Growing up just outside of Sydney, i’ve watched the Newfoundland Ferry travel past the beach near my home since I was a kid and always dreamed of one day making the journey myself. So this past September, when I was invited on a last minute trip to Newfoundland, without hesitation I jumped on it… literally. A week later on a beautiful Fall morning my cousin, her husband and myself boarded the North Sydney Ferry and took the six hour ride to Channel-Port aux Basques.
A few hours of reading, card games, naps and of course beers we arrived in Port aux Basques around 6pm. It was a long day on the water, so we headed straight to our B&B which just so happened to be directly across the street from where the boat docked. It was convenient, and super cozy. If you’re looking for a place to stay nearby the ferry the “Radio Station B&B”is where it’s at.
The next day we woke up early and hit the road. Our first stop was Atlantic Canada’s most northern city, Corner Brook. It is the largest population centre in the province after St.John’s. The city also functions as a service centre for all of western and northern Newfoundland. We explored the city and had lunch at a beautiful little roadside look-off before heading to our next destination.
We planned our next big stop to be L’Anse aux Meadows. An archaeological site on the most northern tip of Newfoundland. However we had to drive through Gros Morne National Park to get there.. lets just say that “driving through” the park is nearly impossible. It was easily one of the most beautiful places i’ve ever seen. The rugged, beauty of the land was incredible. We decided to allow ourselves some time for photos and spend the night at a B&B in the community of “Cow Head”.
During our time in Cow Head we discovered a trail that some people consider to be one of the the most underrated in all of Gros Morne.
Cow Head Lighthouse Trail starts off by taking you through old forests, until you enter a meadow called Big Hill. You’ll find a lookout on the Western edge that will show you views of Cow Head, and the Long Range Mountains which are stunning.
We continued on the trail until we found the Lighthouse. A really neat little find, the lighthouse was built in 1909 and was used to help guide passing ships for over five decades. It was manned until 1960, when it then became modified to be automatic.
We continued past the lighthouse, to a “Y” in the trail and followed a sign saying Point of the Head. I suggest following this, as it takes you along the coast where you’ll find what looks like a cool old fishing shack and 500 million year old rocks.
We stayed the night at Shallow Bay Motel & Cabins, had a quick bite to eat at their restaurant in the morning and hit the road again. It was cold and chilly but the views were still unbelievable along the Viking Trail. The first place we stopped was this somewhat hidden provincial park called “The Arches” located in Portland Creek.These super rad rock formations are made of ancient limestone carved by the pounding surf.
The drive along the Viking Trail is amazing. It’s 489 kms of history, and it almost feels like you’re going back in time. You’ll drive through wooded valleys, over mountains and along a windswept seacoast. You’ll find fjords, watersfalls, and fields of wildflowers. One of my favorite things about Western Newfoundland is seeing all the tiny little fishing villages and getting a sense of what life in Newfoundland was like. You feel so far away from civilization, you won’t find Tim Hortons but you will find small businesses, local gas stations and corner stores. It is in these little places where you find that Newfoundlanders really are the friendliest people. Some of my best memories from the trip was chatting with the hilarious and of course kind locals.
Being in such rural communities you can really sense the culture and lifestyle of Newfoundland. We saw some neat sights along the main roads of The Great Northern Peninsula. One thing we spotted was hundreds of roadside gardens in the middle of nowhere, which interested us all. After asking the locals it turns out they date back to the 1960′s when the highway was constructed. Gardening had been a challenge due to the lack of fertile soil along the coast. However, when the main road was built there was an abundance of dirt built up along the road that made great gardening soil especially for potatoes, cabbages, and turnips.
There are approximately 120,000 moose on the island of Newfoundland, the most concentrated population in North America. So as you can imagine moose hunting is extremely popular throughout the island. Many folks that we met on the ferry were visiting Newfoundland from all over, including the United States for the purpose of going hunting. So don’t be surprised if you see hunters cleaning/cutting their meat along the highway.
