The Heritage Run (463 km)

The Heritage Run is steeped in colorful history. Located on the Burin Peninsula, the trail differs from the rest of the province in both geography and outlook. Separated from the seat of political power in St. John's for centuries, the Burin Peninsula developed its own trade links with the eastern seaboard and beyond. Its dialects, architecture and traditions are all unique. On this drive, keep an eye out for orange signs, which indicate viewparks – lay-bys with interpretive panels about the history and ecology of the trail.

The Heritage Run has four distinct drives:

  • Mariner Drive, which begins at Route 1 and ends at Marystown on Route 210.
  • Captain Cook Drive covers routes 220, 221, 222 to Epworth.
  • Captain Clarke Drive, southwest from Little St. Lawrence to Point May.
  • French Islands Drive, includes the southern portion.

Mariner Drive

The Gateway begins at the intersection of Routes 1 and 210

The gateway to the Heritage Run is the intersection of Routes 1 and 210. Passing through Goobies, the road winds along the inner reaches of northwest Placentia Bay. Side trips to Goose Cove, North Harbour, and Garden Cove take you off the main road into sheltered coves. (From Garden Cove you can take a boat to Woody Island for its famous “time.”)

Next stop is Swift Current

People have been vacationing in Swift Current for the great angling and just to get away from it all since the early 20th century. Surrounded by high hills, Swift Current has become a popular summer home area. Bear's Folly, one of these hills, is a climber's delight. Just down the road is Piper's Hole River, a scheduled salmon river. Check out the hiking trail. It was once part of a short-lived railway line that was to have serviced the region. The piper in the river's name comes from an 18th century legend about the French and English clashing in battle at nearby Garden Cove. Supposedly, the spirit of a French soldier lingers in the river valley, mournfully playing a pipe.

Continuing south on Route 210 onto the barrens

Continuing south, you'll emerge onto the barrens. Barrens, at least in Newfoundland and Labrador, are synonymous with bogs, but have you ever seen a bog on the side of a steep hill? You'll find it here, along with the regular low-lying bogs, uncountable ponds, temporary bog-holes, and rocky outcrops.

This is a land where time has slowed down. It's as if the last ice age ended within living memory. Those rocky outcrops create eccentric formations on the tundra. Boulders called glacial erratics were orphaned here at unusual angles eons ago by retreating glaciers. These boulders seem to have been arranged by a nonhuman intelligence, leaving behind a mysterious sort of Stonehenge-without-humans on the horizon.

Those are not prehistoric people you see stooping over low bushes, but residents picking blueberries, cranberries, marsh berries, bakeapples, bilberries and other tasty and nutritious local fruit. Bring knee-high rubber boots if you want to join in. Keep an eye out for rough-legged hawks, typical birds found on the barrens.

On a slightly cloudy day, the area displays every imaginable shade and tint of green and among these, are dashes of red, blue and white as wildflowers show their best faces. Trees take lone stands amid the bogs and groups of larch catch the slightest breeze to show off their dainty flexibility. In this primeval landscape only the road, the power lines cresting distant hills and the occasional car tells you civilization has intruded, however briefly, into this place where nature rules. When fall replaces summer, the flowers fade and the green turns to brilliant orange, red and yellow – all giving way to white when winter sweeps in.

Side trip on Route 214 to Davis Cove and Monkstown

Route 214 is an unpaved road east to Davis Cove on Placentia Bay and Monkstown in Paradise Sound. The Sound is a long, narrow inlet sheltered by 100-metre hills that stretch 25 km from its head to the mouth near South East Bight.

Side trip on Route 211 and 212 to Fortune Bay

Routes 211 and 212 take you west to three communities at the head of Fortune Bay. Keep an eye out for whales and seabirds in this area. Route 211 takes you to Grand La Pierre, where in May and June you might catch a glimpse of the Middle Ridge caribou herd at the southern end of their migration, and further along to the fishing village of English Harbour East. A branch off Route 211 goes to Terrenceville where you'll find a lovely waterfall.

Take Route 212 and explore the Ragged Point Lighthouse

Further south, take Route 212 to Jacques Fontaine and Little Bay East where you can explore the Ragged Point Lighthouse. The coastal boat trip from Bay L'Argent to this isolated fishing community of Rencontre East and on to Pool's Cove and back is a nice day trip on the water – unless the wind is too high.

Continue from Bay L'Argent to Harbour Mille, at the end of Route 212, a small fishing community with a sheltered harbour. There was a short-lived copper and silver mine here in the mid-19th century. An adventure tour company has a camp in the area from where visitors can explore the coast and take part in nature viewing trips

A very pretty community at the end of Marine Drive is Beau Bois, pronounced "Bo Boys.” There's a lot of French influence all over this region, but here, as in many cases, French names have been given a literal English twist.

