Travel to Newfoundland and Experience Food, Views & Laughter Unlike Anywhere Else
Family-Friendly and Full of Life
Newfoundland travel is for nature lovers, but it’s also for those who appreciate fresh, delicious seafood, outdoor adventure, wildlife, fantastic music and a good sense of humor. While it may not be for those who like to spend their holidays shopping or at the spa, it is for just about everyone else.
In fact, if you’re planning to visit Newfoundland with kids, you’ll be happy to know that this easternmost province also offers a whole lot for you too.
The capital city, St. John’s, is a storybook kind of place, with its colorful “Jellybean Row Houses” that lead down to the glistening harbor where, in late spring and early summer, dazzling blue icebergs can often be seen floating in.
Keep an eye out, and you might just see a whale leap from the water too.
Venture out of the city and a magical wonderland truly awaits, with so many delights that you may find yourself planning your return trip before it’s time to go home. Whether you’re following an Eastern Canada travel guide or zeroing in on Newfoundland tourism, the following will help you make the most out of your trip to the coast.
When to Go
Newfoundland is generally a summer vacation destination, with the majority of tourists arriving in July and August. Not only is “The Rock” more likely to enjoy sunshine and warmer temperatures during this time, it’s also peak whale-watching season. This is when the capelin fish roll in to serve as a feast for humpback whales that can often be seen right from shore.
Of course, with such a short summer tourism season — and a shortage of accommodation options, especially in the very small towns and remote areas — you’re going to need to book your overnight stays well in advance, six to nine months in some cases.
If you want to enjoy the best of both worlds, fewer tourists and a chance of decent weather, you might consider a trip on the outer fringes of that time frame: mid- to late-June or during the first half of September.
As it’s in a fairly remote corner of the world, airfare to Newfoundland can be pricey, depending on where you’re flying from. But if you live in Canada or near the border, WestJet does offer some great sales occasionally.
In many cases, it may make sense to drive or fly into the closest major Canadian city and fly from there. Do your research and check airfare frequently, on different days of the week, and even at different times, and you might score a deal.
Once there, Americans currently have the benefit of an excellent exchange rate that automatically provides around a 25% discount right off the top, which can make a significant difference. If you are used to traveling to Europe, particularly Northern Europe, you’re going to find things much cheaper here.
On the other hand, if you’re a frequent Mexico vacationer, it will seem more expensive. You can save on dining out costs by renting a home or a cottage with a kitchen, and when it comes to things to do, there are plenty of options that are cheap or even free.
Top Destinations and Experiences with Kids
Newfoundland is a large island — if you drive from St. John’s to its northern tip around L’anse aux Meadows, it will take around 12 hours, which means, unless you have unlimited vacation time, you won’t be able to see it all.
These top destinations can give you a great start on planning your itinerary, however.
Most likely, you’ll be flying into the capital city, and it makes sense to spend at least a couple of days here before venturing out. Just browsing the unique shops can be a fun way to meet the especially friendly locals, as well as to pick up some fantastic handcrafted items and Newfoundland-specific goods.
Walk the hills, strolling by the vibrantly hued historic saltbox houses, with some of the best to be found on Holloway Street. If your kids are old enough, hold a photo competition to see who can capture the greatest variety of colors.
Afterward, head to Signal Hill National Historic Site for a sweeping view of the Atlantic on one side and the city on the other, as well as a glimpse at the town’s historic past.
The Irish Loop
The most Irish place on the planet outside of Ireland itself is the Irish Loop. Take this scenic drive where you’ll see shamrocks and hear the lilt from locals who sound as if they just arrived from the Emerald Isle.
Visit Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, one of the few places on Earth where you can walk on the floor of an ancient ocean and actually see the wave ripples in the rock, and be sure to stop in at the Irish Coffee House for a hot beverage, or an Irish dish, along with picturesque water views.
Trinity looks like a picture-perfect postcard; in fact, when it comes into view, you might think it’s a film set. It’s a great place to base yourself for outdoor activities, as well as to explore fascinating history.
One must-do is a whale-watching excursion with Sea of Whales Adventures – if you have little ones with you, they will not only be thrilled with seeing the magnificent creatures, but they might make a new friend, as your expert and highly entertaining guide Chris often brings his own young son.
There are also numerous hiking trails in the area with viewpoints for spotting icebergs, puffins and whales.
Gros Morne National Park
In Western Newfoundland, Gros Morne National Park offers a decidedly different landscape and striking natural beauty. It stretches across nearly 700 square miles as part of the Long Range Mountains, and is home to dense forests, freshwater fjords, dramatic cliffs and rugged shorelines as well as barren lowlands, bogs and moose.
It’s also renowned for its unique and complex geology, including the Tablelands, a mountain of flat-topped rock that’s usually only found deep in the Earth’s mantle. The top experience here is the Western Brook Pond Boat Tour, where you’ll see the magnificent glacier-carved land-locked fjord, spectacular waterfalls, billion-year-old cliffs and all sorts of wildlife.
L’anse aux Meadows
On the northwest coast of Newfoundland, there is proof that the Vikings set foot in North America around 1003. L’Anse-aux-Meadows is North America’s only authenticated Viking settlement site, discovered in 1960.
Visitors can tour the recreated turf-walled longhouses, meet with costumed “Vikings” and stroll across the pebbly shore that 11th-century explorer Leif Erikson may have even walked across himself.
Cheap Things to Do in Newfoundland
If you’re an outdoor lover, you’ll find no shortage of things to do for free. There are multiple lighthouses around Newfoundland that can be visited without having to pay an entrance fee, and even the major sites around St. John’s, like Signal Hill, are free to access.
The island hosts countless well-maintained hiking trails that will bring you to unforgettable sights, and one of the most entertaining things to do in the province doesn’t cost a thing either – visit Puffin Island in Elliston, just north of Trinity, and you can sit on the grass and watch hundreds of the adorable birds whiz around.
Other Things You Should Know
Many of the pubs in Newfoundland are family-friendly, so even if you’re traveling with kids, be sure to check out some of the outstanding live, local music. In fact, you might even get invited to join in yourselves with ugly sticks.
These traditional Newfoundland instruments are fashioned out of household items, typically a mop handle with bottle caps, tin cans, small bells and other noise makers, and anyone can learn to play.