"Wherever you are, steer northwest for Baccalieu." This old sailors' proverb,
minus the compass direction, is still good advice for today's traveller. Along
Routes 80 and 70, and their offshoots, you'll find charming fishing villages,
gorgeous coastal scenery, and a few surprises. There are several ways to access
The Baccalieu Trail: from Route 60, or take Routes 75 or 80 from Route 1.
But the southern end of the trail is Route 81, south of Route 1, in the farming
community of Markland, probably the newest town on the trail. It was established
during the desperate days of the Great Depression when, in an effort to make
them self-sufficient, a number of families from St. John's were resettled into
newly established agricultural communities. The largest of these was started in
1937 at Markland. The community still owes much of its success to farming and
forestry. Farms were established here because of the area’s sheltered location
and longer growing season, the latter due to air turbulence among the rolling
hills that keeps the cold autumn night air moving, preventing it from descending
onto the lowland crops.
Whitbourne was the home of an early 20th-century Prime Minister of Newfoundland,
Sir Robert Bond. An eloquent politician, he was perhaps Newfoundland's greatest
statesman in the era when Newfoundland was a self-governing dominion. His
reciprocity agreements with the United States, although foiled by political
opponents, were the forerunners of current international fisheries policy and
international trade agreements.
North of Route 1, Route 81 merges into Route 80. Whaling and mink-ranching were
once lucrative industries in this area, and there's a whaling and sealing museum
in South Dildo that displays some of the artifacts discovered at Anderson's
Cove, where a 4,00-5,000 year old Maritime Archaic Indian site has been
discovered, and at Blaketown where a 1994 archaeological dig uncovered a
previously unknown Beothuk site. It's believed John Guy traded with the Beothuks
who lived here in the early 17th century because there is a trail across the
peninsula connecting Blaketown and Cupids. Part of this Crout’s Way Trail
between Hopeall and Makinsons has been reconstructed as an overnight hiking
Heart's Content is where the first successful transatlantic telegraph cable was
landed in 1866. The community served as a major cable relay station for over a
century. Visit the old
Cable Station, which has been preserved and is now open
to the public during the summer months as a Provincial Historic Site. The Heart's Content Cable Station Provincial Historic Site is a special hit with people interested in communications. It seems like
all you have to do is turn on the equipment and begin sending and receiving
messages. There are informative displays on the various cables, the changes in
technology during the life of the station and some of the people involved in
developing long-distance telegraphy.
The entire area has a preoccupation with the "heart" for just beyond Heart's
Heart's Delight-Islington and
Heart's Desire. And be sure to drop in
at the one time pirate haunt of Turks Cove just past New Perlican.
As you drive through this area of rolling hills and forests, you pass through a
number of picturesque fishing communities such as Winterton. On the outskirts of
this settlement there is a municipal park bordering a freshwater lake. There's
good trout fishing on this end of the peninsula. Hook up with a local guide for
the best places to wet a line. Along this entire route, the small outports
retain an ageless look. Near the road, ponies graze in grassy meadows which
still contain sod-covered root cellars.
At New Chelsea you may want to relax on the beach in this peaceful valley
setting. New Melbourne is a tiny community located on a forested part of the
moody seacoast. Old Perlican, near the northern tip of the trail, was first
settled in the 1600s and is a good place to see whales from shore.
The most northerly community on the trail is Grates Cove. According to legend,
John Cabot landed here and carved an inscription in a rock. In the 1960s people
posing as historians from Memorial University removed the rock. Its whereabouts
remain unknown. But each year residents celebrate "Cabot Rock" festival. Look
around the community and you'll see gardens with rock walls. Once a common site
in Newfoundland, they remain in large numbers only in this community and have
been declared a National Historic Site.
At Redhead Cove, where Route 80 merges into Route 70, you'll see by the colour
of the cliffs where the community got its name.
Offshore, Baccalieu Island bears witness to the potential menace of the North
Atlantic. The wrecks of more than a dozen ships lie under the waters that
surround the island. Baccalieu Island Ecological Reserve has 11 species of
seabirds nesting there, making it the most diverse seabird colony in the
province. The island hosts 3.3 million pairs of Leach's Storm Petrels, and
thousands of puffins and black-legged kittiwakes and other birds each summer.
The foxes that share the island with the birds rarely go hungry.
Continue on Route 70 to Bay de Verde.
This once-isolated community was originally settled by planters, colonists who
were trying to avoid French raiders in the 1600s. This rugged area is a mere 70
kms from St. John's by sea. There's an interpretation centre devoted to the
nearby ecological reserve in the town. Just above the town, at Bears Cove, you can take the short
hiking trail to the scenic lookout that offers a spectacular view of the
Some of the most beautiful coastal scenery is found just beyond here in Lower
Island Cove and surrounding communities. The hilly gardens of this area and the
towering cliffs along the shores of Conception Bay provide ideal subjects for
A few kilometres along is Northern Bay Sands Park, an ideal seaside vacation
spot within easy access of a number of colourful settlements on the peninsula.
The park has camp and trailer sites for extended stays. At one end of the sandy
beach, a river flows into the Atlantic, its rocky banks forming a natural
freshwater pool. This is a great place for beach combing or taking it easy.
Nearby Western Bay is the birthplace of one of Canada's most widely respected
poets, E. J. Pratt. This is a National Historic Site with a plaque that
commemorates his life and work next to the Post Office on Route 70.
Continuing south, you come to a series of attractive little communities,
including Blackhead where the first Methodist church in Canada was erected in
1769. The plaque marking this Historic Site is near an ancient cemetery which is
well worth a visit by people interested in the early history of the province and
in the establishment of Methodism in Canada.
