Colourful Places and Colourful People
Where else would you find colourful places like Jerrys Nose, Joe Batt’s Arm, and Blow Me Down? Inhabited by equally colourful people, only too willing to tell you how the towns got their names. As you’ll see, sometimes the stories are even more colourful than the names themselves.
Day 1 - The Granite Coast
Begin on the west coast, where the Granite Coast Scenic Drive takes you from Channel-Port aux Basques to Rose Blanche. The real spirit and traditions of outport Newfoundland survive in the small fishing villages that cling tenaciously to the rocky, exposed shores.
Isle aux Morts, or “Island of the Dead”, was named by French settlers in the 1800s, the result of many marine disasters in the treacherous waters offshore.
Continue on to Rose Blanche, named for the distinctive, white granite in the area. The French roche (rock), became rose as English settled the area. Rose Blanche Lighthouse was built in the 1870s, abandoned in the 1940s, and restored in 1999. A Registered Heritage Structure, the lighthouse – and its amazing view – is open to the public in summer.
Day 2 - French Ancestors Route
Along this route you’ll find that many French names remain, such as Petit Jardin, Port au Mal, Lourdes, and Port au Port (you’ll have to ask around for an explanation of how Jerrys Nose got its name).
For more than one hundred years, this region was known as The French Shore, where France held exclusive fishing rights. Many of the traditions of the original inhabitants, like the outdoor bread ovens, are still alive in the area today.
Day 3 - Blow Me Down
If wind energy is more your speed, then perhaps you ought to consider Blow Me Down. This steep mountainous decline is like rocket fuel for wind, and has been known to make life a little more interesting for fishers and explorers of all stripes.
You can find a cottage or camp in the Provincial Park. Take the day to hike along the Bay of Islands or the Copper Mine to Cape Trail.
Day 4 - Cow Head
Cow Head is at the heart of Gros Morne National Park, and has some of the most beautiful sunsets and sandy beaches in the province. Once again the origin of the name can be credited to French settlers. Stumbling upon the skull of a walrus – aka “sea cow” – they elected to call the place Tete De Vache, and voilà: Cow Head.
Day 5 - The Great Northern Peninsula
Just a couple of hours from Gros Morne National Park you will discover colourful place names like Plum Point, Blue Cove, and Green Island Cove – a shade for every spot on the colour wheel.
Stop at Flower’s Cove, famous for its thrombolite fossils, 650-million-year-old remnants of bacteria and algae. Remarkably, they are found in only one other place on the globe: western Australia.
Day 6 - South Coast of Labrador
Take a ferry across the strait to Labrador, which shares a border with the French-speaking province of Québec. There was a time when the French travelled the region and place names like L’Anse-au-Clair, Forteau, and L’Anse-au-Loup (Cove of Wolves) speak to that past.
L’Anse-Amour, near Point Amour Lighthouse, may sound romantic, but actually has its roots in Anse aux Morts – Cove of the Dead – probably due to the many lives lost in dramatic shipwrecks nearby.
Red Bay, which the French called Baie Rouge, was a Basque whaling station for many years during the 16th century. Red Bay is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Site.
Day 7 - Gros Morne National Park
Head back to the island and stay in Gros Morne National Park. With its fjords, mountains, and spectacular ocean scenery. Gros Morne offers unmatched opportunities for outdoor activities and sightseeing. And with names like Tablelands Trails, Trout River, Berry Hill Campground, and Bakers Brook Falls, you might find yourself working up an appetite. Be sure to take time for a feast of local specialties in between adventures.
Day 8 - Dorset Trail
Time to travel across the island, starting with the Dorset Trail, a land of complex geology and steep, thickly wooded hills, named for the Dorset Eskimos who lived – and quarried – here 1,500 years ago
Begin in King’s Point, named after the first settler, and head towards La Scie, a French term for “saw”, referring to the surrounding jagged hills. Pass by Nicky’s Nose – originally known as Nicky’s Nose Cove, the community takes its name from a nearby headland.
Day 9 - From Robert’s Arm to Too Good Arm
As you head east, there are several scenic touring routes to explore and many creative place names to discover. Take the Green Bay and Beothuk Trail to Robert’s Arm, or the Exploits Valley Trail to Leading Tickles.
Drive the Kittiwake Coast Road north to a collection of islands, and you will end up in Twillingate, a prime spot along Iceberg Alley. Be sure to take a side trip to the outport community of Too Good Arm.
Day 10 - Fogo Island
After visiting Too Good Arm, say farewell at Farewell before taking the ferry to Fogo Island, on your way to Joe Batt’s Arm. Fogo Island is the biggest offshore island in the province and home to 11 distinct and lively communities.
Tilting is an Irish community brimming with antiquity and heritage. Likely named by the French who fished the area, it became home to English and then Irish settlers. This Provincial Historic District is more than 250 years old, and you can walk the ancient footpaths that decorate the island.
Day 11 - Kittiwake Coast: Road to the Shore
On the Kittiwake Coast you will see many clever and off-kilter place names. Noggin Cove takes its name from a small cask used to hold rum or butter. In Deadman’s Bay you will find a beautifully sandy beach. Further along are Pound Cove and Hare Bay, and you can finish the day sea kayaking at Happy Adventure.
Day 12 - Bonavista Bay
Explore the picturesque inlets of Bonavista Bay. Travel to Bunyan’s Cove, Sweet Bay, Plate Cove, or Tickle Cove. Stop at Keels, where there are almost as many stories of how the town got its name, as there are letters in it.
Check out Bonavista Social Club for a bite to eat, before continuing on to Bonavista proper. The town’s name is reputed to come from John Cabot’s exclamation upon arriving – O Buon Vista – Oh, Happy Sight!
Finish your day by taking a walk around the town of Trinity, rich with history, or by hiking the internationally acclaimed Skerwink Trail in Trinity East, named after the local term for the shearwater.
Day 13 - Trinity and Conception Bays
Start your journey around the bay at Dildo, home of the most photographed town sign in the province. With a trio of towns named Heart’s Content, Heart’s Desire, and Heart’s Delight, you might say that Trinity Bay wears its heart on its sleeve.
Finish the day at Cupids and Brigus, next door in Conception Bay. Cupids was the first English colony in Canada, and you can explore the archaeological dig, or hunt for the faeries rumoured to live in the woods nearby. Minutes away, Brigus is a postcard-perfect town famous for its legacy of sea captains, including Captain Bob Bartlett whose home is a National Historic Site.
Day 14 - Placentia and Argentia
Head south to Placentia, the French Capital of the Island of Newfoundland in the 1600s. Likely named by the Spanish (Plazençia), Placentia was the site of fierce battles between the French and English until the early 1700s. You see their legacy in fortifications at Castle Hill National Historic Site.
Nearby Argentia links its name to the Latin word for silver, and a silver mine that operated in the area for many years. In the 1940s, the US Navy established a base to access the nearby deep ports of Ship Harbour and Fox Harbour. These days Argentia is the easternmost terminal for the summer ferry to Nova Scotia.