Top 10 tips for visiting Newfoundland – the edge of the world

 

When people find out I’m a travel writer, they invariably ask me what my favorite place is. I usually reply, “That depends on what I’m in the mood for.  My favorite exotic place would be Papua New Guinea. Favorite country is Turkey. Favorite city is Buenos Aires. But Kauai, which had been holding firm as my favorite island for ages, just got replaced by my new found love, Newfoundland.

Downtown St John's

1. You could easily spend a month driving around this huge, breathtakingly gorgeous (we’re talking on par with Angelina Jolie) marvelously quirky province. Note: the province is actually named Newfoundland and Labrador incorporating the island of Newfoundland and mainland Labrador to the northwest, but most locals refer to them separately.

2. In 1949, Newfoundland (originally England’s oldest overseas colony) joined Canada as its youngest province. Previously known as the “Grand Cod Fishery of the Universe” it fell upon hard times when the cod fishing ended. Due to a booming oil and gas industry it is snapping back with a vengeance.

3. With only one week to visit, I was wisely advised to split my time between the vibrant capital city of St. John’s (the oldest English-settled city in North America) and “out of town”, where I explored the scenic coastal villages sprinkled along the dramatic coastline of the Avalon Peninsula.

Scenic villages

4. The historic capital city of St. John’s is a winning combination of small town charm and a sophisticated cultural scene. A wee walk out of town brings you to the Leaside Manor, an impeccably maintained 1920s heritage inn, where old world charm meets modern convenience.

Leaside Manor, St John's

The Compton House, their lovely sister property next door, is an elegant Victorian mansion surrounded by an appealing English garden. Tip: ask to have breakfast delivered and nibble on it while you while luxuriating in your double-size Jaccuzi.

5. Food lovers have a plethora of farm/sea/forest to table restaurants (run by passionate proponents of Newfoundland cuisine) to choose from.

Here are some of my recommendations to get you started:

Book far in advance for a table at the elegant Raymonds Restaurant, voted Canada’s best new restaurant.

The quaint 18th century Mallard Cottage features updated, Newfoundland classics using freshly foraged, tongue-to-tail food from the area’s finest purveyors.

At Bacalao, for a once in a lifetime experience, order the “Iceberg Growler” cocktail, made with iceberg gin and served over 10,000+ year old iceberg ice cubes which pairs nicely with Bacalao’s “soon-to-be-famous Seafood Chowder” and Tongues and Cake, Bacalao’s nod to the cod, a delicious duo of lightly crisped cod tongues (similar to tender calamari) with a pan-fried salt cod cake.

Tip: Save room for the spicy Honey Brown Ginger Cake made with local artisanal Quidi Vidi Honey Brown beer.

Chinched Bistro serves imaginative, international cuisine based on traditional methods and local products. Exciting palate-pleasing entrees include spicy Korean Fried Octopus, Cod Tongue Tacos and Chicken & Waffles.

Chinched Bistro - world's best charcuterie
Tip: The Charcuterie Plate is a thing of beauty. Chef Shaun spends months handcrafting a variety of sausages, paté’s, and terrines that comes with assorted homemade crackers.

6. After exploring the colorful, jellybean row houses, museums, galleries, and original boutiques which occupy the strollable downtown area, head down to the dock for an unforgettable boat trip (complete with 12,000 year old icebergs that have floated down from Greenland, humpback whales, puffins and a fascinating commentary by Capt. Barry) with the award-winning Iceberg Quest Ocean Tours.

Gorgeous icebergs

7. Pick up your rental car for the easy hour drive to Green’s Harbour (passing many “Beware of wandering moose” signs along the highway) where you’ll check into one of the ten beautifully appointed suites at the Doctor’s House Inn & Spa, your secluded little patch of heaven for the next few days.