After about 4 hours of driving we finally made it to the town of St. Anthony. This is where the famous UNESCO Historic Site “L’Anse aux Meadows” is located. L’Anse aux Meadows is the first and only known site established by Vikings in North America and the earliest evidence of European settlement in the New World. You can see the remains of an 11th century Viking settlement consisting of timber-framed turf buildings (houses, workshops, etc.) that are identical with those found in Norse Greenland and Iceland.
After exploring St. Anthony for the day we decided to stay at Burnt Cape Cabins which is located in the picturesque Town of Raleigh. These cabins were super cozy and beautiful, we suggest spending at least one night here.
The next morning, we were on route back to Gros Morne to spend our final 3 days in Newfoundland. I’ll start off by saying that Gros Morne National Park is incredible beyond words. The sheer beauty, the friendly people, adorable villages and just the atmosphere of the entire park is amazing. We decided to make our home base Rocky Harbour and stayed in the beautiful Gros Morne Cabins.
The town of Rocky Harbour is in the heart of Gros Morne National Park. It is the largest community in the park and is centrally located so you have easy access to everything. Whether it be taking in the landscape, hiking one of the many trails or mountains, eating delicious Newfoundland cuisine, or just taking in the cultural and scenic attractions.
The next place on our itinerary was the 10km return hike to Bakers Brook Falls. The trail leads you through a balsam fir forest, until you meet the Falls. Which are awe inspiring, thanks to the unique sets of falls that stagger along the river. Together they make a long continuous series of ledges and drops before reaching the big falls at the end.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was hiking Gros Morne Mountain. It is the second highest peak on the island of Newfoundland, exceeded only by Lewis Hill. You climb 806m to get to the summit, and experience a slice of Arctic tundra far south of its usual range. Around the summit you’ll find awe-inspiring views of a spectacular glacial-carved landscape, the deep fjord of Bonne Bay and the U-shaped trough of Ten Mile Pond. It’s hard to put into words the beauty you’ll see on your adventure here.
On the way back to Rocky Harbour, we stopped by Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse. The 118 year old lighthouse served as a beacon to those returning from sea. It is now automated, but the keeper’s house is open as a park interpretive exhibit. The exhibit interprets how people have lived along this coast and harvested the sea for more than 4,000 years.
The next day we decided to head out on the Western Brook Pond Boat Tour. We started off by talking a pretty 3km walk to the dock. Where we then ventured out on what was easily the most gorgeous boat ride i’ve ever experienced. The spectacular glacier-carved land-locked fjord,had waterfalls cascading from 2000 feet. Cruising through the billion year-old cliffs, is a sight i’ll never forgot. An absolutely incredible experience.
After finishing up another fun day of adventures, we had dinner at Earl’s Restaurant. I decided on a somewhat traditional meal, Moose Burger. And of course a tasty local Quidi Vidi Honey Brown Ale. Quidi Vidi Brewing Company is a brewery in Quidi Vidi village, a neighbourhood located in St. John’s. We followed that up with a fun evening at the Anchor Pub. During tourist season you can catch a performance by local band Anchors Aweigh. These hilarious and extremely talented musicians will entertain you from start to finish.
We finished off an amazing 3 days in Gros Morne by hiking one of the only places in the world where humans can set foot on rocks that have risen from deep within the Earth’s mantle. When the continents of Africa and North America collided these rocks, which were originally beneath the ocean’s floor, were pushed to their present position in an area known as The Tablelands. It kinda feels like you’re trekking through Mars… a rad way to end our final day in Gros Morne.
Visiting Newfoundland was a spectacular adventure. I already can’t wait to visit again someday. I’ve heard many times people say “Newfoundland & Labrador” stole my heart.. this is accurate. The people, the landscape, and culture are something that will stay with you long after you leave. If you want to go on an epic East Coast adventure, Newfoundland is the spot to be!
–Words and photos by Nicole Boutilier.