Newfoundland & Labrador is the most Easterly Province of Canada. The population of the entire Province is just over 500, 000 people. I recently took a solo trip to the island of Newfoundland, which is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, off the mainland of Canada.
I made my way from one end of the island to the other over a period of two weeks. My itinerary consisted of St. Johns, Bonavista & Terra Nova, Twillingate (with a quick stop in Gander along the way), and finally Rocky Harbour in Gros Morne National Park.
There are any number of blogs out there that can give you lists of what to see, things to do and places to eat. I'll definitely let you in on some of the spots I’d recommend, but I learned a great deal during my two weeks on The Rock, and I’d love to share those experiences with you.
The People You Meet While Traveling Have a Lasting Impact on Your Memories
I started off my journey in St. John’s. I spent 4 days there, the first of which was Canada Day. There was a big Canada Day party taking place on George Street, which is known for its pubs and bars. I hit all the tourist spots, such as Signal Hill and Quidi Vidi, and enjoyed strolling the streets full of jelly bean colored houses.
My favorite stops to eat and drink in St. John’s were The Adelaide Oyster House, The Duke of Duckworth Pub, Yellowbelly Brewery and Public House, Nautical Nellies, and my daily coffee came from Fixed Coffee and Baking.
I prefer to sit at the bar of a low key pub or restaurant when I’m traveling. As a solo traveler, I find it is an easy way to meet locals and chat up the bartender about what to see and do. One night in particular, I was eating at a pub, and I met several groups of travelers. We shared stories about where we were from and where we were going. Later I met a local gentleman, and we laughed and talked for hours. He gave me some great background on Newfoundland, and travel tips for the rest of my journey. We even ended up dancing to the local band playing at the pub.
I didn’t know these people, and I may never see them again. But I’m grateful for the ability I have to travel to different places, and meet people from all over the world. I get to hear their stories and adventures, and learn about how different people live.
In this age of electronic communication, I think people often overlook the importance of human interaction. I think it’s important to reach out to others, to communicate & share. And I truly believe that no matter how small or how insignificant it may seem at the moment, when you meet someone, you will always leave behind a memory, a story, and perhaps even a smile.
You May Be Traveling Solo, But You’re Never Really Alone
I made my way from St. John’s to a small town called Port Blanford. The drive from St. John’s was stunning- rugged and beautiful. I quickly realized that outside of St. John’s, Newfoundland is a lightly populated province. I found a small bed and breakfast, which turned out to be a wonderful stop. I spent my nights here, and the fantastic breakfasts were more than enough fuel to spend my days in nearby Bonavista and Terra Nova National Park.
Bonavista is where the explorer John Cabot discovered North American in 1497. It is a great little town with some fantastic stops for shopping and eating. I found East Coast Glow, an iceberg water cosmetics studio, which was the perfect place to pick up some gifts for friend and family. I stopped in for lunch at Shannon’s Pub & Grill, and chatted up some locals. The Bonavista Lighthouse is also a must see. There are trails to hike around the lighthouse with great views of the ocean and even some puffins!
Terra Nova is the most easterly National Park of Canada. The park’s name is Latin for Newfoundland, and is also the name the Portuguese gave this area. Camping is available, although I opted to stay at the bed & breakfast because the temperatures at night were quite cool, even in July. There is plenty of hiking here among the 400 square kilometers of the park, and I particularly loved how varied the trails were. There’s something for everyone and every skill level at Terra Nova.
While in Port Blanford, I met another solo traveler touring Newfoundland in the opposite direction. We exchanged tips and hints from what we had already seen. Our host was amazed that we were traveling solo- she wanted to know if it was lonely. I think once she saw how we interacted with each other, and the other guests, she realized that being alone doesn’t mean that you’re lonely.
Sometimes Strangers Know You Better than the People Who Know You Best
Twillingate was by far my favorite stop in Newfoundland. On my way, I will note that I made a stop in Gander to visit the North Atlantic Aviation Museum. It’s a fascinating look at the Gander airport’s role in the history of aviation. And of course, there’s a small 9/11 Memorial because of the large role the people of Gander played that day.
While in Twillingate, you might see an iceberg or two. It was a bit late in the season for them this year, but I did take a whale watching tour. Whales aside, the sea birds and coastline of Newfoundland are amazing. No matter where your trip to Newfoundland takes you, a boat tour is a must!
In Twillingate, there’s a winery called Auk Island Winery which makes all of its wines from local fruit and berries. There’s a huge variety of wines available for tasting, and I wish I could’ve brought them all home with me.
I was able to slow down a bit in Twillingate. I stayed at an amazing little apartment in Crow Head called The Viking. Here I really enjoyed getting to know my hosts, and appreciated the time spent sitting on their porch chatting with neighbors. It was during this time with my hosts, that they made the observation of how happy and content I was. I feel family or friends sometimes question my happiness because I have taken a less traditional trip through life, and it made my heart sing to know that my true joy does show through.
Gros Morne/Rocky Harbour
Occasionally, You May Need to Depend on Someone, & That Someone is You
Gros Morne was my last stop. It was a long drive from Twillingate, and the roads in Newfoundland aren’t always the smoothest. Thankfully though, they aren’t terribly crowded. And while the drive is stunning, don’t expect to find a Timmies along the way to grab a coffee! I’ll admit the only time I really felt “alone” on this trip was when I wished I had someone there to share the driving!
In Gros Morne, there is a tiny town called Rocky Harbour. Here I found The Fish Sheds- an adorable group of rental cottages. They were right on the Harbour, and were decorated impeccably. Again, the hosts were amazing and very knowledgeable about the area.
While I was here, I went hiking in Gros Morne, and went on a sunset boat tour. But here in Gros Morne, I was also finally “screeched in”- and became an honorary Newfoundlander.
Rocky Harbour was on the edge of the world, with little cell service, and very spotty wifi, so I had some time to think. I was a little nervous prior to this trip- I had never taken a solo trip this long, and Newfoundland felt like it was worlds away. I was proud of myself for navigating safely from one town to the next. I met so many wonderful people, and whether we spent a few minutes, a meal, or a few days together, each one of them left as a friend. I spent lots of time way out of my comfort zone, and it felt really satisfying.
If you’ve never been to Newfoundland, it should be on your bucket list! There’s so much to love about this island. And no matter where life leads you, always remember to take your time, stop to say hello to a stranger, and enjoy the unexpected surprises that pop up along the way.