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Newfoundland, Canada

Starting to plan a trip to Newfoundland, Canada for 2019 and I'm looking for suggestions on some good places to visit. We enjoy lighthouses, spectacular scenery (just got back from the Highlands of Scotland a few months ago), whales, puffins, old archeological ruins, fossils, etc. among other things. We will probably have about 14 days (2 flying in/out to/from the US East Coast, then 12 to travel).

We are looking to go mid-June or July. What is the latest I should make reservations for hotels, b&bs and a rental car?

Also, considering flying into St. John's and out of another airport, say Deer Lake. Does this tend to get expensive though, coming into one place and out of another? I'm guessing it would be on Air Canada.

Any help would be greatly appreciated! TIA

Posted by
31471 posts

jon,

One suggestion to consider......

Have a look at the Itineraries of some of the companies that offer tours in Newfoundland / Labrador (Globus, Collette, Atlantic Tours, etc.), as that should provide a rough idea on the best spots to visit. Many of these have about the same time frame that you're planning.

This website might help in figuring out the flights - https://www.newfoundlandlabrador.com/getting-here-and-around/flights . Air Canada is probably the best bet, as they have good connections with their Star Alliance partners (not sure where you're flying from?). Open jaw flights will likely be slightly more expensive, but you'll have to try different flight combinations and determine which one works best for you.

Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
1308 posts

I went to NFL in mid-July 2017 (CORRECTION! 2016!). My research suggested this was the most likely time to see Puffins and whales. Unfortunately the whales were late arriving that year, so we didn't see any humpbacks. Did manage to see 1 late iceberg!

My trip was only for a week, so I limited it to the eastern coast: St. Johns, Trinity, and down the coast from St. Johns a bit.

I loved NFL, and hope to see more of it someday.

Posted by
122 posts

Thanks, Ken. Those are some great resources to get us started! We'll probably be flying out of Philadelphia, although from what I'm seeing currently, that's fairly expensive. (Maybe it's just costly all around.) I'll probably check other airports as well. We've never flown open jaw, although from doing a few trial bookings, it seems pretty straight forward. I'll probably be back here in the future with more questions, as we get our itinerary shaped up more. Thanks again!

Posted by
122 posts

Liz: Thanks for the info. Since I see you are from around my neck of the woods, (we are about an hour north and west of Philadelphia) can I ask which airport you flew out of? We generally leave from Philly, but are not adverse to Newark or others if the price is better. And did you get to see puffins in mid-July? That would be the biggest bucket list item for me right now.

We already have so much we want to see during our 12 days!! After just a little research, I'm considering visiting places like Bonavista or Elliston for puffins, Portugal Cove South for the fossil beds, L'Anse aux Meadows for archeology/ancient Viking site, and Gros Morne National Park for scenery. (which is why we want to fly in one place and out another). We certainly aren't afraid of driving (drove 900+ miles while in Scotland no problem), but want to make sure to give each place the time it deserves. And any other places we hear about before then will certainly have to be considered as well! (Might just have to bump our trip time up to fourteen days on the ground). We have camped the length of PEI four times and Nova Scotia twice, but never Newfoundland. Since it will just be me and the hubby this time, though - no kids - we'll most likely do the b&b or self catering cottages route.

If you can think of any other tips or must-sees, please feel free to pass them along!

Thanks again!
-Cathy

Posted by
1308 posts

Hi Cathy!
Here's a trip report I posted on another site:

A week in Eastern Newfoundland
I decided to travel to Newfoundland, mostly in search of Puffins, and after some research, I asked my adult son if he wanted to go, too, and he decided to join me.

A number of sources helped my planning:
http://www.newfoundlandgeotourism.co...aphic-mapguide
Posters elizabeth_S, and others, from numerous posts here and on FB:
http://www.fodors.com/community/fodo...-to-our-tr.cfm

Lodging
I don't like to spend much on lodging, but will spend for good food, so I decided on 4 nights in Trinity here:
http://trinityecotours.com
I enjoyed our stay here. I reserved the 2 smallest rooms, which were quite small, but fine for us, and each had a tiny but newish bathroom. Every surface in the lodge is covered with wood (shiplap?) Price included a cooked to order breakfast, and a 10% break on tours.

