The Road to the Isles
Distance - 187km
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. 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 defense 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
Distance - km + Boat
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 colour 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 colourful 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.
The Road To The Shore
Distance - 187km
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 town site was moved from just north of the airport to west of the airport. The old town site 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 theNorth 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 favourite 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 colours 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 colourful 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 colours.
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
Distance - 41km
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 neighbouring 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-kilometre 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. Brendans, 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.