July 02, 2018
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We had hoped to go to Newfoundland some years back when visiting Nova Scotia, but didn't realize how much time it took to drive that island. So here we are eleven years later to finish what we had planned.
We decided on a self driving tour. First we had never done one. Second it left the burden of selecting hotels to the company, third, I had hoped for a lot of information on sights and perhaps even a guided tape, and lastly, it would give us the freedom to go at our own pace and spend more time at sites that interested us vs a group tour. The only drawback is we had to be at our hotel at a given date. But then there is no perfect way to travel and this gave us the most flexibility with the fewest restrictions.
Well, our tour company only gave us a sketchy description of some major sites. We certainly didn't want to spend a whole day just going up to Signal Hill for a few pictures, and then to Quidi Vidi Village for a pint and call it a day for example. So it forced me to spend about a week of research augmenting our itinerary with other attractions and most importantly exact addresses or GPS coordinates which saved immeasurable time & frustration. After plotting all points of interest on a map, it provided us with the most efficient way to see the most sights with the shortest amount of travel.

The accompanying pictures are roughly in chronological order and of the main sights where you'll find relevant descriptions. Generally Newfoundland is temperate, and much like many hilly coast towns in the USA. It reminded us of our Northern California coastal areas but with more quaint fishing villages (like we use to have) and more of an alpine or almost tundra flavor to them. The roads were generally good, but there were horrible stretches of pot holes on Hwy 430 leading up to St. Anthony. Speed limits are slow with only some highways getting up to 65 or 100kph. Fuel prices are higher than in the states. There are few big grocery stores, but lots of convenient stores, where the food selection is great if you're into white bread, potato chips, candy and beer - I'd go for the beer, it's probably the most nutritious. A restaurant favorite here is fries with gravy, which judging by the proportion, may hold you all winter. The people were among the friendliest we have ever met and we seldom heard a discouraging word. Overall, it was a wonderful vacation and we felt we saw much of what this wonderful country has to offer.

Click to see some pictures larger

MUN Botanical Garden in St. John is an amazing place. There are cultivated grounds you see here and then trails that extend all around Oxen Pond to a bog boardwalk on the other side. Plus trails through virgin forest above the lake.   Signal Hill, St. John. This is the prime tourist spot so be prepared to hunt for a parking space if you come mid to late am. But the views are worth it.


We flew into St. John's and spent the first 3 days around the area.
While we like to keep moving, it's really nice to not have to unpack and pack again.


The North Head Trail head is right out of the Signal Hill Parking lot. If you can walk, you shouldn't miss this world class boardwalk hike along cliffs with amazing views of the city and harbor, not to mention birds, seals and perhaps even an iceberg or whale if really lucky.
    Unfortunately what goes down must come back up, so the only way back to the parking lot of the North Head Trail is to either re-climb all those stairs or continue around through this characterful section of St. John and back up paved roads. We lucked out and started talking to a friendly local who offered us a ride back in his convertible BMW. That made our day.




St. John's may not have the monumental ancient stone buildings of Europe, but it makes up in color what it lacks in structure. Something we noted with many northern countries like Iceland, Norway etc.

The Cape Spear Lighthouse NHS is a wonderful open grassy parkland with lots of ocean views from either it's platform at the end where people spotted several whales, or the lighthouse on the hill. Great place for a picnic.    


From St. John's we headed north to the Port Rexton area for two nights.
We lucked out having the Port Rexton micro brewery just a block away to help recover from some of our strenuous hikes.


Our tour company had arranged this Gatherall cruise and it was memorable. Not only did we take a pleasant coastal cruise, but it was filled with knowledgeable avian information, not to mention some well aimed humorous barbs at the tourist.

    Brigus is a charming fishing village about an hour from St. Johns. It's notable for the Bartlett family, it's charming stone lined streams, shops, exhibits, numerous attractive houses with gardens, old shops and exhibits, plus a novel stone tunnel and old churches.


One of the Brigus houses on Barricks lane where we stopped to briefly chat with the owners.

    The Skerwink trail out of Trinity East is internationally recognized as one of the best on the continent. Anyway, we were suitably impressed!


A typical Skerwink trail section involving some of the steep ups and downs that would be hard to navigate in soft peat.   Trinity Historical Society building is one of the many preserved older buildings on this walk-able site.
In 1720 it had 30 families in residence as it's harbors and fishing grounds were so attractive. Now it's mainly a well preserved historical attraction.



