The Irish Loop (better known as “The Loop” with the ‘locals’) is the most south-easterly region of Newfoundland and Canada. This is the place where the sun rises first over the North American continent.
The Loop is comprised of 28 historically charming, breathtaking beautiful, and highly accessible coastal communities, extending 234 kilometers (145 miles) from Bay Bulls to Holyrood, a mere 4 hour and 17 minute drive, along the southern Avalon Peninsula.
The Loop represents the heart and soul of Irish Newfoundland culture, reflecting 400+ years of Irish settlement. On your journey here, you will instantly be endeared by the region’s rich cultural heritage, and you will meet warm, fun loving Newfoundlanders with world-renowned friendliness and kindness.
Countless museums, delightfully colorful architecture, unique historic sites, and narrow, winding roads bring the past to life here, taking you back to a forgotten time. Along the way, you will explore places like Ferryland (established in 1621 under Sir George Calvert), Renews (established in 1617 by Sir Richard Whitbourne), and Trepassey (established in 1504 as a supply depot under King Henry VIII).
Stretched out along stunning coastal vistas, the Loop is also a mystical wonderland with spectacular landscapes and seascapes, and unique geological formations (heaths, gulches, and ledges). Numerous natural gems call the region home including the largest migration of humpback whales on earth, seabird colonies (some of the largest on the planet), icebergs, and woodland caribou (Canada’s most southerly herd).
Historical Points Of Interest
Colony of Avalon
The Colony of Avalon, located at Ferryland, was established by Sir George Calvert (the First Lord Baltimore who also established the U.S. State of Maryland), and is widely recognized as the best preserved early English colonial site in North America. An interpretive center, gift shop, heritage gardens, and an active archaeological dig and lab (that you can even participate in) are situated on-site.
Built in 1870, a 25-minute, 1.6 kilometer (1 mile), easy-moderate trail from the Colony of Avalon leads you to the lighthouse, which is beautifully situated on a peninsula jutting into the sea. The site is also home to Lighthouse Picnics, a most unique foodie experience overlooking the ocean and recognized as one of Destination Canada’s “Signature Experiences”.
Midnight Hill and Grotto de Lourdes on Mass Rock
Situated in Renews, Grotto de Lourdes was constructed 1927, with Mass Rock and Midnight Hill tracing their history to the early 1700s. Both spots are designated Municipal Heritage Sites due to their historic, cultural, spiritual, and aesthetic values.
Murals fill the walls of this beautiful museum in Renews, that tell the story of the area’s rich history of outlaws, battles, and the defiance of its Roman Catholic settlers.
Holy Apostles Roman Catholic Church
Built in the 1870s, Holy Apostles Church in Renews is a Registered Heritage Structure due to its historic, architectural, and cultural value. The church is a good example of vernacular Gothic Revival style with Romanesque influences.
A National Historic Site of Canada and a world-famous landmark for five centuries, Cape Race Lighthouse first appeared on maps by European explorers as early as 1502. Situated on one of Canada’s busiest shipping lanes, the lighthouse is an important landfall marker for North America and contains one of the most powerful lights in the world.
Myrick Wireless Interpretive Centre
It was at 11:55PM (Newfoundland Standard Time) on April 14, 1912 at Cape Race, in a Marconi wireless station, that a 14 year old Newfoundland boy, wireless apprentice Jimmy Myrick, first received a distress signal from the doomed liner Titanic.
Today, on this site, you will find the Myrick Wireless Interpretative Centre, that includes a replica of the original Marconi marine radio station built at the same location in 1904. The replica building houses artifacts and exhibits that interpret the history of early telegraphy and wireless radio in Newfoundland, a fascinating story of cutting edge technology in the early 20th century.
East Coast Trail
The internationally acclaimed East Coast Trail, named “One of the Best Adventure Destinations” by National Geographic in 2012, calls the Irish Loop home. Comprised of 25 wilderness paths of varying difficulty, the trail intersects more than 30 historic communities, from Topsail Beach (north) to Cappahayden (south), for a total distance of 336 kilometers (209 miles).
Located near Cappahyaden, Chance Cove Park is a 5,110 acre (2,068 hectare) park which stretches from the highway’s edge to the coastline. A 6 kilometer (3.8 mile) gravel road takes you to the parking area. From here, a rugged trail (some trees blown down that you can easily climb over) leads to the coast where you can watch whales, seabirds, and seals.
Note There are no designated campsites here, however, you are permitted to camp on the parking lot in the picnic area.
