How to Get to Newfoundland by Ferry and What Is the Best Ferry to Take to Newfoundland from Nova Scotia?

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What Ferries go to Newfoundland?

This question depends on where you are coming from. You can take a ferry to Newfoundland from Labrador and Quebec (the Northern part that borders Labrador). A ferry also connects the French Island St. Pierre et Miquelon to the town of Fortune in south-eastern Newfoundland, but by far the most popular ferries are the ones that connect Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

Over 95% of all visitors to Newfoundland arrive by ferry to Newfoundland from a ferry that departs from the small community of North Sydney, Nova Scotia, that’s situated on the north of Cape Breton. It’s important to note that there are two ferries to choose from when departing from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, and they take you to very different locations, so be sure to choose the right ferry to Newfoundland.

Is there a bridge to Newfoundland from Nova Scotia?

There is no bridge from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland. If you have visited other Atlantic Canadian island provinces like Prince Edward Island or the island of Cape Breton you have probably arrived at these islands by bridge since they’re closer to the mainland part of Canada. Newfoundland, however, is a lot further offshore and there is no bridge that connects the island of Newfoundland to Mainland Canada

What is the best way to get to Newfoundland?

Because Newfoundland is a big island off the east coast of mainland Canada, getting there means you will either have to fly or take a ferry.

Can I sleep on the Ferry to Newfoundland?

Having a snooze on the ferry from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland is a great idea if you’re making the ferry crossing from North Sydney to Port-aux-Basques and a necessity if you’re planning on taking the longer ferry from North Sydney to the Newfoundland port of Argentia. A limited number of berth accommodations, which are private rooms with a bed and shower, are available for rent on both crossings at an additional cost if you’re looking for maximum comfort during your ferry to Newfoundland. There are also quite comfortable reclining chairs onboard both ferries if you’re unable to secure a berth or want to rough it a little during your crossing.

An example of a cabin berth on the Marine Atlantic ferry from North Sydney to Port Aux Basques
An example of a cabin berth on the Marine Atlantic ferry from North Sydney to Port Aux Basques

Is there a restaurant on the ferry from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland?

Yes, both the ferry to Port-aux-Basques and the Ferry to Argentia have restaurants on board and offer everything from small snacks to a full-on buffet and fine dining. It’s always a good idea to bring a few extra snacks on board with you but there are plenty of food options available onboard. If you chose to eat at the buffet or one of the sit-down restaurants, see if you can get a table next to the window since the views on a nice day can be breathtaking.

the family-friendly atmosphere in one of the dining options on the Newfoundland to Nova Scotia Ferry
A family-friendly atmosphere in one of the dining options on the Newfoundland to Nova Scotia Ferry

What is there to do on the ferry crossing to Newfoundland from Nova Scotia?

There is no shortage of things to do on the ferry crossing from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland. On a nice day relax outside on one of the sun decks and look for whales, seabirds, and marine mammals. If you’re lucky enough to take the ferry from Nova Scotia to Argentia you will also have the rare opportunity to see the remote southern coast of Newfoundland which is only accessible by boat and showcases large cliffs, stunning scenery, and a plethora of wildlife viewing opportunities. Marine Atlantic Ferries also offer games rooms for kids, a bar, and a movie theatre that plays family-friendly movies for everyone to enjoy. Make friends with the locals, explore the outer decks, and enjoy the journey.

Enjoy the Movie Theatre on the ferry from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia
Enjoy the Movie Theatre on the ferry from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia

What is the best ferry to take to Newfoundland from Nova Scotia?

Traveling to Newfoundland by ferry from Nova Scotia means you have two options to choose from. Marine Atlantic is the company that operates ferries from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland. All the ferries are comfortable and huge, with restaurants and movie theaters on board. One of the ferries Marine Atlantic operates, the MV Caribou, is the largest ferry in Canada, so it feels more like traveling on a cruise ship than a car ferry.

Ferry routes between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland
Ferry routes between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland

Be sure to choose the right ferry since one will take you from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to the community of Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland on the West Coast of Newfoundland while the other will take you to the port of Argentia in Eastern Newfoundland, close to the capital city of St. John’s. The ferry that goes to Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland, from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, operates year-round while the ferry that goes to Argentia, Newfoundland, operates seasonally. Here is a breakdown of the two ferry options that connect Nova Scotia to Newfoundland so that you can make the best decision:

OPTION 1: Take the ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland

The trip by ferry to Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland, from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, takes approximately 6 hours. When you arrive in Port-aux-Basques you will be on the West Coast of Newfoundland, 900km from the capital city of St. John’s and approximately 300km from Gros Morne National Park.

