A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Ferryland Head Lighthouse

About 45 minutes further south from Bay Bulls is the lovely town of Ferryland. The road is referred to as the Irish Loop, telling you a bit of where the original immigrants came from.

We first visited Ferryland in August 2007. It was an obvious place to look for the lighthouse, since it had become known for the gourmet picnic lunches being served there and had been nicely fixed up.

In the coming days I will mention ferries a lot. They are an important part of the transportation network here in Newfoundland and Labrador. But there is no ferry in Ferryland. The name is derived from the name given by Portuguese fishermen, “Fariahm”, and the French name, “Forillon”.

Ferryland was originally founded by George Calvert, also known as Lord Baltimore, in 1621. He left a couple of years later to set up his namesake colony in Maryland. Perhaps he did not like the weather. Excavations of the original Ferryland settlement began over 30 years ago and continue to this day.

We had decided to skip the picnic lunch since it was quite difficult to get a reservation and instead opted for lunch at the café near the visitor centre. We then took the 25-minute hike along a gravel trail to the lighthouse. It is an easy walk on a nice day, but can be a bit tough on a windy one, such as when some friends visited in September 2018.
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The Ferryland Head Lighthouse was built in 1870. The tower was made of brick and needed constant repairs so that it was eventually encased in iron, which is painted bright red.
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Kite flying behind the lighthouse
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One spring we drove down to see a large iceberg that was grounded in Ferryland. It had nothing to do with the lighthouse, but the secondary subject of this blog is showing off my many photographs of places that are somewhat close to a lighthouse.
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Consistent with above rules, I am including some from a trip to Brigus South which is about 15 minutes away. These were taken back in September 2010. I have not returned, so wonder how many of the old fishing structures are still there. Two days after I took these, hurricane Igor hit Newfoundland and caused devastating damage to much of the province.
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Posted by Bob Brink 16:33 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses canada newfoundland Comments (2)

Cape Race, Powles Head and Cape Pine Lighthouses

After our first visit to the Ferryland lighthouse back in August 2007, we drove down the Irish Loop to see a couple of other lighthouses. This was part of an outing that I planned on the spur of the moment. I did this several times during those years, identifying lighthouses to visit, and telling Po that we were heading out for the day.

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The Cape Race lighthouse is at the end of a 20-kilometre drive on a rough gravel road. It was a treeless expanse. There was one lonely house.

We passed through the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve. You can guess why a place on the North Atlantic might be named Mistaken Point. You can imagine the number of shipwrecks (over 50 known) and the reason why they built a lighthouse. Mistaken Point is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its preserved fossils that date back hundreds of millions of years. You might be expecting me to post some fossil photos. But I am embarrassed to admit that I have never taken any. Visitors must take a guided tour. The timing was not good that day. We had stopped at the interpretation centre in Portugal Cove South and were told that the we would have to wait a few hours for the next tour. Our planned re-visit has yet to occur. Maybe we will do it this year as part of our staycation or when you come to visit us.

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The Cape Race lighthouse was built in 1856. It is now a National Historic Site. We were able to go into the lighthouse. The inside was all open, including the winding concrete staircase to go up to the light. It was a challenge for me with my fear of heights, but I was really pleased that I made it to the top.

A wireless station was installed at Cape Race in 1904, three years after the first transatlantic signal was sent from Signal Hill in St. John’s. The Cape Race station was the first land-based wireless to respond to the distress call from the Titanic in April 1912.
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After Cape Race we drove back down the rough road and turned left to Trepassey in order to find the Powles Head Lighthouse. Once we reached Trepassey, it required a rough drive of 4 km down a gravel road to the end of a peninsula that forms the southern shore of Trepassey Harbour. The lighthouse was opened in 1902. The current tower was built in 1960.
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We checked out the view from The Point where we could see both the town and back down to the lighthouse. The cannon was part of a battery that was used during the American war of independence against privateers disrupting the fishery.
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I had originally planned on four lighthouses that day, but it was quite late by the time we were leaving Trepassey, and we had a long drive home, so I decided to skip the fourth one, Cape Pine. I thought we would be back within a year, but it took us until August 2011 to finally drive to Cape Pine. Since a logical lighthouse excursion would be the three southern lighthouses of Cape Race, Powles Head, and Cape Pine, I will include the 2011 Cape Pine outing in this post.

