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If chasing icebergs, hiking coastal trails, and epic whale-watching and puffin spotting sounds up your alley, then plan a Newfoundland road trip. Located on the easternmost tip of North America, Newfoundland isn’t the easiest destination to reach in Canada but one of the most rewarding.
While planning your Newfoundland itinerary, it’s important to remember that Newfoundland and Labrador is a BIG province. Even though I grew up here and spent the better part of summer 2020 exploring the island, there are still places I haven’t seen. Not to mention Labrador! It’s important to note that although we are one province, the two are distinctly different. Going to Labrador is a whole adventure on its own (which I hope to write about someday).
If you want to travel the entire island properly, it will take you at least three weeks. Most people don’t have that much time, so you’ll have to pick and choose what you want to see! This travel guide highlights all the best places to visit in Newfoundland so that you can plan a fantastic Newfoundland road trip itinerary.
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Bucket List Newfoundland Experiences
Go whale-watching! This is one of my absolute favorite things to do in Newfoundland. Over 22 species of whales live in the ocean surrounding the island, including an abundance of humpbacks that migrate here every summer. It’s one of the best places to go whale-watching in the world! The best time to see them is during July and August when the Capelin are rolling onto shore.
Chase icebergs. Every spring, hundreds of icebergs make their way from Greenland, often getting stuck in the bays around Newfoundland. Visit Iceberg Finder to see where they are the year you’re visiting. Trinity, Twillingate and St. Anthony are popular spots for iceberg-spotting. The best time to see them is in the spring from April-June (although sometimes they can last until July). There are boat tours that can take you up close, although they can also be enjoyed from shore.
Go hiking along the coast. With over 29,000 of coastline to explore, Newfoundland is a paradise for hiking trails. You can find amazing trails throughout the province, but some of my favorites are the East Coast Trail in St. John’s, the Discovery Trail in Bonavista, and the hiking trails in Gros Morne, one of two national parks in Newfoundland.
Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Newfoundland and Labrador is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites (pretty impressive, considering there are only 20 in Canada). These include Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve on the Irish Loop, L’anse Aux Meadows on the Northern Peninsula, Gros Morne National Park, and Red Bay in Labrador. They are all spectacular and deserve a spot on your Newfoundland itinerary!
Enjoy the amazing seafood. Maybe Im biased, but I truly believe we have the best seafood in the world. Enjoy freshly caught cod, lobster, shrimp, and so much more. We also have some pretty amazing chefs and restaurants here. In fact, three of Canada’s top 100 restaurants are in Newfoundland!
Getting to Newfoundland
Newfoundland is an island, so the only way here is by boat or airplane. Most people don’t realize just how far Newfoundland is away from the mainland!
If you take the ferry from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, it takes about seven hours to reach Port Aux Basque on Newfoundland’s west coast. There is also a longer ferry (16 hours+), which goes to Argentia on the East Coast. From Toronto, it’s a 3-4 hour plane ride depending on the wind.
The fact that Newfoundland is out of the way often deters people from coming here, which is a real shame. It’s is a unique province that is unlike anywhere else in the country. There’s a reason everyone who comes here falls in love!
The best way to enjoy Newfoundland is by car, and it makes an excellent addition to an East Coast Canada road trip if you want to see some of the other maritime provinces. If you’re short on time – your best bet is flying into St. John’s and hiring a rental car from there.
Getting Around Newfoundland
Back in the day, there was a train that went across Newfoundland that went along the coast. It’s such a shame that it doesn’t exist anymore. Now the train across Canada only goes from Vancouver to Halifax, and from there, you can drive/take a ferry to Newfoundland.
Having a car is pretty essential for traveling around Newfoundland. There is a DRL bus that goes across the island, but it doesn’t go down the peninsulas where all the best places are. There are also bus tours that will take you around Newfoundland, but these are pretty expensive and generally geared towards an older crowd.
If you’re renting a car in Newfoundland, I recommend Enterprise. They have locations across the province and have always been amazing to deal with in my past experiences. After getting into a car accident in Corner Brook, the enterprise manager came after working hours to help me! If you’re renting a car during high season (summer), make sure to book in advance as they fill up quickly.
Lastly, there are some cruise ships that come to Newfoundland and small ship expeditions.
