My Top 10 of Everything: What you’ll enjoy in Newfoundland

It sounds like the edge of the world doesn’t it. I know its not a place that pops in to mind when planning a road trip but, with its rugged landscapes, varied wildlife and renowned hospitality, it makes for an unforgettable experience.

(My Top 10 has been selected from a 2011 trip. All photos from that time have been lost so stock images have been used for this post.)

1. Colour, Colour, Everywhere…

The first thing you notice is the colour. According to legend, houses are painted this way to help sailors find their homes upon returning from sea in fog and other inclement weather. Whatever the reason, the colourful homes, lighthouses, barns and sheds are stunning against the backdrop of such a bleak landscape.

Photo credit: Zach Bonnell on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

2. Vibrant City Life

Founded in 1497, St John’s is the oldest city in North America. With a population of 114,000. it has retained its ‘small town’ feel but, what it might lack in size, it more than makes up for in vitality, action and craic. During the day, you can enjoy the colourful jellybean houses and the galleries, visit one of the neighbouring villages or take a sea trip. Later on you’ll probably head to George Street which has more pubs per foot than any other town in North America and where you’ll find music every night of the week – not to mention lots of local beers to sample. There are so many restaurants to try out – of course you have to taste the fish!

You might wish to partake in a screech-in – a ceremony performed for ‘mainlanders’. It varies a bit depending on the venue but involves taking a shot of screech (rum), kissing a codfish and reciting ‘Long may your big jib draw’ (this is a good luck wish, a jib being the sail on a schooner). You are now an honorary Newfie!

3.The Great Outdoors

It can be difficult to tear yourself away from St. Johns but you’re here for the scenery and landscapes. Gros Morne National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the west coast. Stunning glacial fjords, forests and thousands of moose make it an outdoor lover’s paradise. You don’t have to be a serious hiker – there are plenty of easy trails and boat trips for all to enjoy.

The island boasts a 9656km coastline. One of the most popular regions is the Bonavista Peninsula where you can enjoy spectacular scenery interspersed with small fishing communites and heritage sites.

Photo credit: mrbanjo1138 on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

4. Moose Burger

Well…. when in Rome…..

You can do a lot with moose meat – stew, stir fry, stroganoff, burger, bologna, meatballs, jerky …. A member of the deer family, its just like using venison and other game recipes…

Moose were introduced to Newfoundland in 1904 with the idea of developing hunting tourism. The population has increased drastically ( about 120,000) to the detriment of various ecosystems (not to mention safety – there are an estimated 600 moose-vehicle collisions per year) . In places like Gros Morne, high density of moose has restricted the regeneration of young trees, thus changing the mix of vegetation which in turn affects other wildlife like bears, lynx and coyote.

To help control the exploding moose population and reduce its impact, there has been a huge increase in the number of hunting licenses issued – you can even get a license for the national park itself. You can take your moose to the local butcher for cutting into steaks, roasts, and ribs – there must be a lot of very well filled freezers on the island!

Photo credit: Simon Collison on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

5. Icebergs

Newfoundland is a great place for viewing icebergs in all their glory. May and June are the best months – the icebergs make their way down the Atlantic after breaking off from glaciers in Greenland and currents carry them right past the island. You can join a boat tour to get up close or just watch them from land.

6. Puffins

The puffin is Newfoundland’s provincial bird. . The best time to see the birds is mid May – early September when they gather in colonies to breed. The largest colony in North America is just 40 minutes from St. Johns – 225,000 pairs!

7. Whales

The world’s largest population of humpbacks visits this region every year to feed in the rich waters. The best time for viewing is mid May – September. But you’ll see more than humpbacks – orca, sperm, blue – there are around 20 species of whales and dolphins to be spotted. As with the icebergs and puffins, you can take a boat trip or just enjoy a bit of whale-spotting from shore, anywhere along the coast…

8. Irish Heritage

Its impossible to ignore the Irish vibe on the island. Often dubbed the ‘most Irish place outside Ireland’ you don’t have to go to a pub on George Street to hear an Irish accent.

The Irish began arriving during the 18th century. Men were contracted for two fishing seasons and wintered once in Newfoundland before returning to their families in Ireland. During the 1770’s an estimated 5,000 men made such trips. Seasonal migration evolved into emigration and, by 1835, up to 35,000 Irish immigrants had settled here permanently. Many lived in isolated communities – well into the 20th century – their accents and traditions creating a very distinctive subculture.

While the 2016 Census of Canada suggests that only 20.7 per cent of the province’s total population claim Irish descent, many trace elements of Irish culture have endured.

