The Best Things to See and Do in Newfoundland

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.

Whale Watching Newfoundland

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.

David P. Lewis / Shutterstock.com
David P. Lewis / Shutterstock.com

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.

Cape Spear Newfoundland

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.

Philip Mowbray / Shutterstock.com
Philip Mowbray / Shutterstock.com

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

Gros Morne National Park

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.

Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve

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.

St. John’s Newfoundland

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.

Photo by: Newfoundland by Motorcycle
Photo by: Newfoundland by Motorcycle

10 Historical Landmarks Every Canadian Should Visit

Canada is a relatively new country in the grand scheme of things and isn’t usually considered as a historical tourist destination. Most people who visit Canada come for the expansive, diverse and stunning landscape, and for good reason; Canada has some of the most impressive natural wonders in the world. But Canada does have an important and rich history, and you would be remiss to explore Canada without a visit to one of the nearly 1000 national historic sites and landmarks found across the country.

10. L.M. Montgomery’s Home -Cavendish, Prince Edward Island

Readers of the Anne of Green Gables series, one of Canada’s most well-known literary works, will be familiar with the National Historic Site. Located in rural Prince Edward Island, near Cavendish, is this quaint landmark; included in the historic site are the Green Gables house, the Cavendish home and the surrounding landscapes, including several lovely hiking trails ideal for a relaxing stroll. Even those who are not familiar with the books or the author will appreciate this beautiful home and the scenery typical of Prince Edward Island; plan for the day and bring a picnic to enjoy on the grounds!

Anne of Green Gables House

9.  Rideau Canal -Ottawa, Ontario

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa is an impressive feat of engineering and architecture, and is a favorite destination among both tourists and locals. Officially connecting Kingston to Ottawa, this 202 kilometers of canals is a beautiful chain of lakes, rivers and canals perfect for a day out canoeing or sight-seeing. The exact location of the UNESCO site is in Ottawa; originally built for military purposes in the 1800’s, the series of lock stations and fortifications are architecturally impressive and still completely operational- many still hand crank operated!  It is a favorite for locals too; during the winter months you can strap on some skates and travel nearly the entire canal- make sure you grab a beaver tail and some hot chocolate at one of the many kiosks set up along the way!

Rideau Canal Ottawa

8. Batoche, Saskatchewan

Established in 1872, this Métis settlement was the site of the historical Battle of Batoche during the Northwest Rebellion of 1885 and is now a National Historic Site in Canada. Situated in the heart of the prairies on the South Saskatchewan River, it is here that Louis Riel was infamously defeated and a new country was formed. Walking through this historical landmark, you realize what an important moment this was for Canadian history; in fact, you can still see some of the bullet holes from the final battle. Not just for history buffs, take the family and spend the day walking in the shoes of Métis settlers on the shores of the river and learn how the old way of life disappeared and a new one began.

Batoche, Saskatchewan

7. L’Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland and Labrador

Visit the L’Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site on the tip of the island of Newfoundland and you can see evidence of the very first European settlers to set foot on North American soil. Scattered amongst this striking landscape is evidence of an 11th century Viking settlement; the only known location of a Viking settlement in North America, this site holds a tremendous amount of historical importance in terms of migration and discovery. Spend some time looking for the excavated remains of the wood-framed turf buildings (like the ones found in Iceland and Norse Greenland), and wandering around the site. The scenic, yet unrelentingly harsh landscape makes it all the more impressive that an entire culture managed to settle and live here hundreds of years ago.

L’Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland

6. Fortifications of Québec -Québec City, Québec

As the only fortified city north of Mexico, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is rich in history and architectural beauty, akin to historical cities scattered all over Europe. Walk the walls around Old Québec, nearly 4.6 kilometers in length to marvel at the views of the city and beyond, and to marvel at the military engineering of the fortifications developed in the early 1600’s. Old Québec is a beautiful city to explore by foot; many pedestrian only streets make it easy to get around, and the slower pace makes it easier to take all your pictures! There are also plenty of delicious cafés and quaint shops (although venture off the main streets for a less touristy experience), and plenty of maple syrup inspired treats to keep you going during the day!

meunierd / Shutterstock.com
meunierd / Shutterstock.com

5. Dawson, Yukon Territory

Way up north, in the harsh, unforgiving, stunningly beautiful landscape of Canada, you will find Dawson, Yukon, the heart of the Klondike Gold Rush and a charming town, well preserved and rich in history. Although small, there is plenty to do here; adventure enthusiasts will enjoy the outdoor landscape made for hiking and rafting, yet those searching for a more relaxing visit will enjoy the traditional pubs and boardwalks through town. Those feeling lucky can try their hand panning for gold in the Klondike Gold Fields and enjoy a tour through some of the still operational gold mines. Dawson is worth the trek up north, but given its remote location, be sure to stay awhile and enjoy the surrounding areas to make the most of your trip!

