Researching travel to Canada is exciting because it’s such a a huge nation – the world’s 2nd-largest by area – which makes “The Great White North” one of the best places to explore.
Its sheer size means endless opportunity to venture to destinations that aren’t oft-traveled. One of the top places to travel in Canada is actually its least visited province – Newfoundland and Labrador.
The province is Canada’s most unique. Newfoundland (pronounced New-fin-land) is an island off the coast of mainland Canada, the 16th-largest island in the world, while Labrador, connected to the mainland, is the gateway to the Arctic Circle and nearly entirely untouched by civilization. Labrador is for extreme adventurists, so we’ll focus on Newfoundland, a more manageable getaway for the semi-adventurists.
10 Reasons You Should Make Your Next Trip to Newfoundland
1. Gros Morne National Park
This national park located on the western coast is considered one of the most beautiful in North America. Much of that is due to its diverse landscape, with all of fjords, mountains, rolling hills, and even tablelands that are comprised of mantle – yes, the material usually only found deep below the Earth’s surface. Some settings at Gros Morne look like Iceland, some like Norway, and some like Mars. But altogether, it’s Newfoundland.
The nearly 10,000 km2 park is the 2nd-largest in Atlantic Canada. Activities include hiking, mountain biking, boating, fly-fishing, backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, and showshoeing.
Considered an extension of the Appalachian Mountains, one of the best aspects of this park is its proximity to the coast and its overall accessibility, with small villages to stay the night nearby if you aren’t the camping type. Or, you can stay in nearby Deer Lake (30 minutes) or Corner Brook (one hour), two of Newfoundland’s largest cities.
2. Puffins, Whales, and… Icebergs?!
There aren’t many inhabited parts of the world that allows an up-close view of icebergs, but Newfoundland is one of those places.
In late spring, icebergs drift south off the Greenland coast down the Labrador Sea, eventually reaching Newfoundland’s “Iceberg Alley” off the eastern shore. This is where you can take the incredible view of small homes or villages having giant icebergs hovering behind.
A few of the most popular launching points to see drifting icebergs are the towns of Twilingate, Cartwright, Saint Anthony, Battle Harbour, and Point Amour.
If you’re not so lucky and don’t get the chance to see any icebergs, you’ll definitely see some puffins migrating south for the summer, and likely some whales – Newfoundland boasts some of the best whale watching in the Atlantic. The world’s largest population of humpback whales return each year to feed on sea-life along the coast, and 21 other whale and dolphin species will visit throughout the year as well.
Keep in mind the time of year you’ll be visiting to ensure your best chance at a glimpse. Iceberg season is brief, from early May to late June, and whale and puffin season runs from mid-May to September.
3. The People and Their Distinct Culture
“Newfies” are often seen as outcasts by other Canadians – but in a good way. The people are just a little different due to strong Irish and English roots, and they’re known as some of the friendliest you’ll come across.
This heritage can be attributed to its location on the edge of the continent. With English, Irish and even French heritage, plus many having indigenous ancestors, Newfies take pride in their uniqueness. You can see its obscurity by just looking at the names of some of their most-famed towns, including Bootle, Twilingate, Dildo, Leading Tickles, and Joe Batt’s Arm.
There are actually more varieties of English spoken in this province than anywhere on Earth. With accents rooted in southern Ireland along with western England dating back more than four centuries, you’ll hear a different twang in their voice than other Canadians’.
Newfoundland’s quirkiness can be seen in their assortment of festivals year-round. If you aren’t sure what to do on your trip to Newfoundland, the locals will help.
4. Not Too Small, Not Too Big
A population of just over 500,000 makes Newfoundland the 2nd-smallest province, only greater than Prince Edward Island. In terms of density, Newfoundland is the least crowded province with just 1.4 people per square kilometre!
This means people are often familiar with their neighbor and live a slower-pace lifestyle. This low-stress, simple lifestyle that exists throughout Newfoundland is welcoming as a visitor.
Newfoundland is small enough to explore in its entirety over the course of a few weeks, but large and diverse enough to not feel bored. The 636 km drive from St. John’s across the island to Corner Brook – its second largest metropolitan centre (with a whopping 30,000 people) – takes about seven hours.
5. No Tourists in Sight
As mentioned, Newfoundland is the least-visited of Canada’s 10 provinces (not including its three territories – Yukon, Nunavut, and Northwest Territories). This means no crowds, no place oversatured with non-locals, and plenty of untouched or lightly touched land for you to roam.
