A Week in Newfoundland

Newfoundland and Labrador, the easternmost province in Canada flies under the radar but is a fantastic place to visit from the east coast of the United States. The wildlife is spectacular, there is hiking for miles along rugged coastlines, you might spot an iceberg, and you can travel a landlocked fjord!


The Marine Atlantic ferry runs from North Sydney in Nova Scotia to either Port Aux Basques (7 hour journey) or Argentia (16 hour journey). Of course, you can fly into St. John’s on the eastern side of Newfoundland or there is a tiny airport in Deer Lake near Gros Morne National Park in the west. We thought the ferry would be an adventure and it afforded us the luxury of bringing our own car. From our home in Rhode Island, it is a long 10 hour drive to North Sydney. We previously visited Nova Scotia (which you can read about here) so didn’t stop at many places on the route. You could easily combine the two trips into one long 2-3 week journey as there are a number of worthwhile stops along the Bay of Fundy.

Marine Atlantic Ferry

Given the favorable exchange rate at the time of our travel, the ferry was quite affordable on the shorter route to Port Aux Basques. Adult tickets are ~ $35 CAD and a passenger vehicle is ~ $100 CAD. You can also book a tiny cabin with sleeping accommodations and a small shower for $125-175 CAD. The cabins are cheaper if you travel in the daytime. Our departure was at 11:30 PM which resulted in arriving ready to hit the road in western Newfoundland at around 7 AM.

A few tips…while they do serve food in a cafeteria style setting aboard, I would HIGHLY recommend grabbing dinner before you board at The Lobster Pound and Moore. You’ll need a reservation as they only have a small number of tables but the food was incredibly delicious with generous servings. The chef even brought my husband some extra fish as we were among the last guests of the evening. I actually never had chicken and waffles…until this dinner and I was not disappointed with the gourmet seasoned waffle!

You’ll need to be back to your car well in advance of boarding but if you are in the ferry terminal, they will make an announcement. The boarding process is very streamlined and it’s actually incredible how the cram so many cars into the ferry. Once aboard, we found our small cabin which was absolutely fine for 7 hours with two twin beds, a TV, and small bathroom with toilet and shower. We were able to get some sleep so we could arrive in Newfoundland to make the most of our first day.

Trip Travel Details

Newfoundland Road Trip

After our 7 hour ferry from Newfoundland, we drove from Port Aux Basques to Elliston

Stay Duration in Newfoundland

8 Days & 7 Nights

Total Ferry Time

7 Hours

Drive Time To Explore Newfoundland

8.5 hours from Port Aux Basques to Elliston with no stops


Our too brief itinerary for our Newfoundland trip:

Gros Morne National Park – 2 days

Twillingate – 2 days

Fogo – 2 days

Bonavista/Elliston – 1 day

Newfoundland is enormous and the locations appear deceptively close on the map. Route 1 snakes through the center of Newfoundland as the primary east-west route. Numerous routes emanate from it to the north and south. Driving some of the northern routes brings you to towns located at the ends of long fingers of land.

Gros Morne National Park

First up, Gros Morne National Park located on the west side of Newfoundland. It was created by colliding continents and grinding glaciers resulting in spectacular fjords, glacial valleys, lakes, and waterfalls. It is considered one of the best examples of plate tectonics and there is no place better to see that than at The Tablelands. On our packed itinerary, we only devoted 2 days to the park, but there are incredible hikes and you could easily spend more time here. To note, the difficult hike up Gros Morne Mountain is closed annually from May 1 to June 29th to allow for critical wildlife reproduction. While it is certainly something we would have done, with only 2 days, it was a fine skip to allow us to see more of the park. 

The three hikes we did on our first day were Tablelands, Lookout Hills and the Lobster Cove Head Trail. Tablelands is a must as it is an easy 1 hour relatively flat out and back hike. You’ll be literally walking on the earth’s mantle with the ground a rich orange hue which is the result of the oxidation of iron. Our day was an incredibly windy one with wide open spaces for the wind to push through and you could literally lean into the wind and it would support you. The drive to the trailhead is incredible too along the picturesque NL-431. The next hike, Lookout Hills, begins from the parking lot of the Woody Point Discovery Center. We had a quick picnic lunch here before embarking on the 2-3 hour hike. It gets a bit steep relatively quickly but the reward is incredible views over Gros Morne and Tablelands. On this trail we also learned about the red chairs of Canada’s national parks. There are over 100 locations where red Adirondack chairs are placed in stunning spots where you can sit and take a breath and admire the scenery. Canada National Parks even held a contest when they were first introduced to find them all…they range from easy locations to find to more challenging. Bring some layers for this hike as the wind was chilly at the summit and there was still snow during June when we visited. Our final hike of the day was a 30 minute stroll out to the Lobster Cove lighthouse for sunset.
In the Gros Morne area there are a lot of options for accommodations. For a less scenic stay with more restaurants and shops, you could choose to stay in Deer Lake which is about an hour from the park. As you head away from Deer Lake north on 430 toward the park, you have 2, in my opinion, more enticing areas to stay. You could fork left on 431 toward Woody Point and Bonne Bay or continue on 430 and head to Rocky Harbor and Norris Point. Both locations have accommodations with views over the Gulf of St. Lawrence where you might spot a whale. We chose the Tides Inn in Norris Point which was literally at the end of the road. It was almost brand new with a lovely little balcony and the classic adorable Newfoundland quilt which you’ll find at many of your stays.