Pecold / Shutterstock.com
Pecold / Shutterstock.com

4. Fort Garry Hotel -Winnipeg, Manitoba

Those afraid of ghosts may want to skip the Fort Garry Hotel- the infamous Room 202 is said to be haunted by the ghost of a woman, but those brave enough won’t want to skip a visit to this landmark. A National Historic Site located in downtown Winnipeg, this famous hotel is one of Canada’s grand railway hotels, and built in 1913, it was the tallest structure in town upon completion. The architecture is reminiscent to other chateau style hotels in Canada, like the Fairmont Chateau next on the list, and is a unique and beautiful addition to the industrial core of Winnipeg.

Photo by: Fort Garry Hotel
Photo by: Fort Garry Hotel

3. Fairmont Chateau Frontenac -Québec City, Québec

One of the most beautiful and grand buildings in all of Canada, the Fairmont Château Frontenac in Québec is considered as one of the most photographed hotels in the world, in part because of its sheer size and grandiose nature on the Québec skyline. Designated as a National Historic Site in 1980, this hotel was built for the Canadian Pacific Railway company in the late 1800’s to promote luxury travel and tourism; it was a hotspot for wealthy travelers and those searching for a glamorous experience. This is the most prominent building in Québec and surely can’t be missed when exploring the area; spend some time exploring the glitzy, over the top décor inside and the intricate architecture on the outside- bring an extra memory card  for your camera when visiting this landmark!

Chateau Frontenac

2. Terry Fox Memorial -Thunder Bay, Ontario

All Canadians are familiar with Terry Fox; in fact, he is probably one of the most well-known Canadian icons, recognized nationally and around the world. Visiting the Terry Fox Memorial, overlooking Lake Superior, you can’t help but be overwhelmed by this man’s courageous and inspirational quest to make the world a better place. Terry Fox was a humble young man who has inspired generations of Canadian’s to raise money and improve the lives of cancer patients worldwide; because of him, hundreds of millions of dollars has been raised for cancer research. All Canadian’s can find something to relate to in Terry Fox and the life he led; because of this and his relatability, this Terry Fox memorial is possibly one of the most emotional and inspirational in all of Canada.

"Terry Fox" by Richard Keeling - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.
Terry Fox” by Richard KeelingOwn work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.

1. Fortress of Louisbourg -Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Located on the Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, this National Historic Site is one of the most important sites in defining Canada as it is today. The Fortress of Louisbourg was settled in 1713 and fortified later in the mid-18th century, and was the site of historic Anglo-French battles crucial to our history. Enter the fortified city and feel what it was like living in a fishing, port city during the 1700’s. Take one of the many walking and guided tours available, or spend some time exploring on your own; whatever you choose you will be sure to leave with a better understanding of how the original settlers of Canada lived hundreds of years ago.

LunaseeStudios / Shutterstock.com
LunaseeStudios / Shutterstock.com

The Bucket List’s 13 Canadian Towns You Must Visit

The common old saying, ‘the best things come in small packages’ holds true when it comes to Canadian small towns. Visiting small towns isn’t normally at the top of our bucket list, but we’ve come up with a list of great towns that are perfect just the way they are, which is often quiet and out of the way, typically passed by on highways and main roads, tucked neatly away on the outskirts of a city. This list is a baker’s dozen compiled small towns to love, we’ve covered all our bases including one from each province and territory. What are you waiting for? Get going!

13. Nelson, British Columbia

For a town of under 10,000 people there is a whole lot going on in Nelson. The skiing in the Kootenay Rockies is sensational. When it’s time for water skis, Lake Kootenay offers any activity you want on and under the water. There are thermal and natural baths and less than an hour away, as is the beginning of the province’s fabulous wine country. Nelson is something of an artistic community with a surprising cache of Victorian, Queen Anne and Beaux Arts architecture. The town website claims more restaurants per capita than San Francisco. It also likely has more hippies per capita as the counterculture is bred by American draft dodgers during the Vietnam War and continues on today.