And 3 nights in St. John's here:
www.stjohnsqualityhotel.com
A good location with parking included. We got coffee and breakfast a few blocks away at:
http://fixedcoffee.com

Food
Finding food in Trinity after 6pm was a challenge!
We ate at (and enjoyed) the Twine Loft one night:
http://www.trinityvacations.com/dini...ner-twine-loft
and settled for the Dock the other 3 nights:
www.dockmarina.com/restaurant.html
which was fine, but pretty ordinary.

We ate well in St John's though--a late lunch the day we arrived after driving from Trinity here:
www.portobellosrestaurant.ca

and 3 good to VERY good dinners:
www.yellowbellybrewery.com
http://bacalaocuisine.ca
www.raymondsrestaurant.com

Things we did
I timed my trip in hopes of seeing puffins, whales, and icebergs, and was partially successful. The humpbacks arrived late, and after we left, this year, so we had short glimpses of minkies on an excursion from Trinity, and a Fin whale from Witless bay. We did see puffins from both, and other seabirds, including bald eagles.

Trinity has a fun little outdoor theater event that we enjoyed:
http://www.risingtidetheatre.com/cal...16/7/2/pageant

We drove to Elliston, about an hour north of Trinity, where there is a land puffin viewing area. Unfortunately, the puffins stayed on the island...close, but not as close as hoped.

The interactive iceberg map hadn't given me much hope, but a lunch stop after Elliston got us a lead on an iceberg that had moved into view overnight. Yay!
http://icebergfinder.com

We hiked the well-regarded Skerwink trail one afternoon:
www.theskerwinktrail.com
Great views and a very nice hike.

An interesting look at the early European settlements in Newfoundland at:
www.colonyofavalon.ca

Our T-mobile phones had no issues, and we were able to use Google maps for directions. The temps were pleasantly cool throughout our visit, and we only had one rainy day and night.

A great trip!

Posted by
1308 posts

We flew on AirCanada from PHL, changing planes in Toronto. Yeah, cheap it isn't.
Somehow I missed adding this to my trip report. We did a tour with them, and saw THOUSANDS of Puffins, though not super close other than ones flying over the boat:
https://www.obriensboattours.com

Posted by
122 posts

Wow Liz!! Awesome!! I think I just hit the mother lode! Thank goodness I found someone who likes to write trip reports like I do. I will certainly be checking yours out!! And I'm grateful for all of the other links you added. That will keep me busy for a few nights at least! Since we are just starting our planning, I really hadn't gotten to Fodor's or TA yet.

We love our T-Mobile phones and usually have no problems using them each time we travel. Good to get confirmation that it's still the same way there. And so nice to hear July in Newfoundland has cooler temps, too, like the rest of Atlantic Canada!

I was hoping those airline costs were just a fluke, but . . . . Sigh.

Posted by
122 posts

Uh oh! The link for your trip report didn't come through. If it's a website restriction issue (I know how it goes with the rules against this!) could you just pm me the link? I really would like to read your report.

Posted by
31471 posts

Liz,

I'd be interested in your trip report link too. I've seen others posted here on the forum, so don't know why yours would be blocked?

Posted by
1308 posts

Everything from my trip report is pasted above. It never was on the Rick Steves site. Some of the links included may not work because they are 2 years old--I didn't check if they still work.