A few kilometres up the coast is
Salmon Cove Sands, a sheltered beach with a
grassy picnic area. There are several distinctive large rocks in the cove and a
variety of shorebirds which make ideal photographic subjects. There are
extensive stretches of water shallow enough for children to wade and play in
In Victoria you’ll find an unusual attraction. The Hydro Electric Development
there is a Registered Historic Site. The plant came on stream in 1904, making it
the second major hydro electric project in Newfoundland. The Victoria station is
now a museum that displays some of the earliest equipment in Canada. It is open
daily during July and August - and it still produces electricity.
Carbonear is another town with a fascinating history. In 1696, it was burned to
the ground by the French, but the inhabitants retreated to a small fortified
island in the harbour and successfully defended it against capture. Carbonear
Island has been designated a National Historic Site to mark its colourful
There is also a romantic side to the town's past. During the reign of Elizabeth
I, Gilbert Pike, a former member of the Peter Easton's pirate band, fell in love
with Sheila Na Geira, an Irish princess whom he had rescued from a Dutch
warship, where she was being held prisoner. The couple married and decided to
make a new home for themselves in the New World. They settled in Bristol's Hope,
where their descendants still live. To the day she died, Sheila was known as
"The Carbonear Princess." In summer there's a theatre festival held in her
honour, and one of the plays is her story. The Carbonear Museum, located in the old railway station, provides a window on the town's fascinating history.
Carbonear also is the home of the annual Conception Bay Folk Festival. Every
summer people come from all over to celebrate the music, song and dance of the
communities of the North Shore of Conception Bay. If you are in the area during
the festival, you can take a day to enjoy traditional music with its roots in
the West Country of England.
From here we go to Harbour Grace, a community which derives its name from "Havre
de Grace," a name the French bestowed on it in the early 1500s, probably after
the French fishing port Le Havre. Harbour Grace was the headquarters of Peter
Easton, a famous pirate of the early seventeenth century. His pirates’ fort was
on the site of the old Customs House in the eastern section of the town. The
building is now a Community Museum with three floors of fascinating exhibits
that tell of this town's long and illustrious past, including its important role
in the history of aviation.
Beginning in 1919, Harbour Grace was used as the departure point for many early
attempts to fly the Atlantic. The first successful flight from the community was
piloted by William Brock and Edward Schlee of Croyden, England, in August, 1927,
the same year the first civilian airport in North America was opened here. In
1932, Amelia Earhart left Harbour Grace to become the first woman to fly solo
across the Atlantic.
Still a thriving community, Harbour Grace was once the second largest town in
Newfoundland and seemed destined to become its second city. Then, a series of
seven major fires between 1814 and 1944 drastically impeded the growth and
progress of the town. Fortunately many of its historic buildings and fine
residences survived. One of the most interesting of these is St. Paul's Anglican Church. It was erected in 1835 and is the oldest stone church in Newfoundland.
Next on the route is Spaniard's Bay, a community whose name reflects an era when
Spanish - really Basque - fishermen frequented Newfoundland waters. Spanish
influence in Newfoundland ended with the defeat of the Spanish Armada in faraway
Europe in 1558, but here memory lingers long.
Continue to Bay Roberts, a fishing community that received its name from Jersey
fishermen who came here from the Channel Islands several centuries ago. Now it's
a major service and shopping centre. On Water Street is the old Cable Building
which served as a relay station for messages between British Prime Minister
Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Roosevelt during the second
world war. Further east on the street is the
Bay Roberts East Shoreline Heritage walking trail
through Juggler's Cove to Mad Rocks, where you can see whales and - usually
-icebergs in spring and early summer.
Past Bay Roberts take Route 72 to the Port de Grave Peninsula where you can
visit and photograph some of the striking coastal scenery and fishing villages
along the way. At Hibbs Cove there is a Fisherman's Museum with furniture,
pictures and artifacts depicting the village lifestyle of years ago. Next to the
museum are a one-room schoolhouse and the Porter House, which gives a taste of
the lifestyle of an ordinary fisherman from earlier this century. Nearby is the
anchor from the PLM 27, one of the ore carriers sunk by a German U-boat off Bell
island in 1942.
Back on Route 70, continue on to Cupids, the first English settlement in Canada.
In 1610, John Guy from Bristol, England established a plantation at what was
then known as Cuper's Cove. The first recorded birth of an English child in
Newfoundland took place here. Archaeological excavations begun in 1995 have
uncovered the long-forgotten site of the old plantation. Artifacts recovered
during this dig, and many other exhibits on the community's long history, are
found in the Cupids Museum. Visit the archaeology dig and see history being
uncovered right before your eyes. In 1910 the town celebrated its 300th
anniversary by erecting a monument to Guy. Now, its 400th anniversary is been
celebrated. The town has one of the oldest Methodist churches in
Newfoundland dating from 1875, which is still in use. And each summer the town
celebrates the Cuper's Cove Soiree.
One of the great treasures of the Baccalieu Trail is Brigus. Its charming Old
World atmosphere and scenic appeal prompted the famous American artist Rockwell
Kent to establish a summer residence and studio there in the early part of the
last century. But the historic town is best known as the birthplace of Captain
Bob Bartlett, born in 1875 and considered an outstanding pioneer of navigation
in the Far North. Captain Bartlett accompanied Commodore Peary as far as his
last relay point on the 1909 expedition to the North Pole. His former home, Hawthorne Cottage National Historic Site. Brigus also hosts a Blueberry
Festival each August.