Growing up, I couldn’t wait to get away from home. Get away from my house, my town, my province, my country. I imagined what it would be like to grow up somewhere exotic, exciting, somewhere with greater opportunities.
Now, I find that the longer I am away the more I think about going back. Travel teaches you that everywhere is home for someone. The home I have is a unique and beautiful place with lots of history behind it. It’s a place that deserves recognition, and I haven’t given it enough.
Inspired by a recent World of Wanderlust post , I decided to make a quick guide for my own home: Newfoundland. It is a land of rain, drizzle, and fog—this is true. But, also of vast and jagged coastlines, wild and untamed nature, friendly strangers with plenty of free stories, and a history far beyond its stature.
A few Newfoundland facts to get you started:
- St. John’s (the capital city) is the oldest settlement in North America that became a city.
- The foggiest place in the world is the Grand Banks off Newfoundland’s coast. The foggiest place on land, Argentia, is also in Newfoundland.
- There are more pubs per square foot on George Street in St. John’s than anywhere else in Canada.
- Vikings first landed in L’Anse aux Meadows, at the northern tip of Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula, around the year 1000. Today, the site is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Gros Mourne National Park is the second-largest national park in Atlantic Canada and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Gros Mourne Mountain is part of the Long Range Mountains, an outlying range of the Appalachian Mountains.
- Newfoundland has its own timezone, 30 minutes ahead of Atlantic Standard Time.
- Newfoundland is around the size of South Korea in area, but South Korea has about 100 times the population. (Newfoundland’s population is around 500,000)
- About 100 years ago, four moose were brought to Newfoundland. Today there are 150,000. It’s a problem.
- Fossils at the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve on the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland are fossils of the oldest complex life forms found anywhere on Earth
If you plan to head outside the city (St.John’s), which you should if you want a true picture of the island, rent a car. There is no rail service, and bus services are hard to come by (and expensive). Driving through the province is an easy way to see the landscape. Remember to watch out for moose, they are a real issue on highways. Most accidents occur between dusk and dawn.
A 10-day road trip in Newfoundland
Newfoundland is a pretty small place with a lot on offer. Here is my attempt to show you some of the highlights. You’ve been warned: I haven’t been everywhere myself, and I’m sure there are many more areas that are equally as unique and loved as the places I’m listing. I do believe that this is an itinerary that will not disappoint, though it can surely be expanded upon and altered as desired.
Day 1 and 2: St. John’s
Spend some time in the capital and largest city on the island. Visits to Signal Hill, Cape Spear (the most easterly point in North America), downtown (perusing shops on Water Street and Duckworth), and Quidi Vidi (a historic fishing village), will get you started, though there is much more to see and do.
Day 3: Around the Avalon
Over half of Newfoundland and Labrador’s population lives on the Avalon, and there are several great points of interest here. Placentia, the old French capital of Newfoundland, is about an hour-and-a-half’s drive from St. John’s (being from there, I do have a certain bias that I’ll mention). Placentia is home to Castle Hill, a National Historic Site of former French and English fortifications. Driving this way can also take you around the Cape Shore and to Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve, where you can see some nesting gannets, murres, razorbills, and other seabirds.
Day 4: Terra Nova National Park and area
Visit Terra Nova National Park in the summer to get the full experience of camping, hiking, and kayaking in the park. The landscape is extremely varied, and you can easily spend a day exploring it. If you do crave some civilization, Gander is nearby. With a population of around 11,000, it should have the amenities you are looking for.
Day 5 and 6: Gros Mourne National Park
Gros Mourne is the largest park in Newfoundland and another UNESCO World Heritage site. So, you may want to take a couple of days to get acquainted. Climb Gros Mourne Mountain, take a boat tour, or explore the villages along the coast. Hardcore trekkers can arrange to take the Long Range Traverse, a difficult multi-day hike.
Day 7, 8, and 9:
From here, things might get a bit hectic, since there are several important sites that are pretty spread out. So I’ve divided them up into two options (that could possible be connected, if you fancy a lot of driving).
Option 2: Drive to the viking settlement remains in L’Anse aux Meadows (one of the world’s first UNESCO sites), staying the night in St. Anthony, at Newfoundland’s northernmost tip.
Day 10: When your road trip is finished, you have a couple of options. You can drive all the way back to St. John’s, head down to Port aux Basques and take a ferry to Nova Scotia, or head to Deer Lake to catch a flight.
A few more Highlights:
- The East Coast Trail
- MUN Botanical Garden
- Castle Hill
- Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve
- George Street
- Gros Mourne Mountain and Ten Mile Pond
- Marble Mountain
- Birdwatching, whale watching
- Iceberg watching
- Skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling
Foods to try:
- Fish n’ Chips: Newfoundlanders love it. My favourite can be found at the Duke of Duckworth, but Ches’s Famous Fish & Chips is kind of an institution on the island.
- Cod tongues: It sounds bad, I know. But, there are certainly weirder things. Just think of it as a small, fatty, piece of fried fish—with an interesting texture. There’s a reason why they remain an iconic part Newfoundland cuisine to this day.
- Toutons: A simple concept, but classic. Fried bread dough with molasses, a sweet breakfast food.
- Jiggs Dinner: Perhaps the most iconic of Newfoundland meals. I’m sure there’s some restaurant that serves it, but most just enjoy it at home. Here’s some more info if you are into making your own version.
- Ziggy’s: Personal favourite chip wagon. They’ve expanded their menu recently as well, though I haven’t had a chance to try it. Find them in downtown St. John’s or in Churchill Square.
- Something moose: With so many moose around, it’s no surprise to find them on the menu. In sausage form or patty, they may have an acquired taste (and texture) for some.
To make an obvious point, Newfoundland is an island—you can either fly, take a ferry, or swim to get there (don’t swim… also, I know that’s a lame joke but I’m leaving it anyway).
Airport Codes for Newfoundland:
Flight Times to Newfoundland:
- London, England – St. John’s – 5 hours
- Boston – St. John’s – 3 hours
- Montreal – St. John’s – 2 hours
- Ottawa – St. John’s – 2 hours
- New York – St. John’s – 4 hours
- Toronto – St. John’s – 3 hours
- Halifax – St. John’s – 1 hr 30mins.
- St. John’s – Wabush – 2 hr 15mins. (two stops)
- St. John’s – Goose Bay – 1 hr 40mins. (one stop)
Marine Atlantic ferry services operate between Port Aux Basques and North Sydney (Nova Scotia) or Argentia and North Sydney.
When to go:
Weather is unpredictable on the North Atlantic, and Newfoundland is one of the windiest, wettest, and foggiest places in Canada. For the best chances of nice weather, late July to early September are the safest bets. Though, the fall is a beautiful time and thanks to the marine climate, temperature extremes are not usually a problem.
Check here for event and festival listings throughout the year.