Posted by
3789 posts

I just got back 10 days ago - so similar time. Grab a coffee, I am not known for brevity.
Do take note, there was snow last week of June this year and then heat warnings the following week. 30C in Gander for several days. Also, even mid-June, some activities haven't started yet.
Priority is rental car. You want to order that as soon as you have dates. They run out of them. Also, they work on dynamic pricing, so the later you book, the more it will cost. Also, if you need to tweak the booking it will cost more. Air Canada changed my arrival flight which messed up with my schedule, so I changed it to a flight the night before and added a sleep over in St. Johns' when my intent had been to leave town from the airport. I booked in October, and when I inquired in February to pick up the car 6 hours earlier, it was going to cost me a further $300. Also, dropping off somewhere else will cost $300 - 600 one way fee. (I am quoting Cdn$, btw)
If you are a Costco member, book through there to get a second driver free.
On a side note, I ordered a compact, and the only car they had at the time was a Dodge Charger - not a compact. I was thankful for it on all the potholes, but a compact would have been fine. No need for SUV or 4 wheel drive.
If you aren't aware, insurance does not cover gravel road damages on rental cars. I was told by Budget that if it is gravel on a municipal road, it is covered. I am not sure whether Mistaken Point road (the fossil trip) is municipal, but if not, it is a fair distance on gravel.
The rental car GPS is not required. I took mine, but tended to use a post it on my dash for directions. When I tried GPS it didn't pick up my addresses, but other than St. John's a simple map would do. Also, some streets don't even appear on Google Maps, so ensure you have directions from your lodging hosts.
Last note about cars, is that at least with Budget, you can pick up away from the airport and drop off at airport to return - no fees. I picked up mine in Mount Pearl which was cheaper; meant I didn't have to drive in St. John's (loopy one way streets, or streets which flow into others with different names), and no parking fees required. You do have to add taxi fare - About $25 from Airport, then $25 from town to Mount Pearl. St. John's is walkable and they have tourist trolleys $10 all day. The better way to get to Quidi Vidi as parking is a zoo if you can get it.
Driving and timing. Moose, fog, potholes, roadworks, missing signage and just difficult lay of the land means a slower pace. Do not expect to complete a distance as per Google Maps. The Baccalieu Trail is approx 240 Kms but it took close to 5 hours to do the driving aside from planned stops.
Flights - I primarily fly Air Canada. If you book far in advance, expect the flight to be tweaked somehow. They will consolidate or cancel flights if not filling in fast enough...which may not play nice with your itinerary...another reason to put St. John's first day and book from outside the airport.

Posted by
3789 posts

part 2
Lodgings, I primarily had short let apartments - either Booking or AirBnB. I had a few independent bed and breakfasts. Some choices were already full when booking in early Jan for July. Others cancelled due to winter damage or repairs needed. One never contacted me (and I was negligent in contacting her) and I found out 2 nights before my reservation that her place had burned down in April....so be sure to reconfirm everything ahead of time. All my places were great, but the one that burned was the only one who had a 50% deposit and she has never returned my emails. I guess she needed it more than I do.
I got told a lot that many places do not have websites and you have to phone to book, but most did have ability to book on line.
I suggest ordering the Newfoundland and Labrador Tourist Guide book for planning help...I guess it is all on the website, but I still like a paper guide book. They will have some that aren't linked to 3rd party websites.
If you want to be flexible, I would say for the area south of Gros Morne, you could go without reservations and just pull up. There were a lot of vacancies. If you want several days in a popular town, then book ahead.
As I have to 'do it all', I tend to not have evening activities and with food allergies, I like to cook my own breakfasts, so apartments worked best.

Along with friends who also travelled their recently, plan to have some sort of food stuff in the car. There is no guarantee there will be a restaurant when you need to eat.
I wanted to do the entire province including Labrador in 16 days and realized that was crazy. I am a bird watcher, so I wanted to spend a little longer than some in a few areas.
I had 12 days aside from arrival and departure dates. I backed down my expectations to go East as far as Fogo Island, and South/west to Cape St, Mary's. I did not go to Mistaken Point as you can only visit on the preassigned 1pm tour - which means it takes a whole day of your time.
In hindsight, I wouldn't recommend Fogo Island. The Inn is rather ugly and the rest of the island can be found many small places along the way. There is a slightly slower pace, but I can't hands down recommend it particularly when it is getting so popular and you have to rely on the ferry. It is only every 3 hours and no reservations - enough said. The barren sub Arctic environment exists on the Irish Loop and Cape Shore.
Baccalieu Trail, though a drive, was lovely and near deserted. A great museum on the underwater telegraph cabling and some interesting archeological digs at Cupids. Here is also where I saw numerous whales moving north (Baiy de Verde lookout).
If you want to get close to Fogo, then Twillingate is cute. It also has evening past times, iceberg and whale tours, and a wonderful new wooden boat building museum. Also near Twillingate is the Beothuk Interpretive Centre in Boyd's Cove
Bonavista Peninsula gives you Trinity, Cape Bonavista with light house, Elliston for puffins and root cellars and I suggest taking route 235 from Bonavista. Also take the side roads Tickle Cove and Keels for some coastal beauty and 'real' fishing towns. A smidge slower than the main route, but little traffic and lovely.

