Port au Port Peninsula is an arrow-shaped peninsula jutting out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence from Western Newfoundland. The peninsula is south of Gros Morne National Park, as well as the city of Corner Brook, and north of the ferry port at Port aux Basques. Connected to the island by a narrow isthmus, the region has a lively francophone community descended from French fisherfolk and Acadians. As a result of this rich French heritage, the peninsula is the only part of the island that is officially bilingual.
While not on the peninsula, the larger community of Stephenville is often associated with the peninsula as part of the Port au Port area.
Visitors can drive Routes 460 and 490 to take what is called The French Ancestors Route, touring from the Trans-Canada Highway through Stephenville and on to the peninsula.
Regions and communities
Part of the eroded Appalachian Mountain chain, the peninsula is home to quite a variety of scenic coastline (around 130 km) and ethnic diversity collected in around twenty small, but self-sufficient, communities based around fishing, a small forest industry, and small-scale farming. A small selection of these areas and their communities:
- Port au Port - the gateway community to the peninsula, sitting right at the isthmus, and home to the largest wooden structure in Newfoundland & Labrador, Our Lady of Mercy Church
- The Bar - from Lourdes, home to Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, through Black Duck Brook to Long Point, a seasonal community, on the tip of a narrow strip of land with the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the west side and the Port au Port Bay on the east side
- Route de mon grand-pere (Route of my grandfather) - the lively French communities of De Grau, Cap St-George (Cape St. George), and La Grand'Terre (Mainland)
- The South Coast - breathtaking ocean views and a peak into Port au Port industry with Atlantic Minerals
- Cap St-Georges/Cape St. George - immensely high sea cliffs being hit by large waves, great hiking along Route de mon grand-pere, and whale-watching from the trail or nearby rest stop
- Red Island - just offshore in the La Grand'Terre/Mainland area, this island lives up to its name
Called Port of Rest by 16th-century Basque fishermen, Port au Port was a site of French and Basque seasonal fisheries for hundreds of years. Eventually, some of the fisherfolk began to stake out homesteads on the peninsula and in the area. This entire area of settlement became known as the "French Shore", with Port au Port as one of the heavily settled areas.
With its Roman Catholic traditions, Francophone culture, and excellent music and theatre festivals, the Port au Port region has made a name for itself in presenting a full cultural experience as well as spectacular views of cliffs, rocky beaches, whales and birds.
Unlike Newfoundland English, Newfoundland French is nearly extinct. Newfoundland French is distinct from other Canadian French dialects including Quebec French and Acadian French, and is generally found in the Port au Port Peninsula. The language was deliberately discouraged by the government in the 20th century, so visitors can expect most people they encounter to speak English. However, if you speak French, here's your chance to engage with a fascinating dialect. You will find Francophone associations in the communities of De Grau (Les Terre-Neuviens Francais +1 709 644-2050), La Grand'Terre/Mainland (Heritage de l'Ile Rouge +1 709 642-5254 & Association regionale de la cote ouest +1 709 642-5254), and L'Anse-a-Canards/Black Duck Brook (Chez les Francais +1 709 642-5498).
Stephenville and Stephenville Crossing are the points of entry on Routes 490 and 460, called The French Ancestors Route, when driving from the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1). From the Trans-Canada, it is about 40 km to Stephenville, and then about 6 more km to the isthmus and Port au Port.
There is no other option than to drive or take a chartered bus.
- Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church and Museum, 103 Main Rd, Aguathuna, ☏ . Jul-Aug: daily 10AM-5PM. 115 ft (35 m) tall, it can seat 1,000 people. Constructed 1914-1925 for an expected population boom that fizzled. Most of the construction was contributed by fisherman, farmers, miners and adolescents of the parish who each donated at least one week of work per year to the build. The 14 stations of the cross were hand carved and brought in from Italy. They are made of Carrera marble, surrounded by travertine marble.
- Our Lady Of Lourdes Church Grotto, Flatrock. The largest religious grotto in Eastern Canada, established 1954, was inspired by a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France.
- 1 Cape St. George. The headland and community of 850 people at the southwestern tip of the peninsula. Many walks, bird cliffs, and great scenery.
- Abbott's Walking Trail
- The Gravels (off the main road in Port au Port). It's the spit that joins Stephenville to Port au Port and Cape St George. A great location for birdwatching in spring/summer: there are nesting Arctic Terns on the lake which go fishing out to sea. Well-maintained trails.
- Olivers Restaurant, 42 NL-463, Aguathuna (on Route 463, north from Abraham's Cove), ☏ . Daily 11AM-8PM. Burgers, fries, poutine, fish and chips.
- Capeside Diner, 1002 Route 460, Cape St. George, ☏ . Diner, pizza.
- Mainland Takeout, 125 Island View Road, Cape St. George. W-Su noon-8PM.
- Tea By The Sea, 268 Island View Road, Mainland (in the Mainland Cultural and Heritage Centre). Daly 10:30AM-6PM. Sandwiches, seafood chowder. Delicious desserts. Also a gift shop.
- Secret Cove Brewing, 92-96 Main Street, Port au Port, ☏ . W Th 4-8PM, F Sa 4-11PM, Su 2-6PM. Craft brewery.
- Inn at the Cape., 1250 Oceanview Drive, Box 39, Cape St. George, toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. In the evening, guests can enjoy the buffet supper that always includes several entrees. After supper guests can enjoy a walk on the headlands, a dip in the hot tub, or a quiet drive over the mountain. The sunset at Boutte du Cap park is not to be missed. Double $129 a night, single $99. Dinner and breakfast are included. Additional guests in the same room are $25 extra.
- Zenzville Campgrounds, 446A Kippens Road, Kippens, ☏ . A full service RV park and campground on Route 460 between Stephenville and the Port Au Port Peninsula. Serviced and semi-serviced camp sites in the wooded and open areas of the park. 6 cabins are available to rent. All sites are easy accessable, level and contain fire pits. Clean washrooms with free hot showers, a laundromat, a convience store, and dumping station. There is also a heated swimming pool, a kids pool, and a 30 ft (9.1 m) waterslide. Camping sites (15-30 amp) $30-34, cabins (5-6 people) $49-55.
|Routes through Port au Port Peninsula|
|END ←||W E||→ Stephenville → ENDS at W E|