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The Ultimate Two Week Newfoundland Road Trip

If you’ve got a Canada bucket list, I bet road tripping through Newfoundland is on it. If not, what are you doing? If chasing icebergs, making friends with whales and puffins, hiking inland fjords, and eating the freshest seafood, spotting sea stacks and stunning coastal landscapes, and partying on the street with the most pubs per mile in Canada is your kind of vacation, then you need to road trip through Canada’s easternmost province.

They say there are no accidental tourists in Newfoundland. Just getting here in the first place can be a bit of a challenge. But it’s so worth it.

Getting Here and Getting Around

There are only two ways to get to the island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador: fly or sail. The two most common methods are taking the ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port-aux-Basques on the southwest coast or flying into St. John’s.

By Air

St. John’s International Airport is the largest and busiest airport in the province and many tourists arrive here for their vacation since it’s located in the capital city. Air Canada and WestJet are the two main carriers though you can also get some flights from the mainland with PAL Airlines.

You can also fly into Gander or Deer Lake, depending on where you plan to visit.

If you fly, you’ll definitely want to rent a vehicle since seeing anything other than downtown St. John’s is difficult without wheels. Be sure to book your car way ahead of time since there’s limited rentals on the island, especially in the high season.

By Sea

If you opt to bring your own vehicle, you’ll be taking a ferry to get here. Marine Atlantic runs two routes during the summer between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. You can take the 7 hour sailing to Port aux Basques (2x/day, 7 days/week) landing 900km from St. John’s (perfect for visiting Gros Morne) or the 16 hour sailing to Argentia (1x/day, Sunday/Monday & Wednesday/Thursday), landing approximately 130km from St. John’s.

whale

Choosing a Newfoundland Road Trip Itinerary

Newfoundland and Labrador is a big province. To properly explore all of it you’d need weeks and weeks and weeks. Most visitors only have a few days to a couple weeks. My recommendation is that if you only have a week choose just one region: Eastern, Central, Western, or Labrador. All the more reason to come back for a second (or third or fourth) visit, right?

If you have two weeks you can expand and pick two regions. Or if you really want to get the NL sample platter, you can stretch a bit, like I’ve done in the itinerary below, and include some of Eastern, Central, and Western.

Labrador is an amazing destination but its distance from the island portion of the province makes it difficult to combine into a road trip (unless you want to do the Great Northern Peninsula and southern Labrador combo). You should definitely make a plan to visit the Big Land though.

You can do this two week road trip starting in either direction. If you need to make it a loop, add a full day for driving back across the island.

Total Driving Time: 12h30 (1080km) one-way

St. John's

Day 1-2 – St. John’s

Start your Newfoundland road trip off in the province’s capital. Spend a day or two exploring colourful downtown, picking up souvenirs and trying the great local restaurants. If you haven’t been to St. John’s in the last decade, the food scene has changed. A lot. You can get tacos, tapas, curries, and banh mi along with your fish and chips.

Head out to Cape Spear for an afternoon spin to the easternmost point in North America. Or if you’re really feeling it, get up at 4am to be the first to see the sunrise in North America. On your way back take the road through Maddox Cove and Petty Harbour for some really pretty views. Stop by the WaterShed Coffee Shop for a coffee and cookie.

In the evening, get Screeched-In at Christian’s Pub on George Street. While you’re at it, take yourself on a pub crawl – there are more bars here than anywhere else.

Brunch at Mallard Cottage in Quidi Vidi is always a treat. Tip: try the cake table. Take a stroll around the lake afterward to work it off. Take a drive up Signal Hill (or hike from The Battery) and see if you can spot where you parked at Cape Spear yesterday.

Where to Eat

Bannerman Brewing, Toslow, St. John’s Farmer’s Market, Mallard Cottage, YellowBelly Brewery, Boca Tapas, Cojones Tacos, Rocket Bakery

What to Do

Enjoy the Pedestrian Mall, count the coloured houses, visit the Rooms, have a pub crawl on George Street, visit Signal Hill, hike the North Head trail, see the sunrise at Cape Spear, have a picnic in Bannerman Park

Brigus

Day 3 – Brigus/Dildo

Driving Time: St. John’s – Dildo 1h30 (123km)

Leave St. John’s and head to the town of Brigus. If you’re an HGTV fan you may have seen this cute little town on their new show, Rock Solid Builds, which is set here. Have a drive around town and see if you can spot any of their projects.

