Exploring the Southwest Coast of NewfoundlandBy: Newfoundland & Labrador
A journey into the Southwest Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador is an adventure into one of the most extraordinary parts of the province.
Around here, fishermen and farmers make their living between the Long Range Mountains and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. You’ll find the likes of granite lighthouses, sawtooth coastlines, and jungle-like hiking trails in every corner of this region, and you’ll return home with plenty of new friends. Some might even know a thing or two about hidden pirate treasure.
If you’re a nature lover, you’ll appreciate the pastoral landscape of the Codroy Valley wedged between the ocean and the mountains. Flora and fauna thrive here, and once you start exploring, you will too.
See the Cape Anguille Lighthouse
Sitting on the tip of the island of Newfoundland’s most westerly point, the Cape Anguille Lighthouse has long protected ships navigating the St. Lawrence. At nearly 18 metres high, the lighthouse makes for a picture-perfect monument amongst the old farm fields where sheep still roam. If you want to enjoy the solitude a little longer, stay overnight in the restored, century-old light keeper’s home.
Visit the Codroy Valley Wetland Centre
The Codroy Valley is a designated Wetlands of International Importance, thanks to the area’s lush, rich habitat. You can learn about what makes this place so special at the Codroy Valley Wetland Centre, or walk the Wetland Trail. The trail, an easy walk, eventually leads into a peaceful forest providing lots of shade on those sunny days. Keep an eye out for various species of birds like the great blue heron, the wood duck, greater yellowlegs, and Canada goose.
Hike the Starlite Trail
For a birds-eye view over Little Codroy River, hiking the Starlite Trail near Doyles is a must-do. It starts out easy enough, with a slight uphill incline through dense forest and sun-dappled paths—but this trail will test your stamina as you climb up to the top of the Long Range Mountains. From there, you’ll have unparalleled views over the river and the ocean beyond. Turn around, and you’ll find yourself in a deep, verdant valley. This hike is moderate to strenuous.
If you’d prefer a lighter Codroy Valley hike, the 5.5-km Coastangs Trail is equally as rewarding as you hike between the mountains in the valley. The landscape is dotted with sandy beaches, sea stacks, and sandbars along the way.
Take an ATV Trip
The Southwest Coast knows a thing or two about adventure, so taking an ATV trip with the folks at Pirate’s Haven means you’ll get to spend the day riding breezy bluffs, mountaintops, beaches, and country backroads on the Newfoundland T’Railway. You’ll learn about the local pirate history here and the legend of buried treasures, and you’ll wrap up the day with a trailside mug-up – including the likes of moose sausage and tasty molasses buns, all prepared by your fabulous hosts.
Port aux Basques & Area
For anyone entering Newfoundland and Labrador via car, Port aux Basques is a main entry hub. But don’t drive off too fast—you’ll find this corner of the province has a few surprises up its sleeve, including flawless sandy beaches and unique lighthouses hewn straight from the island’s granite surroundings.
Cape Ray Lighthouse
Built in 1871, the Cape Ray Lighthouse marked the southern tip of the French Shore. The onsite museum has a fascinating collection of artifacts detailing the history around the Lighthouse, as well as a Dorset settlement discovered there dating back to 1,800 years ago. It’s a great spot to stay awhile, soaking up the endless ocean views.
J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park
Florida, or Newfoundland? Not far from Cape Ray is J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park, home to one of the most pristine, white sandy beaches in the province. Spread a beach towel and sink your toes into the powdery sand—although it’s advised not to swim here (due to a strong undertow), that saltwater breeze is the perfect tonic to a long day of travel.
It's not all about the beach, though. Camp out here at the park and you'll be in the midst of bogs, forested hills, and bright, colourful flora. If you're lucky, you'll even counter rabbits, moose, birds, mink, and more.
Grand Bay West Beach & Trail
Here, 6 km of beautifully maintained boardwalk meanders around the coastline and along Grand Bay West Beach. Locals in Port aux Basques certainly don’t take this place for granted—both the trail and beach are always abuzz with activity. Take a walk or grab a seat and enjoy the waves crashing against the cliffs, or enjoy a beach boil-up as the sun goes down.
