The Baccalieu Trail

Journey from St. John's and tour Conception Bay, one of the earliest European-settled parts of the island, then explore the northwest coast of the Bay de Verde Peninsula in Trinity Bay. Along the way you will visit Cupids, the first English settlement in Canada, old fishing towns, and sandy beaches. See how traditional small fishing boats are built and see the wonder of the 1860s – the trans-Atlantic telegraph cable.

Day 1 - Head for Baccalieu

Head out from the city on Topsail Road, Route 60. Your first stop should be the Manuels River Hibernia Interpretation Centre to see some rare fossils. Fossils identical to these have been found in Spain, Portugal, and North Africa, and helped prove the theory of continental drift.

Drive around the shore to Brigus, visit Hawthorne Cottage National Historic Site once home to famous Arctic explorer Captain Bob Bartlett. Bartlett joined Robert Peary on his expedition to the North Pole in 1908, and spent most of his life exploring the north.

Next stop is Cupids, site of Canada's first English colony. Drop by the Legacy Centre to explore the town's unusual history, and then look over the shoulders of archaeologists at work. Nearby is Perchance Theatre, performing works from classic Shakespeare to modern comedy in an open-air venue inspired by early 17th-century London playhouses.

Spend the night in the area.

Day 2 - Bay Roberts to Grates Cove

Start your day in Bay Roberts, and set aside some time to check out the work of Christopher Pratt. Perhaps the best-known visual artist from Newfoundland and Labrador, his art is on display in the gallery at the Cable Building, which also houses the Road to Yesterday Museum.

Harbour Grace is where the pirate Peter Easton had his headquarters in the 17th century. The site, ironically, became a jail and courthouse much later. Get out and walk the town to see its gorgeous heritage architecture. The famous American flyer Amelia Earhart launched her 1932 flight to Europe from Harbour Grace, to become the first woman to fly the Atlantic solo. A statue of Earhart stands at the entrance to the town, and the airfield she and other aviators used is nearby.

Next is Carbonear, site of settlers' resistance against French invaders in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Continue on to Salmon Cove for a stroll along one of the few sandy beaches on the Avalon Peninsula. A two-kilometre hiking trail and warm water river offer activities for the whole family.

At Bay de Verde, the shallow harbour glows aquamarine, hence its name. Blundon Heritage Premises offers a glimpse into the history of this famous fishing town, plus a display on seabirds that nest at the nearby protected ecological reserve on Baccalieu Island.

End the day at Grates Cove, site of an unusual National Historic Site - walls used to keep roaming livestock out of vegetable plots. Grab something to eat and spend the night in the area.

Day 3 - Traditional Boat Building

At Winterton is the Boat Building Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador. Here, you can see all kinds of boats, and roll up your sleeves to learn how to build a traditional dory or punt.

In 1866 the first transatlantic telegraph cable was landed at Heart's Content. The old cable station stayed in business for a century until replaced by satellites, and is now a Provincial Historic Site.

Markland, on Route 81, was founded as an experimental agricultural community in 1934. Nowadays you'll find Rodrigues Markland Cottage Winery - Newfoundland's first berry winery there, turning local blueberries and partridgeberries into delicious wines.