Codroy Valley International Wetlands (60 km)

Just a 15-minute drive north of Channel Port aux Basques on Route 1 are two nesting sites of the endangered piping plover, a native shorebird, at Grand Bay West and J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park. Pay close attention to the exclusion signs that mark their territory. The Codroy Valley International Wetlands, accessible via Routes 406 and 407, provide excellent refuge and food. See the resident breeders in summer, and the migratory birds in spring and fall.

A 10-minute drive from Channel-Port aux Basques North on Route 1

This will take you to J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park, where the shoreline offers a stretch of sheltered beach with soft powdery sand. The park is a good place to see the piping plover, an endangered shorebird with only 500 or so in Atlantic Canada and fewer than 5,000 in total worldwide. J.T. Cheeseman Park, Grand Bay West, Searston and Sandy Point (further north near St. George's) all have sandy beaches the plovers favour and are recommended viewing areas. Take care not to disturb these rare birds.

Look here also for the common loon, murre, Canada goose and pine grosbeak. You'll also find the white admiral and Atlantis fritillary butterflies. There's a two-kilometre trail called Smokey Cape, named for the windblown surf found at the beach parking lot, which creates a misty effect. Take a walk along the beach to search for surf clams and dogwinkles.

Back on Route 408, drive three kilometres from Route 1 to Cape Ray

The gravel road through the park meets paved Route 408, which takes you to the community of Cape Ray, three kilometres from Route 1 – one of three capes forming the triangular points of the island of Newfoundland. Situated between the Cape Ray lighthouse and the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a site that was used as a summer hunting camp by the Dorset people from 420 B.C. to 385 A.D.

Cape Ray was also the site of the first submarine telegraph cable in Newfoundland. Laid in 1856, this project was the last link in the communication chain that connected Newfoundland with the rest of North America.

After a visit to the cape, you can sunbathe or windsurf at nearby Cape Ray Sands, or you can drive up a gravel road to Red Rocks, a former farming and fishing community. There's a spectacular view from the 1,000-foot high Sugar Loaf behind Red Rocks.

Head back to Route 1 towards the Long Range Mountains

Take Route 408 back to Route 1. The highway now climbs steadily north along the province's west coast. The terrain changes dramatically and the low-lying barrens give way to the southwest section of the Long Range Mountains, a part of the ancient Appalachian escarpment. Throughout this region you will see spectacular mountain scenery and encounter ridges to challenge the imagination and skill of amateur rock climbers.

Moody and imposing Table Mountain is accessible here by trail and tops out at 528 metres. The area often raises gusts exceeding 160 kilometre/hour, which disrupt highway traffic and were once known to derail the now discontinued trains. Little wonder this area is known as Wreck House. During World War II, the United States built a radar station, an airstrip and assorted buildings on top of Table Mountain.

The home of Lauchie MacDougall, the famous human wind gauge, was located in the valley below. Lauchie was under contract with the Newfoundland Railway to determine whether the area was passable for trains on any given day and to notify them if gusts were too high. After his death in 1965, his wife continued the work until 1972. Today, truckers rely on CB radios and word-of-mouth for news about the wind.

Route 1 to exit Route 407 – Codroy Valley

Continue on Route 1 to the exit Route 407 (about 35 kilometres from Channel-Port aux Basques). You are now entering the Codroy Valley, one of the best farming areas in the province. Route 407 takes you on a pleasant ride south along the Little Codroy River to St. Andrews, where the agricultural landscape contrasts with the Long Range Mountains in the background. The mountains also provide a magnificent backdrop for a 9-hole golf course.

The Codroy Valley was one of the earliest settled sections of the West Coast. French colonists arrived in the 1700s and were later joined by Scots and Channel Islanders from across the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Scots settled in the fertile valley south of the Anguille Mountains and their descendants still farm here.

In St. Andrews, take the road toward Upper Ferry and cross the Grand Codroy River. (Alternatively, you can take Route 407 to Searston where a bridge crosses the mouth of the estuary.) The latest news is of a 325 million-year-old fossil discovered in the area in 2010. The fossil, probably from an amphibian, is the first of its kind found in the province.

Continue on through Codroy to the end of Route 407 and Cape Anguille

Cape Anguille is the most westerly point of the island of Newfoundland where the lightkeeper's house is now a tranquil inn. Shaded by the Anguille Mountains to the east, the Cape boasts a spectacular view from the lighthouse, which was built in 1905 following a marine disaster. Before leaving Codroy, be sure to drop by the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, which held its first service back in 1914.

Take Route 406 on your return trip through the Wetlands

Take Route 406 to the Grand Codroy Wildlife Museum and Art Gallery. Here, you can see Newfoundland's largest mounted moose along with more than 300 different species of animals, birds and fish, beautifully set in their natural surroundings.

The Grand Codroy Ramsar Site is recognized by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. The 925-hectare area at the mouth of the Grand Codroy River consists of a large coastal estuary containing flats, sand bars exposed at low tide, and sand spits covered by dune grass. Portions of the wetlands are covered by thick eel grass. There are also four small islands in the wetlands.

The estuary provides habitat for 19 species of waterfowl, including large flocks of Canada geese and black ducks, and smaller numbers of pintail, green-winged teal, American wigeon and greater scaup. There are also 27 types of rare vascular plants that usually grow only in more southerly areas, a good indication of the site's relatively benign climate.

Newfoundland's west coast is a north-south flyway for many migrating birds, and the wetlands provide food and a resting stop in spring for northbound birds that have just crossed the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and in fall, a stopover for the return flight south. It's also a good place to see rarities blown off course during migration.

The Wetlands Interpretation Centre is located directly on the estuary. The interpretation trail that runs along the banks of the Grand Codroy River is an easy restful walk. Interpretation panels enhance the understanding of estuaries, ecosystems, species adaptation and models for environmental stewardship. The centre also provides ongoing educational programs and interactive exhibits that provide visitors, especially young children, with an opportunity to learn, hands-on.

Anglers should bring their flies and tackle when visiting this area because the Grand Codroy and Little Codroy are scheduled salmon rivers.