The Irish Loop Continued
Witless Bay was originally named for the Whittle family. This is just one of the
photogenic small communities scattered along the southern part of the Avalon
Peninsula. You can also get a tour boat to the reserve from here. Tors Cove,
which is 47 kilometres from St. John's, is a good place to see whales from
Further along the shore, you will come to
La Manche Provincial Park. The park is
in a beautiful river valley that teems with wildlife and attracts many nature
enthusiasts and artists. One focus of their interest is a beautiful marsh with a
selection of delicate wildflowers. La Manche River, which runs through the area,
offers good canoeing and wonderful sightseeing along a hiking trail that takes
you to a spectacular waterfall. Another trail takes you to the abandoned townsite of La Manche. It's a breathtaking trip by foot from the highroad to the
tip of the ravine which housed the settlement, and where a new suspended
footbridge enables hikers to cross the ravine and continue a hike along the East
Coast Trail. While little remains of the houses, the river cascades into a
beautiful pocket sized harbour with grassy fields surrounding it - a perfect
place for a picnic.
Another option for those touring the Avalon Peninsula is the
Reserve. You can obtain a permit to visit the 868 square kilometre reserve at
the La Manche park office, or at other provincial park offices. For those
interested in canoeing, fishing or hiking this is a worthwhile excursion. The
reserve is also home to the world’s southernmost herd of woodland caribou.
Continue along Route 10 through Cape Broyle and visit the Devil's Stairway, an
interesting rock formation where Satan is supposed to have left his footprints
in the face of the cliff. You can also take a boat tour to the Witless Bay
Ecological Reserve from Cape Broyle.
Follow the highway to Ferryland and literally step right into the past at the archaeological dig. Sir George Calvert, who later became Lord Baltimore,
established a Colony of Avalon in Ferryland in 1621. It was successful for a number of
years until a series of cold winters and other hardships prompted him to seek a
warmer climate in Maryland. Sir David Kirke took over the colony later in that
century. During his time Ferryland's high rocky cliffs were fortified with
cannon to protect the settlement from attack. After the town was stripped of its
guns and fortifications it was unable to resist the Dutch, who landed in 1763
and destroyed it.
But they didn't destroy everything, and archaeologists have uncovered a large
number of artifacts. Excavation with brush and trowel continues, and if you've
ever wanted to see history being uncovered just stand 10 feet from the dig and
watch. The items recovered are cleaned and catalogued and the most impressive
finds are on display in the visitor centre nearby. Beothuk artifacts have also
been found in the area, proving these aboriginal people inhabited this part of
One display on the site is an old-fashioned wattle fence that
surrounds a garden where the vegetables being grown are the same
sort as those grown over 300 years ago..
Another attraction is an old lighthouse. There's a rough road to it across
the Downs, but it's best to walk out and see why Newfoundland painter Gerry
Squires was so inspired by this area. There's still some farming on the Downs.
For an introduction to the famous Irish hospitality of the Southern Shore, visit
the Historic Ferryland Museum in the old court house. The Southern Shore Shamrock Festival and Ferryland-Maryland Days are celebrated here in July each year, and
there’s a dinner theatre based on local stories and songs. Keep an ear tuned for
stories of faeries. There's a very strong Irish streak along this part of the
Newfoundland coast that's reflected in the music. The pride in their heritage
and their warm hospitality are just two of the natural strengths you'll discover
in the people. Sit down and have a chat and a cup of tea and you'll wonder where
the time has flown. Like many other visitors, you'll give in to the urge to
linger just a little while longer.
A short drive down the coast will bring you to Aquaforte, whose harbour
resembles a Norwegian fjord. Long ago a squadron of the French fleet ran aground
to avoid bombardment by the English who waited at the mouth of the harbour. Some
say they buried a treasure here and made their way on foot across the peninsula
From Aquaforte, continue on to Renews-Cappahayden. As the nearest harbour on the
southern Avalon to the fishing banks offshore, Renews was already well known
when in the fall of 1620, the English ship Mayflower stopped here for supplies
during her epic 66-day voyage from Plymouth to the New World. Renews and nearby
Fermeuse were unsuccessfully settled by Welsh colonists in the early 1600s,
under a scheme promoted by Sir William Vaughan. A point of interest in the area
is the grotto where Mass was celebrated secretly at night in the late 1500s when
Roman Catholicism was suppressed by the Protestant English.
An unpaved road from Portugal Cove South takes you to two very different
Unique fossils at Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve date to 620
million years ago. Cape Race - This place has a direct connection
to the Titanic disaster, it was here in 1912 that the stricken liner's distress call was
picked up and relayed to other ships in the area and to other stations that passed
the word down the eastern seaboard.
Back on Route 10, head west to Trepassey, a name that means ‘the dead’ or ‘the
dead souls’ or a corruption of an old Basque word. Basque fishermen were
prominent all along the Newfoundland coast in the 16th century. Trepassey was
the seat of the unsuccessful Welsh colony. More recently it was the starting
point for several transatlantic flights including the one, in 1928, when Amelia
Earhart, as a passenger with William S. Stultz and Lou Gordon, became the first
woman to fly the Atlantic.
The caribou from the Avalon Wilderness Reserve cross
the highway on the southern Avalon around Trepassey during their annual
This region is a popular base for the hunting of upland game birds such as the
willow ptarmigan and for salmon and trout fishing expeditions. There are three
excellent rivers in this area - North East Brook, North West Brook and Biscay
Bay River. They offer a good run of fishing during July and August. Barren
ground and isolated heath characterizes this area.
Beyond Trepassey, a short diversion off Route 10 will take you to St. Shotts,
best known today for its huge deposits of peat. Hiking trails along the coast
provide dramatic view of a coast that has claimed many vessels over the
centuries, and the remains of a few are still visible.