One of the best parts of visiting Newfoundland is meeting the locals. They are warm, welcoming and hospitable! Newfoundland’s people are from varying backgrounds but predominantly from European origin like England and Ireland. There are also some pockets of French and Scots and some aboriginals. St. John’s has a lot of Irish heritage and throughout the province you may notice some different dialects. It’s fun to hear the accents and unique phrases and try to interpret what they are saying! You can even buy a Newfoundland slang dictionary! But no matter where they originated, Newfies are a friendly bunch, perhaps because they must rely on each other when times get tough.
Their true colours were shown during the Canada’s Yellow Ribbon Operation on September 11, 2001 when civilian airlines were diverted to Canadian airports during the attack on the USA. Newfoundlanders opened their homes and hearts to help 38 planes full of 6,122 passengers and 472 crew stranded in Gander while planes were grounded when US airspace was shut down. This made such an impression that a musical production was recently made called “Come From Away”.
Labour in the province was at one time primarily fishing. Since the decline of the fishing industry, Newfoundland’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in Canada, and at times was double the national average. Cod fishing is now limited and the industry is now primarily shellfish. Other industry includes pulp & paper mills, hydroelectricity and iron ore mines, off-shore oil drilling and, of course, tourism.
In addition to the incredible scenery, the arts play a large role in the experience of the province. The art and culture is well known within Canada. The comedy group CODCO including the likes of Mary Walsh, Bob Joy, Cathy Jones to name a few, became a local sensation with their Newfoundland sense of humour and inspired a whole generation of comedians and political satirists including Rick Mercer, Mark Critch and Shawn Majumder. One of Newfoundland’s esteemed songwriter’s is Ron Hynes and groups such as The Irish Descendants and Great Big Sea have recorded his songs. Celtic and folk music is a staple in the Newfoundland scene. When in St. John’s, just stop by any pub along George Street to take in the sounds of local musicians. You can also experience local groups and musicians in almost any small town pub. There are also dinner theatres throughout the province showcasing local talent. If you’d rather not go to a pub, try the Resource Centre for the Arts.
There is so much to see and do that it is hard to fit everything into 10 days. Really you could go back and have an entirely different itinerary the next time! But I think we lucked out not only in weather, but also for timing of events and activities. Here’s an outline of our trip:
Our 10-day Itinerary:
For our 10 day trip we opted to leave out some of the suggested landmarks due to driving distances. L’Anse aux Meadows was one and the other was more of the Avalon Peninsula (down to Cape St. Mary’s). These both require staying overnight, but you could easily extend this itinerary to 2-weeks to include these areas. Note that at each location there are lovely hiking trails.
Newfoundland is an island, which is part of the province known as Newfoundland and Labrador. It is Canada’s most eastern province, where the sun rises first. It is also home to the oldest settlement yet it is Canada’s youngest province. With vast amounts of land and one of the lowest populations, it is home to some of the friendliest people you’ll every meet. You can experience its natural wonders with stunning cliffs, whales & icebergs as well as the mountain ranges, rivers, waterfalls and winding coastlines by immersing yourself in outdoor adventures like hiking, boating and kayaking. You can embrace its vibrant culture through the quaint coastal villages, meeting the locals and taking part in theatre and musical shows. Go to Newfoundland to witness the spirit of close-knit communities whose hospitality endures to this day.
Newfoundland was on my bucket list and I can’t believe it took me so long to get there, but am I ever glad I did! To get to the island of Newfoundland it is easiest to fly (into Deer Lake, Gander or St. John’s), but you can also drive and take the ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Channel-Port aux Basques (south-west).