There’s a canal that runs through the centre of the historic part of town and calls out to be photographed. You could visit Hawthorne Cottage, former home of Captain Bob Bartlett, who was in charge of the S.S. Roosevelt when Peary reached the North Pole. Or you could walk through The Tunnel, a hole blasted through solid stone to provide easy access to the Bartlett wharves. Maybe you want to peek into the Stone Barn Museum. Stop at The Quay for the most delicious blueberry crisp you’ve ever had. In fact, if you’re here in mid-August try to catch the annual Brigus Blueberry Festival.

If your schedule lines up, take in a show at the mini Shakespearean theatre in Cupids by Perchance Theatre and maybe go for a stroll on the Burnt Head Trail afterwards.

Make your way over to Dildo – the town where Jimmy Kimmel is mayor – for a photo with the sign in the hills and have a pint and dinner at the Dildo Brewing Company on the water. Don’t forget to pick up a conversation starter of a souvenir from their shop.

Where to Eat

Dildo Brewing Company, E&E Drive-In, The Quay, Yes B’Y Indian Kitchen of Dildo

What to Do

See the canals, take in the view from the Brigus Tunnel, get a photo with the Dildo sign, see a show by Perchance Theatre, hike the Burnt Head trail, go berry picking

Trinity in the Fall

Day 4-6 – Trinity/Bonavista

Driving Time: Dilo – Trinity 2h15 (188km)

After breakfast, get on the road towards the Bonavista Peninsula. Make sure you’ve booked ahead to go out on the water with Skipper Bob from Trinity Eco Tours. If you haven’t been in a zodiac before you’re in for a treat. Let me know how many whales and puffins you see.

The Skerwink Trail is a 5.3km loop with views that don’t quit. Some have called it one of the best hikes in the world. Finish your hike with a stop at Port Rexton Brewery for a pint from one of the first microbreweries in the province. Be sure to try a gourmet grilled cheese from the Oh My Cheeses food truck parked outside. If you’re a hiking fiend, there are seven other trails on the peninsula in the Hike Discovery network, each one worth checking out.

Finish your evening with an early dinner at the Twine Loft (book ahead) and a show by Rising Tide Theatre.

Explore all the Bonavista Peninsula has to offer the next day. Pick up coffee and a treat from Two Whales, check out the town a union built in Port Union, and get up close and personal with some puffins in Elliston and go hunting for root cellars. Find the unique sea arches in Dungeon Provincial Park (you might even see some horses roaming).

Stop by the Sealers Interpretation Centre and learn more about an often misunderstood practice and see the stories of sealers brought to life.

Get yourself an ice cream from Sweet Rock Ice Cream in Bonavista or some homemade butter crisp from Aunt  Sarah’s. If you’re curious just how big (or small) the ship was that carried John Cabot to Bonavista all the way from Bristol, visit the Matthew replica for a tour.

Where to Eat

Bonavista Social Club, The Twine Loft, Oh My Cheeses, Trinity Mercantile, The Boreal Diner, Two Whales Coffee

What to Do

See some whales with Trinity Eco-Tours, have a pint at Port Rexton Brewery, Dungeons Provincial Park, see the puffins at Elliston, hike the Skerwink Trail, visit The Matthew

Day 7-8 – Eastport Peninsula

Driving Time: Trinity – Eastport 1h45 (148km)

Leaving from the Bonavista Peninsula, duck off the highway to the Eastport Peninsula, home to some of the nicest beaches on the island.

Pick one or two of the Damnable Trails to explore – the trail network with the scary sounding name, but beautiful trails. I recommend the Round  Head Lookout for spectacular views of Salvage.

If you time your visit right, you just might catch the Beaches Accordion Festival. If you can, check out the Sunday Stages for a real taste of rural Newfoundland entertainment – musicians playing unamplified in fishing stages on the water. It’s absolute magic.

If kayaking is your thing, head out with Happy Adventure Tours when the water’s calm for some breathtaking shoreline views. If you want to relax, sink your toes in the white sand at Eastport Beach or Sandy Cove Beach with it’s spectacular high cliff backing.

