Newfoundland is becoming an increasing popular destination for travelers – and, with good reason. From breathtaking scenery to fascinating wildlife and incredibly friendly people, this easternmost Canadian offers the chance for an unforgettable escape. Before you go, consider these 20 must see and dos for your itinerary.
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Spend some time in the city
Even if you aren’t the type of traveler that enjoys spending time in the city, the capital of Newfoundland, St. John’s, with a population of only around 150,000 residents, truly offers something for everyone. Here you’ll find especially friendly locals, as you will in most any spot throughout the province, who go out of their way to provide a warm welcome. Walk the steep hills, strolling by colorful, historic houses, particularly Holloway Street, taking in the entire scene. The Rowe House Gallery representing artist Cynthia I. Noel, a fabulous gallery with reasonably priced reproductions of the artists’ oil paintings and watercolor paintings sits along this vibrant avenue. Don’t miss The Club, a fantastic gastropub serving some of the best fish ‘n’ chips, mussels, oysters, steaks and more. Of course, you’ll want to plan to stay up late to enjoy the city’s famously outstanding local live music along George Street, boasting the most bars and pubs per square foot of any street in North America. The tunes typically don’t begin until after 11 p.m., and things begin hopping during the wee hours of the morning.
Quidi Vidi Village
This unique fishing village just outside the city of St. John’s is especially charming, scenic and easy to explore on foot. Two of its highlights are Mallard Cottage, a white cottage and national historic site sitting next to the road that looks as if it might fall apart with the next blow of the wind, and a dive bar known as the Quidi Vidi Inn of Olde. Stop in for a pint, or three, though the more you have, the more the slanted bar might just play tricks on you. It’s practically a museum, filled with knick-knacks from across the globe, including a collection of 1956 spoons, license plates and buttons. The Quidi Vidi Brewery is St. John’s largest. It sits alongside the water and cliffs, home to seven award-winning ales and lagers, including Iceberg Beer. Stop by for a sample and a tour.
Cape Spear is the easternmost spot in the western hemisphere. Stand here, with your back to the water, and the entire population of North America is to the west of you. Looking out east over the sea, you can almost see Ireland, the nearest land to the east. It’s also home to the Cape Spear Lighthouse, perched atop a rugged cliff. This is the oldest surviving lighthouse in the province, flashing since the mid-1800s as an iconic symbol of Newfoundland and Labrador’s mariner history. Here you can enjoy amazing ocean views, including crashing waves, icebergs and feeding whales. Arrive just before dawn to catch one of the most breathtaking sunrises on the planet – if you happen to arrive on a nice morning.
Bay Bulls Boat Tour
While you’re in Newfoundland you really should do at least one boat tour, and if you can only do one, make it O’Brien’s. This two-hour tour off the Avalon Peninsula through the Witless Bay Ecological Preserve, brings passengers to visit the home of the largest Atlantic Puffin colony in North America – some 260,000 pairs, as well as offering the chance to spot humpbacks, minkes, dolphins and porpoises along the way – in fact, there are 17 species of sea mammals here and some of the best whale watching is in the waters that surround this beautiful province. If you’re lucky enough to have Justin as your guide, you might even be treated to a sea shanty – his voice is so amazing, it could bring those whales to the surface.
The Irish Loop
Just south of St. John’s, the Irish Loop is said to be the most Irish place on earth, outside the Emerald Isle itself, of course. Here you’ll find places like the Irish Coffee House where owner Judith Devine and her staff cooks up incredibly delicious Irish dishes – along with outstanding tea and coffee – and speaks with an accent that would have you believe that she grew up on the other side of the Atlantic, though her family has been here for generations. It makes a perfect spot after your boat trip, where you can enjoy sipping a hot beverage with more beautiful water views, and the chance to see humpback whales swimming in the bay. The entire loop is about 200 miles and is ideal for a scenic drive too.
