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Visiting Newfoundland

Newfoundland is a great place to visit to see beautiful scenery.  The people are as friendly as can be found anywhere. They are extremely tolerant of visitors (tourists) to their land. English was spoken by everyone we met, and some also spoke French or Acadian.

When you go to Newfoundland from the USA, you feel like you have gone very far north, but you have really not. Straight east from Cape Spear, the first land is France. The northern tip of Western Newfoundland is about as far north as the southern tip of Ireland. It is still a long way north to the Arctic Circle.

 Newfoundland is a large place with very limited roads. Outside the larger towns of St. John's, Corner Brook, Gander, and Grandfalls-Windsor, few choices are available for accommodations, restaurants, and fuel. Many small villages did not have any gas stations or grocery stores, and were located so far from one that it appeared that a round trip to get gas would take a half tank.

     Spruce Inn B & B St. Anthony
      Terry's B & B, Norris Point
Hotels and motels are very limited compared to the number of visitors they now get in the summer. We normally travel without reservations, and have little trouble in finding inexpensive accommodations when we stop before 6 PM. This was not true in parts of Newfoundland.

 When we arrived at St. Anthony in mid-afternoon, we stopped at the visitor center to check on motel rooms. St Anthony has two motels. One was full, and the other had one room available. It was a smoking room. All of the better B & B's were also full, but the Spruce Inn did have an opening for the next three nights. We did not want a smoking room, but we took it for one night, and reserved the B & B for the next three nights

This was our first experience with a Bed and Breakfast. It worked so well that we looked for B & B's in other places. One of the best parts of the B & B experience was meeting and talking with other travelers.  Each B & B had a community sitting room with a TV where several people would sit and talk about everything. Families, places visited, places to go visit or to avoid, such as poor or expensive food places, and much more were all topics of conversation. Strangers quickly became friends for a while.

Terry's, in Norris Point, located in Gros Morne National Park, was our second. While motels are scarce, there seem to be a lot of B & B's, but only a few met our requirement of having a private bath. Many are apparently extra rooms that people rent in their homes, but the two pictured here are just B & B's. 

The owner of the Spruce Inn lives across the street and has an employee that arrives early to prepare breakfast and clean the rooms. The included breakfast was home baked bread, toasted, and served with jam. Both Bakeapple (Cloudberry) and Partridgeberry (Lingonberry) jams were served. Both are very good, but I found later that I like the syrups even better. A cooked to order breakfast was available at a low extra cost. Terry stays in his B & B during the summer season while his wife lives in their home a short distance down the street. Terry's included breakfast was bacon and eggs cooked to order. All the B & B's we saw had a no smoking indoors policy.

Listings of motels and B & B's are in the Newfoundland and Labrador Travel guide. It is updated yearly, and can be ordered at I highly recommend that all travelers to Newfoundland obtain a copy.

Of the many places we have visited, Newfoundland was the most "laid-back". My wife noticed that even all the dogs would just lay in the yards or on the porches. None chased a car. It seemed that the only thing the locals did fast was talk. 

Many small villages would have a large number of newer houses with a similar appearance. The top photo shows one typical type. Two stories, square, a relatively flat roof, and an oil tank outside. 

Many of the older houses were painted with bright colors. This yellow house with blue and red trim was typical. Our thought was that the people wanted something to stand out when everything was covered in snow. 

Almost all buildings are wood. Very few are brick or stone. Many small villages would have one or two very large, new, fine looking houses on the edge of town. We wondered what those people did to earn a living.

It appeared that many residents of the small villages did not have automobiles. Many houses did not appear to have driveways, but many did have garages. The garages would have a drop-off to the yard much too great for an auto to climb. Many people were seen walking.

Many houses also had outside doors to nowhere. Many were several feet above the ground. My speculation was that these were emergency exits, but many were fancy doors with glass panels, and had the appearance of a main entrance front door, but no steps. The main entrance was often a plain looking door from the side of the house, often with a small porch. Several houses were seen with back or side doors that opened onto a porch with no steps to the ground, but did have the clothes-line access. It appeared that all houses had clothes-lines. Monday was a popular wash day.

A visitor needs to have flexible plans to allow for weather delays. Fog was common, and caused us to stay in St. Anthony a day longer than planned.  This picture of St. Anthony Harbor shows a typical morning. Inland, where the elevation was greater, the fog would be even thicker.
Fishing was the major occupation in Newfoundland until recently. Catch limits imposed recently due to over fishing of Cod and lobster have resulted in a large reduction in the number of people that can make a living by fishing. However, there are still a lot of fishermen and old fishing villages all over Newfoundland.

Roads. Almost all roads were good pavement, and well maintained. However, many are narrow with deep ditches. If you leave the road, you will likely turn upside down in the ditch. We saw one such car in the ditch along the Canada 1 highway west of St. John's. Canada 1 is the only highway that connects Eastern and Western Newfoundland. It is also the only highway that connects the ferry landing at Port aux Basques to the rest of Newfoundland. There are many places to visit in Newfoundland where the road in is also the only road out. This is especially true in Western Newfoundland. If you visit St. Anthony, you will drive highway 430 for over 250 miles each way, except near St. Anthony you can drive part way on highway 432.

Money. Most places that take credit cards will accept VISA and MasterCard, but some only accept VISA and some only Mastercard. Discover and American Express are not widely accepted. Many places are cash only, so be prepared. Many will take US currency, but not at the same exchange rate as a bank.

Parks. Gros Morne National Park is a great place to visit. Spectacular scenery, and large enough with good roads to require several days to see it all. Multi-day hikes are available for those so inclined. One group that stayed one night with us at Terry's started a several day hike up Gros Morne Mountain from the end of the Western Brook Pond boat ride. They had to carry full packs with all the food and shelter they would need. They carried jugs of water and water purification equipment.

Terra Nova National Park did not impress me. Canada 1 highway passes through the park, and is the only significant road in the park. Terra Nova is not a good place for sight-seeing from a vehicle. It is probably a good place for a camping excursion, but that was not for us this trip.

The Bad Part. Other than the problem of finding suitable accommodations, the only bad experience we had with Newfoundland was getting there. It is a long way from home. The ferry ride is about 6 hours of sitting. They do have cabins with beds that can be rented, but that was not of interest to us. They did have reasonably priced food, both breakfast and lunch, in the cafeteria. We saw no whales, or other sea animals of interest during the two rides we had.

We did not get to see it all. We did not visit the south-central part where Fortune Bay is located. There are two roads into this area, one to each side of the bay, but each is a long drive with the same road to return. After three weeks, we were just tired of seeing many beautiful areas, and wanted to see something different. We would love to go back to see the parts we missed, but I don't think we will make the trip a second time. If we did go back, I would like to go earlier in the summer when icebergs and whales are more likely to be seen.

Back to the Newfoundland start page.

Go to Viking page.        Go to Sea and Land Animals.  

Go to Birds of Newfoundland.   Go to Sights of Newfoundland.

Back to the 2002 vacation page.

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