Ferryland and the Early Colony of Avalon



As we traveled the Irish Loop, in the peninsula just south of the city of St. John’s we had the opportunity to visit beautiful small harbors that are on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.   These harbors, once the site of the vast fishing fleets that were operating in Newfoundland waters, today serve as only quiet bedroom communities.   Each harbor is more beautiful than the next and many of the buildings along the docks lie in some form of disarray or deterioration. 


Some of the villages have become involved with other industries such as tourism and/or oil drilling.  For example, at the village of Bay Bulls, we were on a whale search boat, but alas we were told that most all the whales seemed to have left for warmer climes.  We did, however, have a great tour of the waters just off the Atlantic coast and also had the opportunity to see firsthand the amazing traits of the Puffin, a bird that can swoop down deep into the ocean to collect its prey.  We learned of their mating behavior, their feeding habits and the setting on Gull Island that they call home during the summer months.


 We drove further south on the Irish Loop until we arrived in the village of Ferryland, which is home to the colony of Avalon that was established there in 1620 by Sir George Calvert, later known as Lord Baltimore.  Having purchased the land from a friend, Lord Baltimore set up the colony to escape religious persecution that was a persistent problem back in England. 




Archeological Dig at Avalon Colony

Avalon Colony Bay


The colony progressed for some years but many problems existed, not withstanding attacks from the French and control of the colony going back and forth from some who tried to assume responsibility from Lord Baltimore’s appointed governor.  And even the weather was not contributing, as the harsh winters took their toll on the settlers. 


Some years later, after Sir George Calvert had died, his son Cecil, who then became Lord Baltimore II, decided in 1632 to look further south for a place to set up a colony.  Rejected in Virginia for religious grounds, Leonard Calvert as his brother’s representative set up a colony along the Chesapeake that later became known as Maryland.  


The existences of the Avalon settlement in Ferryland was of great interest to us since both Lila and I are residents of Maryland and were excited to visit the archeological digs.  In fact, we felt like we were “relatives” visiting our homeland.   I was even given a pin from the secretary at the town hall who, herself, was thrilled by our visit.


We learned that in 1967, a proclamation signed by our then Governor, Spiro Agnew established a Maryland/Ferryland Day in Maryland.  Also, on the 4th Sunday of every July, Ferryland annually celebrates a Ferryland/Maryland Day, sometimes with representatives from St. Mary’s City where the colonists first landed.  


Later we hiked out to the Ferryland Lighthouse, located beyond the site of the Avalon settlement on a peninsula that reaches well out into the Atlantic Ocean.  The one lane road accommodates automobiles for a short distance and then the balance of one and a one-half kilometers requires walking a trail that passes Goose Island, Isle aux Bois and some abandoned defensive batteries.


But once reached, the scene at the Lighthouse is serene and comforting, with grassy covered knolls and birds flying out over the waves breaking on the rocks below.   We were very fortunate for the weather was splendid.  The gentle winds of the Atlantic Ocean made us feel welcome. 


But this wonderful experience only gets better as two local women from Ferryland started a catering business at the Lighthouse offering a gourmet picnic lunch.  Life could not improve over this scenario had I planned it myself.   They provided a blanket and then prepared our lunch which was then served as we sat in this most perfect place.    I would suggest that you checkout the website www.lighthousepicnics.ca to obtain additional information and see some photographs.  


Having visited the Lighthouse and then taking part in the picnic lunch, this was easily one of the great snapshots of life that I have experienced.    Recognizing that it is not easy to get to Newfoundland or for that fact, Ferryland, and that the weather could be somewhat daunting at times, it would be worth taking advantage of this experience should you ever be in the area.  

Ferryland Lighthouse Ferryland Lighthouse Picnic Site