Doctor's House Inn and Spa

Like finding a cherry in the box of chocolates, this hidden gem is so special that you’ll be tempted to snuggle into your four-poster feather bed, leaving only to wander the acres of flowering fields, gardens, and trails, perhaps pausing to pat the Newfoundland ponies, sheep and goats. The head down to the dining room, for a table by the crackling fireplace or perhaps you’d prefer a view of the garden, for a creative Table d’hôte dinner prepared by the amazingly talented, award-winning Executive Chef Chris Chafe. It absolutely blew my mind that Chafe, a Canadian Top-Chef contender, makes everything in-house, from the artisan breads, farm-fresh cheese, salads from the on-site greenhouse to the palate-cleansing sorbets.

Tip: As soon as you arrive book any of their sumptuous Aveda spa treatments where you’ll gratefully succumb to Rosemary’s (the esthetician) magical touch.

If you can manage to tear your self away from this paradise, some gorgeous, albeit quirky spots well worth a visit include:

8. Brigus. A picturesque fishing community on Conception Bay where you can tour the home of famous polar explorer Bob Bartlett, who accompanied Perry to the North Pole.

9. Cupids. It is virtually impossible not to fall under the spell of this 400 year old village, the first English colony in Canada.  Stop in at The Cupids Legacy Centre, a beautifully designed museum that brings to life the fascinating story of John’s Guy’s (the first settler) colony. Don’t miss the rooftop faerie garden.

Tip: drive up the hill for an impeccably fresh, fried cod lunch at Cupid’s Haven, housed in what was originally St. Augustine’s Church.

10. Dildo. A must-see, if only to take a picture of the town’s sign. It actually is a charming, G-rated, fishing town, where the locals have a lot of fun naming their boats. The Dildo and Area Interpretation Centre provides information about the cod fish hatchery located on Dildo Island in the 1800s. It also houses a 40-foot whale skeleton and artifacts made by people living here 3,000 years ago.

Funny boat names

Tip: take a detour on the drive back to St. John’s to Rodrigues Winery, famous for their local fruit wines. Try a sip of their “berry pie in a bottle” including their hand-picked Wild Blueberry, Exotique Wild Cloudberry or Partridge Berry wines and liqueurs.

Janice Nieder is Founder of Travel with Taste.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Comments (38)

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  1. joan says:

    Looks like the perfect vaca getaway for us – an interesting blend of history, natural beauty and high end pleasures.

  2. Laura Tuck says:

    Just curious that you didn’t mention The Colony of Avalon – as well as the many other archaeological sites. The history of Newfoundland starts long before John Guy.

  3. Diane Davis says:

    Great that you got to scratch the surface at such great spots near the capital. Can’t wait to see what you find farther afield on you next trip. You might need to add a second month. :-)

  4. steven says:

    wow! sounds absolutely like a place that needs to be on my bucket list. Have always wanted to go, but after reading this, I am going to make travel inquiries about going on my next vacation. Thanks for such a great descriptive article with a lot of pizazz. Send her to some more exotic places!

  5. Adrienne Byrne says:

    Thank you for writing such a beautiful piece about my homeland! I’m going home for the first time in years and already have reservations at Raymond’s and The Doctors House!

  6. peter barry says:

    well janice the first place to see when you come to newfoundland is the west coast and up to grose morne.there is no better place on the island.

  7. Shelley Senior says:

    You really should check out the west coast of the province, and Gros Morne National Park. It’s very, very beautiful!

  8. Gloria Guy says:

    And you only saw such a small portion of this island!! Imagine the review you would write if you saw the rest of it, especially the west coast and the Northern Pen. especially Gros Morne World Heritage site!!! And Labrador as well!! You missed the best parts!!

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Other amazing places to see in my beautiful home province:

    1) Cape Spear- Just outside St. John’s. It is the most easterly point in North America.

    2) Twilingate- Iceberg Alley. About a seven hour drive from St. John’s. It’s a gorgeous town rich in history and plenty of icebergs to see in the summer.

    3) Trinity- Beautiful town in Trinity Bay. Amazing B&Bs and heritage sites.