Posted by
122 posts

Maria: I love lengthy replies! The more information the better! Your reply was awesome - I am so taking notes as I go!! (Especially tips like keep some food in the car for the drives. Very good to know!) And I totally get it when you said you had to back away from some of your expectations. We tend to travel much the same way - plan to see everything and then see how it goes along the way. If we don't get to something, that's what another visit will be for. And it's great to know about lodging, what to try and how they seem to operate, etc. Each country is different!

As for the rental car + airline . . . . sigh. It seems like such hit or miss. I hate flight disruptions/changes with a passion. If we could take an extra week, I'd try and talk my hubby into driving from home and taking the ferry from Cape Breton. (We've come home from the middle of NS before in a long two days, so it could be done; we'd just take it slower this time around) The cost for that would be way less than flying and renting a car, even with gas. Might try and talk him into it anyway. Gotta see if he could take three + weeks' vacation from work at that time.

Loving all of this information!! Thanks, guys!

Posted by
3789 posts

Part 3
I also wanted 'Bergs, Birds and Baleens', but saw no Bergs. However, they were up around St. Anthony's which is near l'Anse Meadows.
Whales were slightly disappointing, but you never know where you will see the feeding frenzies - it all depends on the capelin fish. As mentioned, I saw them in passing at Bay de Verde, a brief fin and tail off Bonavista Lighthouse, 2 feeding on a tour of Witless Bay. The treat was on the beach at St. Vincent's. This beach is extremely deep right close in, so if there are capelin near, the whales herd them towards shore and then they swim along scooping them up....I am talking barely 20 yards off shore. But, when I was there it was foggy and rainy. I saw bird activity so knew there was fish. I grabbed my rain jacket and umbrella, and I had success watching one humpack feeding back and forth between the fog breaks. I was soaked from hips down, but grinning like a fool to see this. A woman in full rain gear had plunked down a folding lawn chair and had a front row seat.
(speaking of weather - do take one of those cheap plastic ponchos and if you have them, waterproof pants and waterproof jacket. When it rains, it rains and usually sideways. Also footwear will get wet - inside and out.)
Puffins - I saw more puffins than I ever expected to see. Sure Elliston is popular as you can see them from shore and if you are lucky, they might fly and sit beside you. Certainly for the average traveler, the easiest way to get pictures close. Hundreds of them at Cape Spear, but it was a good feeding day and I have binoculars. Certainly the highlight was a 5pm whale trip with Captain Wayne in Witless Bay/Bay Bulls. A number of boats leave from there but his is the smallest and usually longer than 2 hours on the water. Also the most expensive, but he was very good. His 5pm trip is touted for photographers and we spent a lot of time floating back and forth very close to the islands with bird colonies. Thousands of puffin, murres, gulls coming in from fishing to feed their young....and the lighting. It was my last night in NL and a wonderful ending. But if you don't have the patience for that, all the boats go by these islands. not sure you can get as close as we were often almost silent so birds were swimming up to us and we were only 3 feet above water.
For old archeology, there are active digs at Cupids, Beothuk digs at the Interpretive Centre in Boyd's Cove, and there is The Colony of Avalon between Witless Bay and Mistaken Point. Mistaken Point - you know about for fossils. There are also thrombolites at Flowers Cove up north near the Labrador ferry.
Personally, with all your interests, I wouldn't do it all, but each to their own. Just because the tour bus can do it, doesn't mean you want to do the same. It is either a drive trip, or a chance to find out more about an interesting province.
If you spend much time in New England with some of your historicaly port cities, I may venture to say - minimize time in St. John's. I visited The Rooms first off as it is a great jumping off point for the significance of things like cod, but I was not fussed about the city itself. I stayed in Petty Harbour the last two nights for the south part of the Irish Loop. A really pretty town - pretty much a bedroom city to St. John's
I also read a book "As Near to Heaven as By Sea' by Kevin Major https://www.amazon.ca/As-Near-Heaven-Sea-Newfoundland/dp/0140278648
This and The Rooms explained the impact of the cod, the changes after joining Canada, and what 'moving house' means when entire towns are shut down. They literally moved their house by pulling it by boat or over the ice in winter. The hardships in living memory needs to be kept in the forefront as one travels the island.
If you want to know specific lodgings, just ask.
Have a wonderful trip.

