Neil and I were supposed to fly from Nova Scotia, where we were visiting my family, to St. John’s, Newfoundland on the Monday, but on the Saturday we got a call saying otherwise. Surprise! We would instead be flying to Toronto, picking up my boss’ car and two of her dogs and driving there instead. We didn’t have much time to plan, and I was the only one on the car insurance so we knew we were in for a trip and a half. Neil had just arrived in Canada so we took it as an unexpected gift for him to see a quick tour of the East Coast, and all with a little dog on his lap! We stopped in Old Quebec City (one of my favourite places in the country), Moncton, and then took the overnight ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Argentia, Newfoundland.
HOT FERRY TIP: If you can, splurge on a cabin. No one wants to sleep in a chair on a ferry for fourteen hours. Or at least I didn’t after driving for around 3000 kilometers.
This is where we lived for the summer. I was in town working in the writing room on a wicked awesome television show that I’m not allowed to talk about yet (but you KNOW when I can we’ll #celebrate), and Neil was perfecting the role of house husband. We lived in the heart of downtown (which is actually just a few streets) and while it was nice to be in the middle of the action, it was hella noisy (SO many motorcycles). I recommend a good pair of earplugs.
Mallard Cottage – Technically this is in the adorable village of Quidi Vidi, but it is hands down the best restaurant in the city. With an ever-changing menu that focuses on the local, you can’t go wrong. Their seafood is unbelievable and we were lucky enough to be there when they had gotten some fresh beef, which they butcher in house. You absolutely must try their Early Grey cocktail, just trust me on this. We loved this restaurant so much we even bought their t-shirts. Reservations recommended.
Adelaide Oyster House – I’m a sucker for oysters, so we ended up here a few times. They offer small plates, encourage sharing, and the cocktail list is on point. I would say this is the “hippest” place in town, but be prepared to wait because they don’t take reservations (unless you’re a group of 8 or more) and there’s always a long list of people trying to get in to this tiny restaurant. I suggest leaving your name with the hostess and heading across the street for a cocktail at Blue on Water (and if you hate waiting, they’ve got awesome food and oysters too).
Budget Eats: If you don’t wanna break the bank you can’t go wrong with a good order of fish and chips. The seafood on this island province is top notch, so get it in ya while you can. Check out Ches’s for a good to-go option, with a few different locations in the city. Newfoundlander’s love their stuffing (aka dressing) so add some to your poutine, or have a turkey dinner sandwich from Breen’s Deli.
Note for Readers: George Street is a popular street for getting your booze on, it’s all pubs and drinking and music. This ain’t my thing, not even a little bit. Girl loves a good cocktail, but don’t need a street dedicated to getting drunk. But if YOU wanna P-A-R-T-Y, you may wanna check it out.
Summer in Newfoundland means get the hell outside. So many awesome hiking trails and water adventures. Everyone told me it’s the best time of year to be there, and as I was there for an overnighter in the winter many years ago, I would have to agree!
Land: I don’t think you could do a travel guide to St. John’s without including something on Signal Hill. This hill overlooks the city and has had fortifications built on it since the 17th century. It also includes an amazing hiking trail with killer views. We ended up sitting on the cliffs for a while and watching some whales jumping around in the water, nbd. Depending on the time of year you can see icebergs fallen from Greenland’s glaciers that have floated down to the harbour, but we weren’t that lucky. And if you hate hiking but still want the view, you can always just drive up the other side! This is especially pretty to do at night. Another great hike is Cape Spear. This one is tricky to do alone, as you need to have a car parked on the end to get you back as it’s not a circular trail (unless you’re up for a 20 km hike day). With a bit of planning, this is a real beauty, and the trail is kept well and makes for a pretty easy and beautiful trek.
Sea: We spent the most glorious morning in Bay Bulls doing a 12 km sea kayaking tour with The Outfitters Adventures. I can’t emphasize enough how fun this was. The folks at TOA were super knowledgeable and had tons of info to share. We ended up seeing lots of sea life including a bunch of puffins (Neil’s and mine favourite bird!), but no whales (though they have been known to make an appearance on these tours). We kayaked under waterfalls, into little sea caves, and along Newfoundland’s beautiful rocky coast. Make sure to go with a buddy as they are tandem kayaks, and wear long sleeves as the air off the water can be a little chilly.
Gros Morne National Park
There’s lots to do over the entire island of Newfoundland, but don’t be fooled because the island is HUGE. We didn’t get to see nearly as much as we would have liked. We did make the time to drive to Gros Morne National Park, and I’m REALLY glad we did. It’s about a 7 hour drive from St. John’s, so you can spend the night in Gander (we did on our way there, and stopped for a great swim at Sandy Pond on the way), but drove straight back.
Seriously. Gros Morne is friggen stunning. They have trails for all skill levels, and lots of places to take a dip. And the stars, good grief those stars. I have never seen the Milky Way so clearly.
We did the Tablelands trail, which is super easy, with the added challenge of climbing the rocks when you get to the end if you’re up for it. Then we did Green Gardens. HOT TIP: you can turn around at the stairs to the beach after taking a great photo of the ocean for a nice 9 km hike. OR you can not read your trail map properly and keep going for the most challenging 16 km of your life, including up and down three ascents and fording two rivers. Oops. Luckily Neil was prepared with lots of water and snacks for us, and the views were incredible, but this hike is not for the faint of heart. Loved that I did it, probably wouldn’t do it again any time soon.
Then there’s the mountain itself – Gros Morne. Two 16 km hikes in two days? Why not? An 800 metre hike up to the submit, and once you go up you can’t go down the same way, so gear up for a 10 km hike wrapping down the other side. Pack a lunch to enjoy at the top and give you that extra oomph for your trek down. You’re pretty much guaranteed to see a moose or two on this trail, we saw four! This is also a super challenging hike. I didn’t NOT have a panic attack half way up the ascent, but I had a good teammate who let me go nice and slow and didn’t complain (even though he’s climbed Everest and I can barely climb a set of stairs).
Bonus way to explore Gros Morne is to do it with one of your best friends who you haven’t seen in months and lives on the other side of the country (holla Christina!).
Off the Beaten Path and Worth Noting
Bonavista Social Club: I’m not talking Cuba, I’m talking Newman’s Cove, Newfoundland. They have a wood oven fire and pizzas to die for, and they grow a bunch of their toppings in a garden out front. We also had the most amazing braised rabbit pasta. Definitely a great day trip from St. John’s.
Grates Cove Studios: This gem of a place warmed my heart and inspired my palette. They serve Korean, Louisiana, and Newfoundland inspired food (ya you heard me). It’s owned by the nicest couple who love food and art and have created a gathering place for both. We played an awesome round of Uno and listened to the rain while we waited for our food to arrive. Worth the journey, hands down (also I totally won the game of Uno).
Loved my time in Newfoundland, can’t wait to go back. Have you been? What do you recommend?
FOR NEXT TIME:
L’anse aux Meadows: Northern Newfoundland Viking settlement. So into it.
Raymonds Restaurant: Fancy and oysters. Excellent excuse to put on red lipstick (not that you need one). Want to give this place a try.
Chopped Battle with Mike Ludwicki: A friend and a kitchen. You be the judge.