There are four distinct regions of Newfoundland:
West coast – dominated by the table-top long-range mountains, formed by glaciers with fjords and home to Gros Morne National Park
Interior – more plateau-like with undulations and large rivers
North coast – comprised of many bays, coves and islands and the best place to view icebergs
South coast – includes areas like the Avalon Peninsula, with deep cliffs, with more vegetation inland and many coves and bays along the shoreline – home to migratory birds
The climate varies considerably and Newfoundlander’s themselves recommend visiting during July-August (unless you want to experience winter!). If you want to see icebergs they suggest end of June, beginning of July. It can vary year to year; some years there are several icebergs, but other years very few. The best way to see the province is to drive. The people are very friendly and you will feel right at home! Stay in Bed & Breakfast accommodations especially on the west side within Gros Morne National Park. They will give you a welcoming place to stay and lots of excellent advice on where to go and what to see. You’ll want to book a few months in advance, especially in the touristy areas like Gros Morne National Park. Two B&B’s I can highly recommend are Sea Breeze B&B in Cow Head, run by Robert & Roberta and also Candlelight B&B in Rocky Harbour run by Peter & Diane. You will also need to purchase an entrance pass for the park to get to both Rocky Harbour and Cow Head. Cow Head is farther north up the coast from Rocky Harbour and also home to Theatre Newfoundland Labrador (TNL) and this is where we experienced the S. S. Ethie dinner theatre show where the actors even served dinner!
While staying in Gros Morne National Park, we thoroughly enjoyed the Western Brook Pond boat tour run by Bon Tours. The staff were incredibly organized, knowledgeable and entertaining and we thought it was excellent value. Be aware that space needs to be pre-booked well in advance to ensure a spot. There is the chance that it may not depart depending on fog and weather. Get in touch with BonTours to make sure the trip is still on. There is also a 3km pleasant trail walk through a bog to get to the departure point, which is where you pay for the tickets. If you are really adventurous you can arrange to be dropped at a dock the end of the 16km boat ride and hike through the forest for 3 days to get back! I heard this was extremely buggy very few people choose to do this. Nobody on our boat got off and we were quite happy to stay on the boat!
Go for a walk on any of the trails within Gros Morne National Park and learn about the geology and history of the area. With so many to choose from, Gros Morne has a hike that’s perfect for everyone. Check out the Parks Canada website for descriptions of each trail and a table showing difficulty levels. If you’re still not sure, stop by the Visitor Information Centre for advice. Some of the most popular trails include Green Point coastal trail, Lobster Cove Head trail, Baker’s Brook Falls, Tablelands and Lookout. There are also lots of walking trails around the small towns including Rocky Harbour and each spots has it’s own unique vistas. Depending on the weather conditions, make sure to take layered clothing, a hat, bug spray and rain jacket, good walking shoes and water to drink. The weather can change quite quickly, according to the locals. We had mixed skies including sun, cloud, fog but it never rained more than a sprinkle or light mist. When the sun came out it felt hot.
The provincial flower is the purple pitcher plant, which is used in their logo and on their car licence plates. We spotted it twice: along the 3km walk in to the Western Brook Pond boat tour as well as at the Memorial University Botanical Gardens in St. John’s. As you drive around the province you will also notice wild lupins along the side of the roads adding lovely colour. They were especially noticeable on the road to Twillingate. There are also many, many walking trails all throughout the province, each offering their own special vistas with endless opportunities for that special photo. But nothing comes close to being there. No photo or video can replicate the feeling of standing on a dramatic, rocky cliff looking out to the sea, with the sun shining on your face, the wind blowing your hair while you hear the humpback whales blow as they feed offshore.
Newfoundland’s rich history is honoured in several national parks:
We chose to omit the overnight trip to L’Anse aux Meadows simply due to lack of time. From Rocky Harbour it is about 4 hours drive so you’d really need an extra night to do this. It will be on the list for our next visit! It is the oldest Viking settlement in North America so rich in history and a well-known historical interest point. It’s also another really great place to spot icebergs.
Stay tuned for more information about Newfoundland – Part 2 coming soon…
…including details about St. John’s, a travel itinerary, things to do/see and what not to forget to take…