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The Road to the Isles

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 snow plow 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 defence 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 armoury.

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.




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