NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR
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Avalon. The name evokes the legends of King Arthur, misty lakes and mystery. Heading east on Route 1 from Goobies, you'll soon see why this peninsula's name is so apt. From the forested regions of eastern Newfoundland, you enter a boulder-strewn tundra dotted, especially on the Isthmus of Avalon, with shallow lakes that seem, on a foggy day, to have been transplanted directly from Somerset in England. Avalon was, in the legend, the land where King Arthur went when he died.
The Isthmus is a narrow neck of land stubborn enough to have survived the heavy glaciation which cut the two deep bays, Placentia and Trinity, that you can see on either side. To the left is Sunnyside. To the right of the highway, traveling east, are the communities of Come By Chance, Arnold's Cove, Southern Harbour, Little Harbour and Fairhaven. From Route 1 you can see the cold, deep waters of Placentia Bay with its scattering of 365 islands.
Further east, take the intersection with Route 201 to the Osprey Trail, which skirts the southern coast of Trinity Bay. Sea hawks, as ospreys are known here, are plentiful in summer. This is a popular area for summer cottages, and nearby is Bellevue Beach Park. Relax and swim on the freshwater side or comb the pebble beach and watch the seabirds that inhabit the shoreline. Along the shore you will notice many attractive seashells washed up by the tide and colored stones that were deposited by volcanic action and polished to their present smooth, round shape by the ebb and flow of the Atlantic.
Sometime between late June and early August, depending on water temperatures, beaches in the Avalon area are the sites of the annual capelin scull. Billions of these small smelt-like fish spawn in the shallow waters and are carried right up on the shore by the high tides. Crowds of men, women and children scoop them up in nets, buckets or any other available receptacle. The scull is by far the easiest fishing you will ever undertake, and these small fish make a lovely meal when they are fried to a crispy, golden brown.
Route 201 loops back to Route 1, where you'll notice the stunted forest that borders the highway. The winds that blow steadily across this area for most of the year are responsible for the small size of the trees and the fantastic, twisted shapes that they take on. Many of the ponds and lakes are inhabited by pan-size trout. They provide lively sport for anyone with a little angling skill and patience.
The Cape Shore
Home to Gannets and the French Heritage of Placentia Bay
This tour takes you to the Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve seabird sanctuary, one of the most incredible wildlife spectacles in the world, and into an area of Placentia Bay that played an exciting part in the history of North America during its early days when England fought France for control of the colony and the continent.
Start at the intersection of Route 1 and take Route 100 south. An interesting side trip on Route 102 takes you to Ship Harbour. A conference between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, held at sea off Ship Harbour in 1941, resulted in the Atlantic Charter, which laid out a vision for the postwar world during a very dark period. A monument marking this meeting, which is sometimes referred to as the ‘First Summit,’ has been erected at the end of an unpaved road off Route 102 amid the splendid scenery of Placentia Bay.
The next stop is Placentia. The town has recently expanded its boundaries to take in Dunville, Jerseyside and Southeast Placentia. Past Dunville, a paved highway leads to Argentia, the terminus for the Nova Scotia ferry which operates between Argentia and North Sydney, Nova Scotia, during the summer. In 1940, the United States military began construction of a naval base and air station which served the American and other Allied forces during the war years. Argentia's importance lay in its strategic position near the shipping lanes of the northwest Atlantic and ice-free harbour. The base closed about 10 years ago.
Placentia is built on a large beach near a coastal forest area. In the early days of the seventeenth century this was the French capital of Newfoundland. Colonial French land and sea forces, aware of its strategic position, established a fortified base on a summit overlooking the ocean arms of Plaisance, as the French called it, in 1662. On the commanding site of what is now Castle Hill National Historic Site, the French erected a fortification called Le Gaillardin in 1692, a year of intensive English campaigns. The following year Fort Royal was begun as the main defence against the English attacks by sea. The areas adjacent to the park, at the northern point of Placentia Gut and east of the town, were previously defended by Fort Louis and Fort Le Vieux, both of which have long since surrendered to the elements. From their fortified position at Placentia, the French attacked the English capital at St. John's three times. Each time, they were forced to retreat, but only after they had captured the main fort twice and burnt the city down.
The British moved into Placentia after the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. During the Seven Years' War its defences were upgraded to aid in the recapture of St. John's, which just months previously had been taken by the French. With British supremacy assured, Placentia was soon outranked by St. John's which became the capital of the colony. Today, visitors can stroll along the stabilized ruins on Castle Hill and enjoy the spectacular view of Placentia Bay, and take in ongoing archaeological digs around the town. In keeping with the military nature of the site, the Interpretation Centre is built into the hill like a bunker. The displays inside tell the stories of the ordinary soldiers and fishermen who toiled here in times past. The hiking trails at the site pass through stands of evergreen trees that fill the air with a rich scent.
In the town of Placentia, you find the community museum in O'Reilly Heritage House on the waterfront. This grand old house has a fine collection of period furniture and some unusual woodwork. The town also features an old church with a stone presbytery, and a government services building and its fine clock from earlier this century.
South of Placentia is Gooseberry Cove Provincial Park where you can watch the waves roll onto a long, sandy beach or take a walk among the unusual purple rock formations that frame the cove. The grassy backshore is an ideal place for a picnic before you go on to explore Little Barasway and Great Barasway, which take their names from the Newfoundland term for barachois - a sandy isthmus providing shelter for exposed harbours.
Angels Cove has great swimming at Angels Cove Falls. This stretch of the Cape Shore was settled in the early 1800s by Irish settlers working for the Placentia merchant firm of Sweetman's. Angels Cove is unusual in that it is one of the few communities in Newfoundland originally established as a farming venture.
Next up is St. Bride’s. Irish roots are strong here and traditional song, dance and recitation have survived. Exciting traditional performers from the Cape Shore, as this stretch of coast is known, now take their music to folk festivals throughout the province.
St. Bride’s is the nearest community to the Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve, the star of the shore and one of the great natural wonders in Newfoundland and Labrador. The 13.4-kilometre paved road from Route 100 leads to a view immortalized in the Newfoundland folk song "Let Me Fish off Cape St. Mary's." The vantage point, a 15-30 minutes walk from the interpretation centre, overlooks Bird Rock, the third largest nesting site for gannets in North America, and offers a spectacular opportunity to photograph these gorgeous, golden-headed birds with the two- meter wing span from only 15 meters (50 feet) away. This is also a nursery for thousands of murres and kittiwakes. During the summer months the cliffs are alive with seabirds. The waters here are a great place to see whales.
The sanctuary at Cape St. Mary's may be visited year-round and no permit is necessary. The Interpretation Centre is open from spring until fall and there are guides to answer your questions and to show you around. You can see Bird Rock through a huge window or through telescopes, and there are displays on the ecology and wildlife of "the Cape." The centre also hosts an annual summer concert series.
Route 100 becomes Route 92 at Branch. This part of the coast was first settled by Irishmen with names like Nash, McGrath, Careen, Coffey, Doyle and Power who settled here to escape the famine and oppression in their land. Those surnames are familiar here today among the descendants of the original settlers. Not much has changed here since then. It's still a wonderland of rivers, lakes and silent hills and, of course, the barrens. Along the Cape Shore you'll find grazing sheep, brightly colored houses, old churches and winding lanes, and an Irish air.
As the residents say themselves, don't look for glitz here. Life is more personal. Drop in and chat over a cup of tea and learn the history of the area, how Irish settlers were lured here with the promise of a new beginning, or how Solo the pedlar made a fortune from a wrecked cargo of cotton thread. And of course this being Irish country, there's a gold story. Legend has it that a man named Andy Nash stumbled across a vein of gold while crossing the barrens on a very foggy day - and could never find it again! There's also a tale of buried treasure that supposedly lies in some long-forgotten nook, just waiting for an enterprising soul to come along and find it.
The hospitality here is warm and genuine, and keeps visitors coming back. The language here is unique, and the music - oh, the music will break your heart and mend it again in the course of a song.
Get out and roam the countryside. There are hidden secrets that are well worth finding, at the top of a hill or along a sandy shore. Pick partridge berries in late summer, or photograph a moose as it grazes by the roadside.
At the northern end of Route 92, turn left onto a short unpaved section of Route 91 to Cataracts Provincial Park. This picnic park is built around a deep river gorge with two cascading waterfalls which are accessible by a system of walkways. The interesting natural scenic site attracted Newfoundland's first motoring tourist in the 1920s and still holds a fascination for visitors today.
Back on the paved section of Route 91 you’ll shortly come to the man-made salmon ladder on the Rocky River Falls. Learn more about salmon enhancement by taking a guided tour.
The next community, Colinet, was probably named for one Andre Colenet, master of the French fishing vessel, Le Montaran in the 1760s. As early as 1723, John Masters and his partner Philip Watson had fishing premises at Colinet in the inner reaches of St. Mary's Bay.
Heading east brings you to Route 90. Whether you drive north or south from here you’re on Irish Loop Drive, but if you want to head back to Route 1, go north past Salmonier Nature Park.
Pirates' Haunts & Classic Outports
"Wherever you are, steer northwest for Baccalieu." This old sailors' proverb, minus the compass direction, is still good advice for today's traveler. Along Routes 80 and 70, and their offshoots, you'll find charming fishing villages, gorgeous coastal scenery, and a few surprises. There are several ways to access The Baccalieu Trail: from Route 60, or take Routes 75 or 80 from Route 1.
But the southern end of the trail is Route 81, south of Route 1, in the farming community of Markland, probably the newest town on the trail. It was established during the desperate days of the Great Depression when, in an effort to make them self-sufficient, a number of families from St. John's were resettled into newly established agricultural communities. The largest of these was started in 1937 at Markland. The community still owes much of its success to farming and forestry. Farms were established here because of the area’s sheltered location and longer growing season, the latter due to air turbulence among the rolling hills that keeps the cold autumn night air moving, preventing it from descending onto the lowland crops.
You wouldn't expect to find a winery in Newfoundland, but there's one in Whitbourne (and others elsewhere). Rodrigues Winery makes wine from local blueberries and other berries for the Newfoundland and export markets.
Whitbourne was the home of an early 20th-century Prime Minister of Newfoundland, Sir Robert Bond. An eloquent politician, he was perhaps Newfoundland's greatest statesman in the era when Newfoundland was a self-governing dominion. His reciprocity agreements with the United States, although foiled by political opponents, were the forerunners of current international fisheries policy and international trade agreements.
North of Route 1, Route 81 merges into Route 80. Whaling and mink-ranching were once lucrative industries in this area, and there's a whaling and sealing museum in South Dildo that displays some of the artifacts discovered at Anderson's Cove, where a 4,00-5,000 year old Maritime Archaic Indian site has been discovered, and at Blaketown where a 1994 archaeological dig uncovered a previously unknown Beothuk site. It's believed John Guy traded with the Beothuks who lived here in the early 17th century because there is a trail across the peninsula connecting Blaketown and Cupids. Part of this Crout’s Way Trail between Hopeall and Makinsons has been reconstructed as an overnight hiking adventure trail.
There are two camping parks in Green’s Harbour, including Backside Pond Park which has a saltwater pond and beach that make it a grand spot for a refreshing swim. A hiking trail within the park boundaries gives you a chance to investigate the area.
Heart's Content is where the first successful transatlantic telegraph cable was landed in 1866. The community served as a major cable relay station for over a century. Visit the old Cable Station, which has been preserved and is now open to the public during the summer months as a Provincial Historic Site. The Cable Station is a special hit with people interested in communications. It seems like all you have to do is turn on the equipment and begin sending and receiving messages. There are informative displays on the various cables, the changes in technology during the life of the station and some of the people involved in developing long-distance telegraphy.
The entire area has a preoccupation with the "heart" for just beyond Heart's Content lie Heart's Delight-Islington and Heart’s Desire. And be sure to drop in at the one time pirate haunt of Turks Cove just past New Perlican.
As you drive through this area of rolling hills and forests, you pass through a number of picturesque fishing communities such as Winterton. On the outskirts of this settlement there is a municipal park bordering a freshwater lake. There's good trout fishing on this end of the peninsula. Hook up with a local guide for the best places to wet a line. Along this entire route, the small outports retain an ageless look. Near the road, ponies graze in grassy meadows which still contain sod-covered root cellars.
At New Chelsea you may want to relax on the beach in this peaceful valley setting. New Melbourne is a tiny community located on a forested part of the moody seacoast. Old Perlican, near the northern tip of the trail, was first settled in the 1600s and is a good place to see whales from shore.
The most northerly community on the trail is Grates Cove. According to legend, John Cabot landed here and carved an inscription in a rock. In the 1960s people posing as historians from Memorial University removed the rock. Its whereabouts remain unknown. But each year residents celebrate "Cabot Rock" festival. Look around the community and you'll see gardens with rock walls. Once a common site in Newfoundland, they remain in large numbers only in this community and have been declared a National Historic Site.
At Redhead Cove, where Route 80 merges into Route 70, you'll see by the color of the cliffs where the community got its name.
Offshore, Baccalieu Island bears witness to the potential menace of the North Atlantic. The wrecks of more than a dozen ships lie under the waters that surround the island. Baccalieu Island Ecological Reserve has 11 species of seabirds nesting there, making it the most diverse seabird colony in the province. The island hosts 3.3 million pairs of Leach's Storm Petrels, and thousands of puffins and black-legged kittiwakes and other birds each summer. The foxes that share the island with the birds rarely go hungry.
Continue on Route 70 to Bay de Verde. This once-isolated community was originally settled by planters, colonists who were trying to avoid French raiders in the 1600s. This rugged area is a mere 70 kms from St. John's by sea. There's an interpretation centre devoted to the nearby ecological reserve (see below) in the town. Just above the town, at Bears Cove, you can take the short hiking trail to the scenic lookout that offers a spectacular view of the surrounding seascape.
Some of the most beautiful coastal scenery is found just beyond here in Lower Island Cove and surrounding communities. The hilly gardens of this area and the towering cliffs along the shores of Conception Bay provide ideal subjects for photographs.
A few kilometers along is Northern Bay Sands Park, an ideal seaside vacation spot within easy access of a number of colorful settlements on the peninsula. The park has camp and trailer sites for extended stays. At one end of the sandy beach, a river flows into the Atlantic, its rocky banks forming a natural freshwater pool. This is a great place for beach combing or taking it easy.
Nearby Western Bay is the birthplace of one of Canada's most widely respected poets, E.J. Pratt. This is a National Historic Site with a plaque that commemorates his life and work next to the Post Office on Route 70.
Continuing south, you come to a series of attractive little communities, including Blackhead where the first Methodist church in Canada was erected in 1769. The plaque marking this Historic Site is near an ancient cemetery which is well worth a visit by people interested in the early history of the province and in the establishment of Methodism in Canada.
A few kilometers up the coast is Salmon Cove Sands, a sheltered beach with a grassy picnic area. There are several distinctive large rocks in the cove and a variety of shorebirds which make ideal photographic subjects. There are extensive stretches of water shallow enough for children to wade and play in safety.
In Victoria you’ll find an unusual attraction. The Hydro Electric Development there is a Registered Historic Site. The plant came on stream in 1904, making it the second major hydro electric project in Newfoundland. The Victoria station is now a museum that displays some of the earliest equipment in Canada. It is open daily during July and August - and it still produces electricity.
Carbonear is another town with a fascinating history. In 1696, it was burned to the ground by the French, but the inhabitants retreated to a small fortified island in the harbour and successfully defended it against capture. Carbonear Island has been designated a National Historic Site to mark its colorful military past.
There is also a romantic side to the town's past. During the reign of Elizabeth I, Gilbert Pike, a former member of the Peter Easton's pirate band, fell in love with Sheila Na Geira, an Irish princess whom he had rescued from a Dutch warship, where she was being held prisoner. The couple married and decided to make a new home for themselves in the New World. They settled in Bristol's Hope, where their descendants still live. To the day she died, Sheila was known as "The Carbonear Princess." In summer there's a theatre festival held in her honour, and one of the plays is her story. The Carbonear Museum, located in the old railway station, provides a window on the town's fascinating history.
Carbonear also is the home of the annual Conception Bay Folk Festival. Every summer people come from all over to celebrate the music, song and dance of the communities of the North Shore of Conception Bay. If you are in the area during the festival, you can take a day to enjoy traditional music with its roots in the West Country of England.
From here we go to Harbour Grace, a community which derives its name from "Havre de Grace," a name the French bestowed on it in the early 1500s, probably after the French fishing port Le Havre. Harbour Grace was the headquarters of Peter Easton, a famous pirate of the early seventeenth century. His pirates’ fort was on the site of the old Customs House in the eastern section of the town. The building is now a Community Museum with three floors of fascinating exhibits that tell of this town's long and illustrious past, including its important role in the history of aviation.
Beginning in 1919, Harbour Grace was used as the departure point for many early attempts to fly the Atlantic. The first successful flight from the community was piloted by William Brock and Edward Schlee of Croyden, England, in August, 1927, the same year the first civilian airport in North America was opened here. In 1932, Amelia Earhart left Harbour Grace to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
Still a thriving community, Harbour Grace was once the second largest town in Newfoundland and seemed destined to become its second city. Then, a series of seven major fires between 1814 and 1944 drastically impeded the growth and progress of the town. Fortunately many of its historic buildings and fine residences survived. One of the most interesting of these is St. Paul's Anglican Church. It was erected in 1835 and is the oldest stone church in Newfoundland.
Next on the route is Spaniard's Bay, a community whose name reflects an era when Spanish - really Basque - fishermen frequented Newfoundland waters. Spanish influence in Newfoundland ended with the defeat of the Spanish Armada in faraway Europe in 1558, but here memory lingers long.
Continue to Bay Roberts, a fishing community that received its name from Jersey fishermen who came here from the Channel Islands several centuries ago. Now it's a major service and shopping centre. On Water Street is the old Cable Building which served as a relay station for messages between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Roosevelt during the second world war. Further east on the street is the Bay Roberts East walking trail through Juggler's Cove to Mad Rocks, where you can see whales and - usually -icebergs in spring and early summer.
Past Bay Roberts take Route 72 to the Port de Grave Peninsula where you can visit and photograph some of the striking coastal scenery and fishing villages along the way. At Hibbs Cove there is a Fishermen's Museum with furniture, pictures and artifacts depicting the village lifestyle of years ago. Next to the museum are a one-room schoolhouse and the Porter House, which gives a taste of the lifestyle of an ordinary fisherman from earlier this century. Nearby is the anchor from the PLM 27, one of the ore carriers sunk by a German U-boat off Bell island in 1942.
Back on Route 70, continue on to Cupids, the first English settlement in Canada. In 1610, John Guy from Bristol, England established a plantation at what was then known as Cuper's Cove. The first recorded birth of an English child in Newfoundland took place here. Archaeological excavations begun in 1995 have uncovered the long-forgotten site of the old plantation. Artifacts recovered during this dig, and many other exhibits on the community's long history, are found in the Cupids Museum. Visit the archaeology dig and see history being uncovered right before your eyes. In 1910 the town celebrated its 300th anniversary by erecting a monument to Guy. Now, its 400th anniversary is only a few years away. The town has one of the oldest Methodist churches in Newfoundland dating from 1875, which is still in use. And each summer the town celebrates the Cuper's Cove Soiree.
One of the great treasures of the Baccalieu Trail is Brigus. Its charming Old World atmosphere and scenic appeal prompted the famous American artist Rockwell Kent to establish a summer residence and studio there in the early part of the last century. But the historic town is best known as the birthplace of Captain Bob Bartlett, born in 1875 and considered an outstanding pioneer of navigation in the Far North. Captain Bartlett accompanied Commodore Peary as far as his last relay point on the 1909 expedition to the North Pole. His former home, Hawthorne Cottage, is a National Historic Site. Brigus also hosts a Blueberry Festival each August.
The Admiral’s Coast follows Route 60 along the western and southern shore of Conception Bay between Colliers and Paradise, and provides excellent views over the bay.
Colliers was settled only in the latter part of the 18th century, relatively late compared with towns such as Cupids and Carbonear. While the first settlers were fishermen, by the mid-19th century farming was the main economic activity, as the many meadows in the area attest today. However, little farming is carried on today.
Conception Harbour also moved from farming to fishing in the 19th century. However, Bacon Cove, now part of the town but located on a short peninsula to the north, was founded before 1700, and was burned by the French in 1697.
In Avondale you’ll find an old railway station that has been converted to a museum, although there’s a train and some tracks remaining.
Harbour Main-Chapels Cove-Lakeview is an amalgamated town comprising the three formerly independent settlements in its name. Harbour Main is an old town, possibly founded by the French in the 1640s. Chapel’s Cove was settled in the 19th century and Lakeview in the 20th. By the late 17th century Harbour Main was an English fishing station, and was twice sacked by the French during the colonial wars. In the late 18th century it was settled by the Irish, and thus became a Catholic community in an almost totally Protestant bay, Conception Bay being at that time part of what was termed "the English shore."
Because of its religious affiliations, the electoral district of Harbour Main, of which the town was the nomination centre, voted along the same lines as the more Catholic districts of the Southern Shore and St. John’s.
Holyrood is one of the original tourism destinations in Newfoundland and Labrador. Although the origins of its name and the date of settlement are in dispute, the natural beauty of the area has been noted for centuries, and the arrival of the railway in the late 19th century made it a more accessible destination for people traveling overland from St. John’s, who had been driving the dusty roads from the capital since the 1830s. The first hotel was built in the 1860s, and while the train is long gone, the area remains an attractive destination, mainly for day-trippers going "around the bay" for a drive. A popular spot is the riverside Holy Cross park which features an in-river pool.
A string of small bayside communities between Seal Cove and Topsail was joined into Conception Bay South in 1971. Today it is the fourth-largest community in the province. Many people have moved there for the magnificent view of Conception Bay, especially in recent years as modern highways now connect the town to St. John’s. Commuting distance to downtown St. John’s is less than 20 minutes for many residents.
This was once a major farming area, supplying meat, milk and vegetables to the city, but most of that is fading away. City residents also built summer homes here.
One of the neighborhoods is Kelligrews, home and inspiration of the famous folk song The Kelligrews Soiree by Johnny Burke, a lively compendium of hijinks and unusual cuisine featured at a traditional community party. The real joke, however, is that almost all the characters mentioned in the song were from St. John’s. The soiree is held each year.
The town is one of the few to have a geological attraction, namely the trilobite fossil beds along the Manuels River Linear Park. The fossils found here are similar to those found in southern Spain and Portugal and northern Africa, but different from those found in western Newfoundland. This was a key in establishing the theory of plate tectonics, or continental drift.
The town also has a marina at Foxtrap, site of a famous 19th century "battle," and is home to the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club at Long Pond. A popular seaside attraction is Topsail Beach in the east end of town.
Just over the border is Paradise, the fastest growing town in the province with a population of about 10,000. The Angels Road in the community is named not for heavenly creatures, but the Angel family that once had a summer home here. The trail around Neil’s Pond is a good place to stretch your legs.
Irish Loop Drive
Home to Puffins, Whales, Caribou - and Irish
This scenic and historic drive starts at St. John's and heads south on Route 10 into the heart of Irish Newfoundland and the magical world of whales, seabirds and caribou, then loops back to St. John’s.
Take Route 10 to Kilbride and its neighbor, Goulds, both now part of St. John's. This is some of the most fertile land in the province where you will see herds of dairy cattle and fields of vegetables as you drive by. The rolling green hills of the area are still being farmed by the descendants of the Irish families who settled there in the 19th century.
Continue on to Bay Bulls, another old settlement and one of several communities where you can hop a tour boat to see the marine delights of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. The town, 30 kilometers south of St. John's, derives its name from the French "Baie Boules," a reference to the bull bird or dovekie, which winters in Newfoundland. The town was first fortified in 1638, when Sir David Kirke governed the colony of Newfoundland from Ferryland. Despite its fortifications, the community was captured and burned by the French on several occasions, the last in 1796.