It would have only taken about 30 minutes to get from Trepassey to Cape Pine, but it was 2.5 hours from Pouch Cove. Cape Pine is the most southerly point in Newfoundland.

It was a beautiful day. We had to drive about 8 kilometres on a gravel road, but it was quite easy to get to. As at most lighthouses, we were all alone as we walked around. The curved sections of the lighthouse had to be hoisted up a cliff and then carted to the construction site. It was completed at the end of 1850 and lit on January 1, 1851. The station was automated in 1996.

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Posted by Bob Brink 17:42 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses canada newfoundland Comments (5)

Cape St. Mary's Lighthouse

In September 2008 we drove down to Cape St. Mary’s, which sits on the opposite corner of the Avalon Peninsula from Pouch Cove. I wanted to check out the lighthouse, but most people visit for the birds. Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve holds a major seabird colony.


It was a glorious late summer day. We first drove about 2.5 hours to a charming little town called Point Lance. There were sheep grazing in the middle of a flood plain. We visited a real sandy beach (most beaches in Newfoundland are rock). There were two Labs running free on the beach, jumping into the surf. They saw us and came over to say hello. I took a photo of some men cutting grass in a field and was intrigued by the use of old and new technology.

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It took about 30 minutes to get to Cape St. Mary’s. It was still sunny. We were lucky since there are 200 days of fog each year at the cape. The cape is home to a wide variety of birds, but that day we were most impressed with the northern gannets. This was before I had a camera that could take videos, otherwise I would have some videos of the gannets diving into the sea. The reserve is popular both due to the abundance of birdlife but also due to its accessibility. It is an easy walk to a cliff where you can look over to “Bird Rock”, a 100-metre stack that is only a few metres away. It is the southernmost colony of northern gannets in North America.

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The lighthouse’s opening was delayed due to difficulties in getting the lighting apparatus to the site, not surprising considering the steep cliffs. It was lit for the first time on September 20, 1860.

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There were sheep grazing next to the lighthouse.
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We took a slightly different route going home, going up the western side of the peninsula to Placentia. Shortly after leaving St. Mary’s, we passed a restaurant with a sign offering crab. We stopped and had a nice meal of snow crab. We have since found that fish & chips outlets might be common in Newfoundland, but little roadside restaurants serving crab are not. It was good that we stopped when we did.

Posted by Bob Brink 16:02 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses canada newfoundland Comments (6)

Bell Island Lighthouse

The next lighthouse I will show you is on Bell Island, in Conception Bay. Conception Bay sits on the northeast side of the Avalon Peninsula. Bell Island is on the St. John’s side of the bay. It is not far from where we live, requiring only a 25-minute drive west to Portugal Cove to get close. Then you need to take the ferry.

Here is some trivia which might be useful when you get here and wonder about the names of places. The actual name of this town with the ferry is Portugal Cove-St. Philips. Awkward hyphenated town names are common in Newfoundland. Years ago, many Newfoundland towns were encouraged (forced?) to amalgamate with their neighbours. Sometimes they came up with a new name, sometimes they combined their names, and sometimes town names were lost to the larger town. So, in our area of the Avalon we can drive to Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove and then on to Conception Bay South, an amalgamation of nine communities. Just think how long that name could have been. In our town, the community of Shoe Cove was forced to join Pouch Cove in 1987, but Pouch Cove did not change its name. Some long-term Shoe Cove residents are still upset about that, the joining and taxes were one thing, but losing their town name is still a sore point. Shoe Cove might be lost, but the name remains as a highway sign. If you visit Pouch Cove, do not be surprised to suddenly see that you are in Shoe Cove. But you really are in Pouch Cove.

