Rich in one-of-a-kind rock formations, towering fjords and postcard-perfect fishing villages, Newfoundland’s west coast is a treasure trove of attractions guaranteed to delight any traveler. Here’s just a taste of the best things to do in Western Newfoundland.
What To See
There’s no end to the things to see in Western Newfoundland. From Channel-Port aux Basques to the top of the Great Northern Peninsula, the west coast of Newfoundland is a wealth of cultural, historic and natural wonders. It’s also home to not one, but two UNESCO World Heritage sites — L’Anse aux Meadows (the only authenticated Viking site in North America) and Gros Morne National Park.
Ranking among Canada’s best national parks, this UNESCO World Heritage site astonishes with its breathtaking vistas, verdant boreal forests and glacier-cut fjords. Especially unique is the Tablelands, whose barren, rust-colored landscape looks like it’d be more at home on Mars and offers one of the few places on the planet you can walk on the earth’s mantle. Try doing the Tablelands Trail with a Parks Canada guide (if you’re lucky you’ll get Marcella who will share fascinating insights into the mountain’s unique rocks and plants). Be sure to visit the Gros Morne Discovery Centre to view the Miawpukek—Middle River Exhibition, which explores the stories and traditions of a Mi’kmaw community of Newfoundland’s south coast.
Located near the picturesque town of St. Anthony, discover the fascinating archaeological remains of a Viking encampment at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here the story of the Vikings is truly brought to life as costumed characters recount tales of the trials of everyday life as visitors try their hands at the ancient arts of blacksmithing and weaving.
Tours and Activities
Activities for all interests, energy levels and ages abound in western Newfoundland.
Picnic & Paddle with Wild Gros Morne: Kayaking Bonne Bay is a one-of-a-kind way to discover the beauty of Gros Morne and maybe catch sight of an otter or a whale or two as you paddle to a private beach to enjoy a delicious homemade picnic.
Anchors Aweigh: Head to Ocean View Hotel for Anchors Aweigh, a truly unique musical performance by a local group of incredibly engaging entertainers sharing beloved Newfoundland folk songs, humor and dance.
Gros Morne Theatre Festival: In the town of Cow Head at the new Nurse Myra Bennett Centre for the Performing Arts, guests will have a night to remember when taking in some dinner and drama at this engaging dinner theatre. The talented ensemble present plays from a national and international repertoire. Afterwards, go for a calming stroll in the St. Mary’s Botanical Garden adjacent to the St. Mary’s Anglican Church. This easy to miss gem is a tiny horticultural haven.
Gros Morne Adventures Discover Mekapisk: Discover the region’s Aboriginal history with the help of guide and outdoorsman extraordinaire Keith Payne. Among other things, Payne — with unmatched patience — even teaches participants how to build a fire (you can do it, trust me!) and cook bannock.
Western Brook Pond Boat Tour: Offering some of the best possible views of Gros Morne, this boat tour takes you through a towering fjord, where you’ll see wildlife, waterfalls and glacier-scoured mountains.
Dark Tickle Expeditions: Don’t know how to choose between whale or iceberg viewing? Choose both with this zodiac tour that gives you the chance to view the world’s largest population of humpback whales and 10,000-year-old glacial giants.
Grenfell Heritage Properties: Learn about the remarkable life and adventures of Sir Wilfred Grenfell, a doctor who dedicated his life to help the people of western newfoundland. The incredibly well-stocked gift shop is worth a visit on its own for its enticing selection of local goods and crafts.
Where To Eat
Foodies can feast on anything from traditional Newfoundland brewis (cod stew), to a mouth-watering array of fresh seafood, to fine-dinning fare that will satisfy even the pickiest palate.
Elegant Chanterelles serves up decadent seafood pasta (the tastiest I’ve had in years) with lobster in a creamy saffron and chive sauce. It’s also got decadent homemade desserts and the best wine list in the region.
Upstairs in the singular Dark Tickle Company store you’ll find Café Nymphe, a charming bistro with a tempting menu of homemade delights. The meals are delish but don’t leave without trying the homemade ice cream made from local wild berries like bakeapple and partridge berry served in a uniquely shaped sculpin cone. The shop below has a unique selection of local jams and gifts.
The Black Spruce Restaurant highlights local and sustainably harvested food and is one of the most popular spots in the region for a special night out. The seafood chowder topped with roasted garlic oil is an epicurean treat.
Set in the picture-perfect town of Trout River, Seaside Restaurant is a popular family-owned spot where you’ll feast on a seemingly endless selection of fresh seafood like lobster, mussels, snow crab, halibut, salmon and cod. The sunset views are truly incredible.
How To Get Around
Given the shortage of rental cars, hiring a private driver with a local company like Ride in Style can be a smart option. This is especially true given that the drivers are locals and have a wealth of information and tips that you won’t find in guide books. Try to nab the inimitable Bruce LeDrew as your driver. Charming, solicitous and quick on his feet, he goes the extra mile to ensure his passengers have an unforgettable time in western Newfoundland (it’s thanks to him we saw our first iceberg!).