Following d’Iberville’s trails

Published on June 17, 2014

If you’ve ever been to the Parliament Buildings in Quebec City and seen a statue of Pierre le Moyne d’Iberville, a French Canadian soldier and ship’s captain who lived from the mid-1600s to the first decade of the 1700s, you probably didn’t think twice about him.

If, however, you were an Englishman living on the Avalon Peninsula in November 1696, d’Iberville was a name that would strike terror right through to your toe nails. For d’Iberville was the Godzilla brought in by the French to take Newfoundland for its own. He wasted no time when he hit the island, first making the 80-kilometre, nine-day boggy march from Placentia to Ferryland where he and his men began laying waste to basically every English village they came across. Luckily for the English, d’Iberville’s rampage was cut short in March 1697 when he got called elsewhere to help out, and after his departure, the English were able to re-establish their control over Newfoundland.

On a roll

From Ferryland, d’Iberville and his men worked their way along the southern shore, taking Cape Broyle, Bay Bulls and Petty Harbour before moving on to St. John’s, Torbay and Portugal Cove. And why stop there? They continued their roll right through Conception Bay. Holyrood, Harbour Main and Port de Grave quickly fell to the French. Carbonear proved a bit tricky when some inhabitants took to Carbonear Island and held off the pesky attackers, watching as villages up and down the coast burned in the wake of the man they called Master of Longueil.

From Carbonear, d’Iberville headed north to Old Perlican and Bay de Verde and then headed down the Trinity Bay side to Hants Harbour, New Perlican and Heart’s Content. And he didn’t stop there; he walked back across the barrens to pummel Brigus and Port de Grave before returning to Placentia. You have to admit the man was no slouch.

The Avalon Peninsula Campaign began on Nov. 1, 1696 and lasted until March 1697. In less than four months, d’Iberville laid waste to 36 villages, killed 200 men and imprisoned 700 more. I’m tired just writing about it.

In 2008, when my husband and I were scouting for a place to buy a cabin, we came across a d’Iberville Hiking Trail sign in Heart’s Content right next to the lighthouse. We thought it strange because we knew there was already a d’Iberville Heritage Trail between Placentia and Ferryland, although we had never hiked it. I remembered in 1996 when a group of uber-hikers made the four-day trek from St. Catherine’s to Ferryland to commemorate the 300th anniversary of d’Iberville’s crossing.

I was interested in joining the group, except that the hike was to take place in November when I had two little toddlers and was expecting a third before year’s end. Perhaps it was a good thing I had a belly the size of a motorcycle helmet, as the strenuous four-day hike promised to be a boggy one through the Avalon Wilderness Area and the weather … well, it was typical Newfoundland weather. You could expect anything from four feet of snow to hurricane-force winds. Think wet feet in a damp sleeping bag with a lovely gale whipping around the rain in 4 C air. Had I gone, No. 3 may have been born in the shelter of a glacial erratic this side of the Salmonier River.

Trail No. 2

Anyway, back to the second d’Iberville Hiking Trail we happened upon in 2008.

After driving north from Heart’s Content along the Trinity Bay coast, we saw signs for the trail as far north as New Melbourne. We were excited and set about that very day checking out the most southerly path.

It was in good shape — well-signed, and lined with wooden birdhouses and outhouses. Unlike d’Iberville and those brave sods who followed his footsteps in 1996, boardwalks kept our feet dry over boggy areas. Blueberries were in such abundance that surprise baby gorged himself and threw up in the van on the way back to town.

Since that late summer day, we have covered every step of the developed paths on the d’Iberville Hiking Trail which was developed with the help of federal and provincial grants by the Lower Trinity South Rural Development Association in New Perlican. The trail has provided us with stunning views of icebergs, whales, eagles and plenty of moose poop.

This past May 24 weekend saw 13 townies of all ages meet at the lighthouse in Hants Harbour for an easy hike to New Chelsea, ending at what Marie Wadden calls “the secret beach.” While the children and adults frolicked in the sand, a couple of adults doubled back to the start to collect the vehicles. It was a perfect start to our around-the-bay hiking season.

If you head out to Trinity Bay, don’t expect to find handy dandy maps like those available for the East Coast Trail, but hopefully in the near future, maps and a website with GPS co-ordinates will be developed.

To ensure we wouldn’t get lost, I went to the Howley Building on Higgins Line and purchased two maps: Old Perlican 2 C/3 and Heart’s Content 1 N/14. They are available for $10 each and well worth the price until funding gets approved for more detailed maps.

In the meantime, if you end up out there without maps, I have provided below a very rough guide to the trails. I always forget to start my GPS at the trail head so I do not yet have accurate distances recorded — my goal for this year.

Also keep in mind we hike with small children, so the times given will be somewhat slower than what it would take for fit adults.

The trails are developed all the way from Heart’s Content to New Melbourne, with the exception of the long stretch between Winterton and Hants Harbour. Trail heads are well marked and paths have boardwalks, picnic platforms, lookouts and even outhouses (BYOTP). I have listed the hikes here going south to north.

