Newfoundland – Part 1
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:
- L’Anse aux Meadows – the sole Viking site in North America (north-west tip of the island)
- Signal Hill – overlooking St. John’s harbour
- Cape Spear – the most easterly point of North America and site of one of the oldest surviving light houses
- Read about more sites here.
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.
For more information see Newfoundland – Part 2
…including details about St. John’s, a travel itinerary, things to do/see and what not to forget to take…