Travel Writers’ Secrets: Top Newfoundland Travel Tips
Fasten your seatbelts! This summer, we took an Epic Canadian Road Trip, driving from our home in Kalamazoo, Michigan all the way out to St. John’s, Newfoundland (yes, a ferry was involved). Why? Well, I’m the co-founder of Writing Walking Women, and we chose St. John’s as the site of our conference this year – MUCH more on that to come! And, our daughter, Lillie (13), said that every teen should have an epic road trip. SO.
To that end, I’ve asked my travel writer friends for their top secrets in all of the major towns we’re driving through (and visiting). I’m learning so much – and can’t WAIT to visit all of these extraordinary Canadian places. Please check back, as I’ll add more travel writers’ secrets to each location’s article – sharing the best of Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia to Cape Breton Island, and, of course, Newfoundland.
Photo: Wandering Educators
Newfoundland is the most easterly point of North America – next stop, Ireland! It’s the sixth largest island in the world, and full of interesting people, fascinating history, and delicious food.
Take a look...
Candice Walsh, Free Candie
The foodie scene in Newfoundland is EXCEPTIONAL. I love it here, so much. St. John's especially has an epic dining scene, and you'll have to make reservations at many places a few days in advance. A few favourites downtown include The Merchant Tavern, Raymond's (consistently voted the best restaurant in Canada), Adelaide Oyster House (my favourite at the moment), The Reluctant Chef, and Chinched Bistro. For coffee, head to The Jumping Bean or Fixed.
But the foodie scene is pouring over into the rural parts as well. NFLD has long been considered a kind of "poor" island, but we have our own traditional foods with some quirky counterparts (like fried cod tongues). But many chefs have taken these traditions and revamped them, often into gourmet. There's also more emphasis on locally grown products. My favourites are listed here: http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/2015/01/7-deadly-ol-places-eat-eastern-newfoundland/
Photo: Candice Walsh
If you're in Gros Morne National Park, eat at Justin Thyme in Norris Point, or at the Sugar Hill Inn. Also, Java Jack's in Rocky Harbour is one of my favourite cafes ever.
My favourite places in Newfoundland: Gros Morne National Park (I'll live there some day -- I guarantee you it'll become one of your most favourite places on earth), Change Islands for its mystic and surreal qualities (the quiet is so palatable, I've never experienced anything like it anywhere else in the world), and the entire Bonavista Bay area...especially small towns like Elliston, where community spirit is high and you can see icebergs drifting past your window in the summer months.
Photo: Candice Walsh
Books: My all-time favourite author is Wayne Johnston. I think if you need a good understanding of Newfoundland, you should read The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. Other favourites include Farley Mowat's Bay of Spirits, and Michael Crummey's Sweetland.
If you want to travel Newfoundland on a budget, read my blog post! http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/2015/06/budget-guide-to-newfoundland/
Photo: Candice Walsh
The best tip I can offer: give yourself lots of time here. People constantly underestimate how big Newfoundland is. From end to end, it's about a 12 hour drive. All the best sights are sprawled out, and driving times can be long and frustrating. I'd recommend two weeks, in a perfect world.
Tim Marks, PhotoWanderer
All of the Newfoundland lighthouses are well worth seeing and, like a lot of the small fishing towns out there, they are very photogenic. I recommend the puffin watching tours and seeing Signal Hill where Marconi received the first ever transatlantic message.
Cape Bonavista lighthouse. Photo: Tim Marks
Cape Spear is a beautiful lighthouse...and it was a favorite with me because I loved seeing the puffins and other sea birds out there.
This was a great science/geology center literally built into the side of a rock hill. I billed it as Newfoundland must-see for rock and geology buffs when I mentioned it on one of my small Pinterest boards "Favorite Places and Spaces" The geology in Newfoundland is endlessly fascinating, and you'll see rocks here that you won't see other places in North America.
Kerry Dexter, Music Road
O'Reillys Pub and Green Sleeves Pub are both places which have live music most nights, some of it from local musicians. At both of them you may also get a range of food including Newfoundland seafood dishes and, in season, dishes made with local game including moose and caribou. Both are in downtown Saint John's, where there's quite a district of pubs and restaurants
L'Anse aux Meadows is a World Heritage site, marking the place Vikings lived around 1000 AD. There are archaeological excavations, reconstructions, and living history with costumed interpreters. Nearby, there's a reconstructed Norse settlement that offers more living history, including a Viking ship reconstruction and the possibility to visit with a Wise Woman/Runes Teller, and to see what life might have been like in a Norse settlement all those years ago.
Red Bay is a small town on the southern coast of Labrador now -- across the Strait of Belle Isle from L'Anse aux Meadows -- but five hundred years ago it was seasonal home to Basque fishermen of the then thriving whale fishing industry. Archaeological excavation over the last thirty years or so has revealed a good bit about what went on and how the fishers worked and lived, as well as ships in which they traveled the oceans; you can see the results at the visitors center on site. L'Anse aux Meadows is at the far northern tip of Newfoundland; Red Bay is in southern Labrador. L'Anse aux Meadows is about twelve hours' driving distance from Saint John's. Red Bay is north of there and part of the journey is usually done by ferry.
There's a chance to see archaeology and living history a goof bit closer to Saint John's. though, at Colony of Avalon in Ferryland, which is forty some miles south of the city and which may have connections to Newfoundland's First Peoples, possibly to historic explorer of Canada John Cabot, to Lord Baltimore, and others. On the site there are gardens, archaeological digs, living history interpreters, and a center with exhibits of artifacts found in the area which help tell its story.
Musicians to inspire you:
Ron Hynes -- songwriter whose music has been widely recorded by Canadian and international artists. His album Stealing Genius includes lyrics written or inspired by Newfoundland poets and prose writers.
Great Big Sea -- internationally touring folk rock group
Hewson & Smith -- female duo who focus on music of NF's seafaring heritage
The Once -- award winning trio who include music from the folk tradition and original songs in their music. Most recent album is Departures.
Lisa Goodmurphy, Gone with the Family
Our favourite activities in St. John's include visiting the Signal Hill National Historic Site where the world's first transatlantic wireless signal was received, the Johnson GEO Centre underground science museum which has a fantastic Titanic exhibit in addition to the interactive science exhibits, and Cape Spear, which is the easternmost point in Canada. A fun day trip from the city includes a boat tour of Witless Bay Ecological Reserve to see puffins followed by a picnic at the picturesque Ferryland Lighthouse (be sure to reserve the picnic lunch ahead of time). While in Newfoundland, be sure to try a local delicacy like cod tongues - they are surprisingly tasty!
Photo: Lisa Goodmurphy
Favourite Place to Eat: Rocket Bakery in St. John's - a retro-style bakery selling freshly made food and baked goods in a downtown heritage building.
Best Books set in Newfoundland and Labrador: The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston is an excellent work of historical fiction about Joey Smallwood, who was the Premier when Newfoundland joined Canadian Confederation in 1949. The book's sequel, The Custodian of Paradise, which is about another character in the first book, is also very good, as is The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx and River Thieves by Michael Crummey.
Photos (above and below): Lisa Goodmurphy
Jodi Robbins, JodiRobbins.com
I'd recommend Fogo Island. Just don't rush it and try to cram in a super quick visit. The place deserves a little bit of leisure time.
Things we love about Newfoundland here at Wandering Educators:
More to come!
What do you love doing in Newfoundland?
one last look....