The Killick Coast

Distance - 55km

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 favourite 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 Kelly's Island. Legend holds that Kelly's 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 Kelly's 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 centres 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 Logy 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 caplin.

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