The ferry terminal is in the Portugal Cove part of the town. Many Bell Island residents commute to St. John’s, although the weather and mechanical condition of the two ferry vessels makes that a bit difficult at times. The morning traffic report in St. John’s includes the ferry status. A common report might be, “The Flanders is running solo across the tickle.” The translation is that there is only one ferry in operation. A tickle is the Newfoundland term for a short narrow strait.
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The number of ferries in operation is obviously quite important, especially during the busy summer season. It has seemed to me that the word broken is almost always included in news about Newfoundland ferries. Often one of the ferries is unavailable for the Bell Island Ferry, either due to mechanical issues, or because they are being used as a replacement ferry for another provincial ferry service where they only have one vessel.

The weather is a bigger issue for Bell Island. Stormy weather can shut it down. Once in awhile it can even be ice. We get ice floes from the artic in late winter and early spring.

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As I write this, the Newfoundland and Labrador Marine Services Status Board shows 14 different ferry routes being run by the provincial ferries, although some of the Northern routes are closed for the season. I have only been on three of those. Later I will do a post about one ferry that we could not take. It was broken. There used to be many more before communities were resettled by the province. I could not find the number of discontinued ferry routes, but considering the hundreds of resettled communities, there must be dozens of such routes. Since this is a travel blog and not an academic paper, I will not contact the library (which might be closed due to the pandemic) to find out.

Although we talk about going back every summer, after all these years we have only been to Bell Island once, on a Saturday afternoon in July 2007. We arrived at the ferry terminal and found only a few cars in line. Both ferries were running. We only waited about 10 minutes before driving on. We have heard stories of long waits for the ferry, which is a major reason why we do not just drive over on beautiful summer days.

After parking our car, we walked up to the top deck for the crossing. It was a glorious mid-summer’s day. We could see the impressive cliffs of Bell Island as we approached. There were many boats on the tickle (you know that term now). It only took about 20 minutes to reach the island.

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Once there, we turned left to see what was down that way. Since the island is only about nine kilometres long and three kilometres wide, it did not take long to drive to the end and then make our way back to the north side. We passed through the one town, Wabana, and carried on till we arrived at the lighthouse.

In the 1890’s small scale mining was started on the island. By 1935 Bell Island was the second largest centre in Newfoundland. The population grew to over 11,000. The mine, which had started on the surface, now had long shafts of up to five kilometres underneath Conception Bay. But, as with all mines, it eventually had to close. This one did in 1966. And, as with all mining booms and busts, the island’s population went back down. It is now around 2,000.

During WWII, the mine was a major supplier for Cape Breton’s steel mills, and vitally important to Canada’s industry. It therefore became the target of German submarines. They torpedoed the iron ore pier and sunk four ore ships, with the loss of 69 men.

The lighthouse was built in the 1930’s at the request of the steel company operating the mine. The Bell Island Lighthouse is in one of the most spectacular spots of all the Newfoundland lighthouses that I have visited. In fact, it was even closer to the edge of the cliff before it was moved in 2004, due to the danger caused by erosion.
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After the lighthouse we visited the mining museum where we were able to go down into the shafts. That same year we had visited the Cape Breton Miners Museum in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia on our trip from Toronto. Glace Bay was an old coal mine. Now we were in an iron ore mine. I was glad that I never had to work in either type of mine. It was interesting that the two communities, so tied to the sea, would be home to mines, so that young men could go far underground or out on the ocean, both dangerous places.

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We do visit Portugal Cove-St. Philips quite often. We go there for fish & chips. We have two favorite places there, one beside the ferry in Portugal Cove and the other one on the St. Philips side, By the Beach, which is pictured here. By the way, when we say fish here in Newfoundland, we mean cod.

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Posted by Bob Brink 17:47 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses canada newfoundland bell_island Comments (4)

Brigus Point Lighthouse and Green Point Lighthouse

I will now move on around the bay and show you two lighthouses at the bottom of Conception Bay, at the start of the Baccalieu Trail, a loop on the western side of the bay which contains wonderful scenery and lots of history.

The first town to be visited is Brigus, a pretty town nestled into the hills on a sheltered harbour. The town retains a nice historic feel with many large traditional salt box homes harkening back to historic prosperity based on the fishing and sealing industries. Rock walled canals lead into the harbour. Unfortunately, there are some newer giant homes on the waterfront.

