Newfoundland is a Canadian Island, part of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, in the far East of North America amid the North Atlantic Ocean. It’s so far east that its very own Cape Spear marks the most eastern point of the entire continent. Unlike Canada’s extremely popular hot spots of Banff National Park and Niagara Falls, Ontario etc, Newfoundland is a considerably more low-key, understated and off-radar destination for most. This was a key factor in my longing desire to travel here – to truly get away and explore more hidden and remote lands. After our time in Banff this past summer, which was truly incredible in its own right, I was still left yearning for more solitude and peace. Banff may be outrageously beautiful, but I could not use the words “solitude, tranquil, quiet, rejuvenating, obscure” so on and so forth to describe her in the least. She’s become hugely overcrowded. Whereas, Canada’s Newfoundland still seems to remain a best kept secret, waiting for newcomers to discover her brilliance and charm. And, once and for all, I wanted to get ahead of the crowds.
Furthermore, while researching Canada’s national parks a few years back, I became enamored with Gros Morne National Park in Western Newfoundland. Something about her vastly varying landscapes and staggering fjords just beckoned me to come explore. It’s a weird thing when a land forcibly pulls at your soul; you feel the need to go there with every fiber of your being…as if the land is already a part of you, calling you home. The photographs I saw had a big part in aiding my desire to visit Newfoundland and thus, I feel it right to return what I had been given to the best of my abilities: I wish to return (even to just a single soul) the inspiration to travel to this unbelievable land through our very own photos, our first hand accounts, stories, facts and even traditional tunes revolving around our eye-opening and heart-fulfilling Newfoundland experience.
If you even slightly resemble my travel style, I’m confident this post will call you to explore her just the same. If the photos alone don’t do it, perhaps what I have to say in accompaniment with them will boost the urge to go there right away! Or, perhaps a traditional sea shanty will push you there. There’s nothing I want more than to share Newfoundland’s magic with you all and shout from the mountain tops how profoundly impactful this land was for me and could be for you, as well. 😉
I also throw in some can’t-miss tours, hiking trails, traditions, lodging, dining and sites. This post can simultaneously act as a rough guide along with inpso.
Western Brook Pond
It makes sense to begin my photo-centric post with one of the most iconic sites and awe-inspiring views of Western Newfoundland (also where we began our journey upon arriving on the island): Western Brook Pond in Northern Gros Morne National Park.
Hike back the rather easy Western Brook Pond Trail (for approximately 3km) to the initial views of the lake before joining the more rugged Snug Harbor Trail. Snug Harbor Trail brings you to the mouth of the fjord and to the face of her massive and encompassing 2,000 ft. cliffs. This trail is not for the faint of heart as it is extremely muddy, moose abundant and even entails a river crossing via a rope-line provided by the park’s trail system. However, the reward is well worth the exertion.
For more information on the trails, go here → Gros Morne Hiking Trails
To be utterly alone in the midst of a sparkling scene carved out by glaciers long ago is nothing short of a dream come true. Wandering about the Long Range Mountains – the most northern section of the Appalachian Mountains – is a nature-dweller’s paradise. We easily spent the entire afternoon, up until sunset, exploring these trails and roaming beneath the crisp, clean and cool Newfoundland breeze and beaming sun.
One can’t help but feel special when being the sole audience to nature’s spectacular show; witnessing her setting sun and rising moon over such grandiose scenery.
(Shop my TenTree hoodie in the photo below by clicking on the hoodie icon. This hoodie is made from sustainably sourced materials AND, for each purchase, 10 trees are planted! Their mission and products are ones that I full-heartedly stand behind. Shop yours by clicking on the icon below).
To explore Western Brook Pond further, check out a highlight boat tour provided by Bon Tours during the on-season, Mid-May to Beginning of October. This tour takes you through the fjord for a different perspective on this incapsulating landscape.