In the deep waters of Bay Bulls lies the wreck of HMS Sapphire which was sunk in action against the French in 1696. The site was excavated during the 1970s by the Newfoundland Marine Archaeology Society. Bay Bulls played an important role in the Second World War as a strategic port for the relief and repair of Allied warships and merchantmen. The German submarine U-190 surrendered here during the last days of World War II. Today, Bay Bulls along with Witless Bay and other Southern Shore communities are embarkation points for the tour boats that bring thousands of visitors every year to the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.
The reserve, four islands and the waters around them between Witless Bay and Bauline, is home to phenomenal numbers of seabirds that nest here to raise their young. When you see them, you'll swear someone missed a few hundred thousand. About 530,000 Leach's Storm Petrels nest of Gull Island, with another 250,000 on Great Island. Green Island has 74,000 Murres. And there are tens of thousands of Atlantic Puffins, the provincial bird.
As your tour boat cruises near the islands - they are protected areas off limits to people - you'll see puffins running and skipping along the top of the water trying to get airborne. Like many seabirds, they spend most of the year on the open ocean hundreds of kilometers southeast of Newfoundland and come to shore to breed and raise their young. They are so well adapted to their marine environment that flying becomes a chore, especially with a belly full of capelin for the squawking chicks.
The chicks are in thousands of burrows on the steep sides of the islands. Below, hoping for a meal, sit greedy grey gulls while other scavengers keep watch from aloft. The burrows provide protection against marauding gulls. Safety in numbers is the watchword for survival for the puffins and other nesting birds. Here you'll also find Razorbills, Great Black-Backed Gulls, Northern Fulmars, Black Guillemots and Black-Legged Kittiwakes. There's a blizzard of birds in the air throughout the day, and they are all looking for something to eat.
That something is the capelin. And it's not only the birds that eat them. Whales come near shore in late spring and summer on their annual migration from wintering grounds in the south to summer havens in the Arctic. More than a dozen species of whales frequent the waters of Newfoundland and Labrador, but the humpback and the minke are the two most commonly seen in this reserve. In fact, you’ll find the world’s greatest concentration of feeding humpbacks along Newfoundland’s east coast, numbering in the thousands each year.
Weighing in about 30 tonnes for an adult, the humpbacks are nevertheless extremely graceful. Quite often a tour boat skipper will discretely follow a pair or a pod of whales as they cruise the water looking for food. They'll dip below the waves for minutes at a time and then surface with a whoosh from the blowhole. Sometimes a whale, especially a younger one, will come close to a tour boat and cock an eye at all on board. Or one will breach - jump completely out of the water and land with a mighty splash.
When the capelin are running, whales will execute amazingly deft maneuvers while chasing their favorite snack. They actually herd the caplin into tight schools with sound and movement, surround them with streams of bubbles, and then force them to the surface with sounds where the tiny, silvery fish quickly become dinner.
While all this is going on, there might be icebergs off in the distance. Some bergs weigh hundreds of thousands of tonnes and can be thousands of years old. They break off from the leading edge of glaciers on islands in the Arctic and drift slowly south, eventually melting in the warmer Gulf Stream waters southeast of Newfoundland.
Witless Bay was originally named for the Whittle family. This is just one of the photogenic small communities scattered along the southern part of the Avalon Peninsula. You can also get a tour boat to the reserve from here. Tors Cove, which is 47 kilometers from St. John's, is a good place to see whales from shore.
Further along the shore, you will come to La Manche Provincial Park. The park is in a beautiful river valley that teems with wildlife and attracts many nature enthusiasts and artists. One focus of their interest is a beautiful marsh with a selection of delicate wildflowers. La Manche River, which runs through the area, offers good canoeing and wonderful sightseeing along a hiking trail that takes you to a spectacular waterfall. Another trail takes you to the abandoned townsite of La Manche. It's a breathtaking trip by foot from the highroad to the tip of the ravine which housed the settlement, and where a new suspended footbridge enables hikers to cross the ravine and continue a hike along the East Coast Trail. While little remains of the houses, the river cascades into a beautiful pocket sized harbour with grassy fields surrounding it - a perfect place for a picnic.
Another option for those touring the Avalon Peninsula is the Avalon Wilderness Reserve. You can obtain a permit to visit the 868 square kilometer reserve at the La Manche park office, or at other provincial park offices. For those interested in canoeing, fishing or hiking this is a worthwhile excursion. The reserve is also home to the world’s southernmost herd of woodland caribou.
Continue along Route 10 through Cape Broyle and visit the Devil's Stairway, an interesting rock formation where Satan is supposed to have left his footprints in the face of the cliff. You can also take a boat tour to the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve from Cape Broyle.
Follow the highway to Ferryland and literally step right into the past at the archaeological dig. Sir George Calvert, who later became Lord Baltimore, established a colony in Ferryland in 1621. It was successful for a number of years until a series of cold winters and other hardships prompted him to seek a warmer climate in Maryland. Sir David Kirke took over the colony later in that century. During his time Ferryland's high rocky cliffs were fortified with cannon to protect the settlement from attack. After the town was stripped of its guns and fortifications it was unable to resist the Dutch, who landed in 1763 and destroyed it.
But they didn't destroy everything, and archaeologists have uncovered a large number of artifacts. Excavation with brush and trowel continues, and if you've ever wanted to see history being uncovered, just stand 10 feet from the dig and watch. The items recovered are cleaned and catalogued and the most impressive finds are on display in the visitor centre nearby. Beothuk artifacts have also been found in the area, proving these aboriginal people inhabited this part of the coast.
One display on the site is an old-fashioned wattle fence that surrounds a garden where the vegetables being grown are the same sort as those grown over 300 years ago. Another attraction is an old lighthouse. There's a rough road to it across the Downs, but it's best to walk out and see why Newfoundland painter Gerry Squires was so inspired by this area. There's still some farming on the Downs.
For an introduction to the famous Irish hospitality of the Southern Shore, visit the Historic Ferryland Museum in the old court house. The Southern Shore Folk Festival and Ferryland-Maryland Days are celebrated here in July each year, and there’s a dinner theatre based on local stories and songs. Keep an ear tuned for stories of faeries. There's a very strong Irish streak along this part of the Newfoundland coast that's reflected in the music. The pride in their heritage and their warm hospitality are just two of the natural strengths you'll discover in the people. Sit down and have a chat and a cup of tea and you'll wonder where the time has flown. Like many other visitors, you'll give in to the urge to linger just a little while longer.
A short drive down the coast will bring you to Aquaforte, whose harbour resembles a Norwegian fjord. Long ago a squadron of the French fleet ran aground to avoid bombardment by the English who waited at the mouth of the harbour. Some say they buried a treasure here and made their way on foot across the peninsula to Placentia.
From Aquaforte, continue on to Renews-Cappahayden. As the nearest harbour on the southern Avalon to the fishing banks offshore, Renews was already well known when in the fall of 1620, the English ship Mayflower stopped here for supplies during her epic 66-day voyage from Plymouth to the New World. Renews and nearby Fermeuse were unsuccessfully settled by Welsh colonists in the early 1600s, under a scheme promoted by Sir William Vaughan. A point of interest in the area is the grotto where Mass was celebrated secretly at night in the late 1500s when Roman Catholicism was suppressed by the Protestant English.
An unpaved road from Portugal Cove South takes you to two very different attractions. Unique fossils at Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve date to 620 million years ago. Radio operators at Cape Race were the first to pick up the distress signal from RMS Titanic, which struck an iceberg 400 km to the south and sank with a huge loss of life in 1912.
Back on Route 10, head west to Trepassey, a name that means ‘the dead’ or ‘the dead souls’ or a corruption of an old Basque word. Basque fishermen were prominent all along the Newfoundland coast in the 16th century. Trepassey was the seat of the unsuccessful Welsh colony. More recently it was the starting point for several transatlantic flights including the one, in 1928, when Amelia Earhart, as a passenger with William S. Stultz and Lou Gordon, became the first woman to fly the Atlantic. The caribou from the Avalon Wilderness Reserve cross the highway on the southern Avalon around Trepassey during their annual migrations.
This region is a popular base for the hunting of upland game birds such as the willow ptarmigan and for salmon and trout fishing expeditions. There are three excellent rivers in this area - North East Brook, North West Brook and Biscay Bay River. They offer a good run of fishing during July and August. Barren ground and isolated heath characterizes this area.
Beyond Trepassey, a short diversion off Route 10 will take you to St. Shotts, best known today for its huge deposits of peat. Hiking trails along the coast provide dramatic view of a coast that has claimed many vessels over the centuries, and the remains of a few are still visible.
A few kilometers away are the communities of Peter's River, St. Stephens and St. Vincent's where sheep-raising has a long history. At St. Vincent's, a long stretch of sandy beach runs parallel to the highway. This is a marvelous place for beach combing and birdwatching. Deep water near the shore enables whales to swim very close to the shoreline.
Follow Route 90 to Holyrood Pond, a vast salt water lake that opens to the sea at St. Vincent's. In the 1890s the Newfoundland government pioneered fish hatching in this spectacular ocean inlet.
In the community of St. Mary's and throughout this region you will hear a dialect of Newfoundland Irish and see a lifestyle similar to Ireland's. All along the way you meet the descendants of the original settlers who came from that country to fish and farm in the New World and you will see them going about their business in much the same way as they have for a hundred years.
From the communities of Coot's Pond and Riverhead on Route 90, you can take a scenic detour to O'Donnels and Admirals Beach on Route 94. Then travel up Salmonier Arm toward St. Joseph's, near the mouth of one of best spots for salmon in eastern Newfoundland, Salmonier River. There are a number of good fishing pools in the 15-km stretch between the mouth of the river and Murphy Falls, accessible from the highway. The best pools are Back River, Pinsent's Falls, Butler's and Murphy Falls proper.
Another favorite stop along this route is the Salmonier Nature Park, a 1,214-hectare wilderness reserve area with a large exhibit area where visitors can see some 30 species of animals and birds indigenous to Newfoundland and Labrador. The park provides the opportunity to see at close range flora and fauna which you might miss in the course of normal travel within the province. Kids love this park. You can see moose, beaver, caribou, owls, otters, lynx, foxes and others. There's a boardwalk over much of the trail.
The last piece of the Irish Loop is Route 1 between Route 90 and St. John’s. Near the Witless Bay Line (Route 13 which takes you to Route 10) you will see evidence of the great ice sheets that once covered North America. Large boulders, known as glacial erratics, sit where they were dropped by the retreating glaciers thousands of years ago. In fact, this is probably the most southerly arctic/alpine region in the world, and a variety of plant life reaches its southernmost limit here.
On the small ponds in the vicinity you may catch a glimpse of Canada geese, which share this habitat with ptarmigan and horned larks. You may wish to relax and investigate this wonderful part of nature during a stopover at Butter Pot Provincial Park. The park, within easy access from all communities on the Avalon Peninsula, is a popular weekend rendezvous for campers. Butter Pot has a sandy freshwater beach, spacious campgrounds and an interpretation display. Guided nature walks are conducted by a park naturalist on the hiking trails within the park boundaries. Ask at the park office for directions to the Hawke Hills Ecological Reserve which is on the south side of Route 1 between Routes 90 and 62.
Just east of the park is the ‘City Limits’ sign that means you're near St. John's. You can continue on Route 1 into the northwest section of the city, or you can go downtown on Route 2, which ends at Water Street, one of the oldest European thoroughfares on the continent.
According to the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, a killick is "an anchor made up of an elongated stone encased in pliable sticks bound at the top and fixed in two curved cross-pieces, used in mooring nets and small boats." In other words, it’s a homemade anchor. The Killick Coast stretches from St. Thomas to Logy Bay on the northeast coast of the Avalon Peninsula, and includes Bell Island. This is a favorite scenic drive for people who live in the area. It takes you into old fishing villages, a former mining town, and through farmland.
Coming east on Route 60, turn off onto Route 50 just beyond Topsail and you are in St. Thomas , now part of the town of Paradise. St. Thomas was settled in the early 1800s at Horse Cove Brook, but people moved to the hills east of there where there was good land for farming. The community expanded toward St. Philips, another farming community which is today the western half of Portugal Cove-St. Philips. The Squires and Tucker families settled at St. Philips in the 1760s, and these names predominate in the community today. Portugal Cove was visited by Portuguese and French fishermen in the 1500s, and settled by the English in the 1600s. It’s been the terminus for various boats that have served Conception Bay for almost 200 years. Today it’s where you catch the ferry to Bell Island.
The waters surrounding this huge chunk of reddish rock in Conception Bay saw the first enemy action in Newfoundland waters during World War II. On September 5, 1942, U-513, a German submarine, sank the S.S. Saganaga and the Lord Strathcona at their berths while waiting to load iron ore from the mines on Bell Island. Then on November 2 another U-boat sank the PLM-27 and the Rose Castle. A monument to the sailors who lost their lives and the Bell Islanders who rescued the survivors stands at Lance Cove, which is where the island was first settled in the 1750s. John Guy, who founded a colony at Cupids in the early 17th century, was the first to notice the iron in the island's rocks, but mining operations didn't begin until 1895.
The pastoral community of 500 that occupied the best farmland on the Avalon Peninsula was transformed into a bustling mining community with a peak population of 14,000. Although there were ups and down, the mine made the island a prosperous centre throughout much of the 20th century. The mine was phased out between 1959 and 1966 when it was closed due to its low grade ore and technological changes in the international steel industry. The main ore shafts (now inaccessible to the public) which stretch out for miles underneath Conception Bay are all that is left of this former beehive of activity. In memory of bygone days, the town now sports several huge murals on some of its larger buildings that depict events and people from Bell Island's past. Mine tours are available from the community museum.
From the steep cliffs of the ‘Iron Isle’ you have a panoramic view of Conception Bay, particularly Little Bell Island and Kellys Island. Legend holds that Kellys Island was the rendezvous spot of a swashbuckling pirate, Captain Kelly, and his cohorts who terrorized the Atlantic trade routes during the 17th century. Conception Bay was the headquarters for such notorious privateers as Peter Easton, who raided harbours and seized vessels. An intriguing story of treasure on Kellys Island tells of a British naval officer who arrived in 1901 and hired a fisherman to row him out there. When they landed, he set out alone across the small island. Some time later he returned with a large pot which he bore with extreme difficulty. He pulled a gun on the fisherman and demanded to be landed on an uninhabited part of the mainland. Once ashore he tossed a gold coin to the fisherman and disappeared.
Leaving Portugal Cove on Route 40, take Route 18, which connects with Route 21 to Bauline, a fishing village on Conception Bay. The hills above Bauline provide a panoramic view of Conception Bay and the northeast Avalon Peninsula.
Continue on Route 21 to Pouch Cove, pronounced "Pooch" Cove, one of the oldest settlements in Newfoundland. The exact date of its settlement is unknown but it is documented as early as 1611, only 28 years after Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed the island for England. Pouch Cove's dangerous harbour was the primary reason for its early settlement. Although this sounds paradoxical, keep in mind permanent dwellings were forbidden by law in the 17th and 18th centuries. A dangerous harbour kept away Royal Navy ships seeking the illegal settlers, as well as the pirates who preyed on them.
A famous local story centers around the wreck of the Waterwitch in 1875. When the ship went aground in a storm with 25 people aboard, a courageous resident, Alfred Moores, performed a daring rescue which saved 11 of their lives. He allowed himself to be lowered to the ship by a rope from an overhanging cliff so that he could carry the people to safety.
At the end of Route 20 a rough but passable road leads to the rugged headland of Cape St. Francis, found on one of the earliest maps of Newfoundland in existence, a chart from 1527. It is believed to have been named by the Portuguese explorer Gaspar Corte-Real during his voyage to Newfoundland in 1501. During the fall, this is a good area to pick blueberries and partridge berries.
Back in Pouch Cove, take the main road, Route 20 to another historically interesting community, Flat Rock, which dates back to at least 1689. The name of this fishing community comes from the flat rocks around the cove which made ideal places to dry salt cod. A local point of interest is the Flat Rock Grotto, a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes. Blessed by Pope John Paul II, it is believed to be the largest religious shrine of its kind in eastern Canada.
This seacoast has, in five centuries, attracted everyone from roving buccaneers to the English and Irish ancestors of its modern day residents. Historic Torbay was the scene of a strategic military maneuver in 1762. On September 13 of that year, British forces under Colonel Amherst used this village as their base of operation to retake St. John's from the French army that had captured it. The British expedition landed at Torbay and marched overland to outflank the French and overwhelm them. Torbay was likely named by Devonshire fishermen after a place of the same name in England.
At Torbay, turn off onto Route 30, a scenic route called Marine Drive that winds in and out of the small communities along the coastline. This is one of the best points on the east coast of the island for photographing or just viewing the magnificent Atlantic seascape. Along the way you can visit Logy Bay. In Newfoundland ‘logy’ means heavy, dull or sluggish. The fish caught in this cove, generally of a large size, were termed logy, and thus the name - Logy Bay.
In the last century an enterprising St. John's doctor tried to establish a health spa here. A Dr. Kielley sent a sample of the waters of a Logy Bay spring to Britain for analysis, which revealed that it contained definite minerals with presumably medicinal properties. The "chalybeate spring with nine chemical ingredients" was said to equal the famous German spas' curative effects, but nothing came of it.
Today, Logy Bay is a centre for scientific investigation. It is the location of the Ocean Sciences Centre where a program of continuing oceanographic research is being carried out into the ocean habitat that surrounds the province. The laboratory is part of Memorial University of Newfoundland. Its tourist attractions are the seals.
Marine Drive also passes through Middle Cove and Outer Cove (all part of the town of Log Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove), named for their positions along the coast. The elevated cliffs, exposed beaches and wild seas that this coast is famous for are visible from a number of excellent highway vantage points and seaside parking facilities. This area easily rivals any highway tour in eastern North America for scenery. During late spring and early summer, it's a good area to see icebergs, and during the winters when Arctic ice drifts south to these waters, the ice stretches to the horizon. Middle Cove Beach is a traditional area to catch capelin.
Cape Spear Drive
The Fast East of the Western World
One of the must-see places on any visit to them northeast Avalon is Cape Spear National Historic Site, the most easterly point in North America. To reach it, drive west on Water Street, keeping a keen lookout for the small brown Parks Canada sign indicating the road to Cape Spear, Route 11. Keep in the left hand lane. The turn onto Route 11 is just past Victoria Park and goes over a bridge. You'll come to a stop sign at the end of the bridge that says "Welcome to the Cape Spear Drive." Continue straight ahead up the hill, through the neighborhood of Shea Heights and to lighthouse about 8 km from Water Street. Built in 1835, the Cape Spear Lighthouse is the oldest existing lighthouse in Newfoundland. The two-story, wooden structure that served as a marine beacon from 1836 to 1955 is now a lifestyle museum. A modern lighthouse stands nearby.
The first lightkeeper at Cape Spear was Emmanuel Warre. Following his death in 1845, the government appointed James Cantwell to take his place. Members of the Cantwell family have tended the light ever since. World War II saw increased activity at the cape. Two gun emplacements were constructed and underground passages and barracks were built. Most of the installations were demolished after the war, but the gun emplacements still exist and the bunker has been used in summer as an amphitheatre where concerts are staged. Bring a sweater and a cushion if you attend a nighttime performance.
Return to St. John's by taking a brief excursion along Route 11 through Maddox Cove and Petty Harbour, a small outport that is just 18 km from the capital city. Here you'll see the old wooden stages that were used to dry the salt cod that Newfoundland once supplied to the world. Petty Harbour has been the location of several feature films. Continue on Route 11 to Route 10 and return to St. John’s.
St. John's Metro Area
The Northeast Avalon Peninsula includes St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mount Pearl, and Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America.
St. John's is one of the oldest European settlements in North America and is the capital city of Newfoundland and Labrador. Its name is derived from the feast day of St. John the Baptist, because it was on that day in 1497 that Giovanni Caboto, or John Cabot, sighted the New-Founde-Lande. Originally called St. John's Bay, this perfectly sheltered harbour drew explorers and fishermen here in the 1500s. The city has had an eclectic history, from summer fishing station to brawling, colonial seaport to a modern commercial and communications hub.
The blend of English and Irish, New World and Old, imbues the city with a style and vitality that's as fresh as the breeze that always blows on Signal Hill, so named because the arrival of ships was announced from here to the town below through a series of flag signals. From the hill, Canada's second-largest National Historic Site, there is a spectacular view of the city, its harbour and the adjacent coastline.
You can visit the Queen's Battery, fortifications that date from the Napoleonic Wars, and watch the Signal Hill Tattoo re-enact colonial military exercises. The Interpretation Centre features an audio-visual presentation of the history of Newfoundland, with special emphasis on military history. To the right of the Interpretation Centre is Gibbet Hill where, many years ago, the body of a hanged criminal, wrapped in chains, dangled as a chilling deterrent to potential law breakers.
At the top of the hill is Cabot Tower, built in 1897 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Newfoundland and the 60th year of Queen Victoria's reign. On the grounds outside the tower are interpretive exhibits dealing with the harbour's fortifications.
It was from a spot just below the tower that Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal on December 12, 1901 ushering in the modern world of telecommunications. Special celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of this technological achievement will be held throughout the province in 2001.
A new attraction on Signal Hill is the Johnson Geo Centre, an exploration of the planet’s geology using examples from all over geologically-rich Newfoundland and Labrador.
In 1919 St. John's was the starting point for the race to fly the Atlantic because of its proximity to Europe. Several crews tried, but the honour of the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic went to Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten-Brown. Cabot Tower was the last North American landmark Charles Lindbergh saw on his solo flight to Paris in 1927. He flew right out through The Narrows, the aptly named inlet between the hills that connects the harbour to the ocean.
Another site of historic interest in this area is the Quidi Vidi Battery which overlooks Quidi Vidi Village at the eastern edge of St. John's. Constructed by the French during their capture of St. John's in 1762, its first life was a short one. The British won the last battle of the Seven Years' War right here in St. John's just a short while later. The fort was rebuilt in 1780 and manned by British forces until their withdrawal from Newfoundland in 1870. That was the year Newfoundlanders decided not to join Canada, and the British pullout left no doubt of what the Imperial Government thought of that decision. The fort was, ironically, restored in 1967 as one of many projects undertaken to mark Canada's 100th birthday. Newfoundlanders changed their minds and joined Canada in 1949. The fort's reconstruction was based upon plans of its layout as of 1812. It is open to the public daily during the summer months.
From here you can visit Quidi Vidi Lake, the site of the annual Royal St. John's Regatta which has been held since at least 1826 and is still run on the first Wednesday of August. This year marks its 175th anniversary. It is considered to be the oldest continuing sporting event in North America. Sailing, canoeing, kayaking and sailboarding are other popular activities that take place on the lake which is ringed by a walking trail, one of several that circle the ponds and lakes in the city.
Downtown St. John's is a great place to go exploring. Visitors should walk around because the traffic patterns are as eccentric as the geography. The current layout dates from 1892. That year most of the city was destroyed by fire for the third time in the nineteenth century. Wider, realigned streets laid out in a pattern designed to prevent the spread of fires from one area to another has worked for the past century. But the plan was implemented with the horse-and-cart and the streetcar in mind. Streets that cut across the hills at an angle rather than going straight up and down made life easier for horses, but by the end of World War I the day of the horse was drawing to a close and the automobile ruled the roads. Like the old cities of Europe, St. John's has struggled to come to grips with the auto.
The downtown area suffered through two decades of decline before the recent upturn in the economy. Now, almost every storefront on Water and Duckworth Streets is occupied as a new generation of entrepreneurs has replaced the traditional merchants. Boutiques are in, while department stores have moved to the suburbs. There are restaurants featuring everything from traditional fare to exotic Indian dishes, pubs galore featuring music from jazz to rock to trad, and a new civic centre and convention centre opened in 2001. The civic centre arena is home to the St. John's Maple Leafs, a professional hockey team that plays in the American Hockey League.
In the eastern end of downtown St. John's are several historic buildings within walking distance of each other. Commissariat House on King's Bridge Road was constructed in 1818-19 to serve as the office and residence of the Assistant Commissary General of the British garrison. This Georgian structure has been marvelously restored to the 1830 period. That means there are no electric lights inside. Guides dressed in period costumes add to the atmospheric feel of the house. This Provincial Historic Site is open to the public daily during the summer months and by appointment in winter.