Western Brook Pond Tour

The star of Day 2 in Gros Morne was the Western Brook Pond Tour. We chose an afternoon departure for our tour so we drove the coastline along NL 430 up to Arches Provincial Park in the morning. Here you’ll find 3 massive rock arches carved by years of crashing waves. Not much to do beyond that to see but a nice little photo op stop. After this quick detour we made our way back to the parking area for the Western Brook Pond Tour which is located north of Rocky Harbour. The Western Brook Pond is a landlocked fjord which is the result of glacial activity over billions of years. Factor in a bit of time pre tour as it is just shy of a 2 mile walk to reach the dock. It’s a flat easy walk along crushed rock. This 2 hour tour costs ~ $70 CAD and is run by Bon Tours and yes it is absolutely a ‘touristy’ thing to do…however, the beauty of the fjord makes this truly a highlight of Gros Morne. You’ll glide along the narrow fjord with towering cliffs on both sides and frequent waterfalls. Once at the end of the fjord you’ll travel the same fjord back to the dock. Hard to believe you are in landlocked Canada as it definitely reminiscent of a Norwegian fjord. We concluded our day with a short hike back near our accommodation in Norris Point, Burnt Hill. This quick 1.5 mile hike has some moderate ascents but a good portion of it overlooks the rocky coastline and has some stretches of boardwalk for better traction. Supposedly moose frequent this trail but we didn’t luck out and stumble upon any. For the day, our last stop was The Cat Stop, a casual eatery located on the water. Bon Tours actually owns this as well. It was definitely not the most healthy meal we’ve eaten with fried foods monopolizing the menu, but it was a very relaxing way to end the day with a gorgeous view over the water. We were up early the next day for a 5 hour drive from Norris Point to Twillingate.


Twillingate worked into our itinerary during planning as it sits along Iceberg Alley. Icebergs break off the from glaciers to the north (90% from Greenland) and are carried south by ocean currents. They are frequently seen along the northern and eastern coasts of Newfoundland. Of course, the most famous of these icebergs was the one that sunk the Titanic in 1912. The best viewing time is from May to early June and you can use icebergfinder.com which is a very handy website where you can crowdsource where others have spotted icebergs in the area. The sad reality, however, is that climate change is making viewing less common and there have been recent years with a mild winter and early spring where no icebergs were recorded at all. We chased down many leads we saw on icebergfinder.com but we only saw one iceberg during our time in Twillingate which was quite small. There are also many boat tours you can book to drive out in search of icebergs and get up close to any in the area. Given the few we saw on the website, we opted not to venture out. 

Despite the lack of bergs, Twillingate was one of our favorite places in Newfoundland due to the surprisingly killer hiking along the rugged coastline. The Long Point Lighthouse located at Crow’s Head in Twillingate has several hikes trails surrounding it and the lighthouse itself is an incredible lookout over the Atlantic Ocean and shoreline. There’s a map here of the plethora of hiking you can do in Twillingate. Our favorite was in the tiny town of Crow’s Head with a long loop hike around the town starting and ending at the lighthouse. It even had a short little section that was a bit steeper with a rope that you could use to support your descent. Post hike we stopped at the very lovely Crow’s Nest Cafe for an iced tea with a gorgeous view. The lighthouse also has a fudgery and gift shop..did we stop for fudge? You bet! 

Our lodging for Twillingate was the Sunshine Inn which was almost new with 5 rooms each with that beautiful Newfoundland quilting, bathroom and soaking tub. The property also had a communal kitchen and lounge area as well as a fire pit and hot tub. A small gift shop which serves tea shares the inn’s building and free parking was directly in front. We would definitely recommend a stay! While we did most of our own cooking in Twillingate…translation, my husband cooked while I served as his sous chef, we did dine at Annie’s Harbour. They have a variety of menu options heavy on seafood but the draw is the outdoor dining or indoor dining in front of a large window overlooking the water. We also had a dinner at Split Rock Brewery which was across the street from our inn serving microbrews and classic pub fare. 

