They say you will never run out of things to see and do in Newfoundland, whether you plan your trip from start to finish or just show up and go with the flow. If you are a lover of the outdoors, plan on plenty of wildlife and bird watching opportunities, along with endless hiking trails and sea kayaking opportunities. Explore the bustling city of St. John’s, kiss the cod and take in some live East Coast music. Here are our top 8 things to see and do in Newfoundland.
8. Go Whale Watching
It is one of the most spectacular whale watching places in the world, featuring 22 species of whales including the minke, sperm, blue, orca and the world’s largest population of humpbacks. Between May and September is the best time of year to see these magnificent beasts breach the surface and play along the shores. Although there are plenty of spots on land where you can look out onto the water and see these mammals, the best way to see them is to get out on the water yourself. Sea Kayaking is by far the most exciting way to see these gentle giants as you paddle your way through the open ocean. If you prefer to stay a little further away and perhaps a little higher up while you view the whales, there are plenty of tour boat operators that will take you out on the waters.
7. Iceberg Viewing
When it comes to viewing towering icebergs, Newfoundland is one of the best places in the world to do so. When the sun is shining these 10,000-year-old glacial giants can be seen from many points along the northern and eastern coasts. They range in shape, size and color, providing visitors with an awe-inspiring experience. The best time to view the icebergs is during the spring and early summer, in particular late May and early June. Iceberg Alley is the area to head to, a stretch of water from the coast of Labrador to the northeast coast of Newfoundland and some of the most popular places to view them form shore, or by boat are St. Lewis, Battle Harbour and Red Bay. Although we suggest hopping on a tour boat where you can get up close and personal with the icebergs, even if you view them from land, they will always be magnificent.
6. Visit Cape Spear
The Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site is located just 11 kilometers south of St. John’s and is hailed as the most easterly point in North America. It also happens to be one of the best places to watch the sunrise, spot whales, seabirds and icebergs. It is home to Newfoundland’s oldest lighthouse which dates back to 1835 and was in operation until 1955. The site is home to an informative visitor’s center along with concrete bunkers and gun barrels that date back to the Second World War. Along with wildlife viewing, visitors can go on an interpretive walk throughout these concrete bunkers and learn more about this little-known outpost where Canada and American soldiers stood guard from 1941-1945.
5. Hike, Hike, Hike
Newfoundland is loaded with hiking trails, over 200 to be exact and offers 29,000 km of pristine coastline, historic footpaths and unspoiled wilderness to explore. Serious hikers will want to hike the East Coast Trail that runs 265 km via a series of 24 connected paths. Expect fjords, cliffs, headlands and sea stacks for the views. The 5.3 km Skerwink Trail on the Bonavista Peninsula offers a less strenuous trek and offers more scenery per linear foot than any other trail in Newfoundland. Make sure to hike this trail in a clockwise direction to get the most out of the views. The Alexander Murray Trail in King’s Point is an 8 km round-trip hike that is considered one of the best kept secrets in Newfoundland. It includes a whopping 2,200 stairs and an elevation gain of 1100 feet, and visitors will be treated to a spectacular summit view, where on a sunny day you can even spot icebergs.
4. Visit Gros Morne National Park
This World Heritage Site is located on the west coast of Newfoundland and is the second largest national park in Atlantic Canada. If you only have time for one hike in this park, make sure you hike to the summit of Gros Morne Mountain. It is here where you will be rewarded with amazing views of Ten Mile Brook Pond, the Long Range Mountains and Bonne Bay. It’s at least a 4-hour hike and you climb over 2,265 ft. but the chance to stand on the second highest peak in Newfoundland is well worth it. Wildlife viewing is also plentiful in this park with moose being the most notable animal, along with caribou, black bears, red fox and beavers. Camp, cycle, hike, picnic, kayak, swim; the opportunities for activities are endless in this park. In the winter the park is popular with skiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers
3. Visit Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve
If you have come to Newfoundland to bird watch, this is the place to head to. Thousands of gulls, razorbills, common murres, black-legged kittiwakes, northern gannets, and double-crested and great cormorants nest here. In the winter 20,000 scoters, oldsquaw, harlequin, dovekies and thick-billed murres hunker down here. It is the most accessible seabird rookery in North America and the site overflows with perching, diving and scrambling birds from edge to edge, providing a spectacle of color and sound. An interpretation site teaches visitors about the lives of seabirds as you watch them soar from a giant viewing window. During the summer an annual concert series takes place with traditional music, dancing, food and drinks. With the site open all year round, and the visitors center open from May to October, it is certainly worth stopping here to see the birds in action.
2. Explore St. John’s
The capital of Newfoundland occupies a wonderful site on one of the finest natural harbors in the world. The city is the oldest “European” town in North America and the harbor has been used by various countries as a base for fishing vessels since about 1500. Today the colorful houses paint a picture perfect setting for those wanting to explore the city. It is here where you can join in on the haunted hike and discover the deepest darkest corners of the city. The city is where you will find The Rooms, a collection of museums and art galleries that tell the history and local culture. Make sure to visit George Street, the pedestrian only street that features restaurants and bars, offering live East Coast music. The Basilica of St John the Baptist is found here, Newfoundland’s architecturally most important building.
1. Kiss the Cod
It is a tradition that began here in this province and continues to be a long standing tradition that amuses visitors from all over the world. The tradition involves a codfish as well as a type of Newfoundland rum known as screech. The tradition is often referred to as a “Screech-In” and is used to welcome newcomers to the island. Visitors should not miss out on this tradition and should head to a pub on George Street in St. John’s to participate. It must be a Newfoundlander who performs this ceremony and nowadays Cod is hard to find, so any fish will do. Once you kiss the fish, you must repeat a saying (it varies depending on where you go) and down the full shot of screech, and thus you have officially been screeched-in.