Where to Eat

Chucky’s Seafood & Wild Game Restaurant, Downhome Delights, Ocean Breeze Pub

What to Do

White sand beaches of Sandy Cove and Eastport, hike the Damnable Trail, kayak with Happy Adventure Tours, Beaches Accordion Festival

Twillingate

Day 9-11 – Twillingate

Driving Time: Eastport – Twillingate 2h30 (196km)

Another two and a half hour drive brings you to beautiful Twillingate, one of the towns along Iceberg Alley. When bergs are in season, this is a prime spot to see them. Icebergs melt and get smaller the further south they drift so, in a good season, Twillingate will get some monsters.

Book a shoreline boat tour with Twillingate Adventure Tours. While no one can guarantee icebergs or whales, the gorgeous Newfoundland coastline is a sure thing and Twillingate Adventure Tours has the only boat that can take you under the bridge to explore both sides of New World Island.

Take a drive out to Crow Head to see the Long Point Lighthouse – I guarantee you’ll stop at least once to admire the view. The vistas here are like nothing else. Swing by the Crow’s Nest Cafe for a coffee and a dessert on their patio.

Get tickets for the New World Island Dinner Theatre for the evening and be entertained by funny skits and rousing songs while being served a delicious dinner.

Explore more of the hiking trails in the area, especially one of the trails that takes you through Spillars Cove. And while we may not grow grapes on this island, we do have a winery. Drop by Auk Island Winery for a tasting of their locally made fruit wines. I recommend Fifty Shades of Bay, only partly for the name. 

The beauty of this area is the outdoors and one of the best things you can do in Twillingate is to book the From Sea to Plate culinary experience with Experience Twillingate. Your 4-5 course meal is prepared with hand-harvested seafood and locally foraged edibles, cooked with sea water, over fire on the beach while you relax by the ocean or hunt for sea glass and beach treasure. If you can’t make dinner they also do a morning Mug-Up on the beach. Magic.

Where to Eat

Annie’s Seafood Restaurant, Canvas Cove Bistro, Split Rock Brewery, Crow’s Nest Cafe, Georgie’s Restaurant, Blue Barrel Gallery Cafe

What to Do

Boat tour with Twillingate Adventure Tours, Auk Island Winery, hike the Rockcut Twillingate trails, visit the Long Point lighthouse, New World Island Dinner Theatre, have a Mug-Up with Experience Twillingate, Unscripted Digital Arts Festival

Gros Morne

Day 12-14 – Gros Morne

Driving Time: Twillingate – Rocky Harbour 4h30 (425km)

Twillingate to Gros Morne is going to be a bit of a haul. If you have the extra time, I recommend stopping for a night at Riverfront Chalets so you can go rafting on the Exploits River out of Badger and break up the drive. But since this is only a two-week road trip we’re going to forge ahead.

Gros Morne is on a lot of Newfoundland bucket lists for good reason. The scenery here is out of this world. Almost literally. Inside the park is the only place where you can walk on the Earth’s mantle at the Tablelands. There is hiking galore (20 trails!) and outdoors adventures aplenty. Spend a day hiking to the summit of Gros Morne Mountain or take more leisurely hikes around the Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse.

There are some great festivals happening throughout the year in Gros Morne. Trails, Tales, and Tunes kicks off the season in mid-May. The Gros Morne Theatre Festival runs from May to September, while the Gros Morne Summer Musical Festival happens in July and August. Writers at Woody Point is a legendary events that features well known Canadian musicians, writers, and authors in August.

Book your spot with Bontours for their Western Brook Pond boat tour to see those famous fjord views and waterfalls. It’s an absolutely must if you’re in the area. Don’t be fooled by the name, the pond is actually a 16km long lake with a depth of 165 meters. Getting to the boat is an adventure in itself, located down a 3km trail (~45 min walk). But it’s very worth it.

After all that hiking and walking and exploring, take some time to relax and reflect on your road trip at Shallow Bay Beach, another of the province’s few sandy beaches.

Where to Eat

Java Jack’s, Treasure Box, Fisherman’s Landing, the Old Store Cafe, The Old Loft Restaurant

What to Do

Western Brook Pond boat tour, visit the Tablelands, climb Gros Morne Mountain, Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse, hike the Berry Hill Pond Trail, Shallow Bay Beach, pay a visit to Galliott Studios

Battle Harbour

Ways to Extend Your Visit

Two weeks is hardly enough to see Newfoundland, let alone getting to Labrador, so here are some ways you can extend this road trip if you’ve got the time.