Just down the street is Old Garrison Church (St. Thomas' Anglican). This church opened in 1836 and was originally the chapel for the garrison at nearby Fort William. Its interior decor features the Hanoverian Coat of Arms, the royal coat of arms when the church was built.
That grand old house just to the west is Government House. It's where the Queen stays when she comes to town. At other times, it's where the Lieutenant-Governor lives. The grounds contain many interesting trees not usually found in Newfoundland. The grounds are open to the public daily and to invited guests for the annual garden party, usually held in early August.
Colonial Building just west on Military Road is constructed of white limestone imported from Ireland. This building was originally opened in 1850 and served as the seat of government in Newfoundland until the provincial House of Assembly was transferred to the Confederation Building in 1960. The Colonial Building now houses the Provincial Archives and it is open to the public from Monday to Friday throughout the year. The ceilings in the main rooms were decorated by a convicted Polish forger in the 19th century who received a short remission in his sentence in return for the work. The archives, along with the Newfoundland Museum and the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador (see below) will move to a new building called The Rooms at Fort Townshend in 2003.
One of the most interesting churches in St. John's is the Roman Catholic Basilica of St. John the Baptist on Military Road. It is built in the shape of a Latin Cross, with twin towers reaching to a height of 42 m (137.8 feet). The basilica is noted for its excellent religious statuary, as well as for the beautiful ceiling, with its intricate design highlighted in gold leaf. Guided tours are available in summer.
Just to the south of this National Historic Site is another beautiful church, the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Church Hill. The cathedral, which has also been declared a National Historic Site, is said to be the best example of Ecclesiastical Gothic architecture in North America. It was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott and the cornerstone was laid in 1849. A silver communion service presented by King William IV and other precious religious objects are kept in the Chapter House of the cathedral.
On Duckworth Street is the Newfoundland Museum which has an excellent collection of artifacts from the native peoples of the province and displays that illustrate the long and colorful history of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The boutiques of the Murray Premises, a restored mercantile complex on the harbour front, open onto Water Street, one of the oldest thoroughfares in North America. This winding downtown street has been the centre of commercial activity in the city for more than four hundred years and is still lined with a variety of interesting stores, restaurants and pubs. The restaurants feature traditional and international cuisine, while the pubs offer musical entertainment that ranges from traditional Irish music to the latest country and rock fads.
The arts scene in St. John's is very active. Writers, musicians, painters, sculptors, poets - you'll find them here. Over the past three decades the emphasis has switched from importing the artistic tastes of New York or Toronto to developing home-grown talent. There has also been a renewed emphasis on crafts, with several stores in the downtown area featuring a wide range of woolens, silks, carvings, jewellery and many more items. In this milieu, local themes and materials predominate. The environment and culture of the province provide a wellspring of inspiration. Dramas focus on people and events in Newfoundland history, while comedies are often biting and satirical. Whales, seabirds and other wildlife are common motifs in the decorative arts.
At the top of the steps leading from Duckworth to Victoria Street, is a centre of artistic activity. The Resource Centre for the Arts is located in the restored Long Shoreman's Protective Union (LSPU) Hall. At the Hall you can attend performances of original Newfoundland plays as well as international modern and classic works. The Hall provides stimulus for the creation of innovative and exciting works and is also a centre for many community activities in the downtown core of the city.
Another focus for art and entertainment in the city is the Arts and Culture Centre on Allandale Road. The building contains the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador, a large auditorium and a number of smaller theatre spaces for workshops and basement theatre programs. Featured performers include local and visiting dance troupes, the symphony orchestra and a wide variety of traveling entertainment for all ages and tastes.
Next to the Arts and Culture Centre is Memorial University of Newfoundland, the largest university in Atlantic Canada. The campus includes the Aquarena, built for the Canada Summer Games in 1977, has hosted several national aquatic competitions. A new field house for sports will open in late 2001. The university offers a full complement of degree-granting programs, and is widely recognized for cold ocean engineering. Its separate Marine Institute focuses on marine themes in its educational programs.
Throughout the city are many softball fields, soccer and rugby pitches, a baseball field built in a valley in the centre of the city, a curling club, golf courses, tennis courts, and other recreation facilities. Soccer is the largest summertime youth participation sport, with more than 3,400 participants - from a city with a population of only 102,000.
The Grand Concourse is an extensive series of walking trails that covers the city. From Signal Hill through parks and valleys, along the former railway track and around five lakes, the concourse is a walker's dream.
St. John's has many fine parks. The largest is C.A. Pippy Park. This 1,343-hectare park offers opportunities for recreation and relaxation that include hiking and cross-country skiing. It has picnic areas, a fully serviced campground, two golf courses and lounge. Within the park boundaries is the Memorial University Botanical Garden at Oxen Pond. The 32-hectare site has been developed to display plants native to the province and cultivated plants suitable to the local climate. There are beautiful nature trails and many programs and events are offered from May to November, included guided walks and tours. It's also a great place to see butterflies.
In Pippy Park you will find The Fluvarium where glass tanks give you a close-up view of the fascinating and complex world of freshwater ecology.
In the west end of the city is beautiful Bowring Park. It was originally a gift of land to the city of St. John's by the Bowrings, one of the city's most prominent business families, on the occasion of the centenary of the founding of their business. It has been customary for the various heads of state and members of the Royal Family who have visited the city to follow the tradition of planting a tree in Bowring Park as a living reminder of their visit. As a result, the park has some rare trees not usually found in the province.
Just inside the main entrance to the park, stands a beautiful statue of Peter Pan, from the same casting as the famous original in Kensington Gardens, London. A statue of the Fighting Newfoundlander, a bronze statue of a soldier in full battle kit throwing a grenade, reminds visitors of the terrible price young Newfoundlanders paid in World War I. The soldier from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment who modeled for the piece later became an employee of the park, but few of the visitors noticed the resemblance! There's also a full-size statue of a caribou, the Regiment's emblem. There are excellent picnic sites in the park, a swimming pool, tennis courts, a new amphitheatre and a playground. There are also swans and other waterfowl and many excellent floral displays. The western end of the park features quiet nature trails.
The Waterford Valley area, especially the area just east of Bowring Park, is a good birdwatching area. The western end of the South Side Hills is a virtually undisturbed forest, and many residents who live in the valley attract birds with backyard feeders. Anglers can fish here in the Waterford River or in Rennies River which runs through the east end of the city to Quidi Vidi Lake. This latter stream is famous for its German brown trout and is bordered by a popular hiking trail.
You may want to pick up a few souvenirs for the folks back home before taking the next tour around the Avalon Peninsula. There are several large malls and shopping centers located throughout the city with a fine selection of unique hand-crafted items available.
Mount Pearl is a bedroom community of 25,000 west of St. John’s. You can reach it via Routes 1, 2 and 60. Originally a farming community established in 1829, it now has a substantial service sector as well as some light industry, but most residents commute to work in St. John’s. Mount Pearl bills itself as the world’s first arboretum city, and has an extensive network of walkways that connect with the Trans-Canada Trail through the city and into adjoining Paradise, and the Grand Concourse walkways in neighboring St. John’s. A converted World War I military radio station that listened for German naval signals is the city’s main museum. There are several small hotels, shopping centers, and restaurants, and the city exudes a neighborhood feel.
From Cabot to Cormack to Coaker, from Trinity to Bonavista to Brooklyn, and from the fertile farmland of Lethbridge to the windswept plain around The Dungeon, the Discovery Trail takes you through time, myth and legend into a reality that will leave you wondering if seeing really is believing.
There are three gateways to the Bonavista Peninsula. You can take the west entrance from the Trans-Canada Highway onto Route 233 at Port Blandford; the central entrance near Thorburn Lake at Route 230; or the eastern entrance onto Route 230A at Clarenville. On this trip we'll take the eastern route through Clarenville, loop up through Trinity and Port Union to Bonavista, and then cruise down the western shore to Port Blandford.
Mention "Bonavista" and people here think of John Cabot, a Genoese adventurer known in his hometown as Giovanni Caboto. History can do strange things, like change your name. Christofo Columbo suffered the same fate. In 1497, just five years after Columbus landed in the Carribean, the good burghers of Bristol, England, sent Cabot west to investigate what lay in the northern section of the western Atlantic. He found fish, lots and lots of fish, and the race was on to scoop it up, dry it and ship it to Europe. Uncounted fortunes have risen and fallen on the fish trade.
But was Cabot the first European to reach Bonavista? Legend says so, but what of the Vikings? Could they have explored this area from their base at L'Anse aux Meadows at Newfoundland's northern tip nearly 500 years earlier? And what of Saint Brendan? He supposedly sailed west even before the Vikings ventured here. Claims could also be made for the Spanish, Basques and Portuguese, especially the latter. Were the businessmen of Bristol risking their money or betting on a sure thing when they sent Cabot here? Cabot's importance lies not so much is what he did - a sailing feat though it was - but rather as a symbol for the opening up of this part of the New World to European trade and culture during the Age of Discovery.
You'll find a more recent Italian connection with the Bonavista Peninsula in Clarenville, where after turning off onto the Discovery Trail you will probably find yourself on Balbo Drive. It's named for General Italo Balbo, the Italian Fascist who left enough of an impression on the townsfolk they named a street after him. In 1933, on his way back to Rome from the Chicago Exhibition, Balbo led a squadron of flying boats into nearby Shoal Harbour, was paraded and welcomed in Clarenville and flew off with a load of specially stamped mail. He came to an unhappy end, however, as did many of his political ilk: after becoming governor of Libya, he was shot down over Tobruk by Italian guns in 1940.
Clarenville is a friendly town, and a modern one. Now basically a service centre for the Bonavista Peninsula, you can still see traces of its days as a major shipbuilding centre. Take some time to explore this town. Originally known as Clarenceville in honour of the Duke of Clarence, it dates from the 1890s, which is relatively new by Newfoundland standards.
It's also become the ski capital of eastern Newfoundland. The Ski White Hills resort just west of Clarenville has 15 runs and lifts that can accommodate 3,800 people an hour. There's also excellent cross-country skiing in the area.
On past Shoal Harbour, now part of Clarenville, there's a piece of land in Milton where shallow waters of Northwest Arm lap a shore that is deep in history. It was from this area that in 1822 William Epps Cormack and his Micmac guide Joseph Sylvester left on their now-famous jaunt through the Newfoundland interior. They didn't find any Beothuks, as Cormack had hoped, but he became the first European to walk across the island and write about it. A plaque on the left just before the causeway marks the event. Just a few hundred feet further on is the now abandoned Bonavista Branch Line of the Newfoundland Railway. Alder and scrub are already encroaching on the line, but it's a pleasant walk through the woods and along the shoreline in either direction. There is also a Canada goose refuge here. Summer and early fall are the best times to see these birds.
As you cross the causeway and take a look around Random Island, two things are obvious: a few hundred yards of water spelled isolation for the people of this largish island until the causeway was constructed in the 1960s; and, two centuries of logging have not come near to exhausting the potential of the island's robust and well-managed forest. Hickman's Harbour has long been the island's logging centre, but everywhere you go there is evidence of logging: there's wood stuffed into barns and sheds, wrapped with tarpaulins against the rain and otherwise protected from the elements.
Legend has it the eastern part of Random Island was the last stronghold of the Beothuks in eastern Newfoundland. Driving through this hilly, wooded section the legend is easy to believe. The spirits of the land, air and water that drew the Beothuks to this place still seem to inhabit it. Deep in the forests the Beothuks would have been hard to find, but they would have had access to the sea at a time when their traditional summer places were taken over by Europeans. It's no wonder, really, that Cormack set out from this neck of the woods on his ultimately futile quest to make contact with a people who were teetering on the brink of extinction at the time.
John Cabot's Landing
Heading north again on Route 230, the next stop is a very special part of not only the Bonavista Peninsula or of Newfoundland, but of Canada. Turn onto Route 239 and head for Trinity. This little town is a gem, a national treasure, and a place where visitors can feel for just a few hours or days the special Trinity enchantment. Trinity is a must-see on anyone's calendar. Most of the old town is a national heritage community, and there are several provincial historic sites, as well. People interested in Newfoundland history will find plenty of it here.
Four years after Cabot's voyage, Gaspar Corte Real explored Newfoundland's coastal waters and, according to legend, named Trinity because he came across this section of the coast on Trinity Sunday in 1501. Much later Trinity became an important fishing and mercantile community. The English considered it so valuable and prized a harbour they built a fort here, one of the few communities in Newfoundland deemed worthy enough to have the Crown incur the expense of a fort. The fort's remains are accessible along the road to the lighthouse. In 1615 Trinity played host to the first court of justice in North America when Richard Whitbourne, under the auspices of the British admiralty, tried to bring order to the constant raids and thieving that were a blight on the fishery for many years.
What strikes you right away about Trinity is how solid the houses are. The nineteenth century styles of architecture that are preserved seem derived from an earlier era. This was a prosperous town, and a progressive one, too. In 1798, Dr. John Clinch, a doctor and minister, administered the first smallpox vaccine in North America. Get out and wander around Trinity. Narrow lanes wander in and out between the houses. Stop at the community museum, which is chock-a-block with exhibits, and has community records dating to the 1600s. Or drop in at the forge, once an important part of the town's commercial life.
Mountain Ash Manor is where, around the turn of this century, widow Emma Hiscock and her daughters lived. The style and grace of the period have been perfectly captured in this Provincial Historic Site. In the old business section you'll find the Garland House. Now reconstructed, this brick house must have been the talk of the town when Francis Lester built it after arriving in the 1770s, and from where he ran a fishing empire before returning to England. Nearby is the Ryan Property, a restoration project undertaken by the provincial government, which re-creates a nineteenth century merchant store. Take time to visit the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, and the Society of United Fishermen (S.U.F.) Hall which was built 150 years ago.
In addition to its history, Trinity has the good fortune to have other attractions that appeal to a wide variety of visitors. One is whale-watching, and several boat tours ply coastal waters in search of humpbacks and other species of whales. However, the main attraction here is not the architecture. It's the theatre festival run each summer by Rising Tide Theatre. There's a popular comedic walking tour of the town several times a week, and theatrical productions in the new theatre and other locations in Trinity Bight.
(By the way, there is another community named Trinity on Route 320 in Bonavista Bay. This other Trinity is a small village not to be confused with Trinity, Trinity Bay.)
Note: The area of Trinity Bight includes the communities of Port Rexton, Trinity East, Trouty, Goose Cove, Dunfield, New Bonaventure, Old Bonaventure, Lockston, Champney's, and Trinity.
It was in this area that the feature movie The Shipping News was filmed. And at New Bonaventure you'll find the set built for the TV adaptation of Random Passage.
When you head north again, take some time to drive around Trinity East and Port Rexton because the scenery here is wonderful. It's also a good area to see icebergs in early summer. Lockston Path Provincial Park on unpaved Route 236 is a good place to camp, and keep an eye out for moose! The woods grow close to this road, and as you drive along you might spot the faint trails the moose use as their "highways" through the forest.
The next stop up the coast is Port Union. Built in the early 20th century - it's next to Catalina - as a model town by William Coaker and the members of his Fishermen's Union Trading Company and the Fishermen's Protective Union, Port Union is a bit odd: it has row houses built for fish plant workers, and you usually don't find row houses in rural Newfoundland. The old railway station houses a display on Coaker and his time. His house is open to the public. The word "graveyard" just doesn't do justice to the grandiose little meadow atop which he is buried. His body rests in a white marble sarcophagus which is topped by a half-statue of the man himself which has, depending on your point of view, either its back turned to the sea or its gaze directed to the coast where lived the fishermen he served. This memorial cemetery must certainly be the grandest to any individual in the province, and a lasting monument to a man who was, according to how you view history, either a giant of a man or a master propagandist. Coaker left Newfoundland in the early 1930s - at the height of the Great Depression - and passed his later years in Jamaica and Boston, where he died in 1938.
You're getting closer to Bonavista, but first a side trip to Maberly is in order. Just offshore is a group of islands where seabirds nest each summer to raise their young, so bring your binoculars for a good view. Kittiwakes, murres and puffins are some of the birds that nest here.
Up to now, the Bonavista Peninsula has been thickly wooded, except for the more frequent spots where peat bogs dominate. Now, as you reach the top of the hill overlooking Bonavista, the traditional barren Newfoundland coastline is in view, this time thickly covered by the houses and other buildings that comprise one of our most famous towns.
If you can't find your way around Bonavista, don't panic. Get lost. That's the best way to see the town. Street signs are rarer than hen's teeth. And keep an eye out for one-way streets. Lanes and narrow streets wander willy-nilly over gentle hills. Just drive, walk or bicycle all over town.
The newest attractions are a reconstruction of John Cabot's ship Matthew, and the Ryan Premises National Historic Site which tells the 500-year history of the east coast fishery in several buildings of displays and artifacts. The Bonavista Museum, with its extensive genealogy records, is also housed here.
Another must-see spot in the town is the Mockbeggar Property, a provincial historic site, that gives visitors a taste of life in the old days.
In the Methodist Cemetery you'll find some of the oldest gravestones in the province. In front of the Court House is a recreation of the old Whipping Post, where rough justice was administered to lawbreakers in centuries past.
After all this there's still Cape Bonavista and the lighthouse. First built in 1843, it has now been restored as an historic site where visitors can step back a hundred years to experience the isolated lifestyle of a nineteenth century lighthouse keeper. The lighthouse is closed for renovations in 2000, but the interpretation next door is open and staffed by knowledgeable interpreters. Nearby in the municipal park is a statue of Cabot. This is a windswept, moody area, but in 1997 it was the focus of a giant celebration of our history and culture - the 500th anniversary of Cabot's landing.
Back through Bonavista, you head down the peninsula's west side. This is a very pretty area. The road weaves through timeless coastal fishing villages and near several pebble beaches where beachcombers will spend time just looking, and maybe even finding.
This section of the peninsula just begs for side trips. Drive out the south side of Blackhead Bay to Keels. One of the local traditions has it that Cabot left a keel-mark here while stopping for water. Others have speculated it might be Kialarness mentioned in the Viking sagas. There are families here with the surname Keel, but the community pre-dates their arrival. It was a fishing station in 1675 and appeared on maps almost a century before that.
Returning from this side-trip, have a look around King's Cove. While most communities here are English to the core, King's Cove has a few Irish people in its early history, although many English people from Bonavista and Trinity also settled here. The first Catholic church north of Harbour Grace was established here in 1815, but the community was first settled in the 1700s. Check out the churches here and in other small fishing communities along this part of the coast and you'll find some very fine architecture.
This is a wonderful area to visit in fall. Because of the long history of logging in the area, there are large stands of deciduous trees. Hills painted all the colours of autumn lend a romantic tinge to a visit. Later in the year when snow blankets the landscape the benefits of thick woods become apparent to skiers, while snowmobilers have enormous areas to explore and enjoy. And, of course, there are ponds where those hearty souls who enjoy ice-fishing can enjoy their peculiar form of winter recreation.
The base of the peninsula is farming country around Lethbridge and Musgravetown. In season, you can get lots of fresh vegetables here, or visit farmer's field day. It's a lovely, relaxing area. A good place for a panoramic view of this area is Brooklyn. Farmers here gather dead seaweed that has washed onto the narrow, sandy beaches and truck it off to their fields to help replenish the soil.
From here, you can continue on to Port Blandford. There's good salmon and trout fishing in this area. Middle Brook offers good salmon fishing, while families interested in recreation fishing should try the Terra Nova and North West rivers. And there's also a championship 18-hole golf course at Port Blandford, so bring along your clubs.
Southwest Arm Drive
Coastal Side Trip
East of Clarenville, you'll pass by Deep Bight before coming to Routes 205 and 204 on the north and south shores respectively of South West Arm.
Here you'll find communities with very colourful names, such as Hatchett Cove - where there is a 9-hole golf course - St. Jones Within (yes, there was at one time a St. Jones Without), Caplin Cove and Little Heart's Ease.
Route 205 in particular is a very pleasant drive. Many residents of the area keep colourful gardens, and in early summer the bogs are afire with red. St. Jones Within, at the end of the road, is a beautiful, hidden gem, built around a sheltered harbour and surrounded by high, wooded hills. The view across South West Arm to Hodge's Cove is stunning.
The Heritage Run
The gateway to the Burin Peninsula is the intersection of Routes 1 and 210. Passing through Goobies, the road winds along the inner reaches of northwest Placentia Bay. Side trips to Goose Cove, North Harbour, and Garden Cove take you off the main road into sheltered coves. Placentia Bay has some 365 islands, one of which, Woody Island, can be reached by small boat from Garden Cove. The island is now almost deserted except for tourist accommodations; the people moved to larger towns on the "mainland" around Placentia Bay during the 1960s. There is also a tour boat operating around the head of Placentia Bay that takes travellers among some of the islands.
Back on the main road you'll occasionally see orange fences just west of the highway. These are snow fences, designed to trap the drifts before they cover the road. People who travel this road in winter know this is where Mother Nature perfected the art of the 20-foot snowdrift.
Next stop is Swift Current. People have been vacationing here for the great angling, and just to get away from it all since the early 20th century. Surrounded by high hills, Swift Current has become a popular summer home area. Bear's Folly, one of these hills, is a climber's delight. Log cabin chalets built next to the shore provide excellent accommodation when visiting the area. Just down the road is Piper's Hole River, a scheduled salmon river. Check out the hiking trail. It was once part of a short-lived railway line that was to have serviced the Burin Peninsula. The piper in the river's name comes from an eighteenth century legend: the French and English clashed in battle at nearby Garden Cove. Supposedly, the spirit of a French soldier lingers in the river valley, mournfully playing a pipe.
Continuing south, you'll emerge onto the barrens. Barrens, at least in Newfoundland, are synonymous with bogs, but have you ever seen a bog on the side of a steep hill? You'll find it here, along with the regular low-lying bogs, uncountable ponds, temporary bog-holes, and rocky outcrops. This is a land where time has slowed down. It's as if the last ice age ended within living memory. Those rocky outcrops occupy eccentric spaces on the tundra. Boulders orphaned at unusual angles eons ago by retreating glaciers and known as glacial erractics seem to have been placed there by a nonhuman intelligence, leaving a sort of Stonehenge-without-humans on the horizon. Those are not prehistoric people you see stooping over low bushes, but residents picking blueberries, cranberries, marsh berries, bakeapples, bilberries and other tasty and nutritious local fruit. Bring knee-high rubber boots if you want to sample berries on the barrens.
On a slightly cloudy day the barrens display every imaginable shade and hue and tint of green. The almost black green of the spruce softens the brighter shades of bobbing larch green, blueberry green, red fir green, the waxy medium green of the white alder, and the hundreds of other greens associated with irises, wildflowers, berries and bushes. Among the greens are dashes of red and blue and white as wildflowers show their best faces. Trees take lone stands amid the bogs. Groups of larch catch the slightest breeze to show off their dainty flexibility. By now the spirit of the Burin is upon you. In this primeval landscape only the road, the power lines cresting distant hills and the occasional auto tell you civilization has intruded, however briefly, into this hypnotic domain where nature rules. When fall replaces summer, the flowers fade and the greens turn to browns, reds and yellows, and all giving way to white when winter roars in.
An unpaved road to the east takes you to Davis Cove and Monkstown on the western side of Placentia Bay.
Three communities to the west, at the head of Fortune Bay, make an interesting side trip. Keep an eye out for whales and seabirds in this area. The paved road goes on to Terrenceville where you'll find a lovely waterfall. Unpaved Route 211 takes you to Grand La Pierre, where in May and June you can see the Middle Ridge caribou herd at the southern end of their migration, and further along is the fishing village of English Harbour East.
Further south, take Route 212 to Jacques Fontaine and Little Bay East where you can explore the Ragged Point Lighthouse. Bay L'Argent is the eastern terminus of the coastal boat service to the remote Fortune Bay community of Rencontre East and west to Pool's Cove in the Coast of Bays area (see Central Tours). "Rencontre" is the French word for "meeting place," and it’s likely French fishermen came here for bait and wood long before permanent English settlement in the 1830s because the coast here is sheltered from the ocean by some islands. The community has a series of hiking trails, including one to the top of Arial Hill, which is about 1,100 feet high.
