Rose Blanche Lighthouse Scenic Drive

Distance - 45km

Granite Sentinel

This tour takes you from the ferry terminal at Port aux Basques to the Rose Blanche lighthouse 45 km to the east along Route 470. On this side trip you will see dark cliffs, crashing waves, spume and spray. The real spirit and traditions of outport Newfoundland survive in the small fishing villages that cling tenaciously to the rocky, exposed shores of the southern coastal plain.

The Rose Blanche Lighthouse has one of the best scenic views of the Cabot Strait. A three-year reconstruction of the granite lighthouse, which went into service in 1873, was completed in 1999.

Early mariners like Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Jacques Cartier and Captain John Mason explored this rugged coast more than 400 years ago. Many of the community names in the area are English versions of the original French or Basques names given them by the area's first settlers. Rose Blanche is named for the white granite - in French rock is roche, and in English roche has been changed to rose - that the community is built on.

Rose Blanche is the western terminus for the coastal boat that services isolated communities along Newfoundland's south coast. From here you can catch a boat six days a week to La Poile where you can experience a different kind of lifestyle. There is also a trip from Grand Bruit to Burgeo, further east, on the day when Rose Blanche is not serviced Other boats from Burgeo travel east to Hermitage-Sandyville.

After leaving Rose Blanche and heading west, Harbour Le Cou, celebrated in the Newfoundland folk song of the same name, also bears witness to the French element on this shore. Along Route 470, you will pass through a number of small fishing communities including Diamond Cove, and Burnt Islands. Be sure to explore the unique heath-covered terrain of coastal Newfoundland before you continue on to Isle aux Morts, or Island of the Dead. This community earned its macabre name because of the number of marine disasters that happened in the treacherous waters offshore.

This coastal area has a long history of death and disaster, with the wrecks of no fewer than 40 ships said to be lying at the bottom of the Cabot Strait. These tragedies have given rise to many traditional songs and stories of lost ships and courageous rescues at sea. There is none as moving as the true story of George Harvey, his son and his daughter, Ann. In 1828, these brave residents of Isle aux Morts saved nearly the entire complement of passengers and crew from the sinking Despatch by stringing a lifeline from the ship to the shore with the help of their valiant Newfoundland dog. The local heroes' courage was recognized by King George IV who awarded the Harvey's a medal of bravery.

After passing the community of Margaree-Fox Roost, it's back to Channel-Port aux Basques. Situated on the southwest coastal plain, this was a fishing station for the French, Portuguese and Basques as early as the 16th century. While it is named for the Basques, it was hardly their only port: research in Spanish archives uncovered information that Basques whalers and fishermen occupied at least seven islands on Newfoundland's west coast and in southern Labrador. Port aux Basques is the principal Marine Atlantic ferry terminal in the province. There's a boardwalk between the ferry terminal and Scott's Cove Park where you can stretch your legs.

The community museum houses two rare 17th century astrolabes, early marine navigational instruments - only 33 are known to exist worldwide - and both were found by a local diver. The Gulf Museum also boasts a 100-year-old diving suit.

While in Port aux Basques you can also visit Memorial Park featuring monuments for the S.S. Caribou and World Wars I and II. Before getting back on Route 1, drop by the Railway Heritage Centre for a guided tour of the restored train filled with artifacts from a century ago.

Channel-Port aux Basques is the western end of T'Railway Provincial Park, a 545-mile jaunt through the wilderness that follows the abandoned Newfoundland Railway line all the way to St. John's. It's part of the Trans-Canada Trail.

Just west of Port aux Basques are the beaches at Grand Bay West, home to the endangered Piping Plover. These are among the best of the relatively few sandy beaches in Newfoundland. Here also you will find another feature rare in Newfoundland: salt marshes. These marshes attract many different kinds of shorebirds and waterfowl because of their lush growth. This southwestern corner of Newfoundland is a great place to see birds during the spring and fall migrations.

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