Newfoundland, Ho!

Newfoundland, Canada has loomed just out of reach.

Two years ago I found last minute award space on United to St. John’s, then could not find a rental car so called it off. Later, United dropped the Newark-St John’s route.

Today I am Newfoundland-bound with a rapid plan for my must-sees.

#1 is Viking landing site L’Anse Aux Meadows. This is the spot of first European landing in the Americas.

#2 is French (smuggling) entrepôt St Pierre & Miquelon, this year celebrating its bicentenary.

Connecting these two is a 12-hour drive and a ferry. Local airlines Air Labrador, Provincial Airlines and Air St-Pierre are not Air Canada Aeroplan parters. They are all expensive and so are rental cars to link them up. The limited schedule of the St Pierre Ferry further complicates non-fight options.

The Newfoundland season is so short, and accommodations/rental cars/facilities so few outside St John’s and Deer Lake that costs are high and advance planning is necessary.

The itinerary:

Monday:

Tuesday:

  • L’Anse Aux Meadows 9 am opening
  • 12-hour drive to Fortune (Not excited about that! There is little in between except Deer Lake at the 1/3 mark and I have a morning ferry to catch so I am plowing through)
  • Overnight Fortune Harbourview Vacation Home (they will leave a light on for me)

Wednesday:

  • Morning ferry to St Pierre
  • Afternoon ferry back (originally planned to overnight in St Pierre, most accommodation sold out two months in advance, the rest are telephone booking or manual booking with all-French websites and I lost patience trying to confirm a room)
  • 4-hour drive to St John’s
  • Overnight Holiday Inn Express St John’s Airport (20k points/night; accommodation in St. John’s is pricey)

Thursday:

  • Enjoy St John’s & surrounds, possibly whale watching though I hear it is late in the season

Friday:

  • Back in the air

What I will miss: time is limited. I will not be able to explore the many parks such as Gros Morne, or get over to Labrador. Next time!

Readers, have you been to Newfoundland?

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  • Nathan

    I went to St. Pierre two years ago. Really enjoyable for the novelty of being in France but you made a good decision not to overnight there. We went for the Basque festival and even then the town seemed empty. It’s also semi difficult to get by without some French, but the food is magnificent. It’s a unique passport stamp to have too.

    The town of Fortune where you get the ferry is also pretty bleak. Very nice people though!

    St. John is wonderful and NL is beautiful. Enjoy!

  • daniel

    These days you’d doing all the trips I’ve been dreaming of for years! Looking forward to the St. Pierre report!

  • Erik

    I’ve been to the western side of Newfoundland as a side trip from Nova Scotia (take the ferry from North Sydney to Port aux Basques). You are really missing out on Gros Morne National Park, it is a beautiful place to spend a couple of days exploring by foot, car, and boat (scenic fjord tour). I particularly enjoyed the Tablelands area which is one of a few places on earth where the inner mantle has been pushed up to the surface.

  • Have fun! I was in Avalon (the St. John’s area) for four days last June. If you only have one day, I would go see the sunrise at Cape Spear (easternmost point/earliest sunrise in North America), a picnic lunch at Ferryland Lighthouse, a short hike at La Manche or elsewhere, and Signal Hill. You could do an hour boat tour at Bay Bulls, but I think it’s a little late for whales or puffins. Check out day 2 of my trip report: https://mattofcanada.com/2015/12/22/trip-report-4-days-in-newfoundland/.
    Honestly, I would consider cutting out St. Pierre or L’Anse aux Meadows, or extend your trip!

  • harvs

    Just did a whirlwind tour there myself. Island is perfect for a rapid-fire roadtrip (as long as you don’t get stuck behind a logging truck on one-lane sections of the TCH). Cape Spear and Signal Hill in St. John’s are a must and be careful driving after sunset as you would not want to hit a moose… http://www.wideopenspaces.com/15-frightening-moose-vs-vehicle-collisions-pics/

  • @Matt of Canada – thanks for the great plan, I will use it for my free day in St John’s. St Pierre is a must for me for its place on the Travelers Century Club list, it is to be my #274.

  • @Erik – I looked wistfully at the fork in the road to the Tablelands. I am thrilled on the drive up how much is right off the road that I can see without a formal park visit.

  • Jon

    Having called Newfoundland home for some time, I’ll leave a few thoughts for other travellers to consider. As a baseline, my travel priorities are:

    1) Active adventure and natural outdoors sightseeing
    2) Food and drink
    3) Cultural, historical, and manmade sightseeing

    If L’Anse Aux Meadows and St Pierre & Miquelon are your must-sees, then by all means, go for it. For my travel interests, combining those two wouldn’t make the itinerary for a first trip to Newfoundland for any duration under 10 days. If visiting for only 5 days, I would focus on the west coast (Gros Morne, L’Anse Aux Meadows) if flying into Deer Lake or the Avalon Peninsula if flying into St. John’s. There are lots of great sights in between too (Bonavista Peninsula, Twillingate, Fogo Island, and many more)!

    Enjoy your trip, and be moose alert when driving!

  • @Jon – you make an important point that I should have. My priorities are specialized, L’Anse Aux Meadows because I am a history buff, and St Pierre and Miquelon for my Travelers Century Club chase, most travelers will do much better with the places you suggest.

  • Andrew

    Looking forward to seeing pictures. I’ve wanted to travel to Newfoundland ever since reading Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News – one of my favorites.

  • SeaRaptor

    Make sure you hit Bacalao for dinner while in St. John’s; fabulous local cuisine. One of the best meals you’ll ever have. We spent more than 2 years living in St. John’s on an ex-pat assignment and spent quite a lot of time commuting between there and Houston on United. I’m kind of sad they dropped the route, but it was somewhat unreliably operated anyway. =)