Harbour Mille, at the end of Route 212, is a small fishing community with a sheltered harbour. There was a short-lived copper and silver mine here in the mid-19th century. An adventure tour company has a camp in the area from where visitors explore the coast and take part in nature viewing trips.
Back on Route 210 headed south again you'll discover several other opportunities for side trips to fishing villages. The road through Boat Harbour to Brookside is paved, but the road beyond this to Petite Forte is unpaved. Petite Forte was connected to the highway system only in 1992. From here you can take a ferry to South East Bight.
Next south on Route 210 are Baine Harbour, Rushoon, Red Harbour and Jean de Baie, and you can take a side trip to Spanish Room. There's a seabird colony at Spanish Room Point where you can see ring-billed gulls.
Marystown is the main service centre on the peninsula. The Marystown Museum contains a collection of artifacts dealing with the town's history. The town's most famous landmark is at Mary Mount where, a 15-foot statue of the Virgin Mary overlooks the town and harbour. There's also a shipyard and a fabrication factory for offshore oil equipment here.
Captain Cook Drive
Just off Marine Drive in Little Bay east of Marystown is Walsh's Road, and also Jerome Walsh's Museum. This private collection of artifacts bears the unmistakable stamp of its owner. Quiet and unassuming, yet brimming with surprising detail, Mr. Walsh has collected a wealth of objects and the invaluable lore behind each piece. Ask about his model of the Columbia, a banking schooner that raced against the more famous Bluenose and he'll tell you all about it, including what happened to it after it sank! To find his museum, just ask the staff at the Burin Peninsula Information Centre in Marystown.
A very pretty community at the end of Marine Drive is Beau Bois, pronounced "Bo Boys." There's a lot of French influence all over the peninsula, but in many cases French names have been given a literal English twist.
A little further south is the old town of Burin. Settled since at least the early 1700s, Burin is protected from the open sea by islands that lie just offshore, providing ways of escape for pirates and privateers who lured pursuing ships onto rocks and into dead ends. The Heritage House museum is one of the best community museums in the province and a must-see. In displays on the fishery, education and daily life, it gives a real taste of the old days. A second branch, Heritage II which is right across the street in the old Bank of Nova Scotia building, contains travelling exhibits from rural Newfoundland, and displays on wildlife and the tidal wave that wrecked Burin in 1929.
Another must-see is Cook's Lookout. When he was mapping the Newfoundland coast in the 1760s, one of Capt. Cook's seasonal headquarters was in Burin. Atop a high hill that still bears his name he kept a lookout for smugglers and illegal fishing, especially by the French. Cook's maps are among the finest ever made of the Newfoundland coast, and although he spent only a few summers here, contributed greatly to safe navigation. There's a trail to the top that's well worth the steep climb. Bring your camera.
Drive back up along Burin Inlet and turn west onto Route 222. In Lewin's Cove is a water-based amusement park that is very popular with local residents. Further along this road is the farming community of Winterland. Return on Route 222 and take Route 220 through Lewin's Cove and on through Salmonier to Epworth and the end of Captain Cook Drive.
Captain Clarke Drive
This scenic drive is named for Richard Clarke. He commanded the Delight which accompanied Sir Humphrey Gilbert on his ill-fated voyage in 1583. After claiming Newfoundland for England while amused European sailors looked on in St. John's, Gilbert headed south and west for the mainland of North America. Along the way, his ships ran aground on Sable Island, the graveyard of the Atlantic, and Gilbert and many men were lost. Clarke was one of the survivors.
Through Salmonier and on past the turnoff to Epworth, the road winds through hilly country before passing through Little St. Lawrence where you can visit the site where Clarke landed. The next stop is St. Lawrence. The history of this community is unlike any other on the peninsula. In addition to being a fishing town, St. Lawrence has been a mining community for much of the past century. It has North America's only deposit of fluorspar. The Miners' Museum at the entrance to the town displays mining equipment.
During World War II, nearby Chamber's Cove was the site of a dreadful maritime accident. During a storm in 1942, three American warships went aground. Two - the Truxton and the Pollux - sank, taking the lives of more than 200 sailors. But another 180 were saved, thanks to the people from St. Lawrence, Lawn and nearby communities who risked their own lives to bring the sailors over treacherous cliffs to safety. In the summer of 1992 some survivors of the disaster returned to renew their friendship with the people of St. Lawrence and unveil the Echoes of Valour monument, which is at the intersection of Route 220 and Memorial Drive near the Town Hall. It depicts a miner hauling a sailor to safety. In addition to the rescue, the monument commemorates the many miners who died of congestive lung disease such as silicosis. During the 1950s the American government showed its thanks to the town when it built and equipped a 22-bed hospital that still serves the people of the area.
For a town of 1,200, St. Lawrence has a degree of sporting fame unmatched in the province. In 2002, the town's senior soccer team, the Laurentians, won its eighth consecutive provincial championship, and then won the silver medal at the national Challenge Cup tournament in St. John’s. No wonder the town bills itself as "The Soccer Capital of Canada."
The next community is Lawn, where a sandbar provides natural shelter along an otherwise exposed stretch of coast. After that is Lord's Cove, a good birdwatching area. Just offshore on Middle Lawn Island Leach's Storm Petrels and Manx Shearwaters have established colonies.
Allan's Island is joined to Lamaline by a short causeway. Here you'll find a small grotto to the Virgin Mary.
Just past Point May is a lookout from where you look across the water to St. Pierre.
French Islands Drive
Just up the highway is Fortune, another fishing community. From here you can take a very pleasant - and different - side trip to France on the seasonal summer passenger ferry (no cars). St. Pierre et Miquelon is as French as Brittany, where the ancestors of many St. Pierrais came from. You can stay at a hotel or a pension, have piping hot fresh bread for breakfast, sample French wine and sweets like petite pain au chocolat, and soak up the French ambience. Side trips to Miquelon can be arranged. During the prohibition era in the United States, rum-running gangsters did quite a bit of business with St. Pierre.
If you go to St. Pierre, remember that you must go through Customs both in St. Pierre and on your return to Fortune. Canadians and Americans must carry a driver's licence or some other form of identification as proof of citizenship. People from other countries will have to show valid visas and passports. The ferry ride takes about 70 minutes.
The next community is Grand Bank, the epitome of rural Newfoundland, the most famous community on the Burin Peninsula and one of the most beautiful communities anywhere along the Atlantic seaboard. As soon as you drive into Grand Bank, you can sense this is a special place, self-assured, neat, and conscious of the important part the town has played in Newfoundland history. It was settled in the 1650s by the French, and was taken over by the English early in the eighteenth century. Grand Bank is synonymous with the fishery, especially the fishery carried out on the Grand Banks, the richest fishing grounds in the world which lie in a wide area south and west of Newfoundland. Fishermen and sailors from here and other towns along the peninsula were renowned for the boat-handling skills, and many men fished the Grand Banks in small dories launched from larger schooners.
The town's Southern Newfoundland Seamen's Museum is devoted to the men and ships involved in the fishery. You can't miss this building: it's shaped like the sails of a schooner, and was once an exhibit hall at Montreal's Expo ‘67 World Fair. Inside are scores of models of boats and a helpful staff. The Burin Peninsula Soccer Hall of Fame is also located here. The Burin Peninsula is soccer-crazy. In Grand Bank and St. Lawrence and Burin and Lawn and other towns, there's always someone kicking a ball. The calibre of the soccer is very good. A minor soccer system feeds a stream of children, both boys and girls, to the senior teams.
Along the waterfront and nearby streets are Grand Bank's architectural wonders. The houses, influenced by the styles prevalent not in St. John's, but in Halifax and Boston, lie close to one another along narrow winding streets. There are a couple of very fine examples of the Queen Anne style with the ‘widow's walk’ atop the roof. The properties are neat as a pin. The Heritage Walk takes in most of the older houses and commercial buildings in town. One of the many highlights is the George C. Harris House. This stylish property was built by merchant Harris in 1908. Tour guides in period costume will show you around. Another must-see is the Thorndyke House, a sea captain’s house dating from 1917. You can obtain information on the Heritage Walk at the museum and Visitor Information Centres on the Burin Peninsula.
There are also a Marine Walk and a Wilderness Walk to introduce you to the surrounding countryside.
Heading north on Route 210 again you'll come to Frenchman's Cove Provincial Park where a swim might be in order. When you come to Frenchman's Cove, bring your golf clubs and try out nine-hole Grande Meadows Golf Course.
Next up is Garnish on Fortune Bay. This bay is infamous for its storms, and standing on a hill in Garnish overlooking the ocean you can see the weather change in a minute. Low fogs blow in to block the bobbing lighted buoys near the reefs just offshore, and views of the distant coasts of Brunette Island, and English Harbour West with its twinkling night lights, can appear or disappear in the length of a sigh. Breaks in clouds scudding rapidly over the bay pour brilliant golds onto the waters, moving and changing shapes almost playfully.
This is a good place to stretch your legs. Explore the century-old lighthouse and walk the Mount Serat and Deep Water Point trails. Tip: bring waterproof footwear. For a longer walk, there's a 25-km trail beyond Garnish to the abandoned community of Point Rosie.
A Land of Mines and Complex Geology
The Baie Verte Peninsula is a land of complex geology and associated mineral deposits that underlie steep, thickly wooded hills. To reach it, take Route 410, The Dorset Trail, from Route 1.
This highway is named for the Dorset Eskimos who lived - and quarried - here 1,500 years ago. Even earlier, the Maritime Archaic Indians inhabited the peninsula and may have exploited its minerals. But both the aboriginals and early European settlers came for fish, game and timber.
Near the town of Baie Verte is Flatwater Pond Park, the site of a former logging camp. The park has a boat launch, camping picnic sites and peddle boat rentals. The park is not more than an hour's drive from any town on the peninsula and is a good base camp for exploring the area.
On Route 411, pass through Western Arm and on to Westport, which was the first permanent settlement on the peninsula. The forest here is regrowing following a fire some years ago, and the tender young growth makes ideal food for moose. There is a picnic park at the lighthouse, and sea stacks and rocky beaches. Then it's on to Purbeck's Cove, which may have been named for the white marble quarried nearby in 1891. The marble is similar to that found on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, England. The quarry is accessible by boat.
It's 35 kilometers back to Route 410. A bit further north, Route 413 branches off eastward toward Burlington. At one time this was the commercial centre of the peninsula, which at that time was called the Burlington Peninsula. There is a picnic site at the Indian Well and the Salmon Trail leads to a waterfall. At the end of the road is Middle Arm, where logging has been the main industry for much of this century.
Head back to Route 410 and continue north to its intersection with Route 412. At the end of this road is Seal Cove and its sandy, boulder-strewn beach backed by forested hills. This is a good place to see icebergs. For the adventurous, you can walk to the top of the hills for a spectacular view, and for the really adventurous, why not bring along your hang glider for the trip back down. On the return trip, take unpaved Route 419 to Wild Cove. The road passes through some very rugged and pretty country to the small village.
Then it's back to Route 410 and on to the hub of the peninsula, Baie Verte. This is another mining town that has known the boom and bust of that fickle industry. Asbestos was mined here in an open pit operation between 1963 and 1990. Since the economic lifeblood of the peninsula has been mining, it's entirely appropriate that this town is the location for the excellent Baie Verte Miner's Museum.
The museum is part of the Visitor Information Centre, and is connected to it by a short `mine shaft' and its displays. Here you will learn the fascinating story of the many mines that operated in this area. The museum is actually built right over an abandoned copper mine. This Terra Nova Mine, as it was called, operated between 1860 and 1864, and again from 1901 to 1915. Some silver and gold were also mined there. The first rail line in Newfoundland was built here in the 1860s to transport ore five kilometers between the five mine shafts and the dock.
Among the museum's displays are samples of virginite, a quartz-carbonate-fuchsite compound. The fuchsite, or chromium mica, gives the mineral its bright green color. It is cut and polished and used for decorative purposes. There are displays on mining equipment, minerals, an 1860s miner's lamp, a kid's pit, a gold panning display, models and aboriginal artifacts. Outside is an old locomotive used at a mine many years ago.
For rock hounds and mineral sleuths, the museum provides great detail for further exploration of the many mine sites and mineral deposits on the peninsula. Nearby, you can climb the hill at Rattling Brook for a spectacular view of a waterfall that plunges down into a boiling pool of spray.
North of Baie Verte at the end of Route 410 is Fleur de Lys and the oldest mine on the peninsula. An interpretation centre here tells this fascinating story. Actually, it's a soapstone quarry (and a protected archaeological site) used certainly by the Dorset people and perhaps by the Maritime Archaic people. They hacked cubes on this soft mineral from a cliff face and used them to make cooking pots, bowls and seal-oil lamps. They also traded it with other groups. Lead, copper, zinc and molybdenum were mined nearby in the early 1900s. There are several hiking trails in the area which offer splendid views of icebergs in season.
On the return trip to Baie Verte, you can take a short side trip to Coachman's Cove, which was first settled by English, and later by the French and Irish. A hiking trial on the south side of the harbour leads to a picnic area. Further along the trail, you can walk to the lighthouse on French Island at low tide.
Just past Baie Verte, Route 414 takes you to the northeastern part of the peninsula. Near the junction of Route 414 and 418 is the site of the now abandoned Rambler Copper Mine which operated from 1904 to 1982. Some gold and silver were also mined here. At the end of Route 418 is Ming's Bight where geologists are exploring for economically viable mineral deposits. There are a small beach, a waterfall and trails. Ming's Bight was the site of Newfoundland's first gold mine, which operated from 1904 to 1906. Called the Goldenville Mine, it yielded only 158 ounces of the precious mineral. There is a marked trail to the mine site.
Heading east you come to Route 417 and the communities of Woodstock and Pacquet. Woodstock has a small picnic park and an excellent salmon river. The headland at Pacquet has a park with a magnificent view of the Horse Islands to the north and any icebergs that drift by. A copper mine once operated here, as well.
Another side trip off Route 414 involves taking unpaved Route 415 to Nipper's Harbour. The most striking natural feature in the community is a rock formation called The Lion, a granite outcrop. There is a Dorset Eskimo site here that is still to be excavated, and two old churches. An aboriginal burial ground is located on an island just offshore.
The next side road is Route 416 to Snooks Arm and Round Harbour. The coastline between Snooks Arm and Nipper's Harbour has a number of abandoned communities, including Bett's Cove, site of the first ore smelter in Newfoundland at the old copper mine there. The mine operated from 1875 to 1885 when a landslide, caused by the removal of ore-rich pillars, ruined the site at the same time copper prices fell. Geologists visit the site for samples of chalcopyrite, iron pyrites and other minerals. There are also some good examples of pillow lava in the area.
To the north of Route 414 on an unpaved road are Harbour Round and Brent's Cove, a pair of fishing communities. Further east and off Route 414 along an unpaved road is Tilt Cove, where copper mines operated from 1864 to 1917 and 1957 to 1967. A prospector named Smith McKay explored the area in 1857 and noticed that fisherman Isaac Winsor was using a large piece of copper ore for ballast. Winsor showed him where he found it and mining began a few years later. Gold, silver and nickel were also mined here.
In 1897, one of a series of stamps issued by Newfoundland to commemorate John Cabot's landing 400 years earlier featured the Tilt Cove mine. It is believed to be the world's first mine motif stamp.
The final two communities along this road are Shoe Cove and La Scie. La Scie was first settled by the French and was part of the French Shore. Its name means ‘saw,’ which refers to the jagged hills surrounding part of the town. A guided tour of the town and surrounding area is available.
There are many other places to see off the beaten track on the peninsula, and one of those is back almost to Route 1. It's a bit hard to spot at first, but there's an old logging road on the east side of Route 410 about 5 kms from its intersection with Route 1 than runs two kilometers over very rough terrain - you'll have to walk - to the spectacular double Black Brook Falls which plunge over an escarpment to the river valley below.
Green Bay and Beothuk Trail
When you leave the Baie Verte Peninsula and take Route 1 eastward, you'll soon come to a low stone wall on either side of the highway that indicates you're in Green Bay. The Green Bay Visitor Information Centre, which houses a craft shop, is located at the intersection of Routes 1 and 390. The staff can also tell you the best sites to spot icebergs, and where to look for shipwrecks. The Green bay area is also noted for its hiking trails.
A side trip along Route 391 takes you to King's Point. There is some farming in this area, and you'll see more of that as you proceed east into Notre Dame Bay. Hikers will be interested in the Alexander Murray Trail, a four-hour jaunt through some pretty rough country over a trail that has been upgraded to international standards. There's a check-in at the start of the trail, which is named for a famed nineteenth-century Newfoundland geologist. At the end of this section of Route 391 is Rattling Brook which has a picnic park that offers a good view of Green Bay from the hiking trail to the top of an 800-foot waterfall. Another section of Route 391 takes you to Nickey's Nose Cove and Harry's Harbour, with its rugged coastal rock formations. Route 392 leads to St. Patricks from where you can take a ferry ride to Little Bay Islands where a network of trails overlooks the community and the coastline.
The main service community in Green Bay is Springdale on Route 390. In George Huxter Municipal Park you'll find a salmon ladder at Indian Falls.
Take Route 390 back to Route 1 and continue on to South Brook and Route 380, The Beothuk Trail, so named because this was an area of Newfoundland once occupied by the now extinct Beothuk aboriginal tribe. Archaeological discoveries at Beachside in 1966 and in the Beothuk Trail area offer evidence of the presence of these aboriginal people.
Each year, when autumn came, the Beothuks would return to the interior of the island and settle on the shores of the Exploits River and Red Indian Lake to spend the winter. In late summer and fall, they would build deer fences on the banks of the Exploits to capture caribou from the herd as it made its migration. These fences were very similar to those erected by an earlier people, the Maritime Archaic Indians, which has prompted speculation that the Beothuks were the descendants of the earlier tribe. The hide and bones were used for clothing and tools, while the meat was smoked.
Just past South Brook you'll see what residents of the area have named the upside down tree because of its inverted shape. Then it's along a high wooded plateau and down the northern slopes of the ridge of Crescent Lake, home of a legendary lake monster nicknamed Cressie. Robert's Arm is one of the larger communities in the area. In the town library is a mini-museum with Maritime Archaic Indian artifacts. This is a good base for exploring the settlements of Pilley's Island, Triton-Jim’s Cove-Card’s Harbour - which has a hiking trail that’s a good place to see whales and icebergs - and Brighton where two more trails provide scenic lookouts. From Pilley's Island you can also visit Long Island and the communities of Lushes Bight and Beaumont by taking the car ferry that operates year round.
Land of the Beothuks
The Beothuk Indians of Newfoundland were called "red Indians" by early European explorers because they painted their bodies with ochre for ceremonies. The coming of Europeans to Newfoundland disrupted the Beothuks' traditional way of life. Gradually, they were squeezed out of their summer coastal villages by newcomers with superior military technology. There were clashes with settlers, many based on mutual misunderstanding of each other's cultures. By the early 19th century the Beothuk were teetering on the brink of extinction, cut off from the coast and wracked by European diseases against which they had no immunity and starvation.
In 1819, one of the last known Beothuks, Demasduit (Mary March), was captured near Red Indian Lake. The following year, ill with tuberculosis, government officials tried to reunite her with her tribe. They were too late. She died in what is now Botwood, and her body was transported to Red Indian Lake.
The last known Beothuk, Shanawdithit, died at St. John's in 1829. She had been captured with her mother and sister in 1823.
The Exploits Valley scenic tour follows, in part, the traditional Beothuk seasonal route between the interior and the coast, and includes major Beothuk attractions. This area is filled with lakes and rivers, making it ideal for canoeing. There is a two-to-four day canoe route to Grand Falls-Windsor, guiding services are available in the area, the fishing is excellent and there is a Canada Goose nesting sanctuary near Buchans.
An unpaved woods road runs south from Route 370 into the heart of Newfoundland and connects eventually with Route 480, which runs from the St. George's River area to Burgeo. If you take this route, be careful: it's a logging road. It is usually open in summer, but is prone to washouts. Ask about the condition of this road before venturing over it.
This tour starts on the shores of Red Indian Lake in the town of Buchans. The town was established in the 1920s to mine copper, lead and zinc. Those mining operations have now ceased. The town has the distinction of being located virtually in the heart of the geographical land mass of the island of Newfoundland, and is farther from the sea than any other community.
Near Buchans Junction, about 31 km from Buchans, is a stone corral built in an area residents call the Laplanders' Bog. It was built by Sami - the aboriginal peoples of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia - who along with their reindeer were brought to Newfoundland by Sir Wilfred Grenfell around 1908 in an attempt to introduce the deer, which are easily domesticated. Some of the reindeer were purchased to haul wood in winter. That experiment failed, and all that remains is the corral where the Sami kept their herd.
From Buchans Junction, a few kilometers drive will take you to Millertown which was named for lumber entrepreneur Lewis Miller.
Heading east again you will travel through a scenic river valley and on to Beothuk Park where a fascinating exhibit recreates the history of early logging in Newfoundland. Visitors can walk through a logging camp and see exhibits that date back to the 1700s. The park is named for the Beothuks, but there are no Beothuk sites here.
Loggers had a hard life, and they had a lingo all their own. A bang belly was a pork and molasses cake made with soda that could be baked, fried or boiled in a stew like dumplings. A peavie was a cart hook for rolling heavy timber. The exhibit includes a barn, a forge, a saw filing shack, a saw pit and a go-devil - a sled with heavy runners used to haul logs over bare ground.
The highway though this beautiful valley follows the Exploits River which was the main access to the sea for Beothuk bands who traveled far into Notre Dame Bay by canoe to hunt seabirds and fish.
The largest town in the area is Grand Falls-Windsor. Located 456 km west of St. John's and 272 km east of Corner Brook, Grand Falls-Windsor is one of the major suppliers of newsprint to world centers. It is the site of Newfoundland's first pulp and paper mill. Established by Lord Northcliffe and Lord Rothermere, it was intended as source of newsprint for their international newspaper interests. The paper mill is now owned and operated by Abitibi-Consolidated.
In Grand Falls-Windsor is Mary March Regional Museum, located on St. Catherine Street in Grand Falls. The museum is named in honour of one of the last of the Beothuks and traces the 5,000-year human history of central Newfoundland through a range of exhibits. There are also exhibits on the complex history and traditions of the other native peoples who lived in the region and traces the development of the later European settlement.
Just behind the museum is a recreation of a Beothuk Village with winter and summer mamateeks, a sweat lodge and other exhibits.
The Exploits Valley Salmon Festival is held here every July and features great entertainment in addition to the food.
The town has one of the most impressive salmon enhancement projects in North America. To visit the Salmonid Interpretation Centre, which is behind the paper mill off Scott Avenue, obtain a map from the Visitor Information Centre on Route 1. Once there, you'll see an impressive salmon ladder which allows migrating salmon to bypass the Grand Falls on their way up the Exploits River to spawn.
The centre is open from mid-June to mid-September and has exhibits on the habitat, history, biology and ecology of the Atlantic salmon. Guided tours are available, and be sure to visit the glass-walled viewing tank in the visitor centre to see the salmon close up. And if you want to go salmon fishing, the Exploits River is a dandy place to wet a line.
Travel east 19 kilometres on Route 1 from Grand Falls-Windsor to Bishop's Falls in the heart of the Exploits Valley. The town was founded by John Bishop, but derives its name from Bishop John Inglis, who visited the falls in 1827. The town's motto `In the middle of the forest we remain' is a clear indication of Bishop's Falls reliance on the forest and its products. The community also had a long relationship with the Newfoundland Railway and was a maintenance depot for the now discontinued ‘Newfie Bullet.’ There is a municipal park on the north bank of the river with a great view of the falls, and a 300-metre trestle over the river.
The Road to Fortune Harbour
Back at Northern Arm, Route 352 will take you through coastal communities in the Bay of Exploits including Phillips Head, named for Joe Phillips, a miner/operator who came in search of iron ore. Here you can still see the remains of a strategic World War II gun battery that was placed here to defend Botwood. The old battery site provides a great view across the bay to Laurenceton.