Best Places to Visit on a Newfoundland Road Trip Itinerary
The magic of Newfoundland lies in the peninsulas. There’s one highway that goes across the province (TCH 1), and driving through it; you might think there isn’t much to the province. Sure, there are some pretty parts of the drive, but Newfoundland’s best-kept secrets are by the ocean.
While planning your Newfoundland itinerary, here are some suggestions for the best places to visit on your trip across the island. Note that this is by no means an inclusive list. Newfoundland is full of amazing towns, and you could spend a lifetime just exploring them all.
The Avalon Peninsula is where over half of the population lives, and it’s jam-packed with fun activities.
St. John’s and area
St. John’s is the capital city of Newfoundland and where I grew up. It’s a charming city with lots to see and do. If you’re flying into Newfoundland, you’ll most likely be landing in St. John’s. It makes a great place to start or end your Newfoundland road trip itinerary.
Spend a couple of days wandering around the colorful streets of downtown, enjoying the nightlife and dining at Canada’s best restaurants. If you’re a come from away (aka not from Newfoundland), then do a screech in ceremony downtown on George Street to become an honorary Newfoundlander. It’s a fun time!
Even though it’s a city, it’s not hard to find nature while in St. John’s. The entire city is surrounded by a network of trails known as the East Coast Trail, a beautiful coastal 326 hiking trail broken into 26 paths that stretch across the shores of the Avalon Peninsula.
There are also many other hiking trails in and around St. John’s. Definitely check out Signal Hill National Historic Sites for the best views of the city. From there is a trail you can take that goes through the Battery all the way to Quidi Vidi, a charming fishing village. Afterward, take a drive to Cape Spear lighthouse, the most easterly point in all of North America
There are a ton of smaller communities surrounding St. John’s, which make great day trips. If you’re a diver, one fun thing to do is join a dive with Ocean Quest Adventures around Bell Island, where you can dive with shipwrecks.
The Irish Loop is a beautiful section of the Avalon Peninsula that you can drive as a day trip from St. John’s or spend a couple of nights exploring! It’s home to the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, one of the best places to see puffins and whales in Newfoundland. It’s also home to the UNESCO world heritage site Mistaken Point, where you can see 650 million-year-old fossils!
Argentia/Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve
Following along the Trans Canada Highway 1, there are two more peninsulas you can explore on on the Avalon Peninsula.
One is the turn-off for Argentia, where the ferry departs for Nova Scotia (this is the longer ferry; there is also a shorter one from port-aux-basques on the West Coast). At the tip of the peninsula is Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve, a paradise for bird watchers.
Bay de Verde Peninsula
On the other side of the Avalon Peninsula is the Bay de Verde peninsula, home to Newfoundland’s most famous towns: Dildo. Yes, you read that right! Made famous by Jimmy Kimmel, Dildo is actually quite a cute place to stay with some great restaurants and even a brewery. It’s a great addition to your Newfoundland itinerary.
Continue down this peninsula, and you’ll come across more charming small town. At the tip is Grate’s Cove, which I haven’t had a chance to explore yet but have heard great things about. Brigus and Cupids are two others that I love!
I haven’t had a chance to explore this peninsula yet but I really want to because at the bottom you can take a ferry that goes to France! Yes, you can actually visit Europe while in Newfoundland.
St. Pierre et Miquelon is a small island owned by France, which you can visit from Newfoundland (in non-covid times). This has been on my bucket list for so long!
The Bonavista Peninsula is one of the most beautiful parts of Newfoundland. Full of adorable small towns, amazing hiking trails, epic whale watching, puffin spotting, and iceberg chasing opportunities, this part of the island should definitely be on your Newfoundland itinerary.
The two main towns that people stay here are Trinity and Bonavista, which are about 40 minutes apart. Be sure to stop in Port Rexton in-between and hike the Skerwink Trail, one of the most famous hiking trails here. Afterward, enjoy a cold brew at the Port Rexton Brewery.
I never knew how amazing Central Newfoundland was until this year. For a long time, I just thought of it as a place to stop along the highway on your way across the province. But Central Newfoundland has so much to offer than that – don’t miss this part of the province on your Newfoundland road trip.