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The trail to lighthouse requires a quick climb to the top of a hill with a great view of Brigus. A couple of the photographs are from 2009 when I thought I would do three lighthouses but ended up recalibrating and only visiting two. The trail was not well marked, which caused us to do a lot of back tracking when we found ourselves at the edge of cliffs. That made an hour and a half hike take about two hours. It was a beautiful day, and the views from the trail were spectacular.

The lighthouse began operation on March 1, 1885.

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There was a sad moment as we were leaving the lighthouse. The winds were blowing hard (not unusual at lighthouses), and a gust blew Po’s cap off her head and far down the cliff.

We first visited Brigus back in 2006 on our introductory tour. We stopped at Hawthorne Cottage, the former home of Captain Bob Bartlett. Captain Bob spent more than 50 years exploring the waters of the North and led 40 expeditions to the Artic. He was the captain on the ship that took Robert Peary on his attempts to reach the North Pole.

On this 2010 trip we spent the night at a B&B in Brigus so that we could see a couple of plays in the adjoining town of Cupids. The plays were done by Perchance Theatre at their open-air Elizabethan style playhouse. The old show must go on adage came into play during the evening performance. A downpour began during the last 15 minutes. We were under cover, but the rain really made a racket on the roof, requiring an effort from the actors to be heard. It was still pouring when the play ended, requiring an effort by us to get back to our car, a bit soaked.

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Cupids was the first English colony in Canada and second in North America. The first settlers arrived in 1610, so the town had a big 400-year anniversary celebration in 2010. We visited the Cupids Legacy Centre and toured the archaeological site before attending the afternoon play.

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The Green Point Lighthouse is not far away. Although you could easily do both lighthouses on the same trip, we visited this one at Christmas time in 2007. Shortly after our return to our then seasonal residence in Pouch Cove, I planned a Saturday outing. I identified this lighthouse on the Port de Grave peninsula, which juts out into Conception Bay near the town of Bay Roberts.

Similar to Brigus, Bay Roberts and Port de Grave were important cod fishing and sealing centres, hence the need for the lighthouse, which was built in 1883, just before the Brigus Point Lighthouse.

It was an easy walk to the lighthouse. One thing about visiting Newfoundland lighthouses, you do not have to fight the crowds of tourists. This is especially true in December. But it was a nice sunny day, a little cool, but warm for December.

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Afterwards, we stopped at the harbour in Port de Grave. The boats were decorated for their annual boat lighting, when all the boats in the harbour are decorated for Christmas. Long discussed, we are still waiting to see that. The drive is not that bad in the daytime, but the thought of driving it at night during the early winter tends to keep us in front of the wood stove at home.
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The area is packed with Newfoundland history. On our first trip to Newfoundland we stayed two nights in Harbour Grace. While there we learned a couple of different sides to Newfoundland history. Harbour Grace was an important centre in early transatlantic air travel. An air strip was constructed in 1927 and was the starting point for many air adventures, including the take off for Amelia Earhart’s feat of doing the first transatlantic solo flight by a woman, after taking off from Harbour Grace on May 20, 1932. She landed in Northern Ireland 13.5 hours later.

Then there was piracy. The famous pirate, Peter Easton, arrived in Newfoundland in 1612 and had his headquarters in Harbour Grace. Note that he arrived about the same time as the settlers in Cupids. We learned much of this at the Conception Bay Museum. It was not officially open that day, but on hearing that we were tourists leaving the province a couple of days later (who knew?), the nice lady let us in.

Peter Easton
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We stayed at The Rose Manor Inn. I have not tried to find the names of all the places where we stayed during our early days in Newfoundland, but this one is worth remembering.

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To show a few of the other things you might see in this area, here are a couple of iceberg photos taken in Spaniard's Bay in June 2007.
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Be sure to stop at the scenic lookout just north of the town of Burnt Point when you drive up the Baccalieu Trail.

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Posted by Bob Brink 09:50 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses canada newfoundland Comments (8)

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