Photo credit: Bernt Rostad on Visualhunt.com / CC BY

9. Archaelogy

Newfoundland boasts the only Viking site in North America. The site at L’Anse aux Meadows provides the earliest evidence of Europeans on the continent. At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you will find structures built in the same style as those found in Greenland and Iceland from the same period. Excavations include three homes, a forge and four workshops with evidence of iron production and woodworking.

L’Anse aux Meadows is quite a distance from St. Johns but much closer is the Colony of Avalon – a well preserved 17th century English Colony – where you can witness an active archaeological dig and call into the visitor’s centre.

10. Picnic

I’m finishing with what was for us the highlight of our trip. Just above the archaeological site at the Colony of Avalon is Ferryland Lighthouse. The 25 minute trek up to the lighthouse is worth it for the views alone but allow enough time to enjoy a wonderful experience. Go in and order your picnic which is made in the little kitchen, grab a blanket and go find a spot on the hillside. As we enjoyed our afternoon selection, we watched a whale making its way through the sound below…. brilliant!

Photo credit: The Tedster on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: qmnonic on Visualhunt / CC BY

Small Stuff

Where exactly is Newfoundland?

Newfoundland and Labrador is the most easterly province of Canada

Getting There:

Car: Ferry from Nova Scotia takes about 6 hours

Air: St John’s International Airport – US Airports / Canada Airports / London Heathrow,

Gander Airport – Halifax / Toronto

Deer Lake Regional Airport – Halifax / Toronto / St Johns

Getting Around

There are public buses in St Johns and between the main urban settlements. Beyond that, public transport is not readily available so car rental is the best option.

How Long?

The island is bigger than you think.

St Johns > Gros Morne = 667km (6.75 hours drive)

St. Johns > L’Anse aux Meadows = 1068km (11 hours)

St Johns > Bonavista =311km (3.15 Hours)

You’d easily fill 2 weeks. That allows a few days at Gros Morne before heading up towards L’Anse aux Meadows. Then head for Bonavista peninsula for a few nights before going to St. Johns. From here you can do the Irish Loop and enjoy a boat trip and some shorter day trips to Ferryland etc.

It also combines well with other destinations in Eastern Canada. Our trip began in Quebec, then Toronto, before flying in to Deer Lake and out of St. Johns.

Note – moose present a real danger to motorists at dawn and dusk (to a lesser extent at night) – so much so that many locals prefer not to drive at these times. The animal is drawn to headlights and, upon impact, cars typically knock the moose’s legs away, leaving its body to come hurtling through the windscreen.

When to go:

This is not a sun destination!! Summer highs are around 25 degrees celsius. Coastal weather can include fog, cloud and wind.

The tourist season is really just from April to October – many places shut down for winter. The busiest time is from Mid June – end August. This is when you get the best weather, festivals, etc. Then you want to factor in icebergs, puffins, whales……

Bits and Bobs….

Picnic – We were able to just walk in and order our picnic. I see from their website that booking in advance is now necessary.

Flying home – We’d an early morning flight from St. Johns to Newark, and then the late evening flight to Dublin. The St Johns / Newark flight is about 3 hours. So we’d several hours at Newark….. BUT…. that was PERFECT for the Jersey Gardens Shopping Outlet Mall. A shuttle bus operates between the airport and the mall…. a 10 minute trip for $9 return…. We’ve used it several times. Don’t worry about your luggage – if you have to bring it with you then just pay for a shopping trolley at the mall and wheel your bags around (and you can pack all your purchases before you get back to the airport!).

Car Rental – We picked up our car at Deer Lake airport and dropped it back at St. Johns airport – always make sure to check for surcharges if not returning to same location…

I found this watercolour, as well as the ‘featured image’ on Flickr – They are by artist Alan Schmierer

Before you go:

If you enjoyed my Top 10 of Newfoundland then have a look at these Top 10’s:

Northern Portugal

Tanzania

The Yucatan

Morocco

Italy

Things you absolutely must taste in Ireland!

Tell-Tale signs of a Travel Addict

63 thoughts on “My Top 10 of Everything: What you’ll enjoy in Newfoundland

  1. What a beautiful post! A shame that as a Canadian who lives on the west coast I have not been to the east coast…yet! Definitely something I would like to do when we are able to travel once again and your post has convinced me to do it!

  2. Marie, we enjoyed an unforgettable 10-day trip to Newfoundland 20 years ago. As you shared, St. John’s is incredibly charming. We also thoroughly enjoyed traipsing around Gros Morne and later watching icebergs go by (in July) up near St. Anthony’s. What an incredible place!!

