Cycling the Avalon | Newfoundland, Canada

Cycling The Avalon Newfoundland Cycle Tour

It is no mystery why Newfoundland is affectionately known as “The Rock”. Craggy cliffs rim its 9600 kilometers of coastal perimeter, ancient weather-beaten mountains dominate its heart and everywhere its bedrock foundation makes itself known. This is a place of “barrens” which are not barren at all but nurture a rich diversity of remarkable plants, many of them rare, that have evolved to survive the harshness of Newfoundland’s sub-arctic climate. It is the home of hardy black spruce trees, dwarfed by wind and frost into the twisted impenetrable maze of trunks and branches known as “tuckamore”. Its restless seas have cloaked
the site of the oldest remnants of multicellular life on Earth for over 580 million years. Much of its land lies virtually undiscovered. In fact, 95% of Newfoundland is crown land and as such is public property.

Imagine traversing this raw place on your bicycle, following the rise and fall of its hills, hugging the shores of its breathtaking capes and coves, gazing across the infinite panorama of its remote and imposing vistas. Our cycling expedition on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland may very well pedal you to the edge of your normal comfort zone as you challenge the epic ruggedness that is the terrain along the Irish Loop and the
Baccalieu Trail.

When you park your bicycle at the end of each day, the genuine warmth and unparalleled hospitality of the Newfoundlanders that make the quaint and colourful fishing villages their home will be waiting to greet you. Recharge your energy with hearty servings of the best and freshest seafood you’ll find anywhere as well as other one-of-a-kind culinary offerings of this unique part of the world. We’ll have time to enjoy the toe-tapping traditional Newfoundland music with its Irish origins and laugh along with the sense of humour that has sustained generations of Newfoundlanders as they eked out an existence in the face of this demanding environment.

When we’re not on our bicycles, our adventures will take us on exhilarating hikes along sections of the world-famous East Coast trail and a visit to the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, site of fossils illustrating the missing link in the evolution of animal life on our planet. Weather permitting, we’ll venture onto the water in search of members of the world’s largest population of Humpback Whales in their summer feeding grounds.

We’ll also have plenty of time in the provincial capital of St. John’s to explore the Battery and Fort Amherst, which stand guard at the mouth of the harbour, as well as its quirky shops, iconic “jellybean” houses and other interesting sites such as Signal Hill and Cape Spear. Step out in the evening to take in the nightlife on the pedestrian-only George Street, a five minute walk from our hotel, where music of all flavours spills from the open doors of its seemingly endless pubs.
Our tour will cover nearly 500 km over a two-week period, culminating at the rugged outport village of Grates Cove, situated on Iceberg Alley. Here you will have time to experience the charms of this small town in whatever way works best for you. Follow its many meandering trails, explore its rock beaches or simply find a comfortable spot to sit and contemplate the ocean from a majestic cliff. If we are very lucky, we might even catch sight of a towering iceberg as it makes its ponderous way south. When the time comes, a chartered bus will whisk us back to our starting point in St. John’s.

Summers in Newfoundland are short but pleasant. The average daytime high in July on the Avalon Peninsula is 20°C and lows average 11°C.

Humidity is rarely a problem. Though Newfoundland is rarely flat and wind is a constant companion, our daily distances are relatively short with an average of about 45 kilometers per cycling day, leaving lots of time for resting or sightseeing break along the way.

We hope you’ll be able to join us on what promises to be a never-to-be-forgotten sojourn into the far eastern reaches of Canada’s glorious Atlantic coast.

