Distance - 357km
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.
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, 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.