    4) Lester’s Farm- Just outside St. John’s. Farmer’s Market, animals, and a strawberry u-pick,

  10. Tim Winsor says:

    All for enjoying the sights of the Avalon peninsula, but the west coast of the island is amazing as well. Maybe a little more for the outdoor adventurer, marble zip tours and spider challenge, Gros Morne National Park hiking trails, fishing and hunting. It’s a big island, lots to see and do!

  11. Paul Kelly says:

    So glad you got to see a little bit of our homeland. It is a unique place that embraces and celebrates it’s culture and newfound prosperity. From my house I can see Icebergs and whales and within a 5 minute drive can shop boutique stores on the oldest street in North America. You only have to visit one to feel its pull.

  12. L R says:

    Don’t forget to drop by Moo Moo’s for their fabulous Turtle Cheesecake! I’ve been to more than 40 countries and nothing compares!

  13. Jw says:

    Lovely indeed! However, there is sooooo much island left to explore. You have literally just seen the “tip of the iceberg”

  14. Frankie says:

    You failed to mention the southwest Avalon area. Beautiful and scenic Placentia, the ancient French capital formerly known as Plaisance. And the scenic Cape Shore and Cape St. Mary’s Bird Sanctuary. Just to name a few!

  15. Chris says:

    That’s only the Avalon peninsula, which is only about 5% of the province. There are so many other cool things to do and see here. One of which is George Street in St. John’s, which has the most bars per square kilometer and per capita than any other in North America.

    Check out these links for more places to visit and things to do: http://www.newfoundlandlabrador.com/placestogo/topdestinations

    http://www.explorenewfoundlandandlabrador.com/101-things-newfoundland-labrador.htm

  16. Mairead Fitzgetald Pelletier says:

    Thank you so much for the lovely, descriptive adventures you had! What a beautiful province! I am so pleased to say that I am from there and that I have many relatives that live there!

  17. JOHN TAITE says:

    ITS TOO BAD YOU NEVER GOT THE CHANCE TO VISIT THE CENTRAL PART OF NL,THE TERRA NOVA GOLF COURSE IS THE MOST SCENIC IN EASTERN CANADA WITH A COUPLE HOLESSHOOTING OVER TWO SALMON RIVERS. THEN ON TO SALVAGE FOR THE MOST SCENIC AND RUGGED COMMUNITY ON THE ISLAND. AS FOR THE RESTAURANTS WILL CHUCKYS IN HAPPY ADVENTURE IS AS GOOD AS ANY RESTAURANT THAT I HAVE EATEN IN. TRY THEIR FIS AND CHIPS ALSO THEIR FISH PLATTER.

  18. Carol-Dawn McLaughlin says:

    Thank you for the wonderful article on my home provience, Your photos are so beautiful now I am really home sick. Will have to go back (St. John’s) real soon.

  19. Janice Nieder says:

    I know I just tousled the tip of the iceberg but saw enough to know I can’t wait to return and explkore much more of this incredible island, particularly the West coast. thanks for all the great suggestions

  20. Edwina Suley says:

    Thank you a thousand times over for not referring to us Newfoundlanders and Labradorians as ——- the “N” word, and for not referring to this place as …”the old name for Alcatraz…the “R—”. We are so much more than that. Again, it was a pleasure to read about my province in respectful, polite, and accurate prose. Thank you again, so much.

  21. Leanne says:

    I agree with the others that commented before me, you definitely need to visit the West Coast next time you come here! Make my home town Corner Brook your home base, (stay at the beautiful Glynmill Inn) and then go from there to so many axing places, the first of which should be Gros Morne National Park, the very best destination on the island. There, you will find breathtaking landscapes that you can’t see anywhere else on the planet and meet the most wonderful people. Make sure you get to Cow Head, Woody Point, Trout River, Norris Point and Rocky Harbour. Once you’ve seen what you can of Gros Morne (though you could reasonably spend a whole month there and not see it all) make sure you head to the French Shore (the Port au Port Peninsula) to take in beautiful cliffs, beaches and turquoise waters, see some pretty cute alpacas and listen to the locals speak and very interesting mixture of English and French! And don’t forget to see as much as possible of the Bay of Islands. In and around Corner Brook alone you can zipline, river raft, kayak and hike in the summer, or snowmobile, ski and dog sled in the winter. You would love this beautiful side of the island, I guarantee it!