Point of Bay overlooks the Bay of Exploits and its many islands. The rounded shapes of some islands here and throughout Notre Dame Bay indicates their volcanic origin, and a number of copper mines once operated throughout the bay. On a geological formation known as the `Wild Bight Volcanics,' there were at least five mines. Maritime Archaic Indians occupied some of these islands thousands of years ago, and were succeeded by Groswater and Dorset Eskimos, and then by the Beothuks.
The Europeans soon found that the islands in the bay provided excellent access to cod and salmon, and also provided some protection from attacks by the Beothuks. The Beothuks were gradually squeezed out of their traditional coastal areas. Their occupation of the many islands in the bay is confirmed by at least 28 archaeological finds.
After the Beothuks were displaced, the islands were occupied by settlers from Somerset and other parts of England, and prospered into the 20th century when setbacks in the fishery and a resettlement program prompted many people to abandon the islands for steadier work in the woods industries. Today, only one family occupies a house on an island in the bay year round, although some people go back to summer homes.
Further north on Route 352 are Cottrell's Cove, Fortune Harbour and Moore's Cove, which is at the end of a short unpaved road. Fortune Harbour was the site of a copper mining operation in the 19th century.
To visit communities at the head of the Bay of Exploits, return to Route 1. Norris Arm is on Route 351. People flocked to this area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to work in the logging industry. Before Lewisporte was developed, it was the only town in Notre Dame Bay connected to the railway. There's a beautiful view across the bay to Norris Arm North, which is also known as Alderburn. To reach the north side, return to Route 1 and drive east to the turn-off.
The Road to the Isles
This tour takes you into the scenic reaches and islands of Notre Dame Bay. The Visitor Information Centre at Notre Dame Junction, near the intersection of Route 1 and Route 340, is a good place to start. Here you can obtain information on the ferries to Fogo Island and Change Islands, and find out where the icebergs are. Before taking Route 340, you can take a break at Notre Dame Provincial Park, just east of Notre Dame Junction on Route 1. It's a good spot for a picnic because there are two children's playgrounds and water sports. The park is situated in a grove of birch and aspen and is a pleasant daytime or overnight stop.
Head back to Notre Dame Junction and drive to Lewisporte, 11 kilometres from Route 1. It's a service town with a very suburban feel despite its location on the shores of Notre Dame Bay. From here you can catch the ferry to Cartwright and Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador. Lewisporte is named for Lewis Miller, an enterprising Scotsman who operated a logging company in central Newfoundland. Millertown, another community in this region, is also named for him.
As in many rural communities, a main hub of activity is the Women's Institute. Here, the institute operates the Bye the Bay Museum and the craft shop. The museum's artifacts reflect life in earlier times and include Beothuk arrowheads. Among its most interesting displays are naval architecture plans from the 1805 era, including drawings for a yacht built for the Prince of Denmark and King George III's yacht, Royal Sovereign.
Just down the street from the museum is a train park with the biggest snowplow you'll probably see anywhere. It was attached to the front of the train for trips through exposed areas of the interior that were infamous for their deep snowdrifts.
The town's first settlers are also commemorated here on Main Street. Robert and Elizabeth Woolfrey moved here from Moreton's Harbour in 1876 to establish a church and school. She died that year and her husband died the following year.
The town also has a marina and a municipal park, and during the first weekend in July hosts the Mussel Bed Soiree.
While in this area, be sure to visit Laurenceton at the end of Route 341. This farming community is opposite Phillip's Head on the other side of the Bay of Exploits and was another point in the coastal defence chain during World War II. Today, it's a very quiet community with some of the sweetest air you'll ever smell.
While driving through this area you'll notice firewood cut and stacked near the roads. Take a closer look. Many stacks are in unique patterns that are expressions of the personalities of their owners. The patterns are also identifiable marks of ownership.
North of Lewisporte, Route 342 leads through Embree and Mason's Cove to Little Burnt Bay. This is a good area, in season, to buy lobster.
Back on Route 340, head east through Campbellton and along the coast of Indian Arm. There's a lookout at Indian Cove Neck where you can relax on a sandy beach or hunt the waters for mussels. This is a beautiful area in the fall when the leaves turn red and orange and yellow.
Route 343 takes you up a little peninsula to the farming community of Comfort Cove, which also has a small bird sanctuary.
Returning to Route 340, you will soon arrive at Boyd's Cove. This was the site of a major Beothuk encampment and is now the location of the Beothuk Interpretation Centre. Excavation at the site has shed new light on this tribe. Boyd's Cove was a major Beothuk coastal community between 1650 and 1720, a time when few Europeans ventured onto this part of the Newfoundland coast.
The centre has three main elements: the visitor centre, the archaeological site and a connecting trail system. The centre houses displays that focus on Beothuk cultural history. Its circular architecture recalls shapes traditionally found in Beothuk construction. The trail takes visitors along the perimeter of the archaeological site. Interpretive signage along the trail enables visitors to learn about the key resources in this region of the province.
The end of this trail is not the end of the Beothuk's story. Evidence uncovered in 1994 and 1995 during excavation of an early-seventeenth century English colony at Ferryland on the Avalon Peninsula proves the Beothuks occupied an area not previously believed to have been part of their territory.
After leaving Boyd's Cove you continue on Route 340 and take the first of four causeways that connect Chapel Island, New World Island and Twillingate Island to the "mainland" of Notre dame Bay. Dildo Run Provincial Park on Route 340 contains the remains of an old tramway system that once carried passengers to Virgin Arm where vessels then carried passengers to Twillingate. For many years this was the centre of the Labrador and inshore fisheries in the area. The Twillingate area is where the Slades, Nobles, Earles and Duders, merchants from Poole, England, established trade in the mid 1700s. Once the hub of the lucrative fishery in this part of Notre Dame Bay, Twillingate was so prosperous that it had its own newspaper, `The Twillingate Sun,' and a championship cricket team.
The town's most famous resident was opera singer Georgina Stirling. In the late 1800s, Miss Stirling, who was known professionally as Marie Toulinguet, won acclaim for her performances at the Paris Opera and La Scala, in Milan. Unfortunately her concert career was tragically cut short by voice failure and she returned to Newfoundland to live out her days in her home town. She is buried in St. Peter's Cemetery.
Her story and that of the town is told in the Twillingate Museum in the former Anglican Rectory. Parts of this fine old home have been restored to illustrate an upper class residence at the turn of the century. One of the museum's exhibits is a remarkably preserved 120-year-old child’s tea set. There are also a sealing display and a collection of Maritime Archaic Indian artifacts.
Twillingate and New World Island host the Fish, Fun and Folk Festival which highlights some of the best West Country English dance, song, recitation and music. Held every July, the festival also features crafts, baked goods, picnics and a lively party spirit.
The nearby Long Point Lighthouse, built in 1876, is one of the best places in Newfoundland to see icebergs. Built on a bluff, it overlooks the outer reaches of Notre Dame Bay. You may also catch a glimpse of the huge whales that spend their summers feeding along the coast. There's a small municipal park near the lighthouse.
A much-photographed community near Twillingate is Durrell. This fishing village seems frozen in time with narrow lanes winding close to rough spruce wharves. There's a community museum in the former armory.
And speaking of lanes, you'll probably see street signs with names like Pride's Drong. Also pronounced ‘drung’ and ‘drang,’ this word has survived in English over a thousand years, although its meaning has changed from crowd (throng) to narrow lane.
The Twillingate area is a great place to explore on foot. The town has an interesting collection of older buildings, including the Sons of United Fishermen (SUF) and Orange Association halls. It's a good idea to hire a guide if you plan to hike along the base of the cliffs.
Heading back toward the mainland, take a detour to Moreton's Harbour on Route 345 and the community museum there. Once a thriving commercial centre, it's now a quiet village. High, forested hills tower over the town. Inside the museum are relics from the town's heyday as a fish shipping centre. There are stencils with the names of the markets - Trinidad, Jamaica, Puerto Rico - and the products, such as mackerel fillets.
The town's connection with the sea is still alive. Its marina has shower and laundry facilities for those who arrive by yacht.
The Islands Experience
After touring Twillingate and area, return to the mainland by way of the causeways. Branch off Route 340 onto Route 335, which takes you to Farewell where you can catch a ferry to Change Islands, with a sailing time of 25 minutes, and Fogo Island, which is 50 minutes away.
Located in Notre Dame Bay between Twillingate and Fogo, Change Islands has one incorporated community built along the narrow tickle and the causeway that joins the two largest. There have been people here since the latter half of the eighteenth century when the Labrador fishery rose to prominence. By the beginning of the twentieth century this was a prosperous settlement with a population of more than 1,000 people who fished in the northern waters or worked in the huge merchant premises that lined the shores. Now the numbers have declined to only 450.
In Change Islands little has changed since the last century: there have been motor vehicles here only since 1965! The house styles and the lifestyles here are from another time. White painted, narrow clapboarded homes sit in tidy green gardens. Fishing stages and stores, painted in the traditional red ochre color hug the shore. Small boats chug in and out the harbours and tickles. There's even a general store where you can buy the makings for a picnic, and there's an almost abandoned community at Puncheon Cove that's a perfect place to eat it.
Fogo Island, a mere 25 km long and 14 km wide, was first settled in the 1680s by fishermen who sought refuge from the French raiders terrorizing the East Coast and Beothuks who harassed the Europeans on the mainland of Notre Dame Bay.
Because the original settlement took place in the 1700s and the area remained isolated well into the twentieth century, the descendants of the first inhabitants retained traces of their Elizabethan dialect which can be heard on the island today. Many ancient folk customs brought from England, now disappearing from many outports, continue in the communities on the island.
Along Route 333 you travel through several picturesque communities on the way to the village of Fogo. It was probably named not for the North Atlantic fog but after the Portuguese ‘fuego,’ or fires, which were signs of Beothuk encampments that were frequently seen by early settlers.
Visit beautiful Barr'd Islands on Route 334, a few kilometres from colorful Joe Batt's Arm, named for a deserter from the crew of explorer Capt. James Cook, who charted this coast in 1763. Sandy Cove on Route 334 is the most northeasterly point in Notre Dame Bay and is known for its gorgeous sandy beaches.
This tour takes you to the historic coastal communities of Gander Bay and northern Bonavista Bay. On the way, you will travel through a wilderness of tall trees, blue lakes and crystal-clear streams. In between the settlements, you will find white sandy beaches that stretch on forever and grassy fields that are perfect for picnics.
It all begins at Gander, home of Gander International Airport, the Crossroads of the World. Milepost 213, as the then-isolated location on the rail line was known, was chosen by the British Air Ministry in the 1930s as the site of a new air base because of its low incidence of fog. The anticipated boom in commercial transatlantic air traffic was replaced by wartime traffic.
During the war years, thousands of aircraft passed through Gander en route from North American factories to the battlefront overseas. In addition to its vital role as the refueling base for the massive flow of military aircraft, it served as a key base for convoy escort and coastal patrol aircraft. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery is just east of town on Route 1.
After the war, Gander became the hub of transatlantic commercial airline routes and the townsite was moved from just north of the airport to west of the airport. The old townsite is completely overgrown now, except for the paved streets that cut right through the stands of deciduous trees. It's a good place to walk your dog. There's also a seaplane base near the airport.
Like any airport town, Gander has seen its share of tragedy. Perhaps the most mysterious was the 1985 crash of a plane that took the lives of some 259 members of the U.S. 101st Airborne Regiment. They were returning home from peacekeeping duties in the Middle East and their plane had refueled at Gander. It crashed just after takeoff. The area of the crash is now Peacekeeper Park, about four kilometres east of town on Route 1, where the Silent Witness Memorial stands in memory of the soldiers and crew.
The story of aviation in Newfoundland and Gander is told in the North Atlantic Aviation Museum on Route 1. There are aircraft on display, including a Canadian fighter jet. The international terminal has a variety of exhibits on the history of aviation, including a second floor display of photos and models.
Behind the Visitor Information Centre on Route 1 is Gill's Trail, which provides a great opportunity to get into the woods. The trail has several loops and takes you to the shore of Gander Lake. Gander's winter park - appropriately called The Runway is between Route 1 and gander Lake, and features downhill skiing and snow boarding. Gander also features excellent cross-country ski-trails and a golf course.
Before you start down Route 330, you may want to take Route 1 west for 20 km to the towns of Glenwood and Appleton, home of the Gander Bay boat. These unique craft once took supplies from the rail line down the Gander River to Gander Bay communities. The sturdy boats are still used today by hunting and fishing guides who navigate the river inland. The Gander River is one of the best salmon rivers in the province.
Return to Gander and branch off onto Route 330 to Jonathan's Pond Park which is nestled in a stand of white birch 15 kilometres north of Gander. The park is a favorite haunt of water skiers and salmon anglers. It's also a good place to see the White Admiral and Atlantis Fritillary butterflies.
This scenic tour also takes you through Gander Bay to Carmanville. One of the eeriest attractions along this part of the coast is a rusting ship, the Ahearn Trader, that went aground at Frederickton, at the end of Route 332, in 1960.
Half an hour from Carmanville a road branches off to Ladle Cove and Aspen Cove, two of the prettiest coastal communities along the tour. Aspen Cove, a lobstering community, stretches along the shoreline to the left at the end of 10-minute drive. To the right are Ladle Cove and its old root cellars. A pebble beach and a path stretch along the shoreline. The road is just above the high tide mark. Take a walk here and feel the power of the sea.
At the fishing community of Musgrave Harbour you can visit the Fisherman's Museum. Housed in a building constructed by Sir William Coaker, founder of the Fishermen's Protective Union, this building was the first retail store for fishermen in the area. Just off Musgrave Harbour, the Wadham Islands were used as a navigational guide to the Notre Dame Bay coastline in the early days of sea travel. Captains recited a prose poem to get their bearings from the `Offer Wadhams' Islands, from which the poem took its name. You can obtain details on the area's boat tour at the Spindrift Motel.
There's a long, long beach here and there are several excellent salmon rivers in this area. In winter cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are popular. The beaches attracted migratory fishermen to the area in the 19th century because they offered vast expanses for drying their catch. Today they attract beach volleyball enthusiasts and bird and iceberg watchers.
The municipal park is named for Sir Frederick Banting, the Canadian doctor who helped develop the insulin treatment for diabetes. Banting was killed in a plane crash near the town during World War II. The municipal park also includes an Interpretation centre which details the various aspects of the Banting plane crash.
Beyond Musgrave Harbour is Deadman's Bay, an exposed stretch of sandy beach that is a treasure trove for beachcombers.
The next town along this shore is Lumsden. Originally Cat Harbour, it was renamed for the Rev. James Lumsden, the Methodist minister in the area in 1885. The community as it stands today is fairly new. Its people were resettled from Lumsden South and Lumsden North. This is a good place to buy fresh lobster in season before you carry on along Route 330. At Windmill Bight Park you will find a number of attractions including a shallow fresh water lagoon that's just right for a family swim, and a sandy beach that is perfect for a moonlight stroll. This is a good place to collect delicious mussels.
Nearby, on the exposed terraces of Cape Freels you can follow in the footsteps of the Beothuks who lived here between 1,200 and 1,700 years ago. Both Cape Freels and nearby Newtown are located along a strip of coast known as oceanic barrens. There's no forest cover and lots of fog, but it's also close to fishing grounds and, in spring, seal herds. Oddly enough, it has cooler summers but milder winters than the rest of Newfoundland. At sea level you'll find arctic-alpine plants growing in the same habitat as various southern species. Only on the oceanic barrens will you find this kind of mix.
Newtown, part of the town of New-Wes-Valley, is a remarkable community just off Route 330 that is built on several tiny islands joined by bridges. Here you will find the architectural gem of the Road to the Shore: a Queen Anne-style house built for Alphaeus Barbour in 1904. It's part of the Barbour Living Heritage Village. The wealth generated from seal hunting and fishing made this grand house possible. The three-storey structure was acquired by the local heritage association and was opened to the public for the first time in 1993.
The house has a unique collection of period furniture and artifacts. Its staircase was built by a specialty carpenter imported from England to do the job. In the foyer are poster-size portraits of King Edward VII and his Queen. Upstairs is a suit Mr. Barbour wore only once: when he had an audience with the king. The extent of the family's business is outlined in a series of ledgers.
Newtown was also the home of Captain Job Barbour, a man with a remarkable story. In November of 1929, he was driven off course in a fierce storm while returning from St. John's to Newtown. After forty-eight days of drifting on the North Atlantic, he arrived at Tobermory, Scotland, where he and his crew were given a fine welcome and his schooner was fitted with an engine for the journey homeward. His is just one daring tale along a coast that is famous for its seafarers.
At Wesleyville you can visit the Bonavista North Community Museum and learn more about the people of the Northeast Coast, the hearty souls who developed a unique adaptation to a harsh environment. The museum's most notable artifact is a huge, horse-drawn hearse that the town purchased in 1925. There are also aboriginal artifacts and displays on the fishery and the seal hunt.
This area of Newfoundland is featured prominently in the work of the painter David Blackwood. His dark colors and themes reflect lives of struggle and survival.
A few miles past Valleyfield and Badger's Quay (pronounced ‘key’), Route 320 takes you across a causeway to Greenspond. Once a thriving commercial centre, the now quiet town has a history dating back to the late 1600s. Visit the Community Museum, housed in the old courthouse, which tells of these first English settlers. One bit of advice: Greenspond was invented before the automobile, so it's best to park your car and walk around. That's also a sure way to meet the people who live here.
The tour continues as you wind along the coastal highway of Bonavista Bay, past the colorful towns of Wareham, Centreville, Trinity, Dover and Hare Bay. This is another area of the province where a fall tour has the added bonus of fall colors.
In Gambo is David Smallwood Park. Named for the grandfather of the late Premier Joey Smallwood, this park is built on the Middle Brook River, a scheduled salmon river flowing from the interior to Freshwater Bay. The fishing is great here. One of the park's main attractions is a salmon ladder that permits salmon to bypass a waterfall and go upstream to spawn.
Premier Smallwood was born here and there's a lookout on Route 1, appropriately, Joey's Lookout, that provides a great view of the town. Down in the town there's a statue of Joey, and the Smallwood Interpretation Centre devoted to his life and work.
Logging used to be the main industry here, but a major fire in the early 1960s devastated the forests. The area is still famous for its red pine groves. The sandy terrain contrasts with peat bogs recently drained to grow hardy vegetables.
From the highway lookout where Route 320 connects with Route 1, you can look down on a glacial ‘kame’ deposit which flowed off the sides of glaciers 10,000 years ago. This is an excellent photographic vantage point overlooking the entire river valley.
West of this intersection on Route 1 is Square Pond Park. The kids will love the playground and anglers can fish for landlocked Arctic char unique in Newfoundland. The char are more plentiful in winter during ice fishing season. There are also a boat launch and hiking trails.
The Road to the Beaches
This next region is full of sheltered coves, sandy beaches and sparkling waters. This tour will take you to some of the best spots for water sports in the province. Here you will find rivers to canoe, ponds to fish, inlets to sail and clean, clear pools to swim.
Travel east on Route 1 from Gambo to the growing community of Glovertown which has become the central town in the Alexander Bay area. It offers a wide variety of services, beautiful scenery and warm hospitality.
From here, along Route 310, you can visit Saunders Cove, Traytown and Culls Harbour before doubling back and continuing to the Eastport Peninsula where, in season, fresh vegetables are available from local gardens and greenhouses. Here you'll also find some small amusement parks.
Sandringham is the most westerly point of the peninsula and good fishing can be found in its many ponds and streams. Just a stone's throw along the road is Eastport, a farming community and service centre that is the hub of the peninsula and where you may take your choice of several roads leading to neighboring communities. Eastport is famous from its beautiful sandy beach equipped with change houses, picnic tables and fireplaces. Eastport also hosts a writer’s festival in August.
One very worthwhile side trip from Eastport is a four-kilometer drive north to St. Chads and Burnside where the Burnside Archaeology Centre displays artifacts from the 5,000 year human habitation of the area. The centre operates a boat tour to some of the most important archaeology sites along the coast. And from here you can take the ferry to St. Brendan's, a trip that is filled with terrific photo opportunities. St. Brendan's island was settled by the Irish and the Old Country accent is as strong here as anywhere in Newfoundland.
Return to the main section of the peninsula and continue on Route 310 from Eastport to Salvage, the oldest settlement in the region. Here an old house has been converted into a Community Museum displaying a collection of artifacts that reflect the long history of the place. Don't forget your camera because Salvage is a photographer's dream. This is a good place to sample some foods popular with Newfoundlanders.
Double back on Route 310 and turn south from Eastport to Sandy Cove where the beach is one of Newfoundland's finest. A short distance west of Sandy Cove you will come to Happy Adventure and its two adjacent coves known as Upper and Lower Coves. Besides enjoying the shallow beaches where children can wade in safety, you will indeed have a ‘happy adventure’ with a feast of lobster. Live lobsters can be purchased fresh during the lobstering season in early summer.
Terra Nova National Park
Terra Nova National Park is an excellent vacation base for sightseeing in the east-central region of Newfoundland. The park's 400 square kilometres protect a typical Newfoundland habitat of sheltered bays, rugged shores along the ocean and rolling forested hills with numerous ponds and bogs. Keep an eye out for ospreys, eagles, lynx and moose.
Camping and picnicking facilities abound and there are hiking and nature trails, some with guided tours by park interpreters and others for exploring alone. For those who come to the park by sea, there are excellent docking facilities in inner Newman Sound, and several wharves in the outer coves.
In the Newman Sound area the Activity Centre is where the whole family can take part in games, and see the aquariums and terrainiums, or take in some of the other programs that are offered. And you can take a tour boat, go hiking, go sea kayaking and get information about park activities right here.
Interpreters present informative and entertaining live performances daily in the park. You don't have to be a camper to participate: everyone is welcome. Come on a nature walk, watch a puppet show or visit the outdoor theatre at Newman Sound any night during the summer.
Campers can enjoy Newman Sound campground year round. Full facilities are offered during the summer. There are a grocery store, laundromat, bicycle rentals and other services here. A few kilometres away at Sandy Pond you can rent canoes, kayaks or peddle boats. Although there are no cabins available in the park, there are a wide variety of accommodations just outside the park.
Hikers have no fewer than 16 trails of varying length and difficulty from which to choose. There are short trails, such as that at Malady Head, which takes 45 minutes and is in good, dry condition, to much longer ones that take hours to traverse and are wet in spots. Portions of the Coastal Trail in Newman Sound are wheelchair accessible. There are trails along the shore, through the woods and over the hills. You can see moose, delicate wildflowers and beavers.
The park also offers winter outdoor adventures in cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, winter camping, ice fishing and picnicking. There are approximately 50 km of ski and snowshoe trails, some of them groomed. They range from 2 to 12 kms and from easy to difficult. Winter campers will find tent platforms and an enclosed picnic shelter with a wood stove and firewood at the Newman Sound campground, and winter camping is free. There is both freshwater and salt water ice fishing. A park license is required for freshwater ice fishing.
Primitive camping sites are available to the canoeist, boater and hiker. In summer you can take the Ocean Watch boat tour to a coastal camping site, returning the next day by the tour boat or along a hiking trail. There are also opportunities for scuba diving, interpretive marine tours and golfing at an 18-hole course set amid spectacular scenery.
There are even two communities within the park. Located approximately 16 km along unpaved Route 301, is Terra Nova, a quiet farming community where boating and canoeing are favorite activities. A little further east of the intersection of Route 301 and Route 1, a brief detour will take you toward the coastal community of Charlottetown. This pretty town is now a popular vacation spot. In the last century its rich forests and excellent harbour and shipping facilities made it a lumbering centre for Bonavista Bay.
Outport Adventure Cruise - Part 1
The Southwest Coast by Boat
From Rose Blanche you can take a coastal boat - passengers only - to La Poile and Grand Bruit, two isolated communities on the south coast. The coastal boat operates six days a week, and once a week continues on to Burgeo, three hours from Grand Bruit, from where there are road connections (Route 480) to the rest of Newfoundland and coastal boat connections to other communities as far east as Hermitage-Sandyville, where you can pick up Route 364. Contact the operators for sailing times.