Back on Route 210 and heading south through picturesque fishing villages

You'll discover several other opportunities for side trips to fishing villages. The road through Boat Harbour to Brookside and beyond this to Petite Forte takes you to the dome rescued when the lighthouse at nearby Long Point on Long Island, Placentia Bay, was decommissioned. There's a ferry from Petite Forte to South East Bight.

Next, moving south on Route 210, are Baine Harbour, Rushoon, Red Harbour and Jean de Baie, four small fishing communities on the west side of Placentia Bay. In Spanish Room, which is basically a suburb of Marystown, there's a seabird colony at Spanish Room Point where you can see ring-billed gulls.

Marystown is the main service centre on the trail. The Marystown Heritage Museum contains a collection of artifacts dealing with the town's history. The town's most famous landmark is at Mary Mount where a 15-foot statue of the Virgin Mary overlooks the town and harbour. There's also a shipyard and a fabrication factory for offshore oil equipment here.

Captain Cook Drive

Few people realize that Captain James Cook, the famous British explorer best remembered for his great Pacific voyages, learned his surveying skills here in Newfoundland. This scenic drive which bears his name takes in a portion of the coast he surveyed.

Captain Cook's charts are among the finest ever made of the Newfoundland coast, and although he spent only a few summers here, he contributed greatly to safe navigation.

Burin on Route 221

A little further south on Route 221 is the old town of Burin. Settled since at least the early 1700s, Burin is protected from the open sea by islands that lie just offshore, providing ways of escape for pirates and privateers who lured pursuing ships onto rocks and into dead ends.

The various Burin Heritage Museums are must-sees. With displays on the fishery, education and daily life, Reddy Heritage House gives a real taste of the old days. A second branch, the former Bank of Nova Scotia building across the street, contains travelling exhibits from rural Newfoundland, and displays on wildlife and the tsunami that wrecked Burin in 1929. The Oldest Colony Trust building on the waterfront is a converted mercantile premises where dances and musical events are held.

Another must-see is Cook's Lookout. When he was mapping the Newfoundland coast in the 1760s, one of Capt. Cook's seasonal headquarters was in Burin. Atop a high hill that still bears his name, he kept a lookout for smugglers and illegal fishing, especially by the French from St. Pierre. There's a hiking trail to the top that's well worth the steep climb. Bring your camera.

Drive back along Burin Inlet and turn west onto Route 222

There are two water-based amusement parks in this area that are very popular with local residents. Further along this road is the farming community of Winterland where you'll find the Winterland Ecomuseum, seven square kilometres of forest and wetlands where you can discover the plants and animals that live in these habitats.

Return on Route 222 and take Route 220 through Lewin's Cove and on through Salmonier to Epworth and the end of Captain Cook Drive.

Captain Clarke Drive

This scenic drive is named for Captain Richard Clarke. He commandeered the Delight, which accompanied Sir Humphrey Gilbert on his ill-fated voyage in 1583. After claiming Newfoundland for England while amused European sailors looked on in St. John's, Gilbert headed south and west for the mainland of North America. Along the way, his ships ran aground on Sable Island – known as the graveyard of the Atlantic – and Gilbert and many men were lost. Clarke was one of the survivors.

Drive through Salmonier

Through Salmonier and on past the turnoff to Epworth, the road winds through hilly country before passing through Little St. Lawrence, where Clarke landed. The next stop is St. Lawrence. The history of this community is unlike any other on the trail. In addition to being a fishing town, St. Lawrence was a mining community for much of the past century. It has North America's only deposit of fluorspar. The St. Lawrence Miner's Memorial Museum, at the entrance to the town, displays mining equipment.

During World War II, nearby Chamber's Cove was the site of a dreadful maritime accident. During a storm in 1942, three American warships went aground. Two – the Truxton and the Pollux – sank, taking the lives of more than 200 sailors. But another 180 were saved, thanks to the people from St. Lawrence, Lawn and nearby communities who risked their own lives to bring the sailors over treacherous cliffs to safety.

In the summer of 1992 some survivors of the disaster returned to renew their friendship with the people of St. Lawrence and unveil the Echoes of Valour monument, which is at the intersection of Route 220 and Memorial Drive near the Town Hall. It depicts a miner hauling a sailor to safety. In addition to the rescue, the monument commemorates the many miners who died of congestive lung disease such as silicosis. During the 1950s the American government showed its thanks to the town when it built and equipped a 22-bed hospital that still serves the people of the area today.

For a town of 1,200, St. Lawrence has a degree of sporting fame unmatched in the province. The town's senior men's soccer team, the Laurentians, is a perennial powerhouse at the provincial level. Such is the passion for the game here that when the Laurentians won a silver medal at the national championships in 2002, it was considered a disappointment. No wonder the town bills itself as The Soccer Capital of Canada.