Nelson British Columbia

12. Legal, Alberta

A proud little town whose website says it “puts unity back into community”. It’s close enough to be considered a suburb of Edmonton, but it retains its separate identity with its old rural charm intact. Still bilingual, it was founded as a French-speaking settlement in 1894, before Alberta was a province and less than a decade after French Canada’s champion Louis Riel was hanged for treason. The stop signs still say ‘Arret/Stop’. Legal is renowned for its 28 French murals and its summer Fete Au Village, or Town Festival.

Photo by: Town of Legal
Photo by: Town of Legal

11. Forget, Saskatchewan

This town is nothing like it sounds, rather it’s sure to give you an unforgettable experience. It is a one of those places through the Canadian and American Midwest that serves as a reminder that French explorers were the first Europeans to pass through and that many of the early post-Confederation settlers were from Quebec and their descendants still proudly call themselves Saskinoises, as did Canada’s first woman to serve as Governor General, Jeanne Sauvé. Despite its minuscule size (at last count 104) it has become known as an artists’ colony. The old Rectory built in 1904 is now The Ananda Arthouse.  Its French Catholic roots are evident in the name of a much-praised hangout and kitchen called The Happy Nun. And should you go there, please recall it’s pronounced for-JAY.

Saskatchewan

10. Flin Flon, Manitoba

There are few more quintessentially Canadian towns than Flin Flon.  A sub-Arctic hardworking mining community with a stellar hockey history. Six hundred miles northwest of Winnipeg in the Manitoba Lake District, it boasts a big trout festival and wilderness activities in summer and with the exception of downhill skiing, a full range of winter sports. It is one of Canada’s hockey factories, having sent a number of big stars to the NHL, including Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach and Blaine Stoughton. And there is of course its iconic name with a minor literary pedigree, the only town named after Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin, a character in a 1905 science fiction book The Sunless City. The venerable American cartoonist Al Capp was so intrigued by the story, he created the statue of the town’s namesake that still stands.

Flin Flon, Manitoba

9. Port Hope, Ontario

Sixty miles east of Toronto, Port Hope is a pretty little town with a lovely and well preserved 19th century downtown. The Capitol Theatre opened in 1930 and is one of a dwindling collection of ‘atmospheric theatres’, an ornate style movie house that resembles a palace. It has been cited for the province’s Community Leadership award for exemplary “leadership in heritage conservation and promotion”. The antique shopping is renowned as is the fly-fishing in the Ganaraska River. A timeless scene of Victorian Ontario.

Photo by: John Vetterli via Flickr
Photo by: John Vetterli via Flickr

8. Hudson, Quebec

Hudson is a picturesque, historic place set on the Lac des Deux Montagnes that dates back to New France and celebrates its 150th birthday as a town in 2015. Now it’s also known as where the late Jack Layton called home. Forty miles west of Montreal, it has long been known as a wealthy Anglophone enclave with a Yacht Club dating back to 1909 and a polo club from 1901.  It re-established in the 1990’s as the Club Nacional and is was well-known for its star players that included some of the great Montreal Canadiens from the teams that won five Stanley Cups in the 1980’s. Now it has a nice arts scene, great antiques. It’s not a place you would spend a week, but perfect as a weekend destination or day trip. It just might even leave you trying to figure out ways to move there for good.

Photo by: Hudson Yacht Club
Photo by: Hudson Yacht Club

7. Victoria-by-the-Sea, Prince Edward Island

When it comes to flat out, good old fashioned small town charm, it’s very hard to beat the Maritimes. Victoria lies on the island’s south coast just 20 miles from Charlottetown. It was once an affluent, busy trading port and the pretty houses and stores don’t seem to have changed much, except for fresh coats of brightly colored paint. Another charming little (population: 200) place that attracts artists and craftspeople. The Victoria Playhouse has been written up by no less than the New York Times. The mandatory red sand beaches and Lighthouse museum are present and accounted for. Sea kayaking in the Northumberland Strait is the main offshore activity. The town website almost brags that when the Trans Canada Highway passed the town by, so did the malls, fast food joints and tourist traps.