Rose Blanche Lighthouse
The Rose Blanche Lighthouse is one of a kind—unlike most other red-and-white lighthouses that dot our coastline, it’s made entirely of granite carved from a nearby quarry. Although restored in 1999, the Rose Blanche Lighthouse has been around since 1871. Easy, circular walking paths loop around the site, offering spectacular views of the lighthouse on its rocky outcrop. Inside the lighthouse, you’ll learn about the various light keepers’ and their assistants’ day-to-day duties over the decades—as well as their personal lives. You’ll be amazed to learn how they managed to raise very, very large families in such close confines.
Explore by Land and Sea
While you’re in the area, hike the Barachois Falls Trail, an easy 1.2-km boardwalk trek to a stunning waterfall. After a fresh rain, the roar of the waterfall is truly astounding. In nearby Isle aux Morts, you can also take the easy 4-km looped Harvey Trail along the coast.
If you’d rather explore the coastline, hop aboard a guided boat tour and explore the many secluded coves and hidden beaches around the Southwest Coast.
Port au Port Peninsula
The Port au Port Peninsula is a confluence of cultures, including Mi’kmaq and Acadian—after all, the driving route is known as the French Ancestors Route. But it’s also home to surprising military history, craggy coastlines, and architectural gems that you won’t find anywhere else on the island.
From the outside, Stephenville is an unassuming, small town. But being home to the former Ernest Harmon Air Force Base—an American military base—the town holds a whole lot of special history you might not expect on the west coast of Newfoundland. For one, many of the town’s streets bear the names of American states. You can also visit the old air force base, or see the replica of the F-102 Delta fighter jet, the Dagger. Dig a little deeper, and learn about Stephenville’s role in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
While here, visit the Regional Museum of Art & History to learn more about the early settlers in the Bay St. George area. And if you feel like going back further in time another 305 million years, you can walk the Fossil Foot Path at Blanche Brook to see the Ancient Carboniferous Fossil Trees found there, representing the first seed-producing trees to grow on slopes.
Our Lady of Mercy Heritage Church
Out on the Port au Port Peninsula is the impressive Our Lady of Mercy Heritage Church, the largest wooden structure in the province. Inside you’ll discover unique marble stations of the cross, original statues, and stained glass all over 100 years old. A local fisherman hand-carved the alter rail, and the ceiling was built to represent a schooner’s hull.
This church became the focal point of the community for some time, with a seating capacity of 1,000 people. When the Aguathuna quarry opened in the early 1900s, local residents expected the area to turn into a major urban centre. The population boom didn’t happen—but locals all pitched in to build this work of art. There’s still an active congregation there today.
Hike Danny’s Trail
It’s no surprise that the Port au Port Peninsula has unforgettable coastal views. One of the best ways to soak them up is on a hike, like the Gravels Rest Stop and Danny’s Trail. This gentle 3.5 km seaside walk takes you along scenic Port au Port Bay. Highlights along the way include limestone rock formations, and the Port au Port isthmus—an almost impossibly thin finger of land jutting out into the ocean. If you haven’t seen the Our Lady of Mercy Heritage Church yet, this trail will take you to it.
Visit the Secret Cove Brewing Co.
Wrap up your time on the Port au Port Peninsula at the Secret Cove Brewing Co., one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s finest craft breweries. Grab a pint of craft beer in the cozy taproom, enjoy some eats, and stay for the live music.
Don't forget to learn more about craft breweries in Newfoundland and Labrador!
Visit Park Boutte du Cap
Park Boutte du Cap is right out there on the tip of the peninsula in Bay St. George, offering some of the most spectacular ocean views in the province. Its dramatic high cliffs and panoramic ocean views offer plenty of opportunity to spot whales and icebergs, or a fishing vessel happily chugging along the horizon.
Snap some photos and camp out for the night, or indulge in a free bread tasting at the traditional bread oven (there are demonstrations daily, in-season).
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