Terra Nova National Park
Terra Nova is one of two national parks in Newfoundland! You’ll drive right through it on your Newfoundland road trip if you’re taking the TCH-1 across the province, but it’s worth detouring here if you love the outdoors. The park is a great place for camping, as well as hiking.
The Eastport Peninsula, also known as the road to the beaches (route 310), is a great side trip while road tripping through Newfoundland. It takes you down to one of the cutest communities in Newfoundland, as well as some of the most picturesque beaches in the province. Yes, we have white sand beaches here! There’s also a great hiking trail network here called the Damnable trail.
Hare Bay – Route 320/330
On the other side of Bonavista Bay is Hare Bay, one of the best places to go whale watching in Newfoundland. We did a four-hour excursion with Hare Bay Adventures, and it was incredible to see so much marine life. The whales were jumping everywhere, and there were thousands of birds overhead.
Nearby is Dover, where you can see the Dover Fault, which is the site where the North American and European continents collided 150 million years ago. They have an interpretation site set up, and there’s also a small plane wreck you can see there.
Keep driving on route 320/330 and you’ll reach Lumsden, which I’ve been told also has amazing beaches!
Gander isn’t the most naturally appealing place in Newfoundland, but it does have some interesting places to visit for those interested in history. It played an important role in WWII, as well as on September 11th. Made famous by the play Come From Away! There’s also an international airport here. If you’re interested in learning about this part of Newfoundland’s history, you can join a tour.
Twillingate and Fogo Island
These are quickly becoming two of the most popular places to visit, and I was so happy to finally have a chance to visit this summer on my Central Newfoundland road trip.
Twillingate is a magical town known for its epic iceberg watching opportunities, hiking trails, and gorgeous coastline.
Fogo Island has seen a boom in tourism thanks to the Fogo Island Inn, attracting celebrities and artists worldwide. Be sure to hike Brimstone head to visit one of the four corners of the flat earth, and join Al’s walking tour here to take you around the historic town of Tilting. Afterward, Stop in Bang Belly for lunch; it’s so tasty!
There are also the Change Islands, where the boat will stop on the way to Fogo Island. Although not nearly as popular, I’ve heard great things about these islands. Plus, there’s a Newfoundland Pony sanctuary there!
Another place right off the highway that most people use as a place to sleep, as it’s about halfway across the province. However, Grand Falls does have some fun activities to offer. It’s home to the Exploits River, where you can go river-rafting!
Fortune Harbour & Bay of Exploits
This is one of my favorite places in Central Newfoundland. The Bay of Exploits is hands down the best place for sea kayaking in Newfoundland. Fortune Harbour is just a small community nearby but makes an excellent base to stay if you are joining a day kayaking tour with Adventures Newfoundland.
Another great stop in Central Newfoundland that is right off the highway is King’s Point, near Springdale. It’s which is not only a great place to go whale watching but also to go hiking. It’s home to the Alexander Murray Hiking Trail, a gorgeous three-hour hike that brings you to one of the best viewpoints in Central.
Western Newfoundland is incredible. It’s got a completely different landscape than the rest of the province, with gorgeous mountain ranges.
Following the TCH-1 from King’s Point, it’s about an hour and a half until you reach the town of Deer Lake. There are hotels here if you need a place to spend the night, but it’s also the turn off for Highway 430, which takes you to Gros Morne National Park and the Viking Trail. There’s also an airport in Deer Lake, so you can fly here from St. John’s if you’re short on time.
Gros Morne National Park
Gros Morne National Park is a must while road tripping around Newfoundland. Just driving through the park is an activity in itself; the landscapes are stunning.
Be sure to check out the tablelands trails, where you can what the inside of the earth’s mantle looks like. Gros Morne National Park was named a UNESCO world heritage site for its outstanding geological significance.
Gros Morne is full of amazing hiking trails, but one of the best is Gros Morne Mountain. This 800m hike is no-easy feat but takes you to one of the best views in the park overlooking the long-range mountains and surrounding ponds.
Another must-do activity in Gros Morne is a boat ride down Western Brook Pond through the fjords. I felt like I had been transported to Norway; it’s absolutely breathtaking.
Great Northern Peninsula – Viking Trail
Route 430, known as the Viking trail, is one of the best road trips in Newfoundland. It actually starts after you turn off for Gros Morne from Deer Lake, taking you right through the park. However, it’s worth it to keep driving all the way to St. Anthony on the Northern tip.