Victoria-by-the-sea, PEI

6. Saint Andrews, New Brunswick

The town was settled by Loyalists from Maine in 1783. Thirteen of the streets are named after the offspring of George lll (aka Mad King George) not to mention King, Queen and Prince of Wales Streets. Like much of the region, its economic apogee passed with The Steam Age. After decades of bad times, the onset of the railway plus, the ocean breezes and natural beauty, brought well-to-do visitors seeking respite from the heat and filth of the industrial northeast. Saint Andrews became the country’s first resort and was rewarded for its economic stagnation with unspoiled downtown and surroundings that became their major industry and engine of growth.  The legendary Algonquin Hotel remains a wonderful example of CPR hotel architecture (or ‘Parkitecture). Kingsbrae Gardens is an award winning masterpiece of horticulture and whale watching has been added to the array of watery attractions.

Photo by: Douglas LeMoine via Flickr
Photo by: Douglas LeMoine via Flickr

5. Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

Another coastal gem, Mahone Bay was founded in 1754 and was a shipbuilding center for over a century. The shelter of the Bay encourages sailors, kayakers, and fishers to explore the 365 islands that dot the waters of Mahone Bay, including Oak Island, with its legend of buried treasure. It’s a summertime boom town, attracting visitors for its beaches, biking and ski trails, along with a rich history and oceanfront location. Not to mention that fresh, fresh seafood.

Mahone Bay NS

4. Trinity, Newfoundland and Labrador

Fisherman were summering in relative safety in trinity bay since the early 16th century. It is full of heritage buildings of saltbox architecture dating from the 1850’s. All the towns on this list are scenic, but only The Rock combines mint conditioned, brightly colored historic buildings with rugged beauty of the unforgivingly harsh Newfoundland rock face which is a base for hiking and boat tours to see whales and icebergs. Its preserved perfection of houses from the 1850’s attracted the makers of The Shipping News and there are tours of where the famous cast shot scenes and stayed, some of them were so taken by the land and people, they bought houses or cottages nearby!

Photo by: Brian Summers via Flickr
Photo by: Brian Summers via Flickr

3. Dawson, Yukon

You can still pan for gold and have the famous Sour Toe cocktail. For a more satisfying taste – attempt to make it yourself! It was parodied by a Dawson banker named Robert W Service in the “Ice Worm Cocktail” a story of a gullible Englishman who downed one with great trepidation and comic results. The romance of the Gold Rush, even more than a century come and gone remains. Such was the transient wealth, it was called the Paris of the North. Heritage buildings from its 15 minutes of wealth and fame abound. And yes, you can see the can-can girls at Gambling Gerties, but it’s not a one-trick pony. Cruise the Yukon River and/or hike 1700 feet up the Midnight Dome and take in the views of it and the Klondike Valley. Parks Canada has a nice tour from Crocus Bluff to Service’s cabin in the hills, conducted with excerpts from his legendary poetry.

Josef Hanus / Shutterstock.com
Josef Hanus / Shutterstock.com

2. Rankin Inlet, Nunavut

In Inuktitut, it’s called Kangiqtiniq – ᑲᖏᖅᖠᓂᖅ, meaning ‘deep inlet’. It has become the gateway to the territory for civil servants, mining execs, scientists and adventure travel aficionados, hence the cell phone service and golf courses not common to the rest of the region. There is a thriving Inuit art scene, especially in ceramics and carving. For exploring the stunning, pristine Iqalugaarjuup Nunanga (‘the land around the river of little fishes’) Territorial Historic Park has hiking, fishing and fauna that you won’t see south of 90 degrees north. There are also habitations and graveyards from the 13th century. To celebrate spring Pakaluk Time there is a festival which includes music dancing and the famous, unique Inuit sport competitions.

Photo by: Electronker via Flickr
Photo by: Electronker via Flickr

1. Fort Smith, Northwest Territories

Fort Smith deserves a place on the bucket list if for no other reason than it being a place that is a gateway to the remote, spectacular World Heritage Site, Wood Buffalo National Park. The northern boreal plain and forest is home to endangered species like wood bison, whooping cranes and peregrine falcons. Seemingly endless acres of pristine natural beauty that are a paradise for the outdoor enthusiast. Its name in Chipewyan is Thebacha or ‘beside the rapids’, and those rapids on the Slave River are a major attraction for white water buffs today.

Photo by: Ansgar Walk via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Ansgar Walk via Wikimedia Commons