Newfoundland - known for it's rugged natural beauty, charismatic fishing towns and fun, friendly people, it's a destination on many travelers' bucket lists. However, given its isolated nature, many would-be travelers are discouraged as they perceive it to be a difficult place to visit, especially given a short time frame. But through our travels here we've found this to be a misconception, as multiple travel options and proximity of attractions make travel here surprisingly convenient. For adventure seekers with a time constraint, here is our Ultimate One Week Newfoundland Itinerary.
**Note: Since we chose the ferry system in favor of flying, our journey goes from Port-aux-Basques to Argentia; however, the same itinerary could be followed by flying into Deer Lake, renting a car, and flying out of St John's.
Our journey began in Halifax, where Friday after work we loaded up the Rav4 and boogeyed on up to Cape Breton where we were scheduled to board the ferry in North Sydney. Marine Atlantic runs a well-orchestrated, comfortable overnight ferry that leaves Friday night at 11:45pm and arrives in Port aux Basques, NL at around 6:45 the next morning. There's an option to get a double room for around $120 but given the fact that it was such a short ride we opted for the reserved reclining seats at $20 a piece. They were all we needed as we both passed out before the boat left and slept fairly soundly until the captain's arrival announcement.
Day One - We arrived in Newfoundland early, sprung our clocks forward half an hour and hustled over to Tim's with a cohort of other coffee-craving ferry passengers. Post-caffeination, we took the Trans Canada two and half hours up to our first destination, Gros Morne National Park. Feeling a little dreary from our overnight voyage, we opted to take it easy this day, spending most of our time driving to lookout points along the park roads and checking out the quaint town of Rocky Harbour. We found a great campsite right on the water at Green Point campground, where we made dinner and watched one of the most incredible sunsets right on the beach.
Day Two - We woke up with the sun and journeyed up the road half an hour to the gem of Gros Morne, Western Brook Pond. Our whole day was spent exploring this iconic fjord-turned-pond. In the morning we embarked on the Snug Harbor Hike, which - unannounced to us at the time - involves traversing a strongly flowing river. But it turns out that conquering the river is well worth it as on the other side is a beautiful beach, completely secluded from anyone unwilling to risk the crossing. When planning the trip, we had been hoping to do a day hike up to view the extent of the fjord and the classic sight you see on postcards everywhere. Unfortunately, were dismayed to find that the only option here was a guided tour with a hefty price $250 per person, or a 4 day backcountry tour, which our quick itinerary did not have time for. Instead, in the afternoon we opted to do the Bontours boat tour of Western Brook Pond. With stunning views, entertaining hosts, and fun musical guests on the way back, it's a must-do while in Gros Morne.
Day Three - After spending the night at a great campsite in Lomond Campground, we spent day 3 exploring the southern part of the park. There are all kinds of worthy hikes around the Tablelands - a unique, Mars-like geological formation resulting from magma reaching the earth's surface many millennia ago. We went for the Lookout Trail hike which gave a mix of everything - Bonne Bay, Tablelands, and even a moose! Late that afternoon we left Gros Morne en route to Twillingate.
Day Four - To avoid any late night moose encounters on the road we crashed in Lewisporte for the night and thus didn't arrive in Twillingate until Tuesday morning. However, surrounded by impressive cliffs, full of fishing culture, and with no shortage of exciting hikes and boating excursions, we quickly realized that Twillingate is THE can't-miss destination of any Newfoundland road trip. We spent the day hiking and flying the drone up and down the coastline, then capped it off with a delightful winery tour at Auk Island Winery. After leaving the winery, we found some fun little cliff hikes that were honestly a 5 minute walk from the car, to gorgeous ocean views. We ended up setting up camp for the night in a little picnic area along the cliffs, just about 5 minutes outside of town.
Day Five - One of the highlights of the trip was whale watching in Twillingate. We went with Iceberg Tours but it seems like all the companies work together and so you really can’t go wrong. From the boat we had great views of the expansive cliffs, saw nesting bald eagles, and puffins. After we’d been coasting for a while and hadn’t spotted any whales, we were starting to give up hope. Finally, our guide spotted something on the horizon and we ended up finding two pairs of humpbacks and finbacks along the coast who we followed around for a while. It. Was. Awesome. That afternoon we drove 3.5 hours to Bay Roberts where we picnicked and explored the Shoreline Heritage Trail. Next stop, St. John's!
Day Six - We arrived in St. John’s the next morning and spent the first part of the day puttering around the town checking out the waterfront and all of the fun shops along Water Street. We had some fantastic coffee and baked goods at the Rocket Bakery - one of many great cafes in St. John’s - before making the trip out to the easternmost point of North America, Cape Spear. This very impressive, picturesque spot is best enjoyed in the morning or late afternoon as you’ll avoid the midday crowds and the lighting is better for photographing the cliffs. We spent a couple of hours here before heading back to St. John’s and finding a quaint hotel room at the Duckworth Inn boutique hotel. For dinner, we went to a great little gastropub called Bernard Stanley. With low-key, cozy decor and a fabulous menu, we would highly recommend this place. Specifically, we’d recommend the Shellfish Rockpool - assorted seafood and vegetables in a white wine cream sauce poured over smashed potatoes and a puff pastry on top...mmmm take me back!
Day Seven - It was a rainy morning in St. John’s so we did a little bit of cafe hopping. We started back at our new go-to spot, the Rocket Cafe, before meandering over to the Battery Cafe, a quieter spot near Signal Hill with just as formidable fare. Once the storm cleared we went over to Quidi Vidi and hiked around the dainty little harbor built into the cliffs. When hiking here in August you can look forward to a bounty of delicious wild blueberries along the way, yum! And no trip to Quidi Vidi is complete without a post-hike Iceberg Beer at the Quidi Vidi Brewery. Later that afternoon we went up to learn about the history and enjoy the epic views of Signal Hill. There’s really no better spot from which to view St John’s Harbour. Finally, we followed it up with dinner at Ches’s Famous Fish n Chips before starting our journey down to Cape St. Mary’s.
Day Eight - A word of caution that the trip down to Cape St. Mary’s is not the most enjoyable as it requires navigating a minefield of manhole sized potholes, but it is definitely worth the journey! There is not much in the way of gas, food, or accommodations between St John’s and the Cape so be sure to come prepared. At the Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve, the main attraction is a 2-mile round-trip hike to Bird Rock - an eroded cliff island that is home to tens of thousands of seabirds. The most accessible seabird colony in North America, the hike ends at the edge of a cliff where you are within 50 feet of Bird Rock with thousands of magnificent birds flying overhead. At first we were very concerned about getting “bombed”, but we hung out there for a couple of hours and only got hit once by some minor shrapnel.
From here we started our journey home. We drove up the picturesque, rugged coastline to Argentia, where we boarded the 16 hour overnight ferry back to Nova Scotia. We’d highly recommend getting a cabin for this journey back, as it’s key to have a comfortable escape to relax and catch some zzz’s. Bon Voyage!!
- Bring cash - many of the campgrounds are not manned and require payment into a cash box
- Avoid driving at dusk and at night as moose become a serious danger at this time
- Watch for potholes! Some of the smaller highways are notoriously bad for potholes which can slow you down
- Come stocked with a good cooler and prepared to cook! Stock up on groceries in the cities as food options in some of the smaller towns can be scarce.