    1. Thank you! I suppose everyone pretty much does the same circuit on their first visit…. I’d love to go back and spend time in the less familiar spots…. maybe some day! XXXMarie

  3. I agree that a trip to Newfoundland allows you to see beautiful places. Newfoundland is also the ideal starting point for a dream road trip across Canada on the Trans-Canada Highway.

    1. It wasn’t on our list until Tom was going to Toronto for a few days and we worked our summer trip around that….. we loved it…. And yes .. lots of puffins!!!

  4. I love “The Rock” as it’s lovingly referred to in Canada. It’s such a huge space that it’s not a short trip to really do it justice but man it’s special. And the people! Well just don’t go in off season and maybe you won’t have to find out how special they are to open their closed doors to travellers who didn’t book ahead!

    1. Although we’d read a bit and booked our accommodation before we went, we were still unprepared for the size of the place and the driving distances…. mmmm don’t think I’ll EVER find myself there off season!!! ( although if life has taught me anything its ‘never say never!!!). XXXMarie

      1. My husband was there for work Tues to Thur so I flew out Thursday and we made a 4 day weekend of it. It was late April and lots of stuff wasn’t open but we still enjoyed it. Wrong season for puffins and only saw one small iceberg but loved the scenery and the ocean. Definitely on our list to go back when we have longer. The distances, to us, aren’t that crazy but that said Gros Morne was too far that time. Glad you enjoyed your time on the Rock.

      2. I notice a lot of blog posts about 4 day visits so its obviously a popular short break destination… you could see a fair bit in that time around St Johns…. or else fly into Gros Morne and concentrate the visit there. I’d say 4 days would definitely whet the appetite for a longer visit…. XXXMarie

  5. Nice pictures, that moose burger reminds me of my gator burgers in FL lol! I made my Frenchies eat it without telling them and oh it was a show!!! I just stop at Gander for a fuel stop on a charter flight to France way back in 1991, thanks for the memories!

    1. We had to visit Gander – my father in law worked in air traffic control so we couldn’t go home and say we hadn’t been there! I’m sure I’d ‘gator in some form or other over the years…. You have to do these things!!

    1. Thank you – we loved the colour – individual houses and small hamlets really stood out because the landscape was so bleak – but on the other hand, you had colourful streets in St. Johns which were just as attractive in their own way…. XXXMarie

  6. Looks amazing and nothing like what I had in mind for Newfoundland. A friend of mine went there on a salmon fishing trip and, apart from fishing, didn’t seem to see anything like you’ve shown here.

    1. I’d say fishery tourism is big business there…… Your pal was probably more interested in the day’s catch then the surroundings on land….

  7. We visited Newfoundland a few years ago and had an amazing time. The landscape is stunning and the people are so friendly. We unfortunately didn’t see any icebergs though or have enough time to drive to L’Anse aux Meadows. I would love to come back someday.

    1. Its hard to fit everything into most trips isn’t it….. we’ve so rarely come home from anywhere and felt we actually did it justice….. all the more reason to return!!! XXXMarie

  8. You are so right Marie. Newfoundland is a great place to visit and we enjoyed a week there in 2005 with the kids. Even managed a trip to France (St. Pierre and Miquelon). You remind us of why we must go back. Stay well Marie. Allan

    1. Yes – a nice place for a family holiday….. did you cross the island with them or stay around St Johns? There’d be plenty around the city environs to fill a week….. XXXMarie

      1. We mostly explored the Avalon Peninsula, but went as far as Musgrave Harbour, before going back to catch the ferry to St. Pierre for a 1 night stay. The best way to see the whole island I have heard is to fly into Deer Lake, drive across to St. John’s and then fly out of St. John’s. Other wise, a lot of driving.

      2. That’s what we did… although there was still a lot of time in the car….. Hope you all keeping well. XXXMarie

  9. Ooh, this brings back memories! In 2017 we did a big road-trip in Newfoundland. Looking back at my blog, our experiences were a bit mixed. The icebergs were massive (but so were the pot-holes in the roads!), the people were very friendly (but seemed to be somewhat disorganised – it was chaos at roadworks and when boarding the Fogo island ferry), and the whale-watching was the best we’ve done anywhere in the world. We also enjoyed – and still follow via the Internet – the local folk music, with its heavy Irish influence. But the food mostly wasn’t great, and outside of St John’s vegetables seemed like an endangered species.

