Want to get away from it all? Why not use your AIR MILES bonus miles to travel to Newfoundland to watch the whales or icebergs!
In September 2019, I was inspired to explore this far-flung province that suddenly seemed more accessible due to the few AIR MILES miles required for a round-trip flight. Canada’s easternmost province is nicknamed The Rock by the locals.
As my trip was meant to happen 100% in the nature, I left the capital aside, focusing on the green spaces. I can now share with you discoveries on this destination as part of the series of articles on travel in Canada.
Practical information about Newfoundland
Here are some things you should know:
- The flight from Montreal to St-John’s takes 2 hours and 20 minutes. It is also possible to land at Deer Lake on the west side of the island. Otherwise the drive from Montreal to North Sydney is 15 hours followed by a 7 hour ferry ride to Port aux Basques or 15 hours to the Avalon Peninsula where St-John’s is located.
- A vehicle is required to visit the province. Public transport is almost non-existent.
- Newfoundland is an island, but it is not small. Plan your travels because distances between the cities are considerable. For example, it will take you almost 7 hours to reach Gros Morne National Park from the capital city of St. John’s.
- There are few accommodation options outside of the major cities, so it’s best to plan ahead. Camping may be your best option, especially if you plan to hike.
- There are large areas along the highway with only tiny villages and a gas station. Think about it for refueling in the cities.
- The tourist season is short. For example, most campsites are open from June 4 to September 12, but some run from May 21 to September 27.
- The optimal season for iceberg and whale watching is from mid-May to mid-July.
- There are several applications that allow you to navigate the trails and the road in offline mode. Personally I opt for maps.me which is free, but there is also Alltrails.
Our partner, Ulysse Travel Guides, offers several guides to discover the region.
Here are two of them:
The Ulysses guide Explorez Terre-Neuve et Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon is the ideal tool for planning a trip and making the most of a stay in this Canadian province and neighbouring French territory. In colour and full of photos, the Explorez Terre-Neuve et Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon travel guide is as pleasant to consult as it is ultra-practical thanks to its pocket format and easy-to-understand structure.
Fabuleuses Provinces atlantiques du Canada, a full-colour, beautifully photographed guide, offers a visual odyssey through this Canadian region consisting of the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. All the main attractions are presented and revealed by splendid photographs, in a very carefully-thought layout.
West side of the island
Gros Morne National Park
The hiking paradise of Newfoundland is without a doubt Gros Morne National Park.
Its impressive landscapes of vertiginous mountains, its fjords and its beaches will not leave you indifferent. Allow several days to visit the park. It’s vast and the trails are sometimes remote.
There is something for every taste and level. If you are physically fit, the Gros Morne trail is a favourite. You can sleep on site at one of the 5 campgrounds by booking through Parks Canada.
Steady Brook Falls
Corner Brook is the big city on the west side of the province, so it’s almost inevitable to stop there for supplies or even lodging.
There is a good chance you will pass the short trail that leads to Steady Brook Falls. The trail starts behind Tim Hortons and it only takes 15 minutes to reach the beautiful waterfall. A little worthwile break.
A cute beach in a bay, surrounded by small fishing villages. Several coastal paths allow for easy walking. You’ll see strips of land jutting out into the sea and rock formations lapped by the waves.
Alexander Murray Trail
I discovered the Alexander Murray Trail by chance thanks to a camping application and it was love at first sight.
I was surprised I hadn’t seen it in blogs or travel guides. This well-marked 8.5 km loop trail offers exceptional views, as well as the opportunity to take a break near a waterfall.
Very well laid out, many sections have wooden stairs, platforms and picnic tables. Its location also makes it a good place to stop to cut the road in half when crossing from one side of the island to the other.
Anse aux Meadow
Located in the far north of Newfoundland, Anse aux Meadow is recognized as a historic site managed by Parks Canada.
Along the paths, discover the remains of an ancient Viking camp. As the oldest evidence of European presence in the Americas, it is not surprising that the site has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
East side of the island
Twillingate is the most famous starting point for iceberg watching cruises.
Not having visited the region during the right period, I missed this great experience. Imagine witnessing these icy giants as they arrive from the Arctic and pass close to Newfoundland’s shores.
Going in search of them to discover the different shapes and shades is definitely my number one reason to return to this province.
Terra Nova National Park
Parks Canada introduces us to Terra Nova National Park, dotted with lakes and ponds. People come here for canoeing with or without a guide and for hiking on forest trails with little elevation change.
It is possible to sleep on site in one of the campsites. The place is peaceful and the landscapes are very different from Gros Morne Park.
Tickle Cove Sea Arch and King's Cove Lighthouse Trail
Two short stops easy to combine thanks to their proximity.
The first, Tickle Cove Sea Arch, is a natural arch formed in the rocks by the sea. A 400-metre path leads to the lookout. The directions to the site and parking are clear.
At km 18 from Tickle Cove is the starting point for the King’s Cove Lighthouse Trail.
Two loops are offered, either 1.7km or 3.5km. The walk allows us to admire the coastal landscapes, the lighthouse and the strata of multicoloured rocks.
Dungeon Provincial Park
One more destination to add to your Bonavista Peninsula road trip itinerary: Dungeon Provincial Park. A short walk to see the rock formations with grassy tops.
Over time, the waves have carved out caves and holes. Beautiful scenery accessible to all, right off the main road.
Ranked as one of the most beautiful hikes in North America, the Skerwink Trail is a 5.3 km loop that follows the coastline from the top of the cliffs.
When the sun is out, you will see how clear and turquoise the water is. Dogs on leash are allowed and access to the trail is free. A section of the trail will offer you a view of the town of Trinity and its colourful houses reminiscent of the Magdalen Islands.
Don’t hesitate to drive around after your hike. There are several viewpoints from which to admire the village.
Village of Elliston
The small village of Elliston proclaims itself the root cellar capital of the world. The “root cellar” are the old vegetable cellars that were separated from the house and dug underground.
There are more than a hundred in Elliston that are still in good condition and can be visited. In addition to this trip in time,you can take funny pictures, as you have the impression to be in a village of hobbits.
Elliston also has a free puffin viewing site which is said to be the closest place in North America to see them from land.
As a reward for your physical exercise, why not sample the local flavours by stopping at the Port Rexton Brewery Co. A tasting tray was available when I visited.
Finally, the Bonavista Social Club restaurant sets itself apart by using products from its own garden or local produce. Their terrace with sea view is a must!
In conclusion, with flights to St-John’s or Deer Lake at only 1,500 AIR MILES miles a round trip during the peak tourist season from Montreal, this destination is within reach of everyone.
Especially since the welcome bonus on one credit card , the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard, can cover two tickets for free in the first year!
So don’t hesitate, the salty air, the mountains and the wide open spaces are waiting for you!