We bid farewell to Twillingate, and headed 1 hour to the east for the Farewell Ferry to Fogo Island. Read about our 2 days in Fogo and our visit to Little Fogo Island aka puffin central here! 

Bonavista and Elliston

After our return from Fogo, we made an impromptu decision to see Bonavista and Elliston in one day. Frankly, I think I because a little obsessed with those stocky little birds and needed more puffins! Bonavista is about 3.5 hours from the ferry terminal to Fogo and really makes much more sense if you are doing an eastern Newfoundland itinerary as it is not very far from St. John’s. By choosing to add this on, it truthfully made the drive back to Port Aux Basques to catch the ferry to return to Nova Scotia quite long…read 8.5 hours. If we were a little later in the season, we could have caught the ferry from Argentia back to Nova Scotia which would have been significantly less difficult, However, it hadn’t started its summer schedule so wouldn’t work with our timeline.

Bonavista is a town filled with colorful fishing huts, museums, a historic lighthouse and Dungeon Provincial Park. We only day tripped here so unfortunately, I don’t have any lodging recommendations. Our two main activities were a stop at the lighthouse and Dungeon Provincial Park. The lighthouse has existed since the 1840s and it is prime iceberg and whale viewing…and there are puffins! Our short stop here was insanely windy. We perched on the grassy area outside the lighthouse for a while though and watched the puffins dart from the sea to the cliffside for an hour. They are quite the speedsters. Puffins are most active during the evenings (and the wind was bone chilling…in June) so we headed about 10 minutes down the road to Elliston. We stopped at the Dungeon along the way. The Dungeon originated as a sea cave with 2 openings to the sea that erosion transformed into a natural archway. Collapsed sea caves are called gloups…who knew?

Elliston was the final stop on our Newfoundland adventure. You really can’t miss the entrance to the puffin viewing area as it is marked by two large puffin shaped chairs. Of course we took a photo. There is no entrance fee but a donation box to help the efforts to support the puffins here. A short hike brings you to a grassy area where you can sit and watch the puffins which are on a small island across from the viewing area. Given that it was the evening, they were quite active, hopping among the burrows and darting into the ocean for fish. None made their way over to our viewing area for a short stop but they were still amazing to see. As a bonus wildlife encounter, we watched a humpback whale breach out in the water! We closed out our day of puffins with a stop at the Puffin Cafe for a late lunch/early dinner and the Puffin Souvenir Craft Shop. This very small and adorable building houses some finely crafted puffin themed knitted items among other small souvenirs like ornaments and magnets. An odd tidbit about Elliston is that it is also the Root Cellar Capital of the World where root vegetables like potatoes and carrots were stored as the humidity kept them cool in the summer and prevented freezing in the winter. The parking area for the puffin viewing has one essentially in the parking lot so it’s simple to take a quick peek at one though there are 130 in Elliston!

At the end of our long day, we headed back to the west along Route 1 for a lengthy drive back to Port Aux Basques to catch the ferry the next day. 

In summary, this trip was quite an adventure with a ferry ride which was a great alternative to traditional travel via plane, stunning coastlines, a litany of hiking trails and some great whale and puffin encounters. We’ll be back to get a longer look at the east coast!

Minor Indulgence

Our voyage out to Little Fogo Island was our tiny splurge this trip but completely worthwhile!

Major Buzz

This is more for our Fogo Island article (read it here!) but artists in a residency with Fogo Island Arts work out of 4 studios on the island that are architectural masterpieces. It’s a fantastic way to inspire people to explore more of the island and they are truly an artistic wonder when you find them in the most unusual locations. 

Open Rhode Insider Tips

  1. We were a bit late in the iceberg season by traveling in June. Earlier in the year in May would probably be a better bet if you are determined to see an iceberg.
  2. In an ideal scenario, you would take the ferry to Port Aux Basques and return from Argentia eliminating a long drive back to your starting point along Route 1.
  3. Bring a telephoto lens! Although there are puffins galore they are still a bit far from any viewing sites so a telephoto lens would really be best. I actually forgot mine this trip..which is hard to believe as we traveled from home with our entire car so there was plenty of space. Ugh.
  4. Bring layers. It is definitely cool in the summer evenings and the wind was a tad vicious in a few areas. 
  5. Book your ferry tickets early so you can secure a cabin. Those 7 hours would have been unpleasant without a place to properly rest.
  6. If you want to hike Gros Morne Mountain, be aware of the seasonal closures for wildlife. This is also true for several other hiking sites in the park so check ahead.

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