My husband Paul and I recently had an incredible opportunity to head to the east coast and tour around Newfoundland for a full week. I don’t know if words can do it justice, but after our experience there, Newfoundland is at the absolute top of my list of the most beautiful places in Canada!
Seriously, it’s a criminally underrated place to visit and I hope this article implores you to go explore the island for yourself. And this is not a sponsored post. At all. We just loved it there. Although if Tourism Newfoundland wants to bring us back, we would happily oblige!!
For context, Paul and I have been to 9 of 10 provinces together over the years (PEI is on the list!). We’ve visited everywhere from the highlands of Cape Breton to the turquoise waters of Moraine Lake to the old growth rainforests on Vancouver Island to eating poutine in Old Montreal and everywhere in between.
All of those places have been amazing and have their own unique charm, but we fell in love with Newfoundland in an entirely different way. I’d understand if when you think of a place affectionately nicknamed “The Rock” you’d expect it to be… rocky, and not much else (guilty!).
However, what you might not picture is the rugged cliffs on the east coast of the island, the charming, brightly coloured salt box houses, the stunning mountain ranges or the Norwegian-style fjords on the west coast.
It seemed like we were living in a fairy-tale everywhere we visited! Here are a few must-see places from our trip, and a few places we wished we had the time to visit.
To kick off our trip, early in the morning of day 2, we rented a car in St. John’s and headed out for a cross island road trip! We were lucky to visit in the fall during one of their record breaking hot streaks – not quite as lucky when our car ended up having no air conditioning.
So we travelled over 9 hours with the windows down. But honestly the road trip views couldn’t be beat, so that distraction helped!
After our cross island journey we arrive in Bonne Bay. Bonne Bay feels like the best kept secret in Canada, to be honest. It’s a relatively remote. We stayed at Middle Brook Cottages, which are tucked away in the mountains near Woody Point on the west coast of the island.
Not only were the cottages cozy and quaint, they were adjacent to a freaking private waterfall and our own swimming hole! This little spot felt a little like heaven on earth. We swam and basked on the rocks to the sound of water falls. 10/10.
The whole Bonne Bay area is just perfect for adventures. There are hiking trails galore, scenic views all
around and wholesome Newfy maritime vibes. Everyone is friendly, the seafood and beer is top notch
(Iceberg beer from Quidi Vidi Brewery is sooo good, but more on that later).
We hiked the Lookout Trail, which was breathtaking, even when it was raining sideways on us. Another hike in the Woody Point vicinity is the Tablelands Trail, which looks like scenes out of a sci-fi movie with
the barren, rocky terrain. Definitely worth checking out!
Technically the Bonne Bay area falls in the Gros Morne National Park. In fact, there’s a jaw-dropping view of Gros Morne Mountain from the Woody Point harbour. For simplicity sake, however, I’m referring to the mountainous area that encompasses Gros Morne Mountain and the Western Brook Pond fjord.
The ferry tour at the Western Brook Pond fjord is almost indescribable. It has strong Norway vibes (hence “fjord”) as you’re surrounded by towering cliffs all around. There’s also a 10-hour hike to the Gros Morne summit, which is known for its scenic views and tranquility. It’s a steep ascent, though, so definitely not for the faint of heart!
You can also meander your way down the coast from the Western Brook Pond like we did, stopping to
do some small hikes. The Lobster Cove Head trail in particular was beautiful, even on a rainy day.
Rocky Harbour is the closest town to Gros Morne and it is well worth your time to do some exploring
there as well. The town has salt box houses, traditional seafood meals (seafood chowder… drool!) and spectacular views!
We spent a ton of time in St. John’s and it was totally worth it. The awesome food and nightlife on Water Street was awesome. Live music, all the seafood we could eat and stopping in at pub after pub were some of the biggest highlights of our entire trip.
The cobblestone streets are filled with local shops and coffee houses. If you love to take in historical architecture, you’ll love strolling for hours.
Set right along side the ocean, you can see all the ocean ships coming in and out, truly spectacular, I had no idea these ships could be so big. If you visit Newfoundland in the right season, there are tour boats you can take out to sea to see the whales, puffins and incredible views.
But be warned… if you’re someone who gets sea sick like me… BEWARE. That’s all I’ll say there. Also, possibly save your ocean excursion for a non-hangover day. We were too late in the season to see any whales, but we did see a couple cutie pie puffins!
George Street is synonymous with good times. A bunch of locals told us we had to get screeched in at Christian’s Pub, a little hole in the wall tavern that offered an authentic experience. And they were totally right. It was awesome!