Options for Getting to Newfoundland by Ferry
Getting to Newfoundland by Ferry

If you are planning to primarily visit Western Newfoundland or plan to start your adventure in Western Newfoundland and spend a few days exploring and adventuring across Newfoundland as you make your way to the east coast, this is a good ferry to choose. If, however, your plan is to start your visit to Eastern Newfoundland near the city of St. John’s and the Witless Bay Marine Ecological Reserve, taking a ferry to the port of Argentia may be a better option for you. The cost of taking the ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port-aux-Basques, is just $28 per adult passenger and $79.50 per car. If you’re traveling in a larger vehicle, like an RV, there are additional charges along with a 25% fuel surcharge. This ferry operates year-round and offers multiple sailings every day. During peak season and holidays the ferry can book-up fast so be sure to reserve a spot. You can reserve any Marine Atlantic ferry online or by calling the Marine Atlantic Reservations number at 1-800-341-7981.

OPTION 2: Take the ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Argentia, Newfoundland

Taking the ferry to the Newfoundland port of Argentia from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, is an adventure in itself and a great choice for anyone planning to visit St. John’s and the east coast of Newfoundland. This ferry ride is like taking a mini ocean cruise and is a great experience, especially if you have fine weather during your journey. This ferry journey to Newfoundland from Nova Scotia takes you along the south coast of Newfoundland and is one of the best ways to view this remote part of the province. The area along Newfoundland’s south coast has the highest concentration of Blue Whales, the largest animal in the world, and the ferry journey along the south coast of Newfoundland offers world-class nature and wildlife viewing opportunities.

During fine weather, this ferry will often have a marine biologist on board to help you understand what you’re looking at which means if the weather and visibility is good during your ferry crossing, the ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Argentia, Newfoundland, is like being on a marine safari.

The cost of taking the ferry to Argentia from North Sydney is $78.50 for adult passengers and $163.25 per car. If you are driving a larger vehicle like an RV or are towing a trailer expect additional charges along with the standard 25% fuel surcharge as is standard on all Marine Atlantic ferry crossings from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland. The Argentia ferry is a seasonal ferry that runs from June to September. The ferry crossing from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Argentia, Newfoundland, takes approximately 17 hours, but with so much to see and do during the journey, it feels much shorter. This ferry departs from North Sydney on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and departs the Newfoundland port of Argentia on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

I’m planning to see all of Newfoundland, should I start my adventure on the west coast in Port-aux-Basques or on the east coast in Argentia?

If you’re planning to see all of Newfoundland, meaning you want to start by taking a ferry to one side of the island and then depart from the opposite coast, consider taking the ferry from North Sydney to Argentia and begin your Newfoundland adventure on the east coast close Newfoundland’s capital city of St. John’s and the Witless Bay Marine Ecological Reserve. This area is a great place to start your tour of Newfoundland since it has the largest concentrations of migratory seabirds, whales, boat tours, restaurants, culture, and people. The eastern part of Newfoundland is also home to the East Coast Trail, a well-developed network of coastal paths dedicated to showcasing Newfoundland’s natural beauty.

Starting on the east coast of Newfoundland has many advantages, including better access to rental cars, proximity to Newfoundland’s largest airport, big shopping districts, restaurants, and everything else the populous Avalon Peninsula has to offer.

After getting acquainted with Newfoundland on the east coast, you’ll have a better idea of what the province is like and what you want to see best on your journey east. Since the ferry from Port-aux-Basques to Nova Scotia is shorter, it’s best to save this one for last when you’re out of steam and making your way back to mainland Canada.

Taking the Ferry to Newfoundland
Taking the Ferry to Newfoundland

Can I walk on the Ferry and hire a rental car in Newfoundland?

Yes, rental cars are available in Newfoundland and on both coasts but reserving one in advance is key. Rental cars often sell out in peak summer season and competition for certain models can be fierce. If this is your plan be sure to reserve well in advance for the best possible experience and price.  

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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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