St. Anthony, Vikings Brave New World
St. Anthony, located on the northwest coast of Newfoundland, offers proof that the Vikings set foot in North America around 1003. On the flat coast at L’Anse-aux-Meadows is the continent’s only authenticated Viking settlement site, discovered in 1960. Tour rebuilt turf-walled longhouses with a replica Viking furnace and collect pebbles on which 11th-century explorer Leif Ericson may have even walked across himself.
As soon as Trinity comes into view, you’ll swear as if you’re seeing a film set. This picture-perfect town has been the setting for a number of movies, including “The Shipping News” starring Julianne Moore and Kevin Spacey. You’ll want to spend at least a few days exploring it, and the Artisan Inn makes an ideal base. There are a variety of accommodation options as well as an upscale eatery – don’t miss having dinner here at least one night. The Twine Loft serves delectable gourmet fare using local ingredients. The town is steeped in history, boasting saltbox houses, museums, art galleries and a number of other historic buildings preserved from the 18th century. Hiking trails will bring you to spectacular beaches as well as viewpoints for spotting birds, whales and icebergs.
The Skerwink Trail, just north of Trinity near the community of Port Rexton, was selected by Travel and Leisure Magazine as one of the top 35 walks in North America and Europe in its August 2003 World Best Awards issue. This moderate to difficult three-and-one-third-mile rugged coastal trail features sea stacks, icebergs, whales and bald eagles. Look down from atop the steep cliffs and view the coastline’s picturesque caves and arches. Humpbacks are often spotted in June and July.
Puffin Site, Elliston
Elliston is the place to go if you want to have another chance to view puffins close up. The town was once known as Bird Island Cove, as it’s the home of numerous seabirds, including lots of those adorable birds. It offers one of the closest land views of puffins on the entire continent. Between May and September, the colorful auks occupy a section of land at the end of a rocky outcrop. Take the less than five-minute walk down a narrow, well-worn path that will bring you to what is known to locals as the “Puffin Site.” In 1987, a census estimated there were 2500 pairs of puffins here, but in recent years the number has increased dramatically.
Sealers Memorial Statue, Elliston
The Sealers Memorial Statue is extremely poignant and set in a stunningly scenic location at the edge of the sea in Elliston. The statue depicts Reuben Crewe and his son, Albert John Crewe, from Elliston, who lost their lives in the 1914 SS Newfoundland Sealing Disaster. It represents all sealers who have risked and lost their lives during efforts to support their families and communities. A memorial granite that lists the names of all 364 men and boys who were on the S.S. Newfoundland and the S.S. Southern Cross during those fateful days in the spring of 1914 can also be viewed here.
Cape Bonavista Lighthouse
The Cape Bonavista Lighthouse, just north of Elliston, is one of the few remaining in the world where you can still climb the stone tower and see the same seal oil-fueled light used in the 19th century. You can experience what it might have been like to be a light keeper back in 1870, a 24/7 job that included filling oil lamps, polishing glass, recording weather patterns and watching the waves at one of Newfoundland’s most rugged points. This is also another great spot for watching puffins, icebergs and whales.
Auk Island Winery, Twillingate
Making the long drive up to Twillingate on the northeastern shore of the province is well worth the drive for many reasons. The “Iceberg Capital of the World,” offers lots of things to do, including, wine tasting. Auk Island Winery is making its mark in the industry with unique wines made from Newfoundland berries as well as specialty wines using Iceberg water. Enjoy wine tasting and a tour, as well as a great gift shop.
The onsite ice cream shop makes delicious homemade wine ice cream too. Be sure to buy a bottle and bring it back to your B&B. If you stay at All Seasons Bed & Breakfast, run by friendly hosts Mark and Ruby Racicot, you can enjoy sipping a glass out on the deck while taking in some of the most breathtaking sunsets on the planet.
Long Point Lighthouse, Crow Head, Twillingate
Long Point Lighthouse offers more fabulous photo opportunities as one of the most photographed landmarks on Newfoundland’s northern coast. Located at Crow Head, just a few minutes north of Twillingate, it sits more than 300 feet above sea level, providing a lookout point for taking in panoramic views of the Atlantic as well as the chance to view whales, seals, sea birds and icebergs. A number of hiking trails can be accessed from the parking lot here, including the Long Point to Sleepy Cove Trail, a spectacular trek offering even more whale and iceberg views.
