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The Annual 2024 Ultimate Guide for First Time Travellers to Newfoundland


If Canada is on your bucket list for travel this summer, you’re not alone. Canada is on the bucket list of most travellers.

First-time travellers to Newfoundland are not only visiting the most easterly province in Canada, but their first trip to Newfoundland also takes them to an Island with three distinct bio-geo-climatic zones, one of the only places in the world where you can see icebergs, and the absolute spot to be for nature, wildlife, and adventure seekers. Some days you can see hundreds of whales when exploring the southern shore and Witless Bay Marine Ecological Reserve

What makes Newfoundland different from other Canadian Provinces? It’s distinct from the other Canadian provinces in many ways. When you arrive, you might, for a moment, feel like you’re in a different country, even though Newfoundland is just as Canadian as Maple Syrup. 

With the densest population of Moose on the planet, the largest concentration of Humpback Whales, 35 Million annual nesting seabirds, amazing people, and countless other wonders you’ll undoubtedly discover along the way, it’s important to keep the following travel tips in mind for your first trip to Newfoundland.

1. Newfoundland is not only an island, it’s a giant island

If you’ve ever been to places like Prince Edward Island or Vancouver Island, it’s important to keep in mind Newfoundland is much larger than either of these. A lot larger.

Newfoundland vs. New York
Newfoundland 405,212 km² compared to the state of New York 141,300 km²

Driving from Port Aux Basques, the most westerly ferry terminal, to St. John’s, the capital city, will take you over 10 hours of driving and will cover 900km of highway. That’s a lot of driving, and in our opinion, far too much for one day.

It's normally over a nine hour drive from West end of Newfoundland the the East End capital city of St. John's
The Drive from one West end of Newfoundland to the East end, is a long haul

The drive across Newfoundland is beautiful. It’s a fantastic drive, with lots along the way, like two National Parks (Gros Morne National Park in the West and Terra Nova National Park in the East), exciting communities, beaches, mountains, Viking settlements, adventure tours, dinner theatres, and more.

So if you’re going to drive the distance from one tip of the island to the other, be sure to plan accordingly, go slow, and take in the sights along the way. It’s not a race, and the more you plan the drive across the better it will be.

Did you know moose vs. vehicle accidents in Newfoundland are a leading cause of injury on Newfoundland highways? Moose are much larger than a deer and can cause significantly more damage. Because Newfoundland is a prime moose habitat with some of the densest moose populations in the world, your risk of hitting a moose in Newfoundland is much higher than in other plates. The best thing you can do is don’t speed, slow down at night (or skip night driving), and stay alert while enjoying the scenery.

2. Know your Ferries

Did you hear the latest news about the New Newfoundland Ferry that officially launches in June 2024?

Named the Ala’suinu, this is a bigger and better ferry in so many ways, not that there is anything wrong with the older Newfoundland Ferries connecting the island of Newfoundland with mainland Canada, but if you thought the other ferry was like a cruise, wait till you experience the Ala’suinu.

This vessel has updated sleeping quarters, a lower ecological impact, and even more fun to cruise on. The Ala’suinu will operate on the North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Argentina, Newfoundland crossing during the summer moths and the North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland sailing during the shoulder seasons

Understand there are two main ferry terminals in Newfoundland and both are operated by Marine Atlantic. Check out the Summer 2024 Newfoundland Ferry Schedule and book your crossing well in advance. Both ferries depart the mainland in the town of North Sydney, in Nova Scotia. 

Two Main Ferry Terminals to Newfoundland
From North Sydney, NS, you can travel to either Port Aux Basques, NL, or Argentia, NL

West – East

If you’re planning to do the 900km drive across Newfoundland from West to East, the ferry terminal you want to go to is in the town of Port Aux Basques.

East – West

Alternatively, you can take a different ferry to Newfoundland that will sail you all the way to the East coast to the community of Argentia, which is located just 130km from the capital city of St. John’s.

The ferries in and of themselves give you a wonderful experience, like being on a National Geographic boat tour, complete with marine biologists onboard ready to help you spot and identify the marine life you’re bound to see along the way.

If you chose to take the longer ferry to Argentia, it will sail you along the ultra remote south coast of Newfoundland, an area known for blue whales, biodiversity, and spectacular sea cliffs and beaches. If you’re lucky enough to have great weather along the way, you’ll feel like you are on a mini cruise. It’s an awesome experience.

There are restaurants on board, and you can book a cabin for your crossing complete with beds and showers (which we highly recommend), leaving you feeling rested and refreshed by the time you arrive. For more detailed information and links on taking the ferry to Newfoundland, check out our Taking the Ferry to Newfoundland Article.

3. Bring a jacket

Yes, we understand you may be coming in the peak of summer, and we have fantastic summer weather, but Newfoundland is also known to sometimes give you a taste of all four seasons in a single day.

Some days you can wear flip-flops and shorts, but in others, you’ll want a jacket and hat. Because Newfoundland is located at the confluence of the Jet Stream and Gulf Stream, weather patterns can be unpredictable. If you’re coming in summer you won’t need your parka, but if you just show up in sandals and sundresses, there will be days you’ll feel underdressed.