Tip: When travelling the south coast, it's always a good idea to plan everything in advance because the remote communities' only transportation link is the coastal boat. Fares are very modest.
It's about a 90-minute boat trip from Rose Blanche to La Poile, a fishing community of fewer than 200 residents. Its name comes from the French words "les poiles," or soldiers who patrolled the area to discourage permanent settlement by people from St. Pierre, the French territory just off the Newfoundland coast, who fished here and cut timber to supplement the meagre forests on St. Pierre and nearby Miquelon.
Another hour east is Grand Bruit. Its name means, in French, "great noise," which is exactly what is generated by the water falling over a 305-metre high cliff near the community. Typically, south coast communities are tiny hamlets that sit at the base of towering cliffs.
Outport Adventure Cruise - Part 2
Tiny Towns, Towering Cliffs
In summer the coastal boat sails from Burgeo to Grey River and Francois five days a week. On Thursday it sails from Burgeo to Francois, McCallum and Hermitage-Sandyville. A separate ferry sails between Burgeo, Ramea and Grey River every day.
Ramea, an island community, is 20 km southeast of Burgeo, and the crossing time is about 80 minutes. More than a thousand people live here. The community's name is believed to be derived from the French word for branches and refers to the island's many streams. Ramea was known to early sailors and was an early fishing station. American fishermen held rights here, and in other places along the Newfoundland coast, in the early 19th century. Ship building and outfitting were major industries here, and the local trading company did business in Europe, the West Indies and South America.
Grey River, a community of just more than 200 people, is backed by hills that rise to 1,000 feet (305 metres.) A spectacular narrow passage leads to a sheltered basin. This community was originally called Little River, and when measles broke out here in the early 1900s, the people wired St. John's for medicine. It was dispatched, but was sent to another community called Little River on the northeast coast. Many people died as a result of the mixup, and after that disaster the name was changed to Grey River.
Next along the coast is Francois, which the residents pronounce `Fransway.' Just more than 200 people live here on a narrow strip of land at the head of a fjord. The town is completely hidden from the sea. The big hill behind the village is called The Friar. There are few trees and no land for farming, but the rich fishing grounds nearby sustained the community.
McCallum is the next stop. Nearby islands provide its harbour with good shelter. The French fished this area in the 1500s, but the community is named for the man who was governor of Newfoundland from 1898 to 1901. Before the Europeans came here, it's likely that aboriginal peoples fished here. Permanent settlement began after the Seven Years' War when St. Pierre was ceded to France and the English merchants there had to resettle along Newfoundland's south coast. In summer a coastal boat sails from McCallum to Gaultois and Hermitage every day.
Gaultois, pronounced ‘gaultus,’ is located on a large island in Hermitage Bay. With a population of more than 500, this is one of the larger communities along the coast. Gaultois was first settled by the French and its name is believed to be an old Norman word for pinnacles, of which there are several in the area. The area was also occupied by aboriginal inhabitants perhaps two thousand years ago or more. Like other communities along the coast, Gaultois has had a winter fishery because this section of coast is ice-free year round. There are no roads in the town.
Hermitage-Sandyville is located on the east side of a deep fjord called Hermitage Bay, and from here Route 364 connects with other roads on the Connaigre Peninsula and with Route 360 that takes travellers from the south coast north to Newfoundland’s central region.
Outport Adventure Cruise - Part 3
Bay L'Argent is the eastern terminus of the coastal boat service to the remote Fortune Bay community of Rencontre East and west to Pool's Cove in the Coast of Bays area (see South Coast). "Rencontre" is the French word for "meeting place," and it’s likely French fishermen came here for bait and wood long before permanent English settlement in the 1830s because the coast here is sheltered from the ocean by some islands. The community has a series of hiking trails, including one to the top of Arial Hill, which is about 1,100 feet high.
Rose Blanche Lighthouse Scenic Drive
This tour takes you from the ferry terminal at Port aux Basques to the Rose Blanche lighthouse 45 km to the east along Route 470. On this side trip you will see dark cliffs, crashing waves, spume and spray. The real spirit and traditions of outport Newfoundland survive in the small fishing villages that cling tenaciously to the rocky, exposed shores of the southern coastal plain.
The Rose Blanche lighthouse has one of the best scenic views of the Cabot Strait. A three-year reconstruction of the granite lighthouse, which went into service in 1873, was completed in 1999.
Early mariners like Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Jacques Cartier and Captain John Mason explored this rugged coast more than 400 years ago. Many of the community names in the area are English versions of the original French or Basques names given them by the area's first settlers. Rose Blanche is named for the white granite - in French rock is roche, and in English roche has been changed to rose - that the community is built on.
Rose Blanche is the western terminus for the coastal boat that services isolated communities along Newfoundland's south coast. From here you can catch a boat six days a week to La Poile and Grand Bruit where you can experience a different kind of lifestyle. There is also a trip from Grand Bruit to Burgeo, further east, on the day when Rose Blanche is not serviced Other boats from Burgeo travel east to Hermitage-Sandyville.
After leaving Rose Blanche and heading west, Harbour Le Cou, celebrated in the Newfoundland folk song of the same name, also bears witness to the French element on this shore. Along Route 470, you will pass through a number of small fishing communities including Diamond Cove, and Burnt Islands. Be sure to explore the unique heath-covered terrain of coastal Newfoundland before you continue on to Isle aux Morts, or Island of the Dead. This community earned its macabre name because of the number of marine disasters that happened in the treacherous waters offshore.
This coastal area has a long history of death and disaster, with the wrecks of no fewer than 40 ships said to be lying at the bottom of the Cabot Strait. These tragedies have given rise to many traditional songs and stories of lost ships and courageous rescues at sea. There is none as moving as the true story of George Harvey, his son and his daughter, Ann. In 1828, these brave residents of Isle aux Morts saved nearly the entire complement of passengers and crew from the sinking Despatch by stringing a lifeline from the ship to the shore with the help of their valiant Newfoundland dog. The local heroes' courage was recognized by King George IV who awarded the Harveys a medal of bravery.
After passing the community of Margaree-Fox Roost, it's back to Channel-Port aux Basques. Situated on the southwest coastal plain, this was a fishing station for the French, Portuguese and Basques as early as the 16th century. While it is named for the Basques, it was hardly their only port: research in Spanish archives uncovered information that Basques whalers and fishermen occupied at least seven islands on Newfoundland's west coast and in southern Labrador. Port aux Basques is the principal Marine Atlantic ferry terminal in the province. There's a boardwalk between the ferry terminal and Scott's Cove Park where you can stretch your legs.
The community museum houses two rare 17th century astrolabes, early marine navigational instruments - only 33 are known to exist worldwide - and both were found by a local diver. The Gulf Museum also boasts a 100-year-old diving suit.
While in Port aux Basques you can also visit Memorial Park featuring monuments for the S.S. Caribou and World Wars I and II. Before getting back on Route 1, drop by the Railway Heritage Centre for a guided tour of the restored train filled with artifacts from a century ago.
Channel-Port aux Basques is the western end of T'Railway Provincial Park, a 545-mile jaunt through the wilderness that follows the abandoned Newfoundland Railway line all the way to St. John's. It's part of the Trans-Canada Trail.
Just west of Port aux Basques are the beaches at Grand Bay West, home to the endangered Piping Plover. These are among the best of the relatively few sandy beaches in Newfoundland. Here also you will find another feature rare in Newfoundland: salt marshes. These marshes attract many different kinds of shorebirds and waterfowl because of their lush growth. This southwestern corner of Newfoundland is a great place to see birds during the spring and fall migrations.
Codroy Valley International Wetlands
Migratory Waterfowl Stopover
A 10-minute drive from Port aux Basques north on Route 1 takes you to J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park where the shoreline offers a stretch of sheltered beach with soft powdery sand. The park is a good place to see the Piping Plover, an endangered bird species with only 500 or so in Atlantic Canada and fewer than 5,000 in total worldwide. Cheeseman Park, Grand Bay West, Searston and Sandy Point (further north near St. George's) all have sandy beaches the plovers favour and are recommended viewing areas. But please don't disturb these birds.
Look here also for the Common Loon, Murre, Canada Goose and Pine Grosbeak. You'll also find the White Admiral and Atlantis Fritillary butterflies. There's a 2-km trail called Smokey Cape, named for the windblown surf found at the beach parking lot which creates a "smokey" effect. Take a walk along the beach to search for surf clams and dogwinkles. The beach is really a barachois, or sand dune.
The gravel road through the park meets paved Route 408, which takes you to the community of Cape Ray three km from Route 1, one of three capes forming the triangular points of the Island of Newfoundland. Situated between the Cape Ray lighthouse and the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a site that was used as a summer hunting camp by the Dorset people from 420 B.C. to 385 A.D.
Cape Ray was also the site of the first submarine telegraph cable in Newfoundland. Laid in 1856, this project was the last link in the communication chain that joined St. John's to New York and connected Newfoundland with the rest of North America.
After a visit to the cape, you can sunbathe or windsurf at nearby Cape Ray Sands, or you can drive up a gravel road to Red Rocks, a former farming and fishing community with a handful of residents. There's a spectacular view from the 1,000-foot high Sugar Loaf behind Red Rocks.
Take Route 408 back to Route 1. The highway now climbs steadily north along the province's West Coast. The terrain changes dramatically and the low-lying barrens give way to the southwest section of the Long Range Mountains, a part of the ancient Appalachian escarpment. Throughout this region you will see spectacular mountain scenery and encounter ridges to challenge the imagination and the skill of amateur rock scramblers.
These ancient mountains are full of surprises such as Table Mountain, a 518 m geological oddity that has been known to literally take your breath away. You can see it from Cheeseman Park. Hurling gale force winds down from its summit to the stunted weather-beaten forest below, the moody Table Mountain sometimes raises gusts exceeding 160 km/h which disrupt highway traffic and were known to derail the now discontinued trains. Little wonder this area is called Wreck House! Table Mountain is accessible by a trail. During World War II, the United States built a radar station, an air strip and assorted buildings on top of the mountain.
In the valley below Table Mountain was the home of Lauchie MacDougall, the famous human wind gauge. Lauchie was under contract to the Newfoundland Railway to determine whether the area was passable for trains on any given day and to notify them if the gusts were too high. After his death in 1965, his wife continued the work until 1972. Today, truckers rely on CB radios and word-of-mouth for news about the wind.
Continue on Route 1 to its intersection with Route 407, about 35 km from Port aux Basques. You are now entering the Codroy Valley, one of the best farming areas in the province. The Codroy Valley was one of the earliest settled sections of the West Coast. French colonists arrived in the 1700s and were later joined by Scots and Channel Islanders from across the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Scots settled in the fertile valley south of the Anguille Mountains and their descendants still farm some of the best agricultural land on the island.
Route 407 takes you on a pleasant ride south along the Little Codroy River to St. Andrews, where the agricultural landscape contrasts with the Long Range Mountains in the background. The mountains also provide a magnificent backdrop for a 9-hole golf course. In St. Andrews, take the road toward Upper Ferry and cross the Grand Codroy River. At the intersection of Routes 406 and 407, is the Old Codroy Carding Mill that operated between 1893 and 1965, and is now restored as a working museum. Continue on through Codroy to the end of Route 407 and Cape Anguille, the most westerly point of the island of Newfoundland. Shaded by the Anguille Mountains to the east, the cape boasts a spectacular view from its lighthouse, which was built in 1905 following a marine disaster. Before leaving Codroy be sure to drop by the Holy Trinity Anglican Church which held its first service back in 1914.
On the return trip, take Route 406 to the Grand Codroy Wildlife Museum and Art Gallery. Here, you can see Newfoundland's largest mounted moose along with more than 300 different species of animals, birds and fish beautifully set in their natural surroundings. A little further on Route 406, you will find the Grand Codroy RV Camping Park. This park, with some fully-serviced sites, is situated on the banks of the Grand Codroy River and offers large, level fully serviced sites, grassy tenting sites and a unique walking trail ideal for bird watchers.
The Grand Codroy Ramsar Site is recognized by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. The 925 hectare area at the mouth of the Grand Codroy River consists of a large coastal estuary containing flats, sand bars exposed at low tide and sand spits covered by dune grass. Portions of the wetlands are covered by thick eel grass. There are also four small islands in the wetlands. The estuary provides habitat for large flocks of Canada Goose and Black Duck, and smaller numbers of Pintail, Green-Winged Teal, American Wigeon and Greater Scaup. Newfoundland's west coast is a north-south flyway for many migrating birds, and the wetlands provide food and a resting stop in spring for northbound birds that have just crossed the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and in fall a stopover for the return flight south. It's also a good place to see rarities blown off course during migration.
There is an interpretation centre directly on the estuary and an interpretation trail running along the banks of the Grand Codroy River, an easy restful walk from the interpretation centre to Grand Codroy Park. Interpretation panels enhance the understanding of estuaries, ecosystems, species adaptation and models for environmental stewardship. The centre also provides ongoing educational programs and interactive exhibits that provide visitors, especially young children, with an opportunity to learn in a hands-on way.
Anglers should bring their flies and tackle when visiting this area because the Grand Codroy and Little Codroy are scheduled salmon rivers.
Three Rivers Scenic Drive / Sandy Point Lookout Scenic Drive
Rivers and St. George's Bay
The Caribou Trail
The Road to Burgeo
A few kilometres past Barachois Pond Provincial Park is the intersection with Route 480 - the aptly named Caribou Trail - which winds 148 kilometres through the forests and barrens of the rugged interior to the south coast community of Burgeo. This is an excellent area to see some of the 60,000 woodland caribou that inhabit Newfoundland.
Burgeo is one of the largest towns on the south coast of Newfoundland. The name of the town was originally Portuguese "virgio," which evolved in two stages into Burgeo. It's about 95 km east of Port aux Basques, and can also be reached by coastal boat from Rose Blanche on Route 470. Burgeo is located on an island connected to the main portion of Newfoundland by a short causeway. Settled by Europeans in the 1700s, it has grown into a major service and transportation centre for the western half of the south coast. From here you can get a coastal boat west to Grand Bruit, La Poile and Rose Blanche, and east to Ramea, Grey River, Francois, Macallum and Gaultois.
A main attraction in the area is Sandbanks Provincial Park. Sand dunes are relatively rare in Newfoundland, but you'll find them here. These fragile dunes are covered by grass and beach pea, and are easily eroded, so please stay on the trails. Plants and animals that tolerate both fresh and salt water are found here. Salt water flows up Grepsey Brook to Heron Pond at high tide, while the reverse happens at low tide. The park is also a good place to see shore birds like sandpipers and water fowl such as ducks and geese. Sea kayakers will find this an excellent place to dip a paddle.
Coast of the Bays
Undiscovered and Unspoiled
The central region of Newfoundland also includes a portion of the south coast. Take Route 360 which intersects with Route 1 just east of Bishop's Falls. It's a 90-minute drive through the interior wilderness to the intersection of Route 361. Along the way you might see moose because a large section of the forest is regrowing following a fire in the late 1970s.
Route 361 goes to Head of Bay d'Espoir, or ‘Head of Bay’ as the residents call it. Bay D'Espoir is an old French name meaning bay of hope and is, ironically, pronounced `bay despair.' The hydro plant here generates about 40 per cent of the power used on the Island of Newfoundland. The plant is located to take advantage of the momentum generated by the immense watershed area of the Central Newfoundland plateau as it flows to the sea. The power plant is usually open to visitors.
Nearby is the largest salmon and trout hatchery in Newfoundland, which also accepts visitors. There are more than one million trout and salmon at various stages of development in both indoor and outdoor tanks. It's located near the hydro plant to take advantage of heat generated by the turbines. Very young salmon can't survive in cold water, so warm water from the hydro plant is pumped to the hatchery.
The sea cages where larger salmon are grown to marketable size are located in Roti Bay about 15 kilometres west of the fish farm in St. Alban's. This is a very pretty community that is a service and shopping centre for the area and also has an airstrip. The town is at the placid head of a long inlet and is a great place for a hike. Like many communities along Newfoundland's rugged south coast, St. Alban's occupies flat land on the seaside base of a high escarpment.
The other communities in the Bay d'Espoir area include Milltown, Morrisville, St.Veronica's and St. Joseph's Cove. On Tailrace Road near St. Veronica's the fish-out pond has angling for steelhead trout from July to September. All along Route 361, there are places to stop for fresh lobster and there are a number of scenic lookouts, as well.
Back on Route 360, proceed south to Route 365 which leads to the Mi'Kmaq community of Conne River. This enterprising town has developed a bustling lumber industry while preserving many tribal crafts. The community holds an annual pow-wow each summer. Newfoundland Mi'Kmaq traditions and culture are not well known, even among Mi'Kmaqs in other parts of Canada. The pow-wow allows visitors to experience Mi'Kmaq culture first hand, and to learn more about the traditions and cultures of the other aboriginal groups from North America who attend.
Jipujijkuei Kuespem (Little River Pond) Park is located nearby, back on Route 360, and is run by the band council in Conne River. If you wish to travel into the Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve, you can obtain a free entrance permit here. Staff can also tell you about the various access points to the reserve. Obtain a copy of the reserve user's guide from any Parks or Wildlife office before venturing into the reserve. The reserve offers an excellent opportunity to view wildlife and canoe.
About 35 kilometres south of the road to Conne River, Route 362 branches off the main road. Eight km further south, another road branches off to the east to nearby Pool's Cove, from where you can take a coastal boat east to isolated Rencontre East and Bay L'Argent on the Burin Peninsula. (See An Outport Adventure Cruise in Eastern Region Scenic Tours.)
The next community south on Route 362 is Belleoram, one of the several picturesque communities perched on the sea-swept South Coast. Famous for its participation in the Grand Banks fisheries, the community is mentioned in historical reports as early as 1759. The origins of the name, now lost in obscurity suggest `a meeting or calling together of troops,' perhaps dating from the early French-English conflicts in this part of the New World.
Several small communities, all rich in local folklore, are accessible from Route 363. One of these, English Harbour West, is known throughout Canada as a supplier of first-rate knitted goods. Lobster is also a major export from this area. This is a good area for hiking, and English Harbour Mountain provides a great view of Fortune Bay.
Another community, Boxey, was famous in colonial times for a `spy hole' in a rock formation which was used to navigate safely amid treacherous rocks to the St. John's Bay area. It was here, according to local legend, that a man named Jacob Penney and his companion, Simon Bungay, ran aground. They were said to have been tricked by spirits off Boxey Head while on a treasure hunt to haunted Deadman's Bight, just up the coast. As the story goes, the two arrived late because of their misfortune and just caught a glimpse of the treasure as it slid behind a rock door in the bight, never to be recovered again.
Head back to Route 360, where a spectacular drive awaits you. The highway climbs up and over steep hills and passes through several different vegetation zones as you approach the ocean. Forested interior gives way to oceanic barrens interspersed with stands of trees growing in more sheltered areas of the highlands. The lakes are picture perfect, and some shorelines are dotted with cabins.
At the head of Connaigre Bay the highway forks where the land is divided by the deep fjord called Hermitage Bay. Follow Route 364 to Hermitage-Sandyville. The two small communities have grown into one over the years. There's a sandy beach at Sandyville.
From Hermitage you can catch a coastal boat to Gaultois and communities west to Rose Blanche. (See Outport Adventure Cruise in Western Region Scenic Tours.) The highway beyond Hermitage takes you to the tiny villages of Dawson's Cove and Seal Cove. An unpaved road then extends to Pass Island.
Now it's on to Harbour Breton, the old capital of Fortune Bay. Take Route 364 back to its intersection with Route 360 and drive south. It would be hard to improve on a visiting bishop's description of the community in 1848. It was, he said, a "picturesque harbour, so completely land-locked that a stranger could hardly guess the passage to the sea, and surrounded by hills of bold and fantastic outline." The hills at the back of this community - and other along the south coast - range from 200 to 1,000 feet in height and seem like mini-mountains when you're driving over them.
Harbour Breton, with a population of 2,500, is one of the oldest and largest centres on the south coast, having been first settled by French fishermen from Placentia in the 1600s and later taken over by the English. In the 19th century, commercial life was dominated by the Newman firm, whose name is familiar to those who have sipped Newman's port wine.
In this century it has remained a fishing centre, and its old-fashioned spruce wharves are piled high with lobster pots in late summer. The community has grown quite a bit through resettlement of more remote harbours along the coast. There are a couple of trails in the town, including one to the hidden beaches at Deadman’s Cove.
The French Ancestor's Route
This tour will take you off Route 1 onto the Port au Port Peninsula via Stephenville. On the peninsula you will encounter a vibrant and exciting culture that dates back to the days when the French colonial fishing fleet used these shores. The traditions, lifestyle and heritage of those early settlers still dominate this small pocket of French-speaking communities with such names as Cap St-George, La Grand'Terre (Mainland) and L'Anse-a-Canards (Black Duck Brook.)
Take either Route 490 or 460 from Route 1 through Stephenville to a part of Newfoundland once referred to as The French Shore, a large stretch of coastline where France held fishing and processing rights until 1904. At one time the French Shore included all of the territory from Cape Bonavista to Cape Ray. Stephenville, the main service centre for the St. George's-Port au Port area, was originally known as Indian Creek. It was renamed by a group of Acadian settlers in 1844 for one of their party, Stephen LeBlanc. Stephenville came into its own during World War II when the United States government built Harmon Air Force base on the outskirts of the town. The base is now part of the town's industrial park.
Stephenville has an international schedule alternate use airport, a modern newsprint mill and a population of more than 10,000. During July and early August, the Stephenville Theatre Festival attracts theatre buffs from all over. Its plays range from original works to professional quality productions of Broadway hits.
A rewarding side trip on Route 462 off Route 460 takes you to Fox Island River. Half way along this road is the Point au Mal lookout, which provides an unexcelled view of Port au Port Bay. The stretch of sandy shore is perfect for beach combing. Geologists and rock hounds will want to take another short drive off Route 460 to Lead Cove where a small cave is all that remains of an early lead mining operation.
The Port au Port Peninsula is one of many geologically interesting parts of the province, and such minerals as marcasite, galena and calcite are found here. The most recent find is oil which may be commercially developed. However, the main economic mineral is the limestone that was quarried at Aguathuna for use in steel mills. The quarry also holds 350 million-year-old Mississippian fossils in a huge and rare column of coquina limestone.
Return to Route 460 and travel west to Campbells Creek - named for its first settler - and through picturesque fishing communities where the traditional way of life is carried on much as it has been for centuries. Photographers will love Abrahams Cove, Jerry's Nose and Ship Cove, which probably got its name from the many ships that went aground in the area. Continue on through Lower Cove to Sheaves Cove where just a short distance from the highway you will see a waterfall and spectacular wave-cut terraces.
Then it's on through March Point, DeGrau and Red Brook to Cap St-George, the heart of French Newfoundland. Every summer the people of the peninsula host French folk festivals that celebrate their heritage. In recent years these festivals have attracted traditional musicians, singers and dancers from all over the province and a host of visitors and performers from the Maritime Provinces, Quebec and the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. Things to see include the remains of the lighthouse that was destroyed by fire in 1931, and the small park at Land's End, which is a great place to take photos of the coastline.
From Cape St. George drive to Mainland, a community that is more than 200 years old, from where you can see Red Island, named by Captain James Cook in 1767 when he noticed its reddish-colored cliffs. Red Island was used as a fishing station by the Basques in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and then by French fishermen from St. Pierre, Brittany and the Acadian communities in Nova Scotia until early this century. Mainland was settled by emigrants from France and runaways from the French navy who found their way to this and other tiny hamlets on the peninsula. The descendants of these first settlers still live here and in such communities as Lourdes, Winterhouse and Black Duck Brook.
The peninsula's coastline has several unusual features, such as the rocks at Three Rock Cove, just past Mainland, that give the community its name. On the northern edge of the peninsula is appropriately named Long Point that juts out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. To reach it, continue on through Black Duck Brook.
At Piccadilly on Route 463 between West Bay Centre and Piccadilly, there's a sandy shore and a hiking trail along the shoreline. As you make your way back toward Route 1, you will notice the peculiar shape of the Port au Port Peninsula. Residents of Port au Port, which is located on the narrowest part of the isthmus, enjoy the luxury of being able to fish in both Port au Port Bay and St. George's Bay.
