Contrary to the name, the Baccalieu Trail isn't a specific trail, it's more of a general region in Newfoundland that is located just an hour outside of St. John's. It is also home to one on my most favourite hikes, the Shoreline Heritage Walk in Bay Roberts.
If you read my previous post about our Staycation in Bay Roberts you'll know my affinity for the region already, but this hike is a big part of that love.
If you are wanting a moderate hike, with the option of a few challenging climbs, and the added beauty of historic sites along the way, then the Shoreline Heritage Trail is a must do! This piece will take you through the incredible hike and what you can expect along the way.
Finding a parking spot
There is designated parking lot located at the very end of Water Street, just past the Mad Rocks Cafe but we actually prefer to end our hike at the cafe so parking along one of the side streets is where we usually begin. Since this is a small community there are a number of access points along the road where you can park and start the hike. If you google map the trail (Bay Roberts East Shoreline Heritage Walk) you'll find signs indicating the start of the trail and show the trail map. Here you can find a number of places to park. For this hike we parked about 2 km back from the designated google map start so we could walk "around" Fergus Island.
Since we parked about 2 kilometres back we were able to walk through a lush grassy side of the hill. I remember saying to Josh that it reminded me of walking through an ocean-side orchard, because everything was blooming, bumble bees were buzzing by and blueberries were just starting to pop by our feet.
From this vantage point you also get to see the back side of Fergus Island (also known locally as Big Island). This uniquely shaped island "protects" the bay as it resembles a Newfoundland Dog laying down. The historical ties to Bay Roberts is that this Island was once inhabited by a few settlers from Scotland, and if you can guess his name was John Fergus. This island was also a bit of party island as folklorist and journalists have discovered that it was a spot for locals to enjoy moonlit nights with fires and revelry.
As you continue on your journey you will come upon Frenchs Cove. In this area you will find even more history as root cellars were once built into the rock and some are still standing today. Sadly very little of the settlement remain intact but the history of colonization dates back to the late 1500's, but the settlement name didn't come until 1634 after the Edward French family "claimed" it as a fishing settlement.
After a brief climb up you will come to a large clearing where you can take a moment of rest just like those who were laid there. The historical cemetery has legible grave markers dating all the way back to 1766 and was likely a chosen spot for the merchants and "upper class" people (which would be the people who could afford stone marked graves) due to it's significant location at the mouth of the bay and the relatively flat land.
Shoe Hole to Long Point
Although the views up to this point are spectacular, after a few rocky climbs you will reach my favourite part of the hike which also include some of the best views across Conception Bay. It is truly amazing to be walking on a footpath through the rocky hillside and see the Atlantic ocean open up before you.
Both times we have done this hike it was some day on clothes as they say here (aka a beautiful day to put clothes on the line). The ocean was like a bunch of sparkling gems, with hues of turquoise, aquamarine and rich sapphires. We did stick to the main path on this day but if you are feeling adventurous and up for a climb I suggest you go up Long Point to get a view that stretches all the way across Conception Bay.
Like most things in Newfoundland this hike also has another local name, Mad Rock Trail. This nickname came from a section of the trail with large sea stacks and a bluff that pokes out into the ocean, known as Mad Rock for the way the ocean crashed against the rock. To get to this part of the trail you'll walk through more paths beside the cliffs that are lined with berries and shrubs.
When you reach this point you will be nearly 5 kms through the hike and you are so close to the end of the trail. Now is when you can slightly celebrate at the name sake of the hike, Mad Rock.
The last leg of the hike is fairly calm but still beautiful! You'll walk over really interesting rock pathways that lead you past large craggy hills and a meadow that stretches behind you and feels endless.
Now you have reached the relative end of the hike and another unique rock formation known as the Three Sisters. These almost identical rock formations pop out of the water and are a common place for capelin to roll in. The pebble beach is also a great place to have a picnic and take in the ocean and the distant community of Bishop's Cove.
As you continue up the road way you may want to pop into Mad Rock Cafe for some refreshments and a touton or two before completing your way back to your original parking spot. You can do this by either following Water Street back or take a cut through the forest back to a shortcut of the trail. Either way I am sure you will feel like we did at the end. Filled with bliss from the sea air and sunshine and ready for a beer at the nearby brewery, Baccaleiu Trail Brewing Co.
For more information on Bay Roberts feel free to visit their website, here you can also download the trail map.