The Baccalieu Trail

Pirates' Haunts & Classic Outports

Distance - 230km

"Wherever you are, steer northwest for Baccalieu." This old sailors' proverb, minus the compass direction, is still good advice for today's traveller. 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 areaís 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 Croutís Way Trail between Hopeall and Makinsons has been reconstructed as an overnight hiking adventure trail.

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 Heartís 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 colour of the cliffs where the community got its name.

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