10 Tips for Your First Visit to Newfoundland
Newfoundland Trip Planning 101
With its rugged natural beauty, unique cultural heritage, and friendly locals, it’s no wonder why Newfoundland has become an increasingly popular destination for travelers. Whether you’re looking to explore its quaint fishing villages, hike its stunning national parks, or indulge in its delicious seafood cuisine, Newfoundland has something to offer for every type of traveler. However, planning a trip to this island can be a bit overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors. That’s why I’ve put together this guide to provide you with some essential travel tips to help make your visit to Newfoundland a memorable one.
Be aware of how big the island is
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone planning a trip to Newfoundland for a week and thinking they visit St. John’s, Gros Morne, and L’Anse aux Meadows without being completely exhausted and spending half their trip in their car. Newfoundland is 400,000km², which is just a bit smaller than California. It takes about 7.5 hours to drive from St. John’s to Norris Point near Gros Morne and another 4 hours to head up the Great Northern Peninsula to L’Anse aux Meadows. Be sure to look up the driving times between places you plan to visit and make sure it’s realistic for your timeframe. If you only have a week, pick one region and take your time.
Book your car rental early
Speaking of cars and driving, it’s really hard to fully explore Newfoundland without your own vehicle. If you’re flying in, I highly advise you book your rental car early. Very early. If you’re visiting during the busy months of June, July, or August you should probably have your vehicle rental secured by March. There’s a limited supply of rental cars on the island and since public transit outside of St. John’s or Corner Brook is pretty much non-existent, if you fly here you’re going to want one.
Get on the water
At least once during your visit get out on a boat. Whether you’re looking for whales, icebergs, puffins, jigging a cod, or exploring the shoreline, you’ll get to see the province in a whole new way from the water. Most towns will have some type of boat tour available.
Newfoundland is surrounded by stunning ocean scenery, from towering cliffs and rugged coastlines to majestic icebergs and pods of whales and dolphins. A boat tour will give you the opportunity to explore this incredible landscape up close and personal, and to see sights that you simply can’t access by land. Additionally, many boat tours offer the chance to learn about the history and culture of Newfoundland from knowledgeable local guides, as well as to sample fresh seafood and other local delicacies while enjoying the ocean breeze. Whether you’re interested in wildlife watching, sightseeing, or simply soaking up the incredible ocean views, a boat tour is an unforgettable way to experience the magic of Newfoundland. So don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to see the province from a whole new perspective.
Pack for all seasons
Even if you’re visiting Newfoundland in the summer, you need to be prepared for all kinds of weather. I always tell people that, in Newfoundland, June is not a summer month. Be prepared for cool temperatures, rain, sun, wind, and maybe even a bit of snow. It’s not unheard of to encounter a flurry in early June. It’s best to pack layers for all occasions.
Dressing in layers is key, as it allows you to adjust your clothing to match the changing weather conditions throughout the day. Be sure to bring a waterproof jacket or rain poncho, as well as sturdy, comfortable shoes suitable for hiking and exploring the rugged terrain. Additionally, while summer temperatures can be mild, it’s not uncommon for temperatures to dip down at night, so be sure to pack warm layers like a sweater or light jacket. By being prepared for all weather conditions, you’ll be able to fully enjoy all that Newfoundland has to offer.
Be prepared to be called duckie
This is more likely to happen in the smaller communities but be prepared to be called a term of endearment from someone you don’t know. Whether it’s the server at a restaurant, the host at your B&B, the cab driver from the airport, or a cashier at the corner store, you just might hear yourself called “me duckie”, or “me love”, or “me dear”. Don’t be alarmed. They’re not being fresh, it’s just the way we talk. We speak English here, yes, but with a colourful twist on it.
One of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in the local culture is by sampling the delicious cuisine at local restaurants. While chain restaurants can be convenient and familiar, they often lack the unique character and flavor that make local eateries so special. By choosing to dine at local Newfoundland restaurants, you’ll have the opportunity to taste fresh, locally sourced ingredients prepared with authentic recipes and techniques passed down through generations. From savory seafood dishes to hearty stews to sweet and sticky desserts, Newfoundland cuisine offers a tantalizing blend of flavors and textures that you won’t find anywhere else. So why settle for the same old generic chain fare when you can enjoy a truly unforgettable culinary experience by eating local?
Visit in the shoulder season
If you visit during May, September, or October, not only will you avoid the crowds and higher prices of peak summer months, but you’ll also be able to take advantage of more comfortable temperatures and stunning fall foliage. Additionally, during the summer months, car rentals can be scarce and expensive due to the high demand from tourists. However, in the shoulder season, you’ll likely find better availability and more affordable rates for transportation. Whether you’re interested in hiking the trails, exploring charming fishing villages, or learning about the unique culture and history of Newfoundland, the shoulder season offers a perfect opportunity to experience the beauty and charm of the province in a more relaxed and affordable setting.
Bring your camera
From breathtaking coastal landscapes to charming historic buildings, there are countless unique sights and scenes that you’ll want to capture and cherish forever. Whether you’re exploring the rugged coastline dotted with brightly colored fishing villages, admiring the majestic icebergs that drift past the coast, or hiking through the stunning national parks filled with towering cliffs and lush forests, Newfoundland offers endless opportunities for stunning photography. Additionally, the province is home to a vibrant arts and culture scene, with colorful festivals, lively music performances, and unique museums and galleries that provide plenty of opportunities to capture the essence of the local culture. So be sure to pack your camera and get ready to capture the unforgettable beauty and charm of Newfoundland!
Know the difference between St. John’s and Saint John
I didn’t realize how many people made this mistake until I started a tourism business myself. There were enough people who didn’t realize that St. John’s and Saint John are not the same thing (and there’s no city called St. John) that we had to make a point of emphasizing that we were in Newfoundland. One city is the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador while the other is a city on the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. If you’re in Newfoundland and book a walking tour in Saint John, you’re going to have a bad time of it.
Don’t drive on the highways at night
There are approximately 125,000 moose on the island of Newfoundland and many of our roadways go through prime moose territory. There are over 600 moose-vehicle accidents reported each year, 70% of those between May and October, which is when you’re likely to be visiting us. Hitting a moose is nothing like hitting a deer. The average moose weighs between 700-900lb and stand 5’-6’ tall, so prime windshield height. They’re also very hard to see at night since their fur doesn’t reflect light very well. The likelihood of injury is twice as high between dusk and dawn as compared to daytime so plan the bulk of your highway driving for daylight hours.
And there you have it – my top tips for making the most of your first visit to Newfoundland! Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to an unforgettable experience on the island. Whether you’re a hiker, a history buff, or just looking for a little R&R, Newfoundland has something for everyone. So what are you waiting for? Book your trip, pack your bags, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!
Book Your Trip to Newfoundland & Labrador
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Expedia. It's one of my favourite search engines because it allows you to search for and compare flights from multiple airlines.
Book Your Accommodations
You can book your hotel with Booking.com as they have the most comprehensive inventory so they are best for booking a hotel. If you want to stay in a vacation rental or cottage in Newfoundland & Labrador, use VRBO to find the perfect place for the whole family.
Book Your Car Rental
Newfoundland & Labrador is mainly rural and it's best to have a vehicle at your disposal. Be sure to book your car rental with Discover Cars early because they often sell out in summer.
Book Your Travel Insurance
While Newfoundland is generally a safe province, you never know when something could happen. Be prepared with travel insurance from SafetyWing. Travel insurance has certainly saved my butt before.