  22. Kara Moss says:

    Hi! I’m very happy to hear you loved my home as much as I do, but I must agree with everyone else’s comments, the central part of NL, the west coast, and particularly the great northern peninsula are by far the most beautiful parts of our province. I’m from a small town called Springdale in central NL. We are home to North America’s largest glacial deposit and a short 12 minute drive away is my Mom’s hometown of King’s Point which is by far my favourite spot on the island! Rocky Harbour and Bonne Bay on the Northern Peninsula are some of the most breathtakingly picturesque towns in the world! Can’t wait to read your next review! God bless!

  23. Kirk Edwards says:

    For everyone that seems to be whining that Ms. Neider didn’t make it to their area of Newfoundland, relax. It’s a big island. Plus the article is also about food and the restaurant choices here on the west coast are generally abysmal, (with the exception of the Wine Cellar). I’m sure their are many adventure tourism articles that have written about the west coast that those in St. John’s don’t moan about. The whole province is glorious, absolutely! But it would take at least 3 weeks to see most of it, and that’s if your rushing :)

  24. Lisa says:

    Great article. Given that your blog is for the luxury traveller, and that you had such a short time frame, I think that it makes perfect sense that you stuck to the East coast. The other parts of NL are beautiful–I’m from the West Coast myself–but I would suggest that the tourism industry in our parts tends to focus on adventure travel – not handcrafted Charcuterie! If you ever have another week, I’d suggest that you head out to Fogo. There are interesting things afoot there that are quite fine, so I hear. However, you might find a luxury cottage in Gros Morne…who knows!? Happy travels!

  25. Jeff says:

    Sadly, you didn’t get to see the other 95% of the province which is just as beautiful and quaint as the 5% that you were able to see in a week’s visit.

  26. Deborah says:

    Lovely article! My friends and I are heading there in two days time – our first visit. Can’t wait! Sadly, we only have time to do the East Coast from Ferryland up to Fogo Island with many stops along the way. We’ve heard this is a stellar year for icebergs. We’ve booked meals at Mallard Cottage, Ferryland Lighthouse Picnics and Fogo Island Inn. Maybe we could do a food review :)

  27. Joanne says:

    Wow! Glad you enjoyed my Home Province.You seriously need to check out the West Coast,as well.Talk about breathtakingly beautiful,Gros Morne National Park will leave you mesmerized.Also,there are many other beautiful coastal communities to check out.A week in Newfoundland is only a tease!Please go back.

  28. Have heard rave reviews on Fogo Island Inn and have it down for my next visit, so please do report back after your visit. I also have down, on my short list, Gros Morne (when I was staying at the Dr.s House, I shared a dinner with the loveliest couple from there (a local Dr and his wife-serious foodies!) who invited me to visit.
    Also, has anyone been to Trinity ( Fisher’s loft and BonaVista Social club?)

    Another fab spot I give two thumbs up to is a meal at Grates Cove Studio ( featuring Newfoundland and Cajun inspired menu) and then a walkabout Grates Cove to see the rockwalls that mark the landscape.

  29. Jerry Byrne says:

    Hosting Janice here at The Doctor’s House was a pleasure – and reading this article even more so. Talk about hitting the nail on the head – Newfoundland truly is stunning, and we hope this has inspired many more to make the journey!

  30. Holly Rodgers says:

    We visited St. John’s three years ago for our son’s wedding. The most striking for us was the friendliness of the people. We packed in so much music, hiking, eating, whale watching, site seeing etc in one week. Everyone had a story or a local treat to share. I would love to spend more time on the island.