Want a taste of Ireland without the bustling tourists and crowds? Green Gardens is a secluded treasure comparable to scenes from Ireland AND Iceland and offers its guests their own slice of heaven. The peace I found here among the lush green clifftops, looming sea stacks, grazing wild sheep, volcanic rocks and the crashing ocean waves stands unmatched. Again, my husband and I enjoyed this place ALL TO OURSELVES. The connection to the earth that this solitude afforded was unrivaled to the many naturescapes we’ve previously traversed. This quote written about Newfoundland rang louder than ever while standing on the edge of this immaculate garden…
“The place where land, water and sky embrace like old friends”.
I, too, embraced this place like an old friend; running, climbing and greeting every nook and cranny of this cove and cliffside wonder. I was truly overcome by a childlike giddiness and was transported back to a simple time – just the three of us (Doug, myself and Old Man Cove) playing amid a gorgeous, picturesque autumn afternoon.
For the second day in a row, I was experiencing one of those rare and monumental days that can undoubtedly be summed up as: PERFECT. The type of day when you don’t think about the past or the future but rather live so completely in the moment that your entire being feels at peace with the universe. Everything feels RIGHT. Perfect.
To experience this magical place, hike Green Gardens Trail (9-15km long) in Southern Gros Morne National Park, Western Newfoundland. The hike, itself, is more strenuous than anticipated but absolutely a must-do. It was, like the others, very muddy and had a myriad of ups and downs including what seemed to be an endless portion of soggy + slippery stairs. But you all know… that’s what adventures are all about!
(To shop my over-sized red sweater dress in above photo, click on the image below)
The Tablelands in Southern Gros Morne National Park, not far from the trailhead to Green Gardens, invites its visitors to walk on the Earth’s mantle. It’s MANTLE. This is one of the rare places in the world where the Earth’s mantle is exposed like this, making this a one-of-a-kind and otherworldly destination. Oh! Have I mentioned how varied Gros Morne’s landscapes are? 😛 Honestly, just look at the past three places I’ve shown and see the contrast for yourself. This place is unreal and you have to walk among this land with your own two feet to fully comprehend her magnificence and meaning.
Not only is walking on the Earth’s mantle a totally cool and bucket list worthy thing to do, but the views of the surrounding mountains and Bonne Bay are phenomenal from the vantage points along the Tablelands Trail and Southern Gros Morne route.
Wish to trek these lands off grid while learning in-depth knowledge from professional guides? Opt to take the Tablelands Off Trail Guided Hike tour or the Tablelands 360 Zodiac and Hiking Experience tour from the wonderful company: Wild Gros Morne.
The lodging game is unparalleled.
Immediately upon searching for places to stay on Air BnB, I quickly noticed the abundance of affordable and charming lodging options. Don’t let the solitude fool you, there are plenty of places to stay in Newfoundland and the best can be found through Air BnB. The tiny, colorful pods pictured above caught our eye right away and we knew we had to stay here. Without hesitation, we reached out to the hosts and were met with absolute kindness…
To our dismay, the hosts initially tell us that these pods are actually unavailable for the dates we need because they are going away on a business trip. However, after expressing our great interest in their pods, they were quick to help meet our request and graciously opened their door to us even when their accommodation was suppose to be closed. Thus, we found ourselves staying three nights in the above green tiny home directly along the waters of Bonne Bay and surrounded by the Long Range Mountains. Our phenomenal hosts went even more above and beyond for us by inviting us along on a zodiac boat ride the morning of our departure AND offering us use of their fire pit located on their private dock. Their generosity seems to be boundless and we are immensely grateful.
During our nights in their pod, Doug and I would turn off all the lights and sit by the big, sliding glass doors just gazing up at the starry night sky twinkling above the sea. Oh, and of course marveling over the Full Hunter’s Moon as well. A scene equally haunting as it was mystifying and captivating.
Join AirBnB through my link below and get up to $55 off of your first adventure!
The Beauty of Simplicity
The Newfoundlanders’ simple way of life and relaxed pace rejuvenated my overstimulated mind and recharged my soul in unfathomable ways. Living in the city, I’m always inundated with options. I typically love options. But when your mind is tired and on a much needed break, the lack of options is a breath of fresh air. Where do we eat? That’s easy! There was one open restaurant in the super close town of Woody Point (the next closest being a 45-minute drive). And guess what? It was divine. The restaurant, called The Merchant Warehouse, was simple, delicious and beautifully located along Bonne Bay (photo’d above). Even more, it gives you a sense of life as a local as you begin to know the wait staff and the business owners, their local music and their daily routines. I dined on the best fish and chips (Newfoundland is known for their Cod) all the while relishing the marvelous views and enjoying the endearing camaraderie.