The Port au Port Peninsula will be one of the main celebration areas in 2004 when Newfoundland and Labrador celebrates 500 years of French culture. Records show that the French came to here in 1504, and dominated the fishery for two centuries.
Captain Cook's Trail
Corner Brook and Humber Arm
About one hour's drive from Stephenville, Corner Brook is located at the mouth of the Humber River, one of the province's most beautiful scenic areas. The city has a population of 22,000 and is a bustling industrial centre with a huge pulp and paper mill built in the 1920s. The city has many facilities for the traveler - hotel and motel accommodations, restaurants and nightspots as well as historic sites and an Arts and Culture Centre. It's also known for some of the best salmon fishing anywhere in the Humber River, and hosts an international triathlon each year.
Experienced rock climbers will find plenty of challenges, and the city has many natural scenic attractions including Margaret Bowater Park, a picnic and recreational facility situated in a wooded river valley that runs to Humber Arm, near the city's pulp and paper mill. But it's February that Corner Brook has become famous for. Its Winter Carnival is the high point in a winter-long skiing adventure centered on Marble Mountain, just a 10-minute drive east of the city. Marble has some of the best and most reliable skiing in eastern North America. Downhill and cross-country enthusiasts, snow boarders - and even back-country heliskiing fans - have discovered the great hills and trails and snow. Anyone who appreciates winter will want to visit Marble Mountain when it's in its glory.
Corner Brook is a good base from which to explore the surrounding countryside, whether you're driving or bicycling. Certainly, Capt. James Cook found it an excellent base when he charted this part of the coast in 1767. Cook was marine surveyor of Newfoundland from 1763 to 1767. His detailed charts made life safer for mariners, and his work was so good that many of his charts can still be used today. Cook's maps were published in winter between his voyages, and were the first to use accurate triangulation. Cook also discovered that feeding his men citrus fruits prevented scurvy. He went on to explore much of the pacific and was killed in Hawaii in 1779.
On Crow Hill in the Curling area you will find the Captain James Cook Memorial lookout. It provides a panoramic view of Corner Brook and the Bay of Islands area. Another attraction is Prince Edward Park, a pleasant municipal facility situated near the mouth of the Humber River.
Route 450, along the southern shore of Humber Arm, is a twisting highway that, in many places, had to be blasted through solid rock when it was constructed in the 1960s.
The Corner Brook-Bay of Islands area is blessed with a series of fine hiking trails of various lengths and degrees of difficulty. Ask for information at the Visitor Information Centres in Western Newfoundland. As you drive along this sheltered arm of the Bay of Islands, you can look to the left to see weather-worn ridges that extend inland to form a low mountain plateau and watershed.
On the far horizon the Lewis Hills, peaking at 815 meters, is where you'll find the highest point of land on the Island of Newfoundland. The Serpentine River and Lewis Hills area has no highway access but, with an experienced guide, the serious naturalist can enjoy a 2-to-3-day wilderness hike through these spectacular mountains.
Further west are the small communities from Halfway Point to Frenchman's Cove. A few kilometres more brings you to the Bay of Islands and an opportunity to view and photograph Guernsey, Tweed and Pearl islands which rise high out of the surrounding sea to give the area its name. Near Lark Harbour - named by Capt. Cook for one of his ships - at the road's end you may want to bargain for a meal of seafood or visit Blow Me Down Provincial Park, a small campground with a nature trail and picnic/recreation facilities.
Admiral Palliser's Trail
North Shore of the Bay of Islands
Sir Hugh Palliser was a governor of Newfoundland in the 18th century, and the man who sent Captain James Cook to survey the west coast of the island. The highway along the north shore of Humber Arm, Route 440, is named for him, and takes visitors into an area great for hiking and birdwatching.
The road passes through some very scenic areas, and such towns as Irishtown and McIver's, where there's an Arctic Tern colony on an offshore island, before reaching the end of the road at Cox' Cove.
Aboriginal peoples from what is now Quebec and Nova Scotia trapped here before the Europeans arrived. From about the early 1700s onward, fishing was the mainstay of the economy, supplemented by small-scale farming and logging. When a paper mill was built in nearby Corner Brook in the 1920s, many people went to work there, but the communities weren’t connected to the city until a road was built in the 1950s.
Skiing and Salmon Fishing
When you leave Corner Brook travelling east on Route 1, keep a look out for The Old Man in the Mountain on the rock face overlooking Shellbird Island. It is said the face on the cliff guards an undiscovered hoard of pirate treasure. Shellbird Island is situated in the Humber River Valley, the main arterial route between the granite hills surrounding Corner Brook and the only transportation link for east-west land traffic in the area. Captain James Cook explored this river valley in 1767.
Ten minutes east of Corner Brook is Marble Mountain Ski Resort in Steady Brook. The mountain gets 16 feet of snow a year, on average, making Marble one of the best ski hills in eastern Canada. Climb the steep forest path to view magnificent Steady Brook Falls.
The community itself, nestled among sloping wooded hills, is a good place to make roadside purchases of fresh fruit and vegetables in season. Each year the farmers of the valley hold a Strawberry Festival.
Long before skiing became popular, Corner Brook was known for salmon fishing in the world famous Humber River. Since last century, salmon anglers have taken advantage of the slow deep steadies to cast for the champion Atlantic salmon. The mighty Humber still defines the difference between fishing and great fishing. A list of fishing guides is available at the nearest Visitor Information Centre.
Eastward along Route 1 is Pasadena, a growing community nestled on the shores of Deer Lake.
Carry on to Deer Lake, a logging community that was first settled in the 1860s. At the western end of town on the right side of the highway is the hydroelectric station originally built to power the mill at Corner Brook. Today, the town is a distribution centre for the Great Northern Peninsula. For picnics, there is a municipal park on the lakeshore. The park also has campsites. For recreation, there's a golf course on the banks of the Humber. At the nearby Visitor Information Centre, located on Route 1, you can get information about attractions in the area and about the Viking Trail.
Deer Lake Airport has flights within the province and connections to Toronto and Montreal. The town has comfortable hotel/motel accommodations and is 72 km from camping and trailer sites at Gros Morne National Park.
The Route to Newfoundland's World Heritage Sites
An automobile cruising the Viking Trail is really a time machine that takes you to the beginnings of our planet, ancient native burial grounds, and the thousand-year-old Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site. Travel through wooded valleys, over mountains, along a windswept seacoast. This tour can take from two to ten days. Take your time, for time will tug you gently along the Trail, urging side trips to fjords and falls, sand dunes and fields of wildflowers.
The Viking Trail begins at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 430 near Deer Lake. Almost immediately there's an intriguing attraction to visit: the Newfoundland Insectarium in Reidville. Here, all sorts of bugs - both live and mounted - from around the world are on display. The live displays include a butterfly house.
A side trip on Route 422 takes you to the agricultural community of Cormack. Named after the famous Newfoundland explorer William Epps Cormack, the first European to walk across the island's interior, this area was settled in the late 1940s by veterans of World War II. Families with previous farming experience who were willing to relocate were given 20 hectares of land, a six-room bungalow, and money for the construction of a barn, purchase of livestock and equipment, and to buy supplies for the first winter. Today, the descendants of these people, and others who discovered this fertile region, are growing vegetables and some of the sweetest strawberries you'll ever eat.
Beyond Cormack on the unpaved portion of Route 422 you'll find Sir Richard Squires Memorial Provincial Park. The park protects one of the most beautiful parts of the Humber River. Big Falls offers a unique natural attraction. Atlantic salmon have to make their way over this barrier if they are to spawn in the river above. During the summer months, you can see these large fish leap out of the water as they attempt to scale the falls. Often they have to jump again and again and succeed only after hours of futile attempts.
Back on Route 430, drive to Wiltondale, the gateway to Gros Morne National Park. Perhaps the best way to put the park into perspective is to say that it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That designation puts it on a par with such natural wonders as Australia's Great Barrier Reef. With its fjords, mountains and spectacular ocean scenery, Gros Morne offers unexcelled opportunities for outdoor activities and sightseeing.
Glacial scraping and erosion formed the breathtaking landscape that makes this a paradise for the outdoors enthusiast and camper. The park, open year round, has hiking trails to meet the skills of the novice as well as those of the experienced long-distance walker. Rock scrambling, sightseeing, boating, swimming, camping and fishing are just some of the recreational activities in which the visitor may participate.
Proceed along Route 430 through Wiltondale where both forks in the road lead to the park.
Gros Morne Tablelands Scenic Drive
Route 431 takes you to Trout River and the Tablelands, while Route 430 continues into the northern section of the park. On Route 431 is Lomond River Campground, one of five campgrounds in Gros Morne National Park. It is situated in the East Arm of Bonne Bay. Anglers will find Atlantic salmon in this scheduled river and large schools of mackerel in the bay itself. The next community, Glenburnie, is named after the Scot who first settled there. Continue on to the coastal settlement of Trout River, which has an excellent sandy beach. The magnificent views on this part of the coast and the startling geology of the nearby Tablelands make this area a must-see part of the park. Trails explore the lunar-like landscape of the Tablelands and the ancient volcanic formations along the Green Gardens Trail.
Trout River Pond is nestled in a valley of stark contrasts. The internationally known geological features make exploration of this unique area a highlight of any vacation. For extra adventure and insight, there is a two-hour boat tour on Trout River Pond and a hiking trail, both of which leave from the day use area. Trout River campground is available for those who would like to extend their stay.
Plan some time for exploring Woody Point, which was once the economic capital of western Newfoundland. Here artists and camera buffs can discover a wealth of interesting subject matter in this picturesque fishing village. It's also where you'll find the Gros Morne National Park Discovery Centre. Opened in 2000, this is where you can get an in-depth understanding of the park's natural history. This is not another interpretation centre, but an integral part of a learning and adventure vacation at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Climbing the Mountain
North of Wiltondale Route 430 climbs into the mountains and descends again to the valleys - several times. One of the climbs is over South East Hill, one of the highest points of road elevation in Newfoundland.
Information on the park's exciting natural and human history is available at the Visitor Centre just before you get to Rocky Harbour. The Centre has displays, movies and videos on the park. Be sure to view the slide show for some great spots to visit, and ask about the boat tours that are offered in the area.
During the summer, park interpreters are available to offer suggestions for hikes and walks, and to give lectures and slide shows to acquaint the visitor with the wonders of Gros Morne. Winter activities include cross-country skiing and the exotic sport of ice climbing.
Nearby Norris Point and Neddy Harbour are both named for Neddy Norris, one of the earliest pioneers in this area. And Neddy Norris Nights are evenings of improv comedy staged are various communities by the players of the Gros Morne Theatre Festival.
Near Rocky Harbour you'll find the Gros Morne indoor swimming pool, which is open in the summer, and its adjacent 25-person hot tub. This is the ideal antidote for sore muscles after a day's strenuous hiking. A few kilometres away is the park's largest campground at Berry Hill near Gros Morne Mountain. There are 156 sites and a playground for the kids. Berry Hill is close to several of the park's hiking trails including the James Callaghan Trail that will take you to the peak of Gros Morne Mountain. A challenging day's hike along this trail will reward the climber with an unsurpassed panorama of the park and surrounding coastal communities. Pack a lunch, water and warm clothes for the day and plan plenty of time to linger along the trail and summit. Remember to keep a camera handy! Because of the late snow melt, the trail is usually not open until late June.
If the climb up Gros Morne is a little too strenuous, you can walk one of the many shorter trails in the area, such as Berry Head Pond, Bakers Brook Pond or Lobster Cove Head where there's a lighthouse with a display about the area's history in the light keeper's residence. During the summer, the cove below the lighthouse becomes a stage once a week for the evening campfire.
North of Rocky Harbour, the highway follows the relatively level coastal lowlands, with the mountains off to the east providing spectacular vistas along the way. In the park's northern region on an elevated coastal plain you'll find campgrounds at Green Point, a few kilometres south of the community of Sally's Cove. Nearby is one of the park's most breathtaking and popular sights - the amazing Western Brook Gorge and steep sided Western Brook Pond. Just off Route 430, a hiking trail will take you across the bogs and ridges of the coastal plain. It is an easy hike along a well-groomed trail with boardwalk extensively used to traverse wet areas. At the end of the walk, a two-hour boat tour will take you to the end of Western Brook Pond where the 2,000-foot ravine-like sides rise to a spectacular plateau above this inland fjord. At the fjord's outlet is a large sandy estuary that's great for an easy stroll.
Just north of the outlet is Broom Point. This was a summer fishing residence for many years, and today you can still meet the fishermen who work in the restored cabin and fish store. Not far away is St. Paul's Inlet where harbour seals are a common sight sunning themselves on the rocky shore. This area, accessible only by boat, is also one of the best birding areas on the West Coast.
Continuing on Route 430, be sure to visit the community museum at Cow Head. It is said that Jacques Cartier, the French explorer and navigator, anchored at nearby Cow Cove in 1534. Today's travelers can rediscover the scenic reaches of this part of the coastline. At Shallow Bay you can roam the sandy beaches in search of a prized piece of gnarled driftwood, just one of the treasures from the sea that wash up along this coast. The beach's backshore dunes have been planted with dune grasses to help prevent erosion. Just behind the dunes you can explore the Old Mail Road Trail, where dappled sunlight, the soft chirps of birds and the nearly muffled sound of waves breaking on the other side of the dunes will entice you to linger. The Shallow Bay campground adjoining the trail is an ideal place to take a breather and soak up the scenery before the next leg of the journey.
Just north of the national park and past Parson's Pond is The Arches Provincial Park. This pebble beach features two large arches which have been cut through a bed of dolomite by the action of the sea - when the arches were under water. A subsequent uplift of the land raised them above sea level where they remain as a distinctive geology lesson of the Cambrian and Ordovician periods of prehistory.
The next stretch of coast includes the Portland Creek River, an area made famous by the late Lee Wulff, one of the foremost anglers of his day. This part of the highway takes you through Portland Creek, Daniel's Harbour, Bellburns, River of Ponds, and Hawke's Bay. This area is filled with lakes, rivers and ponds that teem with salmon and trout. Fishermen from all over the world come to try their luck in these waterways. Keep an eye out for the herd of caribou in this area.
River of Ponds Park is on a scheduled salmon river and is one of the province's most delightful camping and picnic sites. It is ideal for a meal stop or an overnight stay. River of Ponds has a number of upstream pools carrying a run of trout that have been known to grow up to 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds). River of Ponds is also an excellent base from which to tour the surrounding area.
Next on the highway are Port Saunders and Hawke's Bay and another area particularly attractive to sportsmen. There are many lakes and ponds, and two major salmon rivers - East River and Torrent River. At Hawke's Bay drop into the Tourist Information Centre and join a guided walk across 3 km of boardwalk known as the Hogan Trail. This takes you to the salmon ladder on the Torrent River where, when salmon are migrating upstream to spawn, you can see them jumping up and over waterfalls and "climbing the ladder" to get upstream.
Rolling Back the Centuries
After Hawke's Bay the highway swings around the east end of the bay and then back west to a fork that take you to Port Saunders, Gargamelle and Port au Choix to the aboriginal burial grounds at Port au Choix National Historic Site.
Workers found the site by accident in 1967 while they were excavating a basement for a theatre. They found a mass of bones, tools and weapons. The following year archaeologists discovered three ancient cemeteries and scores of skeletons. By studying the artifacts and human remains, archaeologists have been able to determine the Maritime Archaic People, a group of hunters and gatherers who lived along the eastern seaboard from Maine to Labrador, occupied the site 3,200 to 3,700 years ago.
A new dig just off the main road near the eastern end of the community is uncovering the remains of a Maritime Archaic village, believed to be that of the people whose cemetery was uncovered, and promises greater understanding of their culture.
At another site near Port au Choix, Phillips Gardens, remains of a Dorset community have been discovered. These very distinctive people moved into the area after the disappearance of the Maritime Archaic group and learned to exploit the food-rich marine environment. An interpretation centre located at Port au Choix will tell you more of this fascinating story, as well as that of the Groswater people who also inhabited this part of the coast. Before you leave the area you should visit the beautiful Point Riche lighthouse.
Port au Choix is the best-known archaeological site in this area, but there are actually hundreds of other sites, both prehistoric and dating from early European occupation, along this section of coastline north to Eddies Cove. An ongoing project at Bird Cove has uncovered a variety of both historic and prehistoric sites.
Over thousands of years, one people after another has moved into this area because of its marine resources, mainly fish and marine mammals. Cultural habits and technologies have come and gone, but dependence on the sea remains a fact of life, and a bond that connects half a dozen cultures over more than 50 centuries. The northern part of the Great Northern Peninsula is dotted with dozens of prehistoric and post-contact archaeological sites.
The French Shore
Offshore between Eddies Cove West and Barr'd Harbour is St. John Island. Now deserted, it is the subject of tales of buried treasure. The stories tell of fortunes left behind by the pirates who once harassed Labrador-bound ships along this part of the coast.
Anglers will enjoy this area as it affords some of the best salmon fishing on the island, particularly at Castors River.
Many communities here were once part of the French Shore, so named because France held shore-based fishing rights along Newfoundland's west coast until 1904. This part of the Viking Trail will be a centre of celebrations in 2004 as we mark the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the French on these shores. ‘Castor,’ which is French for beaver, is just one of many place names that show French influence. In Plum Point, Darby's Island and Brig Bay you'll find many relics of the French occupation. Old buildings, grave sites, tombstones and traditions are all that remain of the former French culture.
At St. Barbe you can take a ferry to southern Labrador. (See the Labrador region for a description of Labrador Coastal Drive, including the Basque whaling station at Red Bay.) The ferry makes two round trips a day between May and December. Cars cross on a first come, first served basis. For further information, call 866-535-2567, or drop into any Visitor Information Centre along the Viking Trail.
The next community, Anchor Point, is the oldest English settlement on the French Shore, dating from 1750. The local merchant family, the Genges, spent more than a century fending off French attempts to oust them from the area until French fishing rights ended in 1904. When the French had fishing rights here, permanent settlement along the coast was forbidden. The community is one of many areas along this part of the coast to see icebergs, and is a good place to sample local shellfish delicacies.
Nearby is an interesting historic attraction, the Deep Cove Winter Housing Site. Residents of Anchor Point used to move here in winter - between the 1680s and the 1940s - to get away from the torrid winter weather on the coast. Today, this adaptation has been recognized as a site of national historic significance.
In Deadmans Cove, as in many Newfoundland communities, people learned to overcome many obstacles to make their living from the sea. Here they developed an innovative solution to the age-old problem of heavy ice sweeping away the wharves: they dismantled their wharves each fall and rebuilt them the following spring.
Past Nameless Cove and on to Eddies Cove the highway swings east away from the coast and inland across the top of the great Northern Peninsula to Viking country. Turn off Route 430 onto Route 436 and you're headed for L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, where the Vikings established the first European settlement in North America about 1,000 years ago.
The story begins in 986 when Bjarni Herjolfsson, a Viking trader, was blown off course on a voyage from Iceland to Greenland. When he finally made port in Greenland, he reported seeing three new lands to the west, believed to be Newfoundland, southern Labrador and northern Labrador. He and his crew were the first Europeans to see North America.
About 15 years later Leif Eiriksson, son of Eirik the Red who had grown up hearing the story of unexplored lands to the west, decided to search for them. On his voyage, made around the year 1000 A.D., he was accompanied by 35 men and did indeed discover new land. He stayed at Vinland - Land of Meadows, as he named it - for a year, eventually returning to Greenland. His brother Thorvald also came to Vinland and settled in Leif's house, but was killed by natives. This is the first known interaction between the Skraelings, as the Vikings named them, and Europeans. Local legend says French settlers discovered Thorvald's helmet on nearby Quirpon Island in the early seventeenth century, but it was eventually lost. Thorfinn Karlsefni, another Viking, later led an expedition here, and during this period of colonization the first child of European descent, Snorri, was born in the New World.
In 1960, Norwegian historian Helge Ingstad, who had been searching for the Vinland of the Norse sagas for years, visited northern Newfoundland and met L'Anse aux Meadows fisherman George Decker who showed him what residents thought was an ancient aboriginal camp. Helge and his wife, Anne Stine Ingstad, excavated the site and found the remnants of Viking sod huts. Subsequent excavations by the Ingstads and Parks Canada uncovered artifacts that proved conclusively the Vikings had established a settlement in North America five centuries before the voyages of Christopher Columbus, John Cabot and other 15th century explorers.
During the 1920s, Newfoundland author W.A. Munn in his book The Wineland Voyages first suggested the L'Anse aux Meadows area might be the Vinland of the Norse Sagas.
L'Anse aux Meadows was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. A recreation of sod houses lets the visitor experience life as it must have been, and an Interpretation Centre tells the story of these hearty adventurers who braved the North Atlantic in their small boats. The centre's translation of Norse sagas makes fascinating reading. Standing where the first Europeans set foot in North America is something you have to personally experience to understand the implications that momentous event had, for two continents.
About two kilometres away you'll find Norstead, a recreation of an 11th century Viking port. Constructed in 2000 for the 1000th anniversary of the Viking arrival in Newfoundland, Norstead features a chieftain's hall and other buildings, a Viking boat, and some unusual features, such as a Viking church and an ax-throwing arena. Various children's and education programs are available.
On the return trip, branch off Route 436 onto unpaved Route 437 to Pistolet Bay Provincial Park at the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula. This park offers excellent canoeing in a nearby lake system. The park also has a comfort station with hot showers and coin-operated laundry facilities. The road beyond Raleigh is paved to Cape Onion.
The Grenfell Loop
A Medical Missionary's Story
Near Plum Point is Route 432 which takes you to communities on the east side of the Great Northern Peninsula. About 53 km from Plum Point, Route 432 turns northeast to the tiny hamlet of Main Brook, and loops back along the west side of Hare Bay to Route 430 near the airport about 40 km from St. Anthony. The tiny villages of Croque, St. Julien's and Grandois can be reached via an unpaved Route 438. Route 433, which is paved, and 434 which is not, will take you through an other-world landscape of glacial boulders, rocky bays and eerily flat sea-level terrain to Roddickton, Conche and Englee, small fishing communities that are surrounded by incredible wilderness. The river systems and large ponds are great places to canoe and there are many small islands and isolated parts of the shore where you can really get away from it all. You can fish for feisty Atlantic salmon in the scheduled rivers and tackle record-sized fish in any number of great trout pools. There are extraordinary limestone barrens and caves in the area and quarries at Roddickton, and some excellent trails for exploring the area.
Route 432 connects with Route 430 at the St. Anthony airport, about 50 minutes from St. Anthony, the largest town on the Northern Peninsula. This is the home of the Grenfell Mission, established by the International Grenfell Association to provide medical services to the scattered and isolated population of northern Newfoundland and Labrador. This Mission was founded by Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, who first served on the Labrador coast in 1892 and spent the rest of his life raising funds for hospitals, nursing stations and children's homes. Grenfell Handicrafts provide training and a marketing service for beautiful, hand-embroidered parkas and other unique products that can be purchased. A visit to this craft centre is a must for anybody visiting St. Anthony. Another popular stop is Fishing Point where there are walking trails and platforms to view whales, birds and icebergs.
The northern half of the Great Northern Peninsula is also the basis for E. Annie Proulx's Pulitzer-prize winning novel "The Shipping News," which has been adapted for the big screen. Proulx invented characters, events - even landscapes - for her book, which explores how an American, led by his newfound aunt, adapts to the land his parents came from after he escapes the madness of modern New England. The movie version was filmed in the Trinity Bight area of Eastern Newfoundland and stars Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore and Dame Judi Dench.
Main River Run
Canadian Heritage River
The final portion of your Western Region tour takes you into a transition zone between the mountainous west coast and coastal areas of the Baie Verte Peninsula and the Central Region. Follow Route 430 to its intersection with Route 1 and travel east to the head of Sandy Lake where a mere century ago a great caribou herd, 10,000 strong, travelled inland on its yearly migration from the Northern Peninsula to the Central Inland Plateau. This herd, now smaller, still crosses the barrens yearly.
