Top 8 Things To Do in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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Gros Morne may be the most breathtaking park you’ve never heard of. Located on the west coast of Canada’s easternmost providence, Newfoundland, it lies within the dramatic Long Range Mountains and is dotted with charming seaside villages, beaches, lighthouses and freshwater fjords. A hiker’s paradise and a gem for wildlife enthusiasts, you’ll find lots to keep you occupied here.
One of the top things to do in Gros Morne National Park is to take the Western Brook Pond boat tour. The two-hour excursion begins with a walk on a two-mile trail, leading from the parking lock to the boat. Once you’ve hopped aboard, you’ll glide between the massive billion-year-old cliffs that are dotted with plunging falls that cascade into the park’s largest lake. Along the way the knowledgeable guides provide interesting and informative yet entertaining narrative.
The Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse, which marks the northern side of the entrance to Boone Bay, is home to a lighthouse and a whole lot more. Outside, you’ll find a trail that winds through a tuckamore forest and coastal environments, offering one of the top spots for watching whales and for capturing the gorgeous colors of a sunset. Inside, interpretive exhibits depict the history of the inhabitants who lived along the nearby shore and their dependence on the sea. One wall is devoted to the lighthouse keepers, with a room showcasing how the residence was furnished when it was occupied by them.
The somewhat eerie Tablelands dominate the southwest corner of the park. This vast flat-topped massif was part of the earth’s mantle before tectonics raised it from the depths and planted it right on the continent. Guided walks are available to let you stroll across the mantle of the planet that’s normally found deep below the crust while getting a better understanding of the very unique geology in the park. Moose, bear, caribou and arctic hare all call this section of the park home and can frequently be seen while you’re out exploring.
The just over 6-mile round trip trail to Baker’s Brook Falls will lead you through a balsam fir forest to the magnificent series of cascades that plunge over limestone ridges. There are several overlooks where you can enjoy a picnic while enjoying the sight and the feel of the mist on your skin. Moose are often spotted in this area, in fact, the animals have limited regrowth in this forest that’s in several stages of regeneration due to the natural effects of insects and powerful winds. Most of the trail is easy hiking on a flat boardwalk, however there is a slightly difficult section about a third of a mile to the end.
As mentioned, there are moose in Gros National Park, and lots of them. Undaunted after a failed attempt in 1878 to introduce moose as a source of game for the locals, the government transported just four moose from New Brunswick in 1904. As a result of that successful attempt, there is now a thriving moose population of about 150,000 in Newfoundland, and park researchers say the 7,000 to 8,000 animals in Gros Morne may be one of the world’s highest moose densities. Anywhere in the park you might spot one, though just before dusk is always a good time. Just be cautious, making noise while out on the trails and keeping a close out out on the roadways when you’re driving as these creatures are massive.
Just before winter arrived in 1919, a violent storm hit and the SS Essie was intentionally run aground at Martin’s Point, between Sally’s Cove and Western Brook Pond in Gros Morne. The passengers and crew, all 92 of them, were rescued thanks to the help of locals, including a baby that was sent ashore in a mail bag. At the time, the story was quite sensationalized and included accounts of a heroic dog. The story of the wreck was the inspiration for a famous folk song, and today, the remains of the SS Ethie, battered, rusty and tangled, can still be seen today at Martin’s Point. The large engine block and boiler are still quite prominent. You can also attend at dinner theatre at the Shallow Bay Motel in Cow Head, located in Gros Morne, that tells the story of the ship.
The hike to the top of Gros Morne Mountain, the park’s high point and the highest point in Newfoundland, is another one of the most popular, if challenging treks in the park. The 10-mile loop meanders from lowland to alpine terrain, with lots of colorful wildflowers and wildlife. But the greatest reward is the panoramic views from the summit, which is open from July to late November. From just below the summit, you can enjoy phenomenal views of Ten Mile Brook Pond and the Long Range Mountains, as long as the fog hasn’t rolled in that is.
Java Jack’s is a favorite in Newfoundland, and few would argue that this artsy place, filled with some fabulous local art, is not the best in Rocky Harbour and all of Gros Morne National Park. Its dining room is one of the most popular places to be, serving all those hungry appetites after a day of hiking with excellent local game and seafood, along with produce from its own organic garden. Think lobster Benedict with an entire lobster, and wild partridgeberries that are harvested for use in muffins for breakfast, soups and wraps for lunch and especially fine dinners. The menu always features fresh Newfoundland mussels, and you won’t want to miss the salt cod cakes with Java Jack’s special “million dollar relish.”