♬Click on the video below to listen to one of my favorite Newfoundland tunes I heard while eating dinner at the Merchant Warehouse ↓
The Fortitude of Newfoundlanders
The fortitude and resilience of her people was equally inspiring and motivating. The Newfoundlanders have overcome a lot through the decades; the fishing moratorium to name a biggie.
“Newfoundland and Labrador’s historic cod fisheries attracted local and international fishing fleets for almost five centuries before the Canadian government shut the industry down indefinitely in July 1992. By then, once-plentiful fish stocks had dwindled to near extinction and officials feared they would disappear entirely if the fisheries remained open. The moratorium put about 30,000 people in the province out of work and ended a way of life that had endured for generations in many outport communities.”
[Jenny Higgins. Cod Moratorium in Newfoundland and Labrador. Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site. ©2009. 10/21/19. https://www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/economy/moratorium.php.]
With this being said, it’s important for places such as Newfoundland to acquire more tourists because it greatly helps their economy as well as local businesses. Places such as Venice, Italy, Machu Picchu and Santorini (to name a few) are overwhelmed with tourism. So many popular tourist destinations are legitimately struggling and sinking with the extreme issue of “overtourism” while places like Newfoundland are still benefiting from and needing tourism. And, could benefit more! We, collectively, need to branch out and realize there’s SO much more of this world to explore besides the typical and famous sites we see plastered all over instagram every single day. Give the less-hyped, more obscure areas of the world a chance. Take a look at a map, find a place you know very little about and research it. Find out more information. Then, GO! There’s a reason you know little about it: It’s probably a best kept secret. Be a pioneer in the saturated world of travel influencers and tourists. *Food for thought*
The Viking Trail
Driving along the Viking Trail, route 430, you are offered a plethora of beautiful sites and astounding history, such as: 1,000 year old viking settlements, native burial grounds, Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse, St. Anthony, the wreckage and crash site of the S.S. Ethie and so much more!
As you drive along the route that Vikings once walked a thousand years ago, you’re sure to come across an abundance of wildlife. We saw herds of Caribou attempting to mate and graze alongside the road and pulled off to watch for some time. We were even fortunate enough to see a moose, a large bull, trot across and alongside the Viking Trail. Don’t forget about the marine life because we, indeed, spotted a Humpback Whale off the coast, too!
Arches Provincial Park
Also on the Viking Trail, you’ll come to this gem tucked away along the sea north of Cow Head and Parson’s Pond. It’s a small little park comprised of sea stacks naturally carved into an arch shape, similar to those found in Iceland (like Helnar Arch) but smaller. Nonetheless, they’re something neat to see and it’s worth stopping for a quick jaunt and picnic. And, of course, I was climbing all over them because that is what I do best.
Fall Colors and Sunsets
See the tree-lined mountains bursting in flaming orange hues via various roadside pull-offs and trailheads along Route 430, before Rocky Harbour when heading north. This is a simple yet rewarding agenda: drive and stop, wherever you fancy. During your stops, put away your phones (I snapped a few photos then set up a time-lapse, not touching my phone again for a long while) and bask in the serene surroundings. If it is autumn when you visit, I reckon it’ll be a touch more magical given the added beautiful colors. Listen to the moving river and the leaves bustling in the wind as you search for critters among the fall foliage. If you’re with a loved one, spend quality time cherishing the present moment and the beauty that surrounds the two of you.
Finally, cap your day with a stellar sunset from Rocky Harbour at Rocky Harbour Lookout. Here we were met with a dazzling performance of evolving orange, pink and purple hues as the rolling waves soothed our ears. The mountains that can be seen in the distant fjord are an added bonus to this already incredible scene. We even met a new friend in this location with whom we shared photography and travel stories with for a long while. The good conversation helped us forget the unrelenting cold temperatures creeping in with every passing minute of the setting sun. (It was a pleasure watching the sunset and talking with you, CJB Photography).