Posted by
3789 posts

Oh, in answer to your reply. Don't sweat the car flight too much, as you need to be a bit flexible. Just because they move your flight doesn't mean you have to accept it. I often review flights that suit better and call and ask them to rebook.
To be honest, If I had an extra week, then still fly in and use it to go to l'Anse Meadows and enjoy the island (not the week just to get there).

What I didn't mention was weather. Most if it was lovely and warmer than expected, but when it was bad, well, it was bad!! Warm rain, but it means that sometimes the extra days would allow you to just stay in if weather affected plans.
And if it means returning the car to the same place, well, just shift the route i.e. do Bonavista going up, and then the Twillingate loop coming back. Breaks up that long drive from Gros Morne to St. Johns.

Posted by
115 posts

Hi,

Just to add my thoughts:

I loved Fogo Island. The ferry is a pain, but the island is beautiful and I saw my first wild snowy owl there.

I love the Rooms,and also recommend Cape Spear in St. John’s. Witless Bay is also nice.

My favourite hotel is the Jag. It’s a lovely little boutique hotel with nice views of Signal Hill if you get a room on the harbour side.

Favourite restaurants are Get Stuffed and EVOO.

Going the time of year you are, you might still see icebergs. I’ve seen them in Trinity and Twillingate.

I agree with renting a car early if not taking your own.

If flying, Air Canada, does, as stated, change flights on you if you book too far ahead. However, in prime tourist season, that should be less of an issue. The issue with anewfoundland can be the pea soup fog.

Currently in Nova Scotia, we have been dealing with a heatwave with high humidity. Definitely not cool temperatures.

Posted by
3789 posts

If I had not seen similar landscape prior to Fogo Island, I would have loved it more, I expect.
But you asked about food to bring. I will preface that I do carry on only. If I had space, I would have brought one of those foldable insulated bags. Instead I had a search for a styrofoam cooler which I finally found in a FoodLand in Bonavista. I also bought a plastic tupperware type rectangular box with lid for a solid block of ice that fit the cooler. It was small, but suffice. The bigger fancier grocers in St. John's didn't have them, but I saw them at pretty much every FoodLand which is the grocery store of small town NL. Many around.
I brought a mid size plastic camping plate and a spork. Some zip lock bags and individual salt packs. I didn't even bring a cork screw, but did bring beer and wine travel corks. Also some favourite Gluten Free granola bars I prefer.
I often have breakfast food mid morning after just fruit and coffee earlier. So boiled some eggs and cooked breakfast sausage. Protein works for me. I always had lunch out somewhere even if it was 11 a.m. I was on the road a lot or in smaller places. Even the apartments or bed and breakfasts were a drive from anywhere, so dinner was either crackers, cheese, veggies and a glass of vino watching the sunset, or salad. Always a store of peanuts and several refillable water bottles. Fogo Island tap water, as well as a few other places is yellow. Usually drinkable, but not always appealing.
All the groceries had deli sections for take away sandwiches, meat trays, pre cut veggies and dip, or pre cut fruit. My friend said she missed fruit and veg as they didn't stop at groceries often enough.
A comment about seafood. Friend's hubby wanted fresh fish - pan fried rather than battered - never got it. But, something we don't think of is that fresh fish isn't always available along a coast. There is commercial fisheries, but non commercial inshore cod fishing is limited to Saturday and Sunday within seasons, and a number limit. If you catch fish, typically you take it to the local cannery and have them flash freeze the portions. It is easier to pre cut cod for battered fillets when you have a food business. It takes a lot more work to thaw and then properly prepare a 'pan fried' cod. Most lobster pounds have fresh lobster, and freezers with frozen other stuff.....seal flipper, cod cheeks, cod tongue, shrimp. None of this if fresh refrigerated.
Chowders are great, fish cakes if home made, are wonderful.
You said you were campers, so you know the kind of stuff that is easy and efficient to cook or carry. A simple picnic set for the 2 of you will make any impromptu picnic feasible.
You won't go hungry or get scurvy as long as you stop when you see something available.