Visit the Great Northern Peninsula

Time Needed: 3 days from Gros Morne

Take your time and have a leisurely drive from Gros Morne up the Great Northern Peninsula to St. Anthony, where you’ll find L’Anse aux Meadows – the first Viking settlement in North America.

Visit Southern Labrador

Time Needed: 3-5 days from Saint Anthony

Take the ferry from St. Barbe to Blanc Sablon, QC and then cross back over into Labrador and head up to Red Bay National Historic Site, a 16th century Basque whaling complex. If you have the time, continue up the Labrador Coast to Battle Harbour, the unofficial capital of historic Labrador, now an all-inclusive experience.

Explore the South Coast

Time Needed: Determined by which town you want to visit

The South coast of Newfoundland might be some of the most remote spots in the province, which also makes them really interesting to visit. There are the towns that you can only reach by provincial ferry like Gaultois, Ramea, and Francois and towns that are a few hours off the highway like Burgeo, Harbour Breton, and Belleoram. Each with their own unique charms.

Pop Over to France

Time Needed: 3-4 days from St. John’s

Take the ferry from Fortune and in 90min you can be in France. Saint-Pierre et Miquelon is a French territory that sits just off the end of the Burin Peninsula. A round trip walk-on ferry ticket costs 24€. Be sure to take your passport since you’ll be leaving Canada. Spend a day or two enjoying French wines and baguettes and strolling the streets.

Explore Central Newfoundland (Fogo, Baie Verte)

Time Needed: 3-5 days

If you want to thoroughly indulge yourself, book a stay at the Fogo Island Inn (3-night minimum starting at $2075/night) – an all-inclusive experience like no other in the world. If you’re not in the luxury market, there are ways to experience the beauty of Fogo and Central Newfoundland at any price point. Explore the towns like King’s Point, Burlington, the beaches of Lumsden, or go rafting in Badger.

Visit Corner Brook and the Port aux Port Peninsula

Time Needed: 3 days from Gros Morne

Corner Brook is the 3rd largest city in Newfoundland (and our 5th largest municipality…it’s complicated) so it’s definitely worth an add-on to your road trip. Once centered on forestry and it’s pulp mill, Corner Brook is now known for its outdoor adventures, like skiing at Marble Mountain, exploring the Corner Brook Caves, and a mountain biking trail network. Be sure to check out their two microbreweries: Boomstick and Bootleg. The Port au Port is steeped in Francophone heritage and makes a nice day trip from Corner Brook.

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Comments

  1. Steve White says:

    July 4th, 2021 at 2:06 pm (#)

    What happened to Tver BurinPeninsula

  2. john vital says:

    November 12th, 2021 at 10:12 am (#)

    Thanks–wonderful information. I have only 2 weeks vacation. my question, Can i return to Ottawa by air from Gros morne ? or do I have to head back to st john’s to take the plane ? thx again

  3. Melissa Hogan says:

    November 13th, 2021 at 6:02 pm (#)

    There’s an airport in Deer Lake, which is close to Gros Morne. There are no direct flights to Ottawa but you can connect through Toronto, Halifax, or Montreal.

  4. john vital says:

    December 20th, 2021 at 2:28 pm (#)

    thx melissa. How far is deer lake airport from Gros morne ? Seems that there is so much to do in Nfld with so little time ! I spent 2 weeks with my wife in the Maritmes, ie.. PEI, NB, Nova Scotia. I enjoyed the Caleids dancing and singing. Like shows like shakespeare or orchestras (we go the National Art Centre to see the Nutcracker or Handel’s Messiah. Anyways, Thx. for the info. john vital

  5. Melissa Hogan says:

    December 22nd, 2021 at 10:40 am (#)

    It’s about 70km from Deer Lake to Rocky Harbour in Gros Morne National Park. Newfoundland and Labrador is a surprisingly big province when you’re driving around, but worth the time.

  6. Karen says:

    October 28th, 2022 at 2:22 pm (#)

    Great site. An abundance of information. We are trying to decide when to travel. When did you go and are the photos you have posted here from the time you were travelling?

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