I highly recommend eating at Fisherman’s Landing Restaurant while in Rocky Harbour – we had two of our favorite meals here, including a moose burger and turkey vegetable soup. Even better if you dine here on a Wednesday when they serve the traditional Newfoundland “Jigg’s Dinner“. Don’t worry if you’re a vegetarian, because their menu includes vegetarian friendly options as well!
Now in Eastern Newfoundland, Quidi Vidi was one of my highlights on this side of the island. It’s the epitome of a charming and quaint fishing village, picturesque to say the very least. The village lines the cliffs of Quidi Vidi Harbour and you best believe we hiked on the abundance of trails that line these very cliffs. The trails take you above the village and around the harbor to the open sea – each view more mesmerizing than the last.
Click on the photos below for a closer look…
(All but one taken by Doug Michaels)
Thirsty after all the hiking and ooo-ing + awe-ing? Quidi Vidi Brewery has got you covered. This is, undoubtedly, the raddest brewery I’ve ever seen. I mean…it’s embedded along the cliffside and literally on top of the water, painted in a bright teal shade on par with every other brightly colored structure in existence at Quidi Vidi. On top of all this, their 1892 Traditional Ale instantly became one of my favorite beers, ever! So, soooo good.
Cape Spear, otherwise renowned as the most eastern point of North America, was a cold yet ruggedly alluring site to behold. Cape Spear Lighthouse is a Canadian National Historic Site with the tagline “wake up to the first sunrise at the most easterly point in North America”. Even though we didn’t witness this place at sunrise, we did see a mysterious and captivating sunset as well as some powerhouse waves forcefully crashing along the rocky coast. The treachery was tangible and I noted why this Lighthouse is a godsend to sailors.
St. Johns at Night
Doug and I had a riot roaming the music-filled pubs that line George Street – the street to be! Each pub had live music of varying genres and varying menus. We ventured into many, including: Green Sleeves Pub & Restaurant, Kelly’s Pub, Bridie Molloy’s, Christian’s Pub and Trapper John’s (Christian’s and Trapper John’s being my two favorites).
Trapper John’s is a must-go experience for first timers in Newfoundland! On the hour, every hour (some times even more frequent), non-Newfoundlanders can sign up for the coveted Screech-In ceremony. And, we did just that!
What does the ceremony entail? In summary…
〉You must follow the bartender’s strict rules
〉You must eat something from Newfoundland
〉You must drink something from Newfoundland
〉You must KISS something from Newfoundland
〉You must say something from Newfoundland
If you want to know specifics, well…stay tuned for my Newfoundland video release – or, use your imagination to fill in the blanks 😉
Regardless, the ceremony was an utmost BLAST and I couldn’t stop laughing at the hilarity and COOLNESS of it all. Ultimately, Doug and I were rewarded our certificates and became official honorary Newfoundlanders thanks to the screech-in ceremony at Trapper John’s (pictured above). Something I will remember for the rest of my life!
Following in the footsteps of our idol, Anthony Bourdain, Doug and I ended our night at Christian’s Pub where Mr. Bourdain spent time at and filmed parts of his Newfoundland episode of Parts Unknown in. I couldn’t help but feel his spirit as I wondered what seat he sat in, which patrons or staff he may have conversed with and what drinks he may have ordered. Gone, but never forgotten. <3
All in all, my time in Newfoundland is a time I will hold close to my heart and carry with me in my bones for as long as I live. Her expansive mountain, fjord and endless ocean views blessed me with insightful perspective; the solitude and peacefulness among wide open and isolated places gave way to powerful connections to her land, flora and fauna; the abundance of radiant colors brightened each and every day and confirmed that individuality and uniqueness DO make a difference; the kindness and strength of her people was humbling and inspiring – I have a renewed faith in humanity thanks to their light and joy; and the whole of this place fulfilled me with every bit of WHY I TRAVEL.
Have you been to Newfoundland? If so, what was one of your most memorable experiences there? If not, what most piques your interest in regards to traveling to this wondrous place? Let me know in the comments below ↓
Much love and happy travels,
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