Newfoundland has one of Canada’s most remarkable National Parks. Gros Morne National Park is situated in Western Newfoundland and includes more to see and do than you might realise. With World UNESCO Sites, 450 million year old geology, and the densest moose population in Newfoundland, Grose Morne National Park is a great place to visit year round and a must see for anyone visiting Western Newfoundland.
1: Tableland Mountains
The Tableland Mountains are a World UNESCO Site. These mountains are approx 2000′ tall today, but once they were the tallest mountains on earth. The mountain formations we see today are actually the roots of giant mountains that once stood here. At that time, the Tableland Mountains would have been taller than mount Everest is today. As the original mountain eroded away, the base of the mountain sprung up from the ground, revealing the rare exposed earth mantle rock and serpentinised peridotite the Tableland Mountains are made up of today. Even though the mountains are at a modest elevation, the topography has an alpine feeling since the rock contains levels of selenium and arsenic that keeps plants from thriving. These mountains are special to say the least, and this area of Gros Monre National Park is off limits to snowmobiles, ATV’s, and anything mechanised, making the Tablelands popular with backcountry hikers, skiers, and snowkite enthusiasts. The Tableland Mountains is also home to the Southwest Gultch Mountain Cabin, a Parks Canada remote mountain cabin, and the highest mountain cabin in Newfoundland.
2: Western Brook Pond Boat Tour
Even if you’re not a boat tour person, seriously consider making an exception and attending this tour. Western Brook Pond is actually a Fjord that’s now detached from the ocean, making it a rare Freshwater Fjord, and one of the rarest places on the planet. The trip to the boat begins with a hike that takes approx 1 hour to complete. It’s an easy trail with the occasional bench along the way. At the end of the trail is the boat launch, ticket booth, and the spot where you board the boat. The Fjord itself has 2000′ steep granite walls, giant waterfalls, and geology unlike anywhere else. The water inside the Fjord is so clean it doesn’t even conduct electricity, and the shoreline is non-existent with the steep cliffs disappearing into the water. The trip is operated by Bon Tours and is easy, fun, and very well rated. If you only take in one boat tour during your trip to Gros Morne National Park, make sure it’s this one.
3: Shallow Bay
The community of Cow Head in Gros Morne National Park is home to Shallow Bay Beach and the National Park Campground right next to it. Shallow Bay is special because the bay is protected from waves and currents by an island chain near it’s mouth and the water is shallow. This means on a sunny day the water heats up rapidly, making it a great place to swim. Because of Shallow Bay’s protected coastline and favourable wind conditions, it’s also an ideal spot for windsports like kitesurfing, The campground at the north end of the beach offers large well maintained campsites and the hottest showers in Gros Morne. The beach is well worth a visit and the campground is top notch.
4: L’ance Aux Meadows UNESCO World Heritage Site
It’s been part of Viking Legends for centuries, but in 1968 the definitive proof came when archaeologists discovered evidence of a Norse cloak pin. This original archaeological work by Anne Stine Ingstad and Helge Ingstad was expanded on with subsequent discoveries proving Vikings like Leif Erickson lived for a period of time here in Newfoundland, which they referred to as Vinland.
A visit to this World UNESCO Heritage Site is a must for anyone visiting Gors Morne National Park and the Great Northern Peninsula. The L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site showcases what life would have been like at this Viking settlement. Engage with staff playing the part of Vikings and gather around the communal fire at nightfall to hear famous Viking legend stories about Loki, Erik the Red, and tragedy on the seas,. Well worth the drive and visit L’Anse aux Meadows and the drive up the Great Northern Peninsula is guaranteed to be a highlight of your adventure in Gros Morne National Park.
5: Java Jacks in Rocky Harbour
Do you like healthy and tasty food? How about really good coffee and baked goods fused with a friendly low key atmosphere and big ocean view? If that’s your thing, Java Jack’s Restaurant in Rocky Harbour has you covered. Recommended to foodies by Lonely Planet and countless “Where to eat in Newfoundland” guides, this summertime restaurant has been pumping out great food every summer since 2003. Get everything from a bag lunch to wild game and vegan options. You can even check out the organic garden in the back where a lot of the herbs and greens are sourced. When in the area, we never miss a chance to have a scoff at Java Jacks. Rocky Harbour is also the largest settlement in the National Park and includes several stores, the park warden office, gas station, and craft shops.
6: Watch Seals in St. Paul’s Inlet
St. Paul’s is a small community just north of Shallow Bay Beach and Cow Head. It’s the kind of place that you miss if you blink. Only a few hundred people live in this sleepy town, but the inlet itself is well know for seals. The streams and rivers in this area are rich with trout, nesting seabirds, and a seasonally large population of seals. This is also a prime kayaking area for those interested in seabirds and marine mammals. As exciting as seals are, please remember they’re wild animals. Like most creatures, they’ll defend themselves if they feel cornered or threatened.
7: Woody Point
Woody Point is an interesting community. It’s right at the turn-off to the Tableland Mountains and close to the Gors Morne National Part interpretation centre. The town is well known for hosting cultural events, live music, and of course the yearly writers festival which is one of the largest annual events in the community. Summer in Woody Point is full of things to do including gatherings, workshops, and great places to eat. The community has a boardwalk along the water, a cool local diner, and grassy coastal hills perfect for wildlife viewing.
8: Gros Morne Mountain
Gros Morne Mountain is the second largest mountain on the island of Newfoundland. If you’re wondering what the tallest is, it’s called mount Cabox which is located in a remote area of the Lewis Hills and is just a little taller than Gros Morne Mountain. The trail up the mountain is 16 km long and is rated as difficult. It’s a fun hike to the summit, but you don’t need to go all the way up to enjoy the mountain. The trails at the base are exciting too and the parking lot offers a good spot to stop and take in the scenery. If you do attempt to summit Gros Morne Mountain, ensure you’re thoroughly prepared, have checked the weather with Gros Morne Park Warden Office, and are aware of any seasonal closures of special announcements. Because Gros Morne Mountain is a wilderness backcountry area prone to severe weather and sudden changes in visibility, it’s important you’re dressed for the weather, have food, water, appropriate clothing, a means to navigate even in low visibility conditions, and a headlamp in case you’re stuck on the mountain after dusk. Plan your hike and let someone know where you’re going, when you expect to be back, and what to do in case you don’t return as expected.
9: Trout River Boat Tour
Check out the deep glacier carved fjord behind the Tableland Mountains on this unique zodiac adventure. Departing daily throughout the summer from the community of Trout River in Gros Morne National Park, this boat tour is great for any nature lover and geology enthusiast. This swift watercraft zodiac adventure is faster paced than the Western Brook Pond boat tour and is a great way to spot animals like arctic hare, bear, moose, and caribou while checking out the World UNESCO Site from the water.
10: Western Brook Beach
If you like chilling out on the beach. Western Brook Beach is a nice quiet protected sandy beach that’s a great place to relax after the Western Brook Pond boat tour or anytime you want to get away for a siesta . It’s easy to see from the parking lot of the Western Brook Pond boat tour since the river leading from Western Brook Pond leads directly to the beach. Although people do swim here, if you’re considering the same be aware the water off Western Brook Beach has a strong rip tide, making swimming there dangerous. If you’re looking to spend time in the water, Shallow Bay beach next to Cow Head just north of Western Brook Beach is a safer option