La Manche Park, situated between the communities of Cape Broyle and Tors Cove, is nestled in the scenic La Manche Valley, with interesting and varied habitat and vegetation, as well as, diverse bird life.
The park also includes Rowsells Hill Pond, La Manche Ponds, a section of the La Manche River, waterfalls, swimming holes, and the abandoned fishing village of La Manche. A 1.25 kilometer (0.78 mile), easy-moderate, 30 minute trail leads you to the park’s highlight, a suspension bridge.
Witless Bay Ecological Reserve
Situated near the Towns of Bay Bulls and Bauline East, Witless Bay Ecological Reserve is composed of four small islands that are home to North America’s largest Atlantic puffin colony, as well as, the second-largest Leach’s storm-petrel colony in the world.
Note A number of boat tour operators can be found in the area, that take you along the islands to view these magnificent colonies up close, including O’Brien’s, Gatherall’s, and Molly Bawn. Ocean kayak tours are also provided by The Outfitters.
Avalon Wilderness Reserve
The Avalon Wilderness Reserve is comprised of 1,070 square kilometers (413 square miles) of pristine barrens and forests that protect the Avalon woodland caribou herd, the most southerly one in Canada. The reserve is an excellent place for numerous outdoor activities like hiking, canoeing, skiing, angling, hunting, bird watching, photography, and camping.
Note See map here.
Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, situated near Portugal Cove South, is NL’s 4th and newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, only designated on July 17, 2016. This 5 kilometer (3 mile) stretch of coastline is actually part of a 579-560 million year old ancient sea floor, that is home to the ediacaran fossils. See map here. Here you will walk among the oldest, complex, “early life” marine fossils found on earth. So abundant, in fact, that exposed areas, the size of tennis courts, are covered in ancient life.
Note Guided tour only, which commences at the Edge of Avalon Interpretive Centre in Portugal Cove South. A number of ancient, early life, fossils are also on display at the centre, as well as, a gift shop.
The Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary
The Newfoundland pony is a mixed-breed of Irish, English, and Scottish ponies brought over beginning in 1611 by settlers seeking to tame Newfoundland’s rugged land and eke out an existence. The initial shipment consisted of Dartmoor ponies from Dartmoor England, imported by John Guy, the first Proprietary Governor of Newfoundland.
For over 400 years, they worked alongside many a Newfoundlander as they tilled land, harvested forest, and fished the ocean. Highly obedient and intelligent, the Newfoundland pony is a sweet and gentle animal. They are docile, good-tempered and easy to work with, all key factors in order to be registered by the Newfoundland Pony Society, the official organization responsible for their preservation and protection.
Today, Newfoundland ponies are primarily used for leisure and can also be found participating in horse shows. Sadly, they were brought to the brink of extinction in the 1970’s, and remain a critically endangered breed with only 400 remaining worldwide.
Thankfully, efforts are ongoing to boost their numbers. One such place is The Newfoundland Ponies of Cappahayden, located in Cappahayden, which was established to raise awareness of the pony’s plight by providing a place where they can be viewed year-round.
St. Vincent’s Beach
For land-based whale watching, there is no better place in NL than St. Vincent’s Beach. Each year humpback whales come near shore here because of deep water. Moreover, this is one of the finest beaches in the province.
A plethora of wild, nutritious berries grow atop the landscape here including blueberries, bakeapples, partridgeberries, and blackberries, just to name a few. Click here for growing times, then venture the coast for a fun, physically rewarding, berry experience.
O’Brien’s – Bay Bulls
Gatherall’s – Bay Bulls
Running the Goat Books and Broadsides – Tors Cove
Colony of Avalon – Ferryland
Merrymeeting Art Gallery – Renews
A0A Chainsaw Carvings – Renews
Edge of Avalon Interpretive Centre – Portugal Cove South
Holyrood Pond Interpretation Centre – St. Vincent’s
The Keel – Bay Bulls
Tongue & Cheek – Bay Bulls
Irish Loop Coffee House – Witless Bay
The Captain’s Table – Mobile
Fork – Mobile
Riverside – Cape Broyle
Squid Jigger – Calvert
Bernard Kavanagh’s – Ferryland
In Da Loop – Fermeuse
Fossil Cafe – Portugal Cove South
Whale’s Tale Cafe – St. Vincent’s (at Holyrood Pond Interpretation Centre)
Claddagh Inn – St. Mary’s
The Celtic Knot – St. Mary’s
The Wilds – Salmonier Line