WEDNESDAY &; THURSDAY (DAY 5/6) Across the Barrens to Trepassey 71 km

MAPS NEEDED: Map 2, Map of Trepassey and Area
If you are using Garmin maps, go to Cycling the Avalon Day 5 – Ferryland to Trepassey

Today will be dominated by the continuously rolling highway ahead as it traverses the largely deserted heaths and bogs of the barrens, offering now and then a thrilling downhill run as our route descends to the ocean. Small shallow rocky lakes and bog ponds abound and there are few trees. You can see the range of ancient granite hills that form the southern and eastern boundaries of the remote Avalon Wilderness Reserve. The highest one, Butterpot, a flat-topped hill 386 meters above sea level, can be observed directly west of Renews. Red Hill and Bread and Cheese Hill (marked on Map 2) are also part of this range. Though the barrens here are characterized by very few trees, there are extensive carpets of heath moss, a plant of very restricted distribution with this region one of the few places in North America where it grows. It forms dense mats that are yellowish to olive green in colour.

Leave our Ferryland accommodations and head south along Route 10.

(2) 5 km – Pass through the tiny town of Aquaforte.

13.5 km – Back to the ocean again at the town of Fermeuse. This town was born a summer fishing station used by the Portuguese during the 1500s. It was referred to on early maps as R. Fermoso or Rio Fremoze. Recently, a wind power project is creating new opportunities for residents.

18 km – Pass by the town of Renews. See if you can spot Butterpot Hill (as mentioned above).

25 km – Fly through Bear Cove.

27.5 km – As you near the town of Cappahayden, pause at the Florizel Viewing Point for an interesting break. The passenger liner, Florizel, left St. John’s harbour on Feb. 23, 1918 for its routine run to Halifax and then on to New York. Sadly, the ship met horrific blizzard conditions that caused it to run full steam into the rocks at Horn Head Point near Cappahayden. The 138 people on board could only hang on as the ship was battered against the rocks and huge icy waves crashed over the decks, sweeping away many of them. On the shore, residents lit fires, anxiously waiting for conditions to improve. They attempted a rescue but the gale force winds, ice and poor visibility could not be overcome. It was two days before another rescue effort could be made, and still the storm was raging. At great peril, local fishermen and two rescue ships used their dories to reach the foundering ship. One whaling dory managed to rescue 25 of the survivors in spite of capsizing and being righted five times. Later, local people took on the grim task of gathering up bodies from the beaten hull of the ship and the wind-whipped shoreline. In the end, 94 people perished.

NOTE: A dory is small, shallow draft, flat bottom vessel with narrow transom and no keel.
As we continue on, our ride will become slightly less hilly. However, be warned that there are still about 30 kilometers of vast empty land ahead to cross. Time to enter your Zen state of mind…

Keep your eyes open for Newfoundland wildlife. Native to the island are black bear, woodland caribou, otter, muskrat, foxes, and lynx. Newfoundland’s red fox comes in a range of colours including red, black, silver, yellowish and a mixture of colours. Moose are not native to Newfoundland but were introduced in 1878 by the release of a bull and a cow at Gander Bay. In 1904 another two bulls and two cows arrived. From these six animals came today’s population of about 125,000.

(Map of Trepassey and Area) 59 km – Ride across the margin of Portugal Cove South and past the Edge of Avalon Interpretation Centre where we will spend some time tomorrow.

64 km – Ride through the community of Biscay Bay, located at the mouth of the Biscay Bay River and historically known for its rich salmon resources. In this area, the Avalon Forest becomes visible. This is a boreal forest found here in upland areas away from the ocean and in the larger river valleys. Along the roads and lanes you might notice a profusion of sweet-scented wild roses. Trepassey was once called “River of Roses” by the Basques.

71 km – Arrive at the Edge of the Avalon Inn, our safe port for the next two nights.
Trepassey’s rich history is closely linked to the fishing industry. From about 1505 fishermen began arriving from France, Spain and Portugal to occupy the area from early spring to late fall, beckoned by the rich stocks of Atlantic Cod around the Grand Banks. Situated around the edge of a deep, sheltered bay, the town has long been an important hub for surrounding communities. It was also a starting point for early transatlantic flights. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to cross the Atlantic in 1928 when she was a passenger aboard a seaplane that departed from Trepassey and landed in Burry Port, Wales. Four years later, she flew across the ocean solo.