St Paul's Anglican Church is the third church on this site, the first one being built in 1720. It's Gothic Revival architecture holds one of the nicest wooden interiors we have ever seen. All open and free to admire.   One of the many clean and  well kept back yards at Trinity.


Heading for Ellison to view the puffins, our GPS faithfully took us the most direct route (even across fields sometimes). Well it didn't know about construction, and after a quarter mile on hwy 238 and it's toaster size boulders, we turned around before our teeth came loose.   After viewing some puffins we headed to the Klondike Trail, a few miles away and down a dirt road for a spectacular cliff side walk where we met a friendly local lady taking bird and whale shots with the longest lens I had ever seen.



From the Port Rexton area the tour company directed us to Twillingate Island.
Without trying to be disparaging, we could easily have missed this part of the tour and spent more time at other places.
It was a long drive, the scenery was pleasant, but our one boat tour up here wasn't worth the trip.



One of the many pastoral icons left over from the olden days (e.g. before tourists) near the lighthouse.   Bonne Bay Marine Station at Norris Pt. near Gros Morne is in sharp contrast to the usual Salt Box architectural style.



The Gros Morne area is fascinating and one could easily spend a whole week here hiking, kayaking, or just touring.
Plus there are quite a few good eateries.



Having a little time after dinner and long evening light, I strolled around the water front near our Port Rexton B&B. I suspect these fisheries were commercial at one time, but now are mostly recreational as fishing is under tight control.   Table Lands were touted as a 'don't miss'. While interesting, it wasn't nearly as scenic as we expected. What was fascinating was the geological history and it's roll in plate tectonics and some of the unusual flora.




Having a little extra time we accidentally wandered into the Trout River village. What a surprise when we found a nice boardwalk which runs the length of the town and is dotted with quaint little shops and historical museums.   From a distance I thought this lady had some really colorful laundry. When I approached the pleasant owner said she makes these socks for sale.



Broom Point was another quick stop. Normally they have tours of this working/preserved fishing village. But as we were too early, we happily wandered around on our own.

There were more hikes than we could do in Gros Morne, so we cherry picked some of the shorter ones. One such was the amazing Barry Head Pond around the lake of the same name. The mostly well made boardwalk takes you around the lake for a hike through several habitation zones from forest to tundra.    


From Gros Morne, we slowly headed up the coast to Main Brook, a tiny settlement with only one very small restaurant and grocery store.
As that took most of the day (partly due to seeing sights and partly due to pot holes), we just relaxed and enjoyed the evening.



We loved these boardwalk trails. This one was at Fishing Point where we saw not only whales but the best icebergs to date.

Adjacent to the Broom Pt. parking lot was Steve's trail, a delightful wooded trail leading to the coast. Our only companion was this brave wild hare who was not only fearless, but seemed to be expecting a handout.    



The next day we took in the Viking settlement and then sights around St. Anthony, Newfoundland's largest northern little city.



When driving back from the Fishing Pt, we spotted this old plane. It was an old PBY Canso Water Bomber from the mid 60's.   Our final 'official' destination was the Viking Village of L'Anse aux Meadows NHS near the northern tip of Newfoundland. This was home to perhaps 30 Vikings in a temporary hunting village around 1000 ad. The reconstructions are historically interesting and very accurate. And the narrator was not only informative about life at the time, but included a good deal of humor.


These ancient structures were weather resistant, had a high thermal rating even by modern standards, and were defensible.   Life inside a Viking hunting village. Unfortunately no indoor plumbing.


From Main Brook we headed to Steady Brook, about a 5 hour drive, taking in sights along the way.
The following day we did some nice hikes at Bottle Bay, Crow Cove and Little Port, all beautiful  little seaside towns  we didn't think existed until doing a bit of research.  



Our last hike was at Bottle Cove. It almost didn't end well as we encountered a dangerously steep slope, but we managed to get through it for a wonderful round about hike.

Just a shot of the Point Riche Lighthouse in the Port au Choix NHS and it's amazing stone slap beach. We also took several interesting hikes here.    


On the way 'home' I spotted something out of the corner of my eye and screeched to a stop (minding traffic of course) to capture what the traditional Newfoundlander male aspire to for pleasure. On asking if I could take a photo, they smiled and held up their catch