There you can find L’anse Aux Meadows. This UNESCO world heritage site is one of the only Viking settlements outside of Greenland. At the site, there you can see a reconstructed Viking village and learn about this fascinating part of history in the Parks Canada interpretation center.
Most people stay in St. Anthony for a night or two here since it takes about four hours to drive from Deer Lake. St. Anthony is also one of the best places to see icebergs and whales in Newfoundland!
Corner Brook and Humber Valley
Corner Brook is the second-largest city in Newfoundland, although only about 30,000 people live here. It’s a great base to stay if you’re exploring the west coast with many hotels to stay in.
Corner Brook is home to Marble Mountain, one of the best places for winter sports in Newfoundland. In the summer, it’s got gorgeous hiking trails, especially around the Humber Valley area.
Codroy Valley is a real hidden gem in Newfoundland. You’ll see the mountains in the distance driving towards Port Aux Basques, but it’s worth spending some time here. Sheltered by the long-range mountains, the weather here is amazing here, and so is the hiking.
Port Aux Basques
Port Aux Basque is where you take the ferry to Nova Scotia. I haven’t spent much time here outside of that, but there are some places to stay here!
Another place that’s high on my Newfoundland list to check out is Burgeo, on the other side of the west part of the island. I’ve heard amazing things about this area, although it’s more off-the-beaten-path.
Newfoundland Road Trip Itineraries
While you could spend an entire summer road-tripping Newfoundland and still not see it all (trust me, I’ve tried), I realize most people have limited vacation time.
If you only have a few days, I recommend sticking to one side of the island (East, Central, or West). Otherwise, you will spend all your time traveling. It takes about 12 hours to drive the province from East to West!
With three weeks, you could go on a pretty good Newfoundland road trip hitting many of the best places:
- Day 1-3: Explore St. John’s, optional day trip around Irish Loop
- Day 3: Drive to Trinity (3 hours), optional stop in Dildo on way
- Day 4: Explore Bonavista Peninsula
- Day 5: Drive to Terra Nova National Park (1 hour), spend the night
- Day 6: Drive to Eastport Peninsula (1 hour), spend the night
- Day 7: Drive to Hare Bay (1 hour), spend the night
- Day 8: Drive to Twillingate (2 hours), optional stop in Gander
- Day 9: Explore Twillingate, take the ferry to Fogo Island that day
- Day 10: Explore Fogo Island
- Day 11: Take the ferry back from Fogo, drive to Fortune Harbour (3 1/2 hours)
- Day 12: Explore the Bay of Exploits
- Day 13: Drive to King’s Point (2 hours), optional stop in Grand-Falls Windsor
- Day 14: Drive to Gros Morne National Park (2 hours)
- Day 15-16: Explore Gros Morne National Park
- Day 17: Drive to St. Anthony (3-4 hours)
- Day 18: Explore St. Anthony/L’anse Aux Meadows
- Day 19: Drive back to Deer Lake or Corner Brook (4-5 hours)
- Day 20: Explore Corner Brook
- Day 21: Fly or take ferry back home
As you can see, even with three weeks, it’s tight to hit all the places I’ve mentioned in this post. Depending on how much time you have, you really need to pick and choose which places you want to see the most here! If you’re short on time, you can also fly between some places, although I do think having a car is the best way to see Newfoundland.
Best Time to Visit Newfoundland
The best time to Visit Newfoundland is during the summer months (July & August) as this is when you’ll get the nicest weather for hiking and the whales are most plentiful. If you want to see icebergs, spring from May-June is the best time to visit, although sometimes they can last until July.
Fall is also a beautiful time in Newfoundland, and nice weather can last well until October. However, many tour operators will start shutting down in September, so this is something to consider.
If you love winter, Newfoundland can also be nice for skiing and winter hiking. However, the weather is very unpredictable; you’ll have to factor in travel delays to your plans.
Have any questions about visiting Newfoundland or planning a road trip here? I know this was a lot of information, but there are just so many amazing places to see!
Even if you only see one part of the province, you’ll still have an amazing time. Between the incredible outdoor adventures and kind hospitality, Newfoundland is one of the best places to visit in Canada!
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