Distance - 479km
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. "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 bird watching 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 license 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.