Top reasons western Newfoundland is on your bucket list

Rich in unique rock formations, towering fjords and postcard-worthy fishing villages, Newfoundland’s west coast is a treasure trove of attractions that will thrill any traveler. Here’s just a taste of the best things to do in Western Newfoundland.

What to see

There is 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 filled with cultural, historical 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.

Gros Morne National Park

Ranked among Canada’s top national parks, this UNESCO World Heritage Site amazes with its breathtaking vistas, verdant boreal forests and glacier-carved fjords. The Tablelands are particularly unique, whose arid, rust-colored landscape seems more at home on Mars and offers one of the few places on the planet where you can walk on Earth’s mantle. Try doing the Tablelands Trail with a Parks Canada guide (if you’re lucky you’ll have Marcella who will share fascinating information about the unique rocks and plants of the mountain). Be sure to visit the Gros Morne Discovery Center to see the Miawpukek—Middle River exhibit, which explores the stories and traditions of a Mi’kmaw community on the south coast of Newfoundland.

L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site

Located near the picturesque town of Saint-Antoine, discover the fascinating archaeological remains of a Viking encampment at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, Viking history truly comes to life as costumed characters recount the trials of daily life as visitors try their hand at the ancient arts of blacksmithing and weaving.

Visits and activities

Activities for all tastes, energy levels and ages abound in Western Newfoundland.

Picnic and paddle with Wild Gros Morne: Kayaking Bonne Bay is a unique way to experience the beauty of Gros Morne and maybe spot an otter or whale or two as you paddle to a private beach to enjoy a delicious homemade picnic.

The anchors weigh: Head to the Ocean View Hotel for Anchors Aweigh, a truly unique musical performance by an incredibly engaging local group of artists sharing beloved Newfoundland folk songs, humor and dance.

Gros Morne Theater Festival: In the town of Cow Head, at the new Nurse Myra Bennett Center for the Performing Arts, guests will spend an evening to remember enjoying dinner and a play at this engaging dinner theater. The talented ensemble presents pieces from a national and international repertoire. Then, take a soothing stroll through St. Mary’s Botanical Garden adjacent to St. Mary’s Anglican Church. This easy-to-miss gem is a little horticultural paradise.

Gros Morne Adventures Discover Mekapisk: Learn about the native history of the area with the help of guide and outdoor enthusiast extraordinaire Keith Payne. Among other things, Payne — with unparalleled patience — even teaches attendees how to make a fire (you can do it, believe me!) and how to 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-eroded mountains.

Dark Tickle Expeditions: Not sure how to choose between whale watching or iceberg watching? Choose both with this zodiac tour that gives you the chance to see the world’s largest population of humpback whales and 10,000-year-old glacial giants.

Grenfell Heritage Properties: Discover the remarkable life and adventures of Sir Wilfred Grenfell, a doctor who dedicated his life to helping the people of western Newfoundland. The incredibly well-stocked gift shop is worth a visit on its own for its tantalizing selection of local produce and crafts.

Where to eat

Foodies can feast on everything from traditional Newfoundland brewis (cod stew), to a tantalizing array of fresh seafood, and gourmet dishes that will satisfy even the pickiest of palates.

Elegant Chanterelles serves decadent seafood pasta (the tastiest I’ve had in years) with lobster in a creamy saffron chive sauce. It also offers decadent homemade desserts and the best wine list in the region.

Upstairs singular Dark Tickle Company store, you’ll find Café Nymphe, a charming bistro with a tantalizing menu of homemade delicacies. Meals are delicious, but don’t leave without trying the homemade ice cream made from local wild berries like baked apple and partridge berry served in a uniquely shaped sculpin cone. The shop below offers a unique selection of local jams and gifts.

The Black Spruce Restaurant showcases local and sustainably harvested food and is one of the area’s most popular spots for a special night out. The seafood chowder topped with roasted garlic oil is an epicurean treat.

Located in the quaint town of Trout River, Restaurant by the sea is a popular family spot where you’ll feast on a seemingly endless selection of fresh seafood like lobster, mussels, snow crab, halibut, salmon and cod. The sunsets are truly amazing.

How to get around

Ride in style

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 advice that you won’t find in guidebooks. Try to catch the inimitable Bruce LeDrew as your driver. Charming, attentive and quick, he does everything to ensure that his passengers have an unforgettable time in western Newfoundland (it was thanks to him that we saw our first iceberg!).

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