A long, thin stretch of land connects Avalon Peninsula to the rest of Newfoundland. The 5 km long Isthmus of Avalon runs between Trinity Bay in the north and Placentia Bay in the south. Since it was already a foggy day, our drive across this isthmus was a little unnerving.
The fog became thicker and thicker the further we drove across this narrow tract of land. Near the middle of the isthmus, we couldn’t see anything outside of the car. It felt like we were on our way to Avalon of Arthurian Legend instead of the one on Newfoundland.
Needing a break from the fog, we stopped at Chance Cove. We had read about a hike that follows its shoreline. Chance Cove is located midway on the isthmus, so the hike gave us a good excuse to stop. We hoped we would still have good views despite the weather. Unfortunately, the rain and fog kept us in the car. Chance Cove is a nice quiet area with small fishing communities scattered around an inlet and a large rocky prominence in the bay. Even without the hike it was a good spot to take a break from driving in the dense fog.
Avalon Peninsula is the most populated part of Newfoundland. Looking at the map you can see it has an irregular shape caused by four large bays pinching in its sides. The first two form the Isthmus of Avalon and the next two are Conception Bay in the north and St. Mary’s Bay in the south. Together they cut into the main body of an otherwise round peninsula.
As if Conception Bay isn’t a strange enough name on its own, there are many other funny names in this part of Newfoundland. Just before crossing the foggy isthmus, we drove by the towns of Goobies and Come by Chance. On the other side of the narrow drive is the town Dildo, where American talk show host Jimmy Kimmel is the honourary mayor. Not far away are Heart’s Desire, Heart’s Content and on Conception Bay are the towns of Cupids and Blow Me Down. On the other side of Avalon Peninsula is Witless Bay. It was a never ending series of laughs as we drove around Avalon Peninsula.
After crossing the foggy isthmus we explored a few interesting areas on Bay de Verde Peninsula and Conception Bay. On the southern end of Conception Bay is the small, but picturesque Conception Harbour. A rusty sunken ship poking above the water provides an interesting contrast to the calm bay.
A little further north is Turk’s Gut, a long, thin bay with rocky shores. Although there’s not much to see, it’s worth a quick stop if you’re visiting Bay de Verde Peninsula.
After Turk’s Gut we discovered another town to add to our list of favourite Newfoundland towns. To get there we drove on a winding, tree-lined road with very few views. We had almost given up until suddenly, this boring drive brought us to a magical spot. Enclosed in a wall of rocky mountains we spotted the charming town of Brigus. The small fishing village is centred around a quite cove with a striking mountainous backdrop. It’s almost as if the protective cirque of barren mountains is hiding Brigus from outsiders.
As we walked along the waterfront in this cute town we had more views of colourful homes climbing the rocky hills between patches of green grass and trees. Below town, blue fishing boats were bobbing in the water. All of these sources of colour provided a nice contrast to the surrounding grey mountains. It’s the perfect setting and gives more insight into Newfoundland’s nickname ‘The Rock’. In fact it’s such a photogenic spot that the HGTV show ‘Rock Solid Builds’ is filmed here.
Brigus Bay is a small cove on the larger Conception Bay. Looking away from town toward the bay are small, rocky islands dotting the calm water.
Just north of Brigus, the long, skinny Port de Grave Peninsula juts out far into Conception Bay and offers more incredible scenes. Small fishing communities hug the shores of this hilly land. Below them busy fishing harbours were filled with trawlers.
At the very tip of this long peninsula, we had a short walk on an open meadow to reach a cute lighthouse. Greenpoint Lighthouse is a red and white candy cane stripped lighthouse standing alone on a windy cliff. Huge, jagged rocks poke their heads out of the wild Atlantic Ocean in front. It is a harsh yet gorgeous scene.
On the drive back from the lighthouse we had lovely views of Bay Robert across the water from Port de Grave. It’s a busy harbour town with large tankers in the water. There’s not much to do there, but it is scenic from a distance.
Aviation enthusiasts may recognize the town Harbour Grace. In 1932 Amelia Earhart flew from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland to Culmore, Ireland becoming the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic. In fact, Earhart was only the second pilot to complete this flight solo. A statue in town commemorates her accomplishments.
Tips for Visiting Newfoundland
- The TransCanada Highway in Newfoundland is shaped like a horseshoe as it travels along the west, north and eastern edge of the island province. There are smaller highways leading to the various capes, but in order to get from east to west, you have to drive all around the northern edge. There are no shortcuts across the island. It will take a full day to drive from one side to the other. There are quite a few potholes across the province so drive with caution.
- Watch for moose while driving, especially between dusk and dawn. With 125,000 moose on the island there are, on average 700 moose-car collisions per year.
- If you’re planning to rent a car or RV, the best advice is to book early. Even when there isn’t a worldwide pandemic, there are not many available.
- Newfoundland Standard Time is 30 minutes ahead of Atlantic Standard Time so do don’t forget to change your watch.
- Don’t confuse St. John’s, Newfoundland’s capital city with St. John in New Brunswick.
Getting to Newfoundland
Marine Atlantic ferries travel between Sydney, NS and western Newfoundland’s Port aux Basques (7 hrs) twice a day and to the eastern province’s Argentia a few times a week. If traveling to or from Argentia it is a long 16 hour trip, usually overnight. Another ferry travels from Blanc-Sablon, Quebec to St. Barbe on the Great Northern Peninsula. This ferry is much closer to L’Anse aux Meadow, however it is a long and difficult drive to reach the Quebec Port.
Most flights travel to St. John’s, but there are also international airports in Stephenville and Gander. Gander is famous for accepting planes from the US during 9/11.
Coming Next – Our Favourite Day Trips From St. John’s, Newfoundland
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