Photo Story | Newfoundland and Labrador

Ten “Best Kind” Experiences on a Newfoundland Circumnavigation

© Dennis Minty

Each Adventure Canada expedition holds its own unique highlights. Find out more about the top ten experiences on this trip of a lifetime. Hearty culture, rich history, unbeatable scenery, and the rockin’ geology here make us want to shout, “Yes, b’y!” from the rooftops.

Of Canada’s ten provinces, Newfoundland is by far the most colourful. Also known affectionately as the Rock, this is where hearty fishing families have endured for generations, wresting a living from the sea and developing a famously extroverted culture that’s rich in folk music, friendly humour, delightful dialects, and unique foods (Jigg’s dinner! Scrunchions! Flipper pie!). The best way to see it all is the old way, by water.

L Anse aux Meadows actor sitting

© Rob Poulton

1. Get dramatic at L’Anse aux Meadows, the only authenticated Norse site in North America

One thousand years ago, at the tip of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula, Leif Erikson and his crew of Vikings became the first Europeans to visit North America. The settlement they established, L’Anse aux Meadows, was unearthed in 1960 and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tour the intriguing interpretive centre and then visit the reconstructed Scandinavian-style sod buildings, where staff in period costume re-enact and explain what life here was like for those pioneering Norsemen.

Hiking Gros Morne

© Rob Poulton

2. Appreciate why Newfoundland is called the Rock at stark, stunning Gros Morne

Welcome to Gros Morne National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site! Newfoundland’s most dramatic landscape is an austere, ancient, wind-wracked plateau 600 metres high, slashed by plunging fjords. Choose a hike that suits you best. (Five hours along the Trout River? A short stroll on the Tablelands?) The park’s Discovery Centre provides a wealth of information about the geological importance of the area. The nearby town of Woody Point, meanwhile, is great for crafts and cappuccino.

Francois Newfoundland from above

© Dennis Minty

3. Fall in love with Francois, the finest little outport on the Rock

Pronounced "Fransway," this small town is peak Newfoundland. The iconic remote outport is home to ninety or so fisherfolk and—since there’s no road out—zero cars, all snug in a rocky amphitheatre with a waterfall cascading right through town into the splendid harbour. If you’re ambitious, scramble 200 metres up to the top of the Friar. If you’re feeling more relaxed, stick to the boardwalks that wriggle through town. Photograph the vivid homes clinging to the shoreline, visit the small general store and museum, grab a drink at the Shed, and chat with the garrulous locals.

Red Bay Basque ship replica

© Rob Poulton

4. “Basque” in Labrador’s sixteenth-century whaling history at legendary Red Bay

Crossing the Strait of Belle Isle, you reach mainland Labrador and the Red Bay Basque Whaling Station, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site in this great province. Here, Basque mariners operated North America’s first export industry, hunting bowhead and right whales and rendering their fat into oil. The interpretation centre features items recovered from the wreck of the 500-year-old whaling ship San Juan. Pay your respects at the whalers’ graveyard, check out the excavations at Saddle Island, and hike to the top of Tracey Hill.

Conche Newfoundland boats

© Dennis Minty

5. Get cozy in Conche, the cultural epicentre of French Newfoundland

Snug on the province’s French Shore, the village of Conche is pure Newfoundland charm. Don’t miss a visit to the town’s pride and joy: the locally crafted French Shore Tapestry, winding through the Interpretation Centre for a staggering 227 feet and depicting the history of the region. Or take a hike around town to spy whales, bald eagles, and an intriguing landscape formation called the glass hole. Nothing caps off a day better than a fresh-caught homemade fish supper, folksongs, and a dance (also called a scuff) with warm-hearted locals at the community hall.

Dancing at Miawpukek First Nation

© Dennis Minty

6. Dance and delight in lively Miawpukek

A long Zodiac ride up the Conne River takes you to the community of Miawpukek First Nation, whose name means “middle river” in the Mi’kmaq language. It is one of the two fastest growing communities in the province and is a vibrant hotspot. Here you can visit the powwow grounds, enjoy a cultural presentation, and receive a formal welcome from the local leaders this special community.

St Johns Newfoundland buildings and lights

© Dennis Minty

7. Savour the colourful cityscape of St. John’s, Newfoundland

Clinging to Canada’s easternmost tip, Newfoundland’s historic and vibrant capital, St. John’s, is a city brimming with character, and it's worth planning to spend a few extra days here. Sailing through the famous Narrows, keep your eyes out for its photogenic attractions—including Signal Hill, the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, The Rooms (the city’s cultural centre), and the bright houses of the Battery neighbourhood. Beyond, the wild North Atlantic takes over. Watch for whales, seabirds, and, in the springtime, icebergs—some towering twenty-five storeys above the waterline!

Whales breaching Grand Banks

© Dennis Minty

8. See why whales and seabirds flock to the famous Grand Banks

The shallow waters along the south coast of Newfoundland are among the world’s richest fishing grounds, for both humans and animals alike. While at sea, search the waves for whales—humpbacks especially, plus fins, minkes, and white-sided dolphins. Birders, too, will be delighted by the likely profusion of gannets, shearwaters, and sea ducks.

Bonavista lighthouse

© Dennis Minty

9. Revel in picturesque charm on the north coast

Newfoundland’s north shore is famous for the traditional, picturesque fishing villages dotting its rocky isles and inlets. Prime attractions include Bonavista, the landing place of explorer John Cabot in 1497 (O buona vista! Oh, happy sight!), with its landmark lighthouse and full-scale replica of Cabot’s ship, the Matthew. Also check out the Mockbeggar Plantation, with the oldest wooden buildings in Newfoundland, once central to the area’s fishing operations, and the lushly forested oceanfront of Terra Nova National Park.

Guests dancing at Saint Pierre

© Dennis Minty

10. Sail to France—yes, really!

Just kilometres offshore of Newfoundland is Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, an official territory of the French Republic and its last colonial jurisdiction in North America. The 6,000 locals drive Citroens, smoke Gauloises, and pay in euros, but are crazy about ice hockey. Here you can (over)indulge in French food, wine, and shopping—without having to fly clear to Paris.