    Notwithstanding my gripes I’d certainly recommend a visit to Newfoundland. If you feel like comparing and contrasting experiences this link will take you to my blog: https://newfoundlandplatypus.wordpress.com/

    1. A month – what a wonderful trip….. (despite all your gripes!!!!). I can’t gauge from your posts whether or not, on balance, your overall experience was more positive or negative!!!!??? Thinking it through…. is that because you write when you’re away? To date, I’ve never done that… I try (not very successfully) to keep some kind of log and then work backwards once I’m home (although since I began this blog I’ve never been away for longer than 14-16 days). By the time I get to write, maybe I’m already looking back through rose coloured glasses… I haven’t done many – if any – daily diaries as such so I probably summarise highlights rather than daily experiences and thoughts…. It makes sense to write as you go….. that’s probably something I will embrace ….when you know what is behind us and we’re back on the go..!!!! XXXMarie

      1. Yes, I think writing in diary mode may lead to a slightly unbalanced account because, at the end of a long, tiring day there’s a big temptation to vent about any frustrations encountered in the previous few hours. If I were to write a Newfoundland retrospective in the style of your own blog post I think the balance of content would be more positive, as the good stuff (particularly the whales!) would dominate my recollections.

        I’ve done four separate road trip blogs (Tasmania, Newfoundland, the Yellowstone area of US and New Zealand) and have found daily posting on the hoof to be great at capturing my subjective feelings “in the moment” of the trip, but maybe it gets in the way of the type of objective assessment that you write so well. Also, daily blogging can be a bit of a strain when, at the end of a long day’s driving, you have to find something to write when all you really want to do is sit down with a cold beer and chill out. And I’ve spent way too much time on these trips worrying about (and coping with) inadequate internet connections!

        On the positive side, writing every day allows me to capture the little things, short anecdotes (particularly about encounters with people) that I’d forget if I were doing the write-up a few months later. The most important point is that blogging needs to be pleasurable for the blogger, otherwise what’s the point? My approach has worked for me so far but when (if???) I ever get to travel again I might adopt your approach, though I’d probably try to discipline myself to keep daily notes.

        As for Newfoundland, I think my experience was definitely more positive than negative, though some of the food was truly vile! I’d go back, but not before I’d re-visited Nova Scotia & Prince Edward Island. If you’ve not been to those two Canadian provinces I can thoroughly recommend them.

      2. Thanks for your reply… you’d have a blog post whipped up in that time I bet!!! As I said, I haven’t written while I’m away –

      3. Sorry …. hit SEND by mistake….

        Re food …. I’ve forgotten far more than I remember and have no photos for reference….. Definitely had moose in a few different guises at Gros Morne. We stayed a nice place in trinity which had a very good restaurant. And we ate in pubs or breweries in St John’s I think…. can’t remember much else. I can recall driving through Gander at lunchtime actually – looking for somewhere to eat. Don’t know what we did but it was the first time we’d ever been in a Tim Horton’s for coffee…!!
        I’m making a note of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island…. that sounds like something we’d like…

  10. What a great tour of Newfoundland. It is such a beautful part of Canada. Even though it’s often called ‘The Rock’ making us think it’s awful, St. John’s is a colourful, vibrant city and your pictures really show it off well. The only thing I haven’t seen are the puffins, and I’d love to see those. Maggie

  11. Wow, what a unique place to explore and photograph, Marie. One of the reasons why always wanted to visit Newfoundland, but somehow never got around to do it, was to see floating icebergs and wildlife such as whales. Can you just imagine capturing a stunning photos of these glacial works of art? Thanks for sharing and have a lovely evening. Aiva 🙂

  12. Astonishing photos. I now have a completely different view of Newfoundland. Did I read somewhere that it was primarily Waterford & Wexford folk who mostly were the Irish immigrants? Jersey of course also has firm historic ties with that part of the world going back to the cod fishing heyday.

    1. You’re right – ships used to pull in to Waterford harbour and stock up on food supplies – and crew…. so those eventual emigrants were mainly from the South East…..

  13. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article 🙂 Your site was a very unexpected yet welcome surprise! I love the fact that you have both history AND first-hand experience to add to your writing! I can’t wait to read more 🙂 Keep it up!

    1. Lovely to ‘meet’ you! Thank you for your kind words. Best of luck with your new blog…. Here’s to friendship…. XXXMarie

    1. We did – I’d love to go back and maybe combine it with other parts of that region but as you know – so many places…. the list never shortens!!! XXXMarie

  14. I love your top 10 of Newfoundland. I’d add the playful town names like Come by Chance and Heart’s Desire. I had the good fortune to live there for two years…in a place called Paradise. Marvellous!

    1. Well there’s a coincidence – look above at XLCRGIRL’s comment – her sister lives in Paradise!!! Wonderful name for a place. You’re right – the placenames are great!!

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