The Irish Loop is a broad, sparsely-populated rural area in the southern portion of eastern Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula. To the north is St. John's and the beaten-path Trans-Canada Highway; to the south is open ocean.
This area covers the southeastern portion of the Avalon Peninsula, with the large Avalon Wilderness Reserve occupying much of the inland portion and a highway (NL 10 on the east side, NL 90 on the west side) following the coastline through various small villages. Trepassey and Portugal Cove South are at the bottom, southernmost part of the loop.
There are no major cities; there's a string of tiny seaside villages, a UNESCO World Heritage listed archaeological site and the first point of dry land seen by the inbound trans-Atlantic ocean liners of yesteryear.
Cape Race is famous for receiving the Titanic distress call in April 1912, a milestone for radio technology of the era, but only a small part of a long telegraphic history. By late 1856, a telegraph line ran from St. John's to Cape Ray, then underwater from Cape Ray to Aspy Bay, Nova Scotia. The latest news from Europe arrived "via Cape Race" until the first successful, permanent trans-Atlantic cable entered service in July 1866; the Associated Press paid shipping companies to drop off news in waterproof cylinders, to be brought to the telegraph station by small boats and put on the wire to New York City. In the steamship era, Cape Race was a first point of radio contact for inbound liners; later Cape Race operated as a LORAN-C navigation site before that system was supplanted by satellite navigation.
While this is Newfoundland sea coast and cruising on small craft was historically the way to reach the small villages, the Irish Loop is fully reachable by motorcar.
There are two roads; Highway 10 on the eastern seashore and Highway 90 on the west side. While the trip to Trepassey can be made on either road, this is normally presented as a southbound trip from St. John's on Highway 10 through Witless Bay and Ferryland, with the return trip taking Highway 90 north to the Trans-Canada Highway at Holyrood. This may be done as a day trip, as "the loop" is a 320-km (200-mile) return trip on two-lane paved highway.
- Mobile Goat Excursions, 33 Track Rd, Mobile, ☏ . An 11-seat van covers the 320km (200 mile) loop in a full day (depart St. John's 8AM, return 8PM) with stops for sightseeing and tours. $220/person.
- 1 Cape Race Lighthouse National Historic Site (20 km from Route 10 via gravel road heading south from Portugal Cove South toward Cape Race.). The first lighthouse was installed here by the British Government in 1856. It was replaced in 1907 by the current lighthouse, a 29-metre (95-ft) tall concrete tower and a light.
- 2 Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, ☏ . A UNESCO world heritage listed wilderness area featuring fossil sites. The reserve is 2.5 km along the gravel road to Cape Race from Portugal Cove South. Access within the Reserve is by foot only (no vehicles, no horses, no bikes). Access to view the fossils is by guided tour or permit only (the tour is free, but must be reserved in advance; space is limited). Allow 3-4 hours and about 4km (2.5mi) of walking for the full tour. The area is named "Mistaken Point" as ships mistakenly turning here instead of at Cape Race were at risk of being run aground.
- 3 Myrick Wireless Interpretation Centre, Cape Race (From Portugal Cove South, follow the road to the Cape Race Lighthouse (south from Route 10), about 20½ km. The Myrick Centre is about 100 m before the lighthouse.), ☏ , fax: . July 1-early Sept: daily 11AM-5:30PM; reduced hours from Labour Day to Sept 24, closed off-season.. As first landfall in the New World for steamships and ocean liners, Cape Race was once a centre for telegraphy despite its remote location. Messages and international news received from inbound trans-Atlantic ships would arrive here first, to be sent onward from this station to the mainland. A museum of communications and navigation history recalls the April 14, 1912 reception of Titanic’s distress signal. Building is a replica of the 1904 Cape Race Marconi Station and also houses a radio amateur club, VO1MCE. $8.
- 4 Edge of Avalon, Rte 10, Portugal Cove South, ☏ , fax: . 10AM–6PM daily, mid-May to mid-Oct. Interpretive centre provides a historical overview of the Edge of Avalon Heritage Coast. Edge of the Sea souvenir shop with books, posters and local crafts including hooked rugs, knitted woolens, paintings, photography, pottery, jewellery and quilts. By donation.
- 1 Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, Great Island/Green Island. The reserve, four islands between Witless Bay and Bauline, is a nesting area for seabirds which feed on capelin in the area. Tour boats run from Bay Bulls and Witless Bay for bird and whale watching. The boats do not allow passengers to disembark onto the islands, a protected wildlife area.
- 1 [formerly dead link] Irish Loop Coffee House, Main Highway, Witless Bay, ☏ . M-F 7AM-3PM; Sa Su 9AM-4PM. All-day breakfast, sandwiches, desserts. Dinner at 'Fork' restaurant Tu-Sa 5:30PM-9PM (reservations +1 709 743-3490). $6-10.
- 1 Claddagh Inn, 459 - 463 Main Rd, NL-90, Saint Mary's, ☏ , toll-free: . A former convent, now an inn.
- 2 Dunne's B&B, Judge's Hill, Ferryland, ☏ .
- 3 [dead link] Edge of the Avalon Inn, 113 Coarse Hill Rd, Trepassey, ☏ .
- 4 Inn of Capelin Bay, 8 Meaney's Lane/Northside Rd, Calvert, ☏ .
- [dead link] Trestle Cottage Bed and Breakfast, Riverhead Road, Mobile, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. The loft sleeps 2 people (queen bed, partial ensuite). A seating area outside the bedroom loft provides a view of the Mobile River; guests can watch TV, use the Internet or relax with a good book. Downstairs, a kitchen (equipped with a propane range, fridge and centre island) and comfortable living room (with a wood stove) is combined with a full bathroom and a small guest room for one person. B&B: $100/night. Cottage: from $600 for 3 nights (minimum stay).