condo complex, though that project is on hold until the town upgrades its water and sewer system. While improvement efforts are ongoing, the current infrastructure dates back to the 1950s, and water supply is at its maximum, Scott says, which presents an obstacle to greater housing developments.

Lower down the checklist, Scott aspires to bring the very first public transit system to Torbay. As he sees it, the need is there, but the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t quite check out as the town wrestles its other priorities first.

All things considered, Torbay, a town far mightier than its small population suggests, does not lack ambition. There’s a bright future for this sleepy East Coast town with a highly stimulated local economy and a culture that is based on compassion.

Scott plays a big role, too. He’s fiercely loyal to his residents because he is a lifelong resident, and he is committed to instilling positive change in Torbay, no matter how long it takes.

“I love it here,” beams Scott. “I live here because I want to, not because I have to.”


Town of Torbay, Newfoundland and Labrador

What: A self-sufficient rural town with a high disposable income focused on diversifying its tourism industry and housing situation.

Where: Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland and Labrador



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