  31. jean says:

    Hi, thank you for getting out the message that Newfoundlanders and Labradorean’s already know… We have the most beautiful scenery, the warmest people and the most rugged, spectacular landscapes all around us.
    I moved to Dildo 23 years ago and every day its beauty takes my breath away and the people fill my heart with their love and kindness. Sharing the water with splendid whales and watching the amazing sun set over the cove makes me feel I’m one of the luckiest people alive, and it leaves me thinking life feels good… A nice feeling.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on our beautiful town, you were spot on!

  32. Courtney says:

    Bonavista Social Club is a must visit. I am from a small town on the Bonavista peninsula and the Bonavista Social Club has quickly become a must visit on my trips home. Amazing fresh food, great atmosphere, and a beautiful view. My parents were lucky to watch whales coming up the bay one day while enjoying their meal there. You will not be disappointed.

  33. Peter says:

    This was such a great article to read, and I think it really does capture nl in a nutshell. One thing I should add, for prospective travelers, is that the weather here is often not fantastic. Not that its enough to deter you, but please bring relatively warm clothes anytime other than summer, and dont ever forget your raincoat. Ive seen too many people visit here on a whim and need to buy hundreds of dollars worth of clothes because they dont have the foresight to check the weather in advance. Happy travels!

  34. A big shout-out of thanks for all your tips for my next trip out. As many of you already mentioned one of your most fabulous resources is the PEOPLE- who are without a doubt some of the friendliest folks ever. Also, I was struck by how appreciative you are of living in Newfoundland. It’s lovely to be around you.

  35. Liam Keough says:

    1. L’anse aux meadows – viking settlement 1000 years old.

    2. Ferryland – large archaeological site of Colony of Avalon settlement in 1621. There is a very large collection of artifacts to check out including being able to walk on an unearthed cobblestone walkway from back then. Very cool.

    3. Gros Morne National Park – beautiful park, great hiking, great scenery

    4. George street – Street in downtown St. John’s full of pubs, bars, and eateries. Great night life. There is a place for everybody there. So diverse

    5. Signal Hill – Little castle located in St. John’s. Verrry nice views of the city and ocean. It is the site where the first wireless transatlantic signal was recieved from Cornwall UK. There is more history to it than that….

    For the foodie in you….
    – Chafe’s Landing in Petty Harbour ( featured on Food network )
    – Yellowbelly Brewery in St. John’s ( beer brewed on site, great food )
    – Rocket Bakery in St. John’s ( featured on Food network )
    – Raymonds in St. Johns ( best new canadian restaurant)
    – Pi in St. John’s ( best non traditional pizza in the world )
    – Lighthouse picnics in Ferryland ( unique experience, great food )

    Downtown St. John’s is actually home to countless unique and wonderful places to eat. If you are a foodie like myself, get down there and see for yourself.

  36. Joel silver says:

    One thing not mentioned is the nicest people in North America are Newfoundlanders. I travel to Newfoundland on business and am definitely in love with everything about the place. The island is special the people are extra special.

  37. Melissa says:

    Sounds like you did a similar Baccalieu Trail trip as I did last year. I loved my stay at the Doctor’s House. What a great retreat!

    If time allows, a visit to the west coast is also a must.

  38. Mike says:

    Good thoughts about St John’s. However, yes the west coast is definitely worth your 2nd visit.(I’m biased, but I would have made that your first visit.) Gros Morne Nat park is the place to come. I wouldn’t suggest staying in Corner Brook; rather come out to Woody Point and make that your home base. I’ve a facebook friend from Ottawa who did exactly that and said she had the best vacation of her life. Bring your hiking shoes for gentle or rugged experiences. Or if you are not into hiking, just come for the music, whales,eagles,very few boats (just two tour boats on Bonne Bay) and splendid eating places where the decks are literally over the water (Legion, Merchant Warehouse,Loft,Galliots etc…there’s plenty here to do, see and enjoy! Oh yes, and best of all…the people….everything you hear about Nflders is true…. friendly, inquisitive, happy to say hello and help you in any way. Cheers!~Mike PS Don’t forget to visit Trout River…just 10miles away…..and the most beautiful end of the world!

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