Granite Coast Scenic Drive (45 km)

This tour starts in Rose Blanche. Along the way, you will see dark cliffs, crashing waves, spume and spray. The real spirit and traditions of outport Newfoundland survive in the small fishing villages that cling tenaciously to the rocky, exposed shores of the southern coastal plain.

Drive 45 kilometres east from Channel-Port aux Basques along Route 470

Rose Blanche Lighthouse has one of the best scenic views of the Cabot Strait. Originally built in 1871-73 and abandoned in the 1940s, it was restored in 1999 and today is a Registered Heritage Structure, which is open to the public in summer.

Early mariners like Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Jacques Cartier and Captain John Mason explored the rugged southwest coast of Newfoundland more than 400 years ago. Many of the community names in the area are English versions of the original French or Basques names given by the first settlers. Rose Blanche is named for the white granite the community is built on. In French, rock is roche, and in English, roche has been changed to rose.

Rose Blanche is the western terminus for the coastal boat that services isolated communities along Newfoundland's South Coast (The Southwest Coast by Boat – Part I [internal link]). A small coastal boat (no automobile capacity) connects Rose Blanche with the isolated village of La Poile, about 90 minutes to the east.

Head West along Route 470 toward Diamond Cove and Burnt Islands

After leaving Rose Blanche and heading West you'll reach Harbour Le Cou – celebrated in the Newfoundland folk song of the same name – a community that also bears witness to the French element on this shore. Along Route 470, you'll pass through a number of other small fishing communities including Diamond Cove and Burnt Islands. Be sure to explore the unique heath-covered terrain of coastal Newfoundland before you continue on to Isle aux Morts, or Island of the Dead. This community earned its macabre name because of the number of marine disasters that happened in the treacherous waters offshore.

In 1828, George Harvey, along with his son and daughter, saved nearly the entire complement of passengers and crew from the sinking ship Despatch by stringing a lifeline from the ship to the shore with the help of their valiant Newfoundland dog, Hairyman. King George IV awarded the Harveys a medal for bravery and The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Ann Harvey, was named after George's daughter.

This coastal area has a long history of death and disaster, with the wrecks of no fewer than 40 ships said to be lying at the bottom of the Cabot Strait. These tragedies have given rise to many traditional songs and stories of lost ships and courageous rescues at sea.

After passing Margaree-Fox Roost, drive back to Channel-Port aux Basques

Situated on the southwest coastal plain, this was a fishing station for the French, Portuguese and Basques as early as the 16th century. While it is named for the Basques, it was hardly their only port: research in Spanish archives uncovered information that Basque whalers and fishermen occupied at least seven islands on Newfoundland's west coast and in southern Labrador. Channel-Port aux Basques is the principal Marine Atlantic ferry terminal in the province. There's a boardwalk between the ferry terminal and Scott's Cove Park where you can stretch your legs.

The Gulf Museum here houses two rare 17th-century astrolabes – early marine navigational instruments. Only 33 are known to exist worldwide. The museum also displays a 100-year-old diving suit.

While in Channel-Port aux Basques you can also visit Memorial Park featuring monuments for the S.S. Caribou, a civilian passenger ship operating between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia that was sunk by a German U-Boat in World War II with the loss of 137 passengers. The Scott's Cove Boardwalk is a nice stroll, marked by colourful flags shaped like ships and sails. At the park visit "The Village" which consists of a ship amphitheatre surrounded by quaint little shops modelled on typical outport fishing stages. Before getting back on Route 1, drop by the Port aux Basques Railway Heritage Centre for a guided tour of a restored train filled with artifacts from a century ago.

Channel-Port aux Basques is the western end of T'Railway Provincial Park, a 545-mile jaunt through the wilderness that follows the abandoned Newfoundland Railway line all the way to St. John's. It's part of the Trans-Canada Trail.

Grand Bay West beaches

Just west of Channel-Port aux Basques are the beaches at Grand Bay West, home to the endangered piping plover. These are among the best sandy beaches in Newfoundland. Here you will also find another feature rare to Newfoundland: salt marshes. These marshes attract many different kinds of shorebirds and waterfowl because of their lush growth. This southwestern corner of Newfoundland is a great place to see birds during the spring and fall migrations.