Heart’s Content to New Perlican

Rating: Easy

Start: Lighthouse on North Point Road in Heart’s Content

End: Vitters Cove Road by council office in New Perlican

Less than 5 km, 1.5 hours, more blueberries than you can carry out in August and September. A picnic at the lighthouse is a great way to start a day on the trail. Save some time to visit the Cable Station, a Provincial Historic Site, on the main road in Heart’s Content. This is where the first successful transatlantic communications cable landed in 1866.

Within New Perlican

Rating: Easy

1 km. 20 minutes to half-hour

Start: Backside Road, New Perlican

End: Bloody Point Road, New Perlican

New Perlican has the most beautifully painted fishing stages. Bring your camera.

New Perlican to Turks Cove

Rating: Easy

3 km. 1 hour

Start: On main road north of New Perlican next to “Welcome to New Perlican” sign

End: Turks Cove Road on south side of the harbour.

Turks Cove to Winterton

Rating: Easy

2.5 km, 1 hour.

Start: Coates Road in Turks Cove

End: Point Road in Winterton

Keep your eyes peeled for eagles.

Winterton Sugarloaf Trail was developed and is maintained by the Town of Winterton. This short hike of approximately half an hour begins across the main road from Outside Pond Park and is a steep uphill on a dirt road with a spectacular view of Trinity Bay at the top.

Winterton Lookout Trail is also maintained by the Town of Winterton. It begins next to the huge playground structure at Outside Pond Park. A boardwalk skirts Outside Pond and ascends the hill next to the trailer park. Be sure to visit the Boatbuilding Museum in Winterton before you leave.

Winterton to Hants Harbour

This stretch of trail was not developed as it skirts around the landfill; my husband and I are working on it with a machete.

Hants Harbour to New Chelsea

Rating: Easy footing, but trail has a gradual rise

Start: Custers Head lighthouse on north side of Hants Harbour

End: Secret Beach (Myra’s Beach) in New Chelsea on Point Road

3.5 km, 1.5 hours.

This is the only trail to date that has been taken over by a municipality. The town of Hants Harbour is doing an excellent job of keeping up the trail.

Much of this trail is on a beautiful inland path with red birdhouses every 400 metres or so. The trail does have several lovely viewpoints where we have seen many icebergs and whales. At about one kilometre in, you’ll come to a picnic platform and after that you’ll keep rising up and up until about the middle of the trail and then you start your descent into New Chelsea. You’ll enter the community on a grassy path in front of the church. Continue down the lane past the church until you see a sandy beach. The descent to secret beach (note: this may be a townie term) is a bit tangly with sharp shale and springy seaweed beds, but is well worth it. We once happened upon the caplin rolling here so thick, my husband was fishing them up with a fir tree branch.

Make sure to pack a picnic to have at Green Island Cove.

New Chelsea to New Melbourne

Rating: Moderate, wet and muddy, trailheads not well marked

Start: Gaze Lookout on main road north of New Chelsea up hill in small dirt turnaround lot with gazebo and sign

End: Indian Point on the south side of the harbour on Salvage Point Road in New Melbourne

7.5+ km, 3.5 hours.

This is the longest stretch we encountered on the d’Iberville Trail. The beginning of the trail is a bit confusing. We took a wrong turn, but were able to retrace our steps and find the trail again. The next hour of the hike was in the woods and very wet and muddy. When we got into the open we lost the trail for a second time and took a break for lunch. The second half of the hike was quite different from the first half as we were in the open along the ocean with no trees to protect us from the wind. Tons of blueberries and partridgeberries in the fall.

Things to remember: Fly dope, Benadryl cream for stinger nettles, dry socks.

• • •

So that’s the d’Iberville Trail in a nutshell. But why celebrate d’Iberville if he caused such havoc? I called Denyce Warren, the office manager for the Lower Trinity South Rural Development Association in New Perlican, the developers of the trail.

“We’re not celebrating. We’re remembering,” says Warren. “It’s part of our heritage. … You can’t escape history. It makes (the trail) more interesting (when) there’s a story behind it.”

I dug a little into D’Iberville’s history. He was one of 14 children, Catholics, born in Montreal. Most of his 11 brothers were soldiers who fought alongside each other in various campaigns.

D’Iberville went on to found French Louisiana. Another of his brothers founded New Orleans. D’Iberville is buried in Havana, Cuba, where he died just shy of his 45th birthday.

If you have any questions or concerns about the d’Iberville Trail (for example a wasp nest under a boardwalk or a damaged sign), you can contact Denyce Warren in New Perlican at 709-583-2016 or Susan Flanagan can be reached at

Department of Rocks feedback

Désirée King, with the Geological Survey, Department of Natural Resources, writes: “I work at the Department of Rocks … we are on the first floor in Publications and Information. Next time you stop by here be sure to come see us and our Matty Mitchel Room, where we has lots of samples to look at plus we have geologists here to answer questions and look at your rocks. We also can arrange to have samples analyzed.”