Traveller to Newfoundland will want to keep a jacket with them most times.  The Weather can change quite quickly.

4: Leave your serious side at home

They’re also known for keeping things light, breezy, and humorous. They can laugh at and make light of situations in almost any scenario, they’re always up for a chat. They have a way of making you feel instantly at ease and will take the time to get to know you.

If you take the time and reciprocate, your experience in Newfoundland will be even more magical, and you’ll probably get invited to join some super local experiences that will end up being the highlight of your first trip to Newfoundland. 

5: Go on The Water

If there was a Canadian Province most associated with water, it’s certainly Newfoundland. The ocean is so important here, older houses have their front door facing the sea and their back door facing the road.

If you’re visiting in the summer, taking a trip on the sea is an absolute must. All life in Newfoundland has always been linked to the ocean, and the local’s connection to the water is obvious from the first day you arrive in Newfoundland.

With so many unique boat tours, like the Western Brook Pond Boat Tour in Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that takes you into a 2000 foot glacier-carved land-locked fjord on a lake that’s so clean the water doesn’t even conduct electricity to the world-famous boat tours in the Witless Bay Marine Ecological Reserve that take you along humpback whale feeding grounds with hundreds of whales in the water, it’s well worth it to spend some time on the ocean during your first-time travel Newfoundland.

For detailed information on boat tours in Newfoundland check our Best Boat Tours in Newfoundland Article.

6: Chose Accommodations Wisely and Book Early

Why slum it? Newfoundland has some five-star accommodations you can avail of that will really make your trip, like the Inn on Fogo Island and the famous Stargazing Hot Tubs at Whale House Guest House in the Witless Bay Marine Ecological Reserve where you can whale watch and stargaze overlooking a Marine Ecologically Protected Area and Humpback Whale Feeding Grounds. Book direct with accommodations when possible for the best price and flexibility. 

The Stargazing Hot Tubs at Whale House Guest House overlooking Humpback Whale Feeding Grounds

7: Explore some of the East Coast Trail and Coastal Paths

Hiking on the day and enjoying the evenings in a The East Coast Trail and greater Appellation trail network offer something for everyone, with easy coastal walks that take you to the perfect picnic spots to multi-day wilderness east coast trail hiking adventures, the east coast trail network is your ticket to getting off the beating bath and immersing yourself in nature.

Cribbies Meadows is the most photographed coastal meadow in Newfoundland and is
a popular spot for picnics and whale watching. This meadow is directly on the Tinkers Point Path East Coast Trail Hike

If your trip takes you to the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, be sure to check out the Tinkers Point Path East Coast Trail Hike rated as one of the best East Coast Trail Hikes.

This path is also rated as easy and can be done as a partial walk or a half-day adventure linking the communities of Mobile and Tors Cove.

8: Eat Local

Newfoundland has some of the freshest fish and tastiest seafood on the planet, so be sure to indulge. 

There is no shortage of fresh fish and chips and seafood chowder in every coastal community restaurant and take-out, but there are also some five-star restaurants like Fork RestaurantChinched and Mallard Cottage, some of the best restaurants to eat at on the island, with local veggies, moose, caribou, rabbit, halibut, cod, and lamb all on the menu (with ample vegan and vegetarian options also available).

These, by far, are the top reviewed restaurants in Newfoundland, and competition for reservations can be fierce, so be sure to book a table early and show up hungry.

9: Book your rental car early (very early)

Every summer, demand for rental cars outstrips supply. If you’re thinking you’re going to fly to St. John’s International Airport in the heart of summer, walk to the car rental kiosk, and rent a car on the spot, you’ll probably be told by the rental agent that everything is already booked.

With the increased travel demand this summer paired with shortages of new cars across the planet, if you don’t book your rental car well in advance, you won’t get one.

Most car rental companies, however, offer free cancellation of car rental reservations, so if you have an idea of when you’re travelling to Newfoundland for the first time this summer, make your reservation now. You can always make changes to your booking if needed.

10: Hang out with the locals

Just do a quick google search of what Newfoundland locals are like and your see that friendly and welcoming are the top features they boast.

The locals of Newfoundland are genuinely interested in you and are always up for a yarn (another word for friendly chat) so even if you’re an introvert that has a hard time getting out of their comfort zone and engaging others, try it here in Newfoundland.

You’ll be surprised at just how friendly and welcoming this place is, and you may get invited to a special local event or even make a friend for life.

We just want you to be happy and have a fantastic first-time trip to Newfoundland. And we can’t wait to see you. Got any questions about the ultimate guide to first-time travel to Newfoundland? Post your questions in the comments below, or just call Amanda at 1-709-702-0303 for a friendly chat anytime.

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About Us

Whale House Guest House offers luxury boutique private suites with outdoor hot tubs overlooking humpback whale feeding grounds. Located next to the east coast trail in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, just 30 min from downtown St. John’s.

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