Pikes Arm/Harbourview Boat Tours
If you’re here during iceberg or whale season, boat excursions from Twillingate are really a must- and, if you’d prefer going on a boat tour that feels more like an excursion with a friend, Harbourview Tours in Pikes Arm, a tiny community about 20 minutes from Twillingate, is the one to take. Owned and operated by Dee Jenkins and Goodland Richards, AKA Captain Goody, who grew up in the area and fished these waters for 40 years, he knows the area inside and out, offering much more authentic, personal tours in a smaller watercraft that can get you up close to majestic icebergs as well as the chance to view all sorts of whales, bald eagles and more. Afterward, you can even enjoy kitchen parties, complete with ugly sticks and local music. Overnight RV parking and camping is even available for free.
Fogo Island offers the chance to experience what feels like a completely different world, home to 11 unique communities, each with its own allure. Easily accessible by ferry from Farewell, it offers endless sources of inspiration for visiting artists as well as those who want to get far off the beaten path. Unless you’re staying at the Fogo Island Inn, where rooms start at $550 a night, accommodation options are rather basic, though there are several cozy B&Bs. There are lots of fascinating museums and galleries dotted across the island, as well as out-of-this-world hiking trails, like Brimstone Head, accessible from the town of Fogo. A hike up the dramatic landscape of rock, with steep terrain on both sides that plunges to the turquoise waters below, offers some of the island’s most breathtaking vistas.
This traditional Irish village on Fogo Island is a place where you’ll see names like Foley and O’Keefe, hear the lovely sound of a thick Irish lilt and wander through tall grasses, passing old and weathered red-painted fishing rooms. This inspirational historic place has been restored and maintained to its original splendor, looking so picturesque it’s hard to believe you haven’t just stepped onto a film set. Visit the Lane House Museum and the Dwyer Premises to learn about the town’s heritage and fishing industry. You can even pitch your tent and sink your toes into the soft white sands on Sandy Cove Beach, and perhaps catch a glimpse of caribou that graze along the lush hills.
Across the waters of Notre Dame Bay, you’ll find the picturesque Change Islands. The only town here is the Town of Change Islands, tucked away on a narrow tickle. On these islands, you can wander around historic buildings, through grasses that are greener than green, across granite outcroppings and to a pony refuge. The Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Refuge was established to carry out a breeding program with the goal of raising the numbers of the critically endangered Newfoundland Pony. Two decades ago there were at least 12 to 13,000 ponies in Newfoundland, but today there are just 88 registered ponies of breeding age that remain. The remaining ponies are individually owned by people around Newfoundland, Canada and the U.S., but the Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Refuge is the only place in Newfoundland with an express purpose to carry out a breeding program. Here you can visit the ponies and even take a ride on one.
Gros Morne National Park
Gros Morne offers striking natural beauty in western Newfoundland, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that stretches across nearly 700 square miles as part of the Long Range Mountains. Encircled by tiny seaside communities, it features forests, freshwater fjords, striking cliffs and picturesque shorelines as well as barren lowlands, bogs and moose. It’s also known for its unique and complex geology, including the Tablelands, a mountain of flat-topped rock – a type of which is usually found only deep in the earth’s mantle, and truly an awe-inspiring sight. Hiking, camping, canoeing and kayaking are all popular here.
The Spaniards Room Heritage Home, Spaniard’s Bay
After traveling across this huge province, you may be in dire need of some rest and rejuvenation. The Spaniards Room Heritage Home is a bed and breakfast located just an hour from St. John’s International Airport, perfect for your last night – or for spending a few nights relaxing before your return home. This may be one of Newfoundland’s most lovely B&Bs, built in 1901 and considered both historically and architecturally significant. Owners Greg and Lorraine Miller offer especially welcoming, comfortable accommodations to make you feel right at home – and, you can even indulge in a therapeutic or relaxation treatment session too.