White pine from Sandy Lake was harvested by British navy shipbuilders for vessel construction during the early 19th century. During the latter part of that century, a disease called White Pine Blister Rust wiped out most of the stands of that species in this province. A few of these beautiful coniferous trees still grow near Sandy Lake. Two moose captured in Nova Scotia were released in this area, near Howley, in 1878. In the Gander Bay area of Eastern Newfoundland, four moose of seven captured in New Brunswick were introduced in 1904. From these small beginnings has grown a moose population that now numbers more than 150,000 and covers the entire Island of Newfoundland.
Ten kilometres past Sandy Lake, Route 420 branches off to White Bay. The entire route is heavily forested and has plenty of fast running rivers. You can relax or camp overnight at Sop's Arm Park, a small picturesque campground and picnic area on the delta adjacent to the mouth of a scheduled salmon river. The park is near the Main River, designated a Canadian Heritage River, a short, fast-moving river that will test the skills of the most experienced canoeist, kayaker or white water rafter. Best of all, you can travel the entire 57-kilometres length of the river in three or four days. This is a wild, turbulent river with significant and abrupt changes of gradient, channel width and direction. Be prepared to portage some sections. Access to the headwaters is by air. This area also presents outstanding wildlife viewing opportunities, including moose, caribou, fox, lynx and 90 species of birds.
Route 421 branches off Route 420 to the logging and fishing community of Hampden which was settled in the late 1860s. Here and at Beaches, Rooms and Bayside you will find more than your share of the hospitality, warmth and down-to-earth good humour that Newfoundlanders are famous for. Then it's back down Route 430 to Route 1 and the fabulous diversity of the Central Region.
Labrador Coastal Drive
From L’Anse-au-Clair to Cartwright
The coast of Labrador is a wilderness filled with rugged seacoast, fast running rivers and breathtaking mountain ranges. Here the ancestors of the aboriginal Inuit and Innu lived for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. And it is here that the descendants of European settlers pursue a unique rural coastal lifestyle learned from the native peoples. Change comes slowly here, but change is coming. A road now connects L’Anse-au-Clair on the Strait of Belle Isle with Cartwright 400 km north on Sandwich Bay.
The ocean here is called Iceberg Alley. Every spring and summer thousands of bergs, ranging in size from bergy bits the size of a car to mountains of ice weighing millions of tonnes, traverse these waters before melting in warmer waters southeast of Newfoundland.
Visitors traveling to coastal Labrador will visit old settlements and enjoy rugged coastal scenery. Massive icebergs are a very common sight on this journey. Here you will find a series of small, isolated communities where you can see how European settlers adapted to a life based mainly on fishing and, later, forestry. About a thousand years ago a Viking travelling to Greenland from Iceland was blown off course and sighted, but did not land, in what we now call Labrador. Later Viking explorers sailed along this coast, noting the stands of timber and a long beach north of present-day Cartwright they called the Wonderstrands.
Labrador is just across the Strait of Belle Isle from Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula. On a clear day it is visible across the 17.6 km-wide channel that funnels the icy Labrador current into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Southern Labrador is the traditional home of the summer fishermen who first traveled from the Island of Newfoundland to the lucrative fishing grounds off its coast centuries ago. Today this area is inhabited by the descendants of those first summer fishermen. This tour will introduce you to this community of friendly, independent spirits and to a region that offers a wilderness experience that you will never forget.
This Labrador tour begins on Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula, at the Viking Trail community of St. Barbe, where you can take a 90-minute ferry ride across the Strait of Belle Isle to the Labrador-Quebec boundary. During the late spring and early summer, icebergs and floes drift southward to melt in the warmer waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. These mountains of floating ice originate in the high Arctic and Greenland and offer spectacular photo opportunities as they drift past Newfoundland and Labrador.
Departing Blanc Sablon (Quebec), the western terminus of the ferry, take Route 510 along the 80-km stretch of paved highway that connects the communities along the southeastern coast of Labrador. The first community you’ll come to in Labrador is L'Anse-au-Clair, just 5 km from Blanc Sablon. It was founded by the French in the early 1700s. While you are visiting this scenic fishing outport, you can check out the local craft store. There’s also a restored early 20th century church which now serves as the regional Visitor Information Centre.
Along the Forteau and Pinware Rivers during the months of July and August, trout and salmon anglers should be prepared to meet their match on the many pools, steadies and rattles. Trout anglers venturing on the far reaches of the Forteau River, and indeed on any of the excellent angling areas in Labrador, should bring a reliable insect repellent to discourage unwanted company. A small provincial park at Pinware River is an ideal base for exploring the entire area.
At nearby L'Anse-Amour is a National Historic Site where archaeologists have uncovered a burial mound that is the oldest known funeral monument in North America. The Maritime Archaic people buried a 12-year-old boy here 7,500 years ago. Aboriginal people lived here as early as 9,000 years ago when it was on the edge of the retreating glaciers. A series of small campsites and burial grounds is all that remains of these early relatives of Paleo-Indian caribou hunters of northeastern North America. The descendants of these early inhabitants of Southern Labrador later fished and hunted whales in the Strait of Belle Isle. The numerous species of fish and seabirds along the coast also supported later bands of Inuit (Eskimos) and even Newfoundland's Beothuck Indians who made their homes here.
At Point Amour you'll find a 109-foot lighthouse, the second tallest in Canada. Built in 1854-58 to aid navigation through the Strait of Belle Isle, the interior has recently been refurbished, and exhibits and an interpretation centre added.
The first European settlers in the Straits came from England, the island of Jersey, and Newfoundland, and in the mid-nineteenth century most arrivals were from Dorset, Devon and Somerset. After that, settlers tended to be Newfoundlanders moving north.
L'Anse-au-Loup, Captstan Island and West St. Modeste are communities whose ancestors first came as `livyers' (meaning, `I live here') from the Island of Newfoundland to permanently settle in what were at first only temporary summer fishing stations along the coast.
During the month of August, Forteau is the home of the annual Labrador Straits Bakeapple Folk Festival. The event is named for the golden-colored berries, also called cloudberries, that grow in abundance along this coast. They are considered by the locals to be a great delicacy. The four-day festival has lots of berry picking, but the fun also includes baking contests, traditional music, dance, song and storytelling. A variety of distinct craft items are sold during the festival. They range from caribou skin mittens and rug work to tapestries, carvings and colorful embroidered clothing.
At the end of the paved section of Route 510 is Red Bay, where the site of one of the earliest industrial complexes in the New World - a Basque whaling station - has been declared a National Historic Site. Archaeologists have discovered several shipwrecks from the period of 1550- 1600 when this was the world whaling capital, supplying Europe with oil for lamps and soap.
Archaeologists have uncovered an astounding number of tools and personal effects that confirm European habitation of this coast during the 16th and 17th centuries. Many of these are now conserved in the Interpretation Centre. Self-guided tours of nearby Saddle Island, where the main station was located, are available during the summer months.
From Red Bay you can now drive north to Mary's Harbour, Port Hope Simpson, Charlottetown and Cartwright, which is 323 km north of Red Bay.
People who live in communities and were linked to the outside world only by coastal boat, aircraft, snowmobile or ATV are now getting used to driving to larger centres to shop, and are seeing more visitors, explorers who want to see what is essentially virgin tourist territory.
Battle Harbour was a fishing port as early as the 1750s, and was one of the first European settlements along the coast. In the 19th and 20th centuries it was a major centre for the floater fishery from Newfoundland, and in 1893 Dr. Wilfred Grenfell had established his first Labrador hospital here.
Many of Battle Harbour's old commercial and public buildings survived the fire, and in the 1990s a major restoration program helped preserve what is the most intact fishery outport in the province. The modernization that swept Newfoundland and Labrador in the decades after Confederation in 1949 bypassed Battle Harbour and so left a priceless built heritage virtually intact. You can reach Battle Harbour by boat from Mary's Harbour in summer, and there are accommodations and tours available.
Port Hope Simpson, a logging community and one of the newest towns in the province, was founded only in 1934 when a sawmill was constructed to cut pit props in the extensive forests near the town. People have fished near here since the mid-1800s. Charlottetown evolved into a permanent settlement from a collection of smaller coastal villages that had depended on fishing and trapping. Around 1949 the current location was chosen because it had lots of timber, fresh water and flat land for a future airstrip. The man who named the town, Ben Powell, wanted it to become the capital of St. Michael's Bay in the same way that Charlottetown became the capital of Prince Edward Island.
You can also reach the Strait of Belle Isle area on the Quebec coastal freighter that serves ports along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River between Natashquan at the end of Quebec Route 138 and Blanc Sablon. This boat calls at nine ports over a two-day period.
Despite their isolation, most of these communities were settled two centuries ago by fishermen from Newfoundland and Europe. Lodge Bay, for instance, became a winter station for the fishermen of nearby Cape St. Charles in the 18th century. Just up the coast is Mary's Harbour, which has grown to a major centre this century.
Nearby Battle Harbour has been fished since at least 1759 and is one of the oldest European settlements on the Labrador coast. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it was a major centre for `floater' fishermen from Newfoundland who sailed to Labrador to catch and salt cod in the summer. In 1893 Dr. Wilfred Grenfell established his first hospital here to serve people on the coast, and in 1905 the first lighthouse in Labrador was constructed on nearby Double Island. The community declined following a major fire in 1930 and was resettled in 1966 to nearby Mary's Harbour. Now a summer fishing station, Battle Harbour has been restored to its 1800s form. Some of the old buildings, such as an 1850s church, still stand, and summer accommodations are available for travelers.
Just north of Mary's Harbour the main road swings inland away from the coast and through the wilderness, while a new road connecting St. Lewis, Route 513. stretches 30 km to the east. Route 510 meets the coast again at Port Hope Simpson, one of the newer communities in this area, in 2001. The town was established by John Hope Simpson, who started a logging business here in the 1930s.
Another new settlement founded because of vast timber stands in the area is Charlottetown, which dates from the middle of this century. You can reach it via route 514 from Route 510. The coastal scenery here is beautiful. This heavily wooded area contrasts sharply with northern Labrador where tundra dominates the landscape. Offshore is the Gannet Islands Ecological Reserve, the largest razorbill colony in North America and a major breeding colony for murres, puffins, and black-legged kittiwakes.
The new road ends at Cartwright, although there are plans to build another road from here to Happy Valley-Goose Bay over the next decade. For the time being, the connection between the two will be a ferry.
Cartwright was named for Capt. George Cartwright, a merchant adventurer who lived along the coast for about a decade in the late 1700s. Cartwright had better relations with the Inuit than his contemporaries. Cartwright was the subject of a 1990s novel called The Afterlife of George Cartwright, which was nominated for a Governor-General's Award for Canadian fiction. The community which bears his name is a major service centre for the coast.
A great adventure along this part of the coast is a trip on the groomed snowmobile trails that connect the communities of southeast Labrador in the winter.
The ferry to Cartwright originates in Lewisporte in Central Newfoundland and goes on to Happy Valley-Goose Bay after leaving Cartwright. It also stops at Cartwright on the way back to Lewisporte. After leaving Cartwright it traverses the narrow waterway of Hamilton Inlet that connects the ocean to Lake Melville. It was probably here that Norse rovers Thorvald Eiriksson and Thorfinn Karlsefni landed on their journey westward to undiscovered lands. Some people believe that the Lake Melville area was the Markland - the Land of Forests - of the Viking sagas.
Labrador Frontier Circuit
Across Labrador by Road and Ferry
The interior of Labrador is a vast wilderness with recent pockets of modern industrialization in Wabush/Labrador City, Churchill Falls and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Those who come this way will find an outdoor lover's paradise. There are thousands of pristine lakes teeming with trout, hundreds of rivers that will test your boating skills and kilometer after kilometer of forests and barren ground filled with game. Labrador has an area of 293,347 square kilometres and a population of only about 30,000 permanent residents.
Only recently have western and central Labrador become accessible to motor vehicles. Every year, as the road system is expanded, more and more of this wild and wonderful part of the world is opened up. It is now possible to drive from Baie Comeau in Quebec to Labrador City and Wabush in western Labrador, then drive across Labrador to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, take a ferry to Cartwright, drive south 411 km to Blanc Sablon, take the ferry from there to St. Barbe on Newfoundland’s northwest coast, and then take a ferry from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia.
To begin this adventure, take partially paved Quebec Route 389 from Baie Comeau on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River and drive 581 kilometres through some incredibly beautiful countryside, passing through the Quebec communities of Manic V and Fermont, and into Labrador. The drive takes about 8.5 hours. You can also take a train from Sept Isles, Quebec, Labrador City/Wabush. This train is owned by the Iron Ore Company of Canada and primarily hauls iron ore pellets.
Western Labrador is known for its mining. The largest open-pit iron ore mining, concentrate and pelletizing mineral operation in North America is located at Labrador City, the heart of industrial Labrador. Since 1958, Labrador City and Wabush have grown from work camps to modern towns with many services and amenities usually found in much larger centres.
Labrador West offers visitors excellent summer sports and outdoor recreational activities which include some of the world's best angling. The Labrador City/Wabush area has facilities that attract curlers and golfers from all over. This part of Labrador also provides serious ski buffs with unparalleled downhill and cross-country action. The Smokey Mountain Alpine Ski Club and the Menihek Nordic Ski Club offer facilities that will please everyone from beginners to experts. The Nordic Ski Club is a world-class facility that has twice hosted World Cup events.
A major attraction every March is the Labrador 125 International Sled Dog Race. Although only a few years old, this annual event has rapidly developed a reputation as a challenge for even experienced mushers who have competed in the Iditarod and other races in northern Canada and Alaska.
Another recent addition to winter fun is the annual snowmobile festival sponsored by the White Wolf Snowmobile Club. This large club has trail groomers making trails all over the area, taking riders out into the wilderness to enjoy the scenery and, most years, to look at the world's largest caribou herd. This Quebec-Labrador herd migrates across provincial boundaries each year - hence its name - and numbers about 450,000 animals.
In Labrador West, an adventure holiday is available with all the comforts of home. Duley Lake Family Park about 10 km from Labrador City, is a great place to stay if you really want to get a feel for the outdoors. This 75-site camping park has swimming, boating, picnic facilities and an excellent sandy beach. A second camping facility is Grande Hermine Wilderness Park located 33 km from Wabush/Labrador City on the Trans-Labrador Highway (Route 500), has 75 landscaped sites with water hookups, as well as a beach, picnic facilities and boat rentals.
Visitors will love the natural beauty of this park with its caribou moss, glacial eskers and erratics.
Route 500 is called The Freedom Road because it frees Labradorians to drive to larger centres and other provinces. For decades they were restricted to air, ferry or train travel because there were no roads out of Labrador. But the Freedom Road is no superhighway. From Labrador West to Churchill Falls it's 238 km of good gravel road. Average driving time is about three hours. The road between Churchill Falls and Happy Valley-Goose Bay has now been upgraded. It will take you an average of four to five hours to cover the 288 kilometres.
At Churchill Falls there is a modern town with services, accommodations and some very interesting attractions to visit. The community was built around one of the wonders of the modern world. At this point in its course, the waters of the Churchill River fall over 300 m in a 32-km section, which made it ideal for one of the world's largest hydroelectric generating stations. The water was diverted into underground facilities where the huge turbines produce 5,225 megawatts of power. Tours of this huge operation can be arranged at the town office.
A lot has changed in Labrador since World War II. Happy Valley-Goose Bay was made a transatlantic aircraft ferry facility by the wartime governments of the United States, Canada and Great Britain. Military activity had been decreasing substantially since World War II, but in recent years American, British, German and Dutch Air Forces have used the area as a base for low-level flight training. Happy Valley-Goose Bay is the major distribution centre of goods for coastal Labrador and it is the location of government offices for the region.
In late July or early August, Happy Valley-Goose Bay is the site of the annual German Hangar Fest, an opportunity to sample the food, music and culture of Germany in an event hosted by the German air force. In early March there's a winter carnival that's always a great deal of fun. It features all kinds of outdoor and indoor activities including snow-sculptures.
Some say that this part of the world is at its best during the winter months. The country is spectacular and there's lots to do - ice-fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and tobogganing - just to name a few. Downhill enthusiasts will love the Snow Goose Mountain Ski Club with its long runs and great apres-ski hospitality, while the Birch Brook Nordic Club draws raves from cross-country enthusiasts.
Two other communities accessible by road from Happy Valley-Goose Bay are Sheshatshui and North West River, the former International Grenfell Association headquarters for Labrador. This community was the home of Donald Smith (later Lord Strathcona), the Hudson Bay factor in Lake Melville who went on to become a driving force in the Company and earned distinction for his part as mediator in the Canadian Riel uprising. The present road through the community follows the horse trail Smith constructed to court his wife during Sunday afternoon carriage drives.
Modern day North West River is home to the descendants of the English, French and Scots who first made a living here as hunters and trappers. Sheshatshui is home to the Montagnais Innu, descendants of Labrador's once nomadic interior caribou hunters.
A passenger and car ferry operates from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Cartwright on the Labrador coast from mid-June to mid-September. The trip takes approximately 12 hours. Since this is a new service that begins in 2003, there may be some variation in the starting date and trip duration. Keep an eye out for whales, seabirds and icebergs on this trip. Reservations are recommended.
From Cartwright a new gravel road heads south, first through the interior and then along the coast south of Charlottetown. The main road is Route 510, and there are side trips possible to Charlottetown on Route 514, and St. Lewis on Route 515. See the Coastal Labrador Drive for details of the area between Cartwright and Blanc Sablon.
Labrador Coastal Boats
Part 1: Charlottetown-Norman Bay-Pinsent Arm-Williams Harbour
There’s a mix of permanent communities and summer fishing stations along this part of the coast. The coastal boat stops at the four permanent settlements. The fishing stations were places where fishermen from Newfoundland, who couldn’t get a fishing berth (a place to fish) along the coast where they lived, went north in summer to catch and salt cod. Sometimes the whole family went along and lived aboard the family’s boat, or built summer quarters next to the flakes where fish was cured. This was called the floater fishery and it lasted for more than two centuries, declining only in the 1980s. Over time some of the floaters stayed and became livyers - people who live in a place year round.
From Charlottetown you can catch the coastal boat north to Norman Bay. This used to be a wintering station for people from the nearby coast until the 1960s. One family resisted efforts to have them resettle to larger communities, and they were eventually joined by a few others, who kept the tiny village alive, commuting to Charlottetown for supplies by speedboat when the water was free of ice, and via snowmobile in winter. Now they can take the coastal boat during the shipping season.
Pinsent Arm is about 20 kilometres southeast of Charlottetown, and although it was a winter residence for some stationers on and off from the 1860s onward, it was permanently settled only in the 1950s, and was electrified only in 1985 when a diesel generator was installed.
Williams Harbour is south of Pinsent Arm and 35 km east of Port Hope Simpson. This is another community whose status has changed from summer fishing station to permanent settlement. Migratory fishermen from England first fished here in the 1700s, and the harbour was settled in the 1840s, declining and increasing with the fortunes of the fishery. The establishment of a fish plant in the late 1970s persuaded residents to abandon their winter place at nearby Rexon’s Cove and move to Williams Harbour permanently.
Part 2: Cartwright to Happy Valley-Goose Bay
The ferry from Lewisporte in Central Newfoundland to Happy Valley-Goose Bay stops at Cartwright, which is a major transshipment port for coastal Labrador. From here it then traverses the narrow waterway of Hamilton Inlet that connects the ocean to Lake Melville. It was probably here that Norse rovers Thorvald Eiriksson and Thorfinn Karlsefni landed on their journey westward to undiscovered lands. Some people believe that the Lake Melville area was the Markland - the Land of Forests - of the Viking sagas. Eriksson's description of a river that flowed east to west fits the English River which flows into the south side of Lake Melville.
The ferry ride from Cartwright to Happy Valley-Goose Bay takes about 12 hours and is a good opportunity to do some shipboard bird-watching. Among the birds you might see from on deck are Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Atlantic Puffin, Northern Gannet, Red-necked Phalarope, Great Black-Backed Gull, Black-Legged Kittiwake, Jaegers, Arctic Tern, and Common Murre.
From the mouth of Hamilton Inlet on Groswater Bay it’s 240 km to the head of Lake Melville at Happy Valley-Goose Bay. At its narrowest the inlet is only two or three kilometres wide, but then opens into Lake Melville, a salt water lake that’s also the drainage basin for the Churchill and other rivers.
Aboriginal people were living here when Europeans began exploring in the 16th century, and after a period of initial conflict, a fur trading relationship was established. A fishery developed in the 19th century, and in 1898 a regular coastal boat service was established between Newfoundland and Lake Melville
Part 3: The North Coast
Happy Valley-Goose Bay is the home port for the coastal shipping service along the rugged north coast. Reservations for this trip must be made in advance, as only a limited number of berths are available
The first stop is on the shores of Hamilton Inlet at Rigolet, a community with a long - and continuing - history of fur trapping and fishing. This small town was a fur trading centre, first for the French and later the English, starting in the eighteenth century. The Hudson Bay Company took over the post in 1836. Except for a brief period during World War II when this was the site of a Canadian Army Base, life has not changed here for two centuries. In fact, the Blakes, Olivers, Groves, Shepards and other families trace their arrival in Rigolet to before 1800 and can tell visitors how their ancestors lived. Just ask. The town is also well-known for various craft items made from a special grass that grows in the area.
The coastal boat now takes a southern detour to Cartwright and Black Tickle before heading north. Black Tickle, on Island of Ponds, is a year-round settlement and a fishing community. It was founded in the mid-19th century by a group of British naval seamen who jumped ship. Some of the winter residents are stationers who go fishing elsewhere on the coast in summer.
The boat stops again at Cartwright before heading for the north coast.
Makkovik was first settled in the early part of the 19th century by a Norwegian fur trader, Torsten Andersen, and his Labrador wife, Mary Thomas. By 1896, the settlement had grown enough for the Moravian Missions to build a church complex that was in use until 1948. Life here has not changed significantly through the centuries. The people still fish and hunt and carry on many aspects of their traditional culture. At the retail outlet you will be able to purchase duffle parkas, mittens and slippers as well as bone jewellery, antler buttons and other fine examples of native crafts.
Just north of Makkovik, at the head of Kaipokok Bay is Postville. While this small town
began its life as a fur trading post in 1843 and a Quebec merchant, D.R. Stewart, is listed as its first settler, people have been coming to Postville for thousands of years. The Dorset Eskimo, who lived along this coast almost 4,000 years ago, came here every spring to fish and to hunt.
Further up the coast at Hopedale you can visit the Hopedale Mission, the oldest wooden frame building east of Quebec. This structure, now a National Historic Site, includes a church, a store, a residence for missionaries, a storehouse and several small huts that were used to house the visiting native people. It has stood on this site since 1782 when the Moravian Church was granted permission by the British Government to establish a mission in this remote community.
The Innu who have lived at Davis Inlet since the 1960s moved to a completely new community 15 kilometres away on Sango Bay called Natuashish in 2003. After calling at Sango Bay, the boat heads for Voisey’s Bay where a huge nickel deposit is being developed.
The northernmost community - and the last stop for the coastal boat - is Nain where a Moravian Mission was established in 1771. Craftsmen in this community are justifiably famous for their soapstone carvings.
Long-abandoned Hebron was once one of the most northerly communities on the north Labrador coast. A Moravian Mission station was constructed here from 1829 to 1831 but the main buildings - the church, the mission house and the store - were not inhabited until 1837. The station was abandoned in 1959 but, since that time, the structure has been stabilized. Visitors are invited to tour this National Historic Site. You’ll have to make arrangements with a local outfitter for a boat trip to Hebron or other northern areas.
At the very tip of Labrador you will marvel at such sights as the stark and ruggedly beautiful Torngat Mountains. The northern tundra region and the mountains of the Torngat Ranges regularly attract experienced naturalists and mountain climbers of international acclaim. If you have the skill and the spirit, this is the vacation for you. A new national park reserve is being established in this area and should be in service in five years.
You can also reach coastal Labrador by regularly scheduled air service or air charter.