Getting screeched in is a sacred ritual for anyone visiting Newfoundland for the first time. It involves learning about the history of Newfoundland, kissing a cod fish and taking a shot of Screech rum, thus becoming an honorary Newfoundlander. It was an experience we absolutely loved, and set our night off for a good time!
Anthony Bourdain (rest in peace) got screeched in at Christian’s and the ritual then exploded in
popularity after it was featured on his travel show Parts Unknown.
We ended up making friends after getting screeched in at Christian’s and hit a bunch of pubs on George Street. Live music, pints and friendly people… what more can a girl ask for? This block is notorious for a good time – and a good time was had!
Just off George Street you’ll find Blue on Water – a historic hotel & bar – we booked a few nights of our stay in this hotel and it was such a highlight! The room was massive, with an equally massive patio overlooking the St. John’s marina.
With the entrance stepping right out on to the main drag, we were moments away from a coffee shop early in the mornings as we headed out for our hikes, as well as just steps into bed after a night out!
Signal Hill is the most iconic of the towering cliffs overlooking the harbour in downtown St. John’s, with
the old signal building still standing atop the hill.
Be warned, it’s a steep ascent to the top but the views were sooo worth it! On a clear day you can see for miles around and you get a picturesque view of the city, the ocean and the rugged coastline. And added bonus is that the hike back down takes you along the cliffs and right through The Battery, which is an iconic neighbourhood that contains some wonderfully coloured homes right along the ocean.
We did this hike a few times over the week, and it just got better ever time. It was hours of hiking and I took hundreds of photographs. I was worried about hauling my heavy camera, but so happy I did.
It was a photographers dream. I only had one slip and fall where I sacrificed my knee to save my camera & lens. Yikes. Here’s a peek at those images!
Quidi Vidi (or kiddie viddie as the locals say), is a trendy, historic neighbourhood in St. John’s centered around Quidi Vidi Lake. The Victorian architecture of the homes and the quaint coffee shops made walking around the neighbourhood oh so enjoyable! We also enjoyed a hike around the lake and up to the cliffs overlooking the ocean. It was an awesome experience.
The Quidi Vidi brewery deserves its own subheading. Their beers dominate the market at the pubs around Newfoundland. Our particular favourite was the easy drinking and DELICIOUS Iceberg beer (made from real iceberg water!). We loved the laid back vibe of the brewery, too.
Oh and don’t forget beers at Linda’s! Our local friends even took us to a famous hole in the wall pub in Quidi Vidi called Inn of Olde (aka Linda’s to the locals) which is actually just the front of Linda’s house, which was covered in artifacts and memorabilia like a museum of good times. There was a photo of Jason Mamoa standing right where we were. Crazy!
I’m sure there are a ton of locals out there who would look at our list and say that this list is very
touristy. But I’m fine with that and I hope you are, too. There’s a reason these places are so high on
every tourist’s list – it’s because they’re worth visiting!
Just northwest of Water Street, past the Duke of Duckworth (our local friend’s favourite pub), is the
much sought after Jellybean Row homes. The brightly coloured rows of houses dominate the quiet
This should legitimately be on every photographer’s bucket list to visit, especially Gower Street!
Cape Spear is just southeast of St. John’s and is home to one of the most iconic lighthouses in the world.
It is the furthest east point in North America, which would be enough to warrant a visit. Add in the near
360-degree view of the North Atlantic Ocean and huge cliffs, and us prairie folk were mesmerized.
The history here is not to be understated, either. Prior to Newfoundland joining the Confederation of
Canada in 1949 (I had no idea!), Cape Spear was a strategic military position for the Canadian and US
militaries. You can even walk through the huge machine gun pillboxes that were built into the cliffs!
Our wish list:
Time is your enemy on trips like this and unfortunately we weren’t able to visit Trinity, which is on
Bonavista Peninsula. Trinity was at the top of our list to visit though! We just The architecture on the
peninsula, and in Trinity in particular, is surreal, with 1850’s Victorian era houses dominating the rocky
Bonavista is where John Cabot first landed in 1497, when he and his crewmates first “discovered”
Newfoundland. The history and scenery make Bonavista well worth your time to visit!
We cannot wait for our next chance to go back out east and explore even more. We truly feel you could visit endless times and still have more to see, hike, and of course eat and drink. The coastal towns and their unique culture and pace of life will captivate you, and the beauty will take your breath away. If you love to explore, get active, and feel like you’re in another part of the world – add Newfoundland to your travel bucket list!
FOR MORE ADVENTURES LIKE THIS, VISIT MY BLOG OR FOLLOW ME ON IG @erincrooksphoto
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