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Report 1901: A Month on the Rock

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2010

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Page 20 of 31: To Connaigre Peninsula

photo by Michael

Harbour Breton

It was a beautiful morning when we left Rattling Brook. It was back to the Trans Canada Highway and a boring drive to Grand Falls Windsor. At the turn off for Harbour Breton there is a motel, small restaurant and gas. Fill up here as there is a sign at the start of route 360 saying Ďnext gas 129km.í

This is a long drive enlivened by signs every 30km telling you how much further it is and the occasional road sign of a manic lorry charging up to a road junction.

There is no obvious settlement along the road although there are tracks off to cabins tucked away in the forest. There was a major forest fire in the 1970s and the countryside is much more open with some good views across the central mass of Newfoundland. This is rolling and fairly flat with the occasional big hill sticking up in middle. There were lots of lakes which were deep blue in the sunlight. The birch trees were beginning to change colour and provided a welcome splash of colour against the green of the conifers.

Just before the junction to St Albanís there is a gas station and restaurant. The Mikmac Heritage Centre at the junction was firmly closed for the season. We drove down to St. Alban's, a big settlement with a selection of shops in the town centre and impressive Roman Catholic church next to the school. There were salmon and trout farms in bay, the first fish farming we had seen.

On the way back we drove through Milton, a few houses along the side of the road, to Morrisville. This is a pretty, small settlement at the head of a bay surrounded by trees with a small white church with black spire. There was no shop or services although there was a car workshop with a lot of out of tax cars dumped round it.

We decided to do the detour down to Conne River as it would take us through the Miawpukek First Nation Settlement. The only difference seemed to be that the houses were more spread out, set back from the road and surrounded by trees. There was a convenience store at the start of the settlement and a Clover Farm supermarket at the far end. There was a school with small take out food store opposite, which was popular with the school children.

After the Conne River turn, the road south got better and better. We lost the forest and drove across the barrens; bare rock with low vegetation and a few patches of low trees. There were good views across the countryside of low rolling hills and lakes. After the English Harbour turn, the road surface deteriorated with pot holes, bumps and cracks.

We had plenty of time so took route 364 (better surface) which was a superb run to Hermitage through steep wooded hillsides, along the side of lakes, through rock cuttings and along the shore. We came over the brow of the hill to see Hermitage spread out in front of us. It is a delightful small fishing settlement surrounded by steep wooded hillsides and a white church with red roof in the centre.

We parked by the harbour and went to explore. The harbour is big with two small breakwaters providing shelter. There were fishing boats and small wooden wharves. Wooden houses were scattered round the bay and up the hillsides. There were good views west along the coastline with flattish topped hills dropping into the sea with rounded cliffs. We watched the outports ferry arrive with two passengers and pallets of empty Coors Light Bottles.

After Sandyville we lost the mountains and it was a flatter, less interesting drive. Seal Cove at the end of the road was much bigger than we expected. It was a long straggling settlement with a lot of big new houses. There was no pier and no sign of serious fishing. I must admit we were disappointed as it didnít have much of the outport feel weíd expected. We looked at the Pass Island Road from Seal Cove but it was unpaved and there was a sign saying the road was not maintained and travel at your own risk ... we decided against it.

It was a really good run into Harbour Breton, dropping down through steep wooded valleys, mainly coniferous, with views of lakes and the indented coastline. Fireweed and golden rod were growing along the verges.

Harbour Breton is a superb setting on a very sheltered inlet of the sea with a long peninsula in the centre which looks like an island.

It was a glorious evening and the low sun was catching the houses and far hillside turning it pink. We drove to the end of the road and did the 10 minute walk along a gravel path over bog with pitcher plants to the lighthouse, a small red and white tower overlooking the bay. There were views down Northeast Arm, which was reminiscent of a Norwegian Fjord, across to the deserted Jersey Harbour which had been resettled in the 1960s and down to Eastern Head. The cliffs glowed pink in the evening light.

In retrospect we wished we hadnít bothered with St Albanís and Conne River as they hadnít repaid the time spent.

We were booked into the Southern Port Hotel, a large low grey building above the road at the head of the bay. Ask for an even numbered room as they have a Ďview of the harbourí across the car park and house roofs. Odd numbered rooms look out to the back with no view. It is more motel than hotel. Continental breakfast of toast, muffins and fruit juice was $3.45CAD extra. Supper was served from five to seven but the menu didnít look inspiring and the dining room looked soulless.

We ate in Shotts Snack Bar one evening which had the usual menu of fried fish, burgers and chips. Helpings were huge and only spoilt by paper plates and plastic cutlery. Sea food platter (battered fish, clams, shrimps, scallops and chips) was $13.95CAD. Fish and chips $9.99CAD. Otherwise there is a good supermarket.

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