Posted by
122 posts

Thanks, everyone for all the good resources and tips! I'm sure I will be back with more questions in the future, but this is a great help in just beginning our planning for next year.

Posted by
80 posts

The other option to look at airline-wise is WestJet which has a couple direct flights daily from Toronto to St. John's and a few more via Halifax. Pricing doesn't seem too bad for the distance involved.

Posted by
122 posts

Thanks for the information, Mike. Unfortunately, when I did a trial booking, it still seems cheaper to fly Air Canada directly. I would be coming from Philadelphia to St. Johns, and on Westjet I was getting a price of around $1000/pp (US) coach, direct. For an AC flight, the direct flight cost coach was around $800 US, and if I did two separate legs on Westjet, Philly to Toronto, then Toronto to St. Johns (which I really wouldn't want to do unless there was no other option), the cost was also around $800. And those are the prices now, ten months out. Who knows how much more the cost might go up the closer I would get to a June 2019 travel date.

I think it's either bite the bullet and pay the cost to fly, and hope the airline doesn't make any changes in the schedule that might screw up a car rental; add another day on after arrival at the airport to allow a built in cushion before getting a rental car; or driving up in our own car, at our own pace, then taking the ferry over from Nova Scotia - which adds another five or so days on to our trip.

Posted by
1308 posts

My PHL-Toronto-St. Johns flight on Air Canada ended up being delayed quite a bit in Toronto. Instead of getting to SJ around dinnertime, it arrived at 2:30am. 😱

The car rental counter was still open, and I had reserved 1 night at a motel about a mile from the airport, so it worked out, if not ideal. Drove to Trinity in the morning as planned, if a little later.

I wouldn't worry about going with Air Canada again--stuff happens, and I always allow for kinks in travel plans. 😀

Posted by
122 posts

We would definitely allow for any problems in our travel plans!! I'm glad it worked out for you and you didn't have any problems with the rental car people canceling your rental because of the delay. I'm guessing you called them from Toronto and let them know you would be late? Did they honor your original agreement, even though you were late in picking up your car? No extra fees or anything? Always good to hear about other's travel experiences and how they turned out!

Posted by
3789 posts

I recently rented a car for Grand Cayman Islands. On the booking site they asked for your flight number and the site says that they would hold the car for 3 hours after arrival - so particularly for airport agents, they can check for flight delays and shift. I would not focus too much on losing the car reservation due to in flight delays, and you can certainly just call direct to the desk and ask their policy before booking. I think the more possible challenge is scheduling the car to not have a drastic change in price.
Instead of changing my rental car, I called back and moved my flight to earlier and arranged my itinerary to spend more time in St. John's at the front end instead of the back end of the trip. I did also have to incur a hotel cost I hadn't expected, but it was cheaper than an increased car fee.
I know, too many plan b,c,and d's needed, but usually if Air Canada drops a flight and rebooks you, it is numerous months in advance. I had more than 5 months' notice to come up with a plan B, and I know other people who just go on the phone and persisted until the rental agency dropped the dynamic pricing and honored the reserved price.

All will not be lost.

Posted by
1308 posts

I didn't alert them I would be late, and there was no problem with the rental agreement. Perhaps they are used to delays? I'm not a frequent car renter, so it didn't even occur to me to worry.