It’s not for a lack of beauty or things to do or see, Newfoundland just seems to be forgotten about due to its location off the mainland and being so far north. In fact, Newfoundland is actually closer to Dublin than other Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton!
6. 7,000 Picturesque (and Accessible) Islands
Newfoundland is home to more than 7,000 barrier islands. While many are untouched or uninhabited, many are easily accessible by car and ferry and are home to festivals, spectacular views for whale watching, and act as just great, serene places to wander.
In fact, you can actually visit France, yes France, via a 90-minute ferry from mainland Newfoundland. The island of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, population 6,000, is a self-governing French territory off Newfoundland’s south coast. Here, you’ll find a combination of European and Canadian architecture, exceptional seafood, and a summer Basque festival. You won’t see street signs here, as directions and locations are given based off nicknames and the names of nearby residents.
If you’re making a trip to Newfoundland and have the time, stay at least one night on an island to get an off-the-grid feel. Remember to bring a book, your walking shoes, and forget your work laptop!
Some of Newfoundland’s top islands: Fogo Island, Twilingate Island, New World Island, Change Islands, Bell Island, Quirpon Island
7. Stunning Landscapes
Undoubtedly the biggest draw of Newfoundland has to be the island’s picturesque landscapes. From quaint coastal villages, to jaw-dropping fjords, to untouched rolling green hills and mountains, to obscure unearthly rock formations, you can get a taste of everything throughout your trip. There’s not many other places you can travel in Canada and get such a return on investment in terms of diversity of landscape.
The best part is, as mentioned, accessibility. You can see all of these places by short drives.
8. Adventure and Activities Galore
For the extremists, hiking up a snowy mountain and backcountry skiing could be the perfect winter activity if you want to build a trip to Newfoundland around winter activities.
But for most people, summer activities like whale watching, puffin watching, and iceberg viewing might be more relaxing and enjoyable, and they’re widely available at several locations along the east coast.
There’s world class hiking for all levels of hikers, and if you are someone who likes winter weather, showshoeing, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, and ice fishing are all available within a couple hours of most places across Newfoundland.
Most would consider the summer months are the best time to visit and take advantage of the island’s numerous outdoors adventures. Newfoundland can get very cold (albeit not as brutal as much of Canada) during the winter months, and Atlantic storms can bury the island under feet of snow during this time. While these occasional storms still bring heavy rain and wind in the summer and fall, it’s very temperate from June to September, typically in the 45F to 75F (7C to 24C) range.
If the outdoors aren’t your thing, I wouldn’t turn your back on a trip to Newfoundland before looking into visiting St. John’s, the capital city that offers a fantastic social scene and plenty of cultural events, history, and sightseeing.
9. Newfoundland’s Capital, St. John’s
There’s no better representation of the province’s Irish heritage than St. John’s, which boasts more bars per capita than any other Canadian city!
Located on the southeastern shore of Newfoundland, St. John’s offers easy access to more than just drinking or partying – the city is on the doorstep of beautiful beaches, has unique terrain and outdoors adventure on its doorstep, and has numerous events such as weekly Saturday markets. Plus on Sundays, Yoga on the Beach.
The most picturesque neighborhood of St. John’s, and one of the most distinct in Canada, is its famous, “Jellybean Row”, where the exterior of every home is painted a different color.
So heavily influenced by its Irish roots, St. John’s may make you feel like you’re across the pond in Dublin.
*10. Torngat Mountains National Park
Earlier I said this post would stick to Newfoundland, not Labrador, but I couldn’t resist.
For the extreme adventurists, Labrador’s Torngat Mountains National Park might be one of the world’s most breathtaking mountain ranges. Surrounded by ocean to the east and barren tundra to the west, this park – north of the tree line – is something to behold.
Entirely inaccessible by road, Torngat is rarely visited, but with endless fjords, glaciers, and jagged peaks, it’s not for a lack of beauty. Just make sure to remember guided trips here are only available from late July to early September due to weather.
There are some activities you can coordinate, though. You can hop on a boat and search for polar bears via a “Bears and ‘Bergs” boat tour with a Parks of Canada staff and Inuit Bear Guard, visit small Inuit villages, visit Sallikuluk (Rose Island) to see hundreds of traditional Inuit graves and burial mounds, or do multi-day backpacking adventures in the mountains. You’ll likely be doing most of this in a group or at least with a guide, as this is extreme adventuring!
Visiting the Torngats defines a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
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