On to Lawn, Lord's Cove and an island archipelago

The next community is Lawn, where a sandbar provides natural shelter along an otherwise exposed stretch of coast. After that is Lord's Cove, a good birdwatching area. Just offshore on Middle Lawn Island, leach's storm petrels and manx shearwaters have established colonies, and the islands are part of the Lawn Island Archipelago Provisional Ecological Reserve.

Allan's Island is joined to Lamaline by a short causeway. Here you'll find a small grotto to the Virgin Mary. Just past Point May is a lookout across the water to St. Pierre, just 12 miles away.

French Islands Drive

Take the ferry to the French island of St. Pierre et Miquelon from Fortune. But before you leave the shore and enter French waters, stop to explore Fortune's own attractions. There are a number of historic buildings and fishing sheds. Just west of the town is the Fortune Head Ecological Reserve, which contains rare fossils from 540 million years ago. A display on the fossils is housed in the Interpretation Centre in the town.

Board the ferry

From Fortune, you can take a very pleasant – and unique – side trip to France on the seasonal summer passenger ferry (no cars) operated by SPM Tours. St. Pierre et Miquelon is as French as Brittany, where the ancestors of many St. Pierrais came from.

During the prohibition era in the United States, rum-running gangsters like Al Capone did quite a bit of business with St. Pierre and the local museum has one of Capone's hats on display. You can stay at a hotel, or a pension, have piping hot fresh bread for breakfast, sample French wine and sweets and soak up the French ambience. Side trips to Miquelon can be arranged. When travelling by coastal boat or ferry it's always a good idea to plan everything in advance. Schedules can vary.

If you go to St. Pierre, remember that you must go through Customs both in St. Pierre and on your return to Fortune. Canadians must show an identification card with the holder's photo, such as a driver's license or citizenship card. Americans must show their passports. The new American passport card is not accepted. People from other countries will have to show valid visas and passports. The ferry ride takes about 70 minutes.

Back in Newfoundland, visit Grand Bank

The next community is Grand Bank, the epitome of rural Newfoundland, the most famous community on the Heritage Run and one of the most beautiful communities anywhere along the Atlantic seaboard.

As soon as you drive into Grand Bank, you can sense this is a special place, self-assured, neat, and conscious of the important part the town has played in Newfoundland history. It was settled in the 1650s by the French, and was taken over by the English early in the 18th century. The town of Grand Bank is synonymous with the fishery. The Grand Banks, which lie in a wide area south and west of Newfoundland, are the richest fishing grounds in the world. Fishermen and sailors from here and other towns along the peninsula were renowned for their boat-handling skills.

The Provincial Seamen's Museum in Grand Bank is devoted to the men and ships involved in the fishery. You can't miss this building: it's shaped like the sails of a schooner, and was once an exhibit hall at Montreal's Expo ‘67 World Fair. Inside are scores of boat models and a helpful staff. The Burin Peninsula Soccer Hall of Fame is also located here, which is appropriate given the proximity to St. Lawrence. Along the waterfront and nearby streets are Grand Bank's architectural wonders. The houses, influenced by the styles prevalent not in St. John's, but in Halifax and Boston, lie close to one another along narrow winding streets.

There are a couple of very fine examples of Queen Anne style architecture with the `widow's walk' atop the roof. The Heritage Walk takes in most of the older houses and commercial buildings in town. One of the many highlights is the George C. Harris House. This merchant property was built by Harris in 1908. Tour guides in period costume will show you around. Another must-see is the Thorndyke House, a sea captain's house dating from 1917. You can obtain information on the Heritage Walk at the museum and Visitor Information Centres on the Burin Peninsula.

There is also a Marine Walk and a Wilderness Walk to introduce you to the surrounding countryside. A 2007 addition is the Luben Bokov sculpture of a women clinging to a window's walk railing and looking out to sea. The town's newest attraction is its Regional Theatre Festival in July and August, which features plays and a lunch-time theatre series that focus on the stories and heritage of the Burin Peninsula.

Heading north on Route 210 to Frenchman's Cove and Fortune Bay

You'll come to Frenchman's Cove Provincial Park where a swim might be in order. When you come to Frenchman's Cove, bring your golf clubs and try out the nine-hole course.

Next up is Garnish on Fortune Bay. This bay is infamous for its storms, and standing on a hill in Garnish overlooking the ocean you can see the weather change in a minute. Low fogs blow in to block the bobbing lighted buoys near the reefs just offshore, and views of the distant coasts of Brunette Island, and English Harbour West with its twinkling night lights, can appear or disappear in a moment. Breaks in clouds scudding rapidly over the bay pour brilliant golds onto the shifting waters.

This is a good place to stretch your legs. Explore the century-old lighthouse and walk the Mount Serat and Deep Water Point trails. Tip: bring waterproof footwear. For a longer walk, there's a 25-kilometre hiking and walking trail beyond Garnish to the abandoned community of Point Rosie.