Travel

Exploring Newfoundland with Adventure Canada

Immerse yourself in Viking archaeology and Basque whaling history while taking in Newfoundland’s scenic coastline and incredible geology

  • Jul 20, 2023
  • 1,201 words
  • 5 minutes

Whale watching, endless coastlines, kayaking and more. Newfoundland is the perfect destination for the avid traveller. Overflowing with picturesque beaches and hiking trails, this bountiful province is just waiting to be explored.  

Affectionately nicknamed “the Rock,” Newfoundland is both an island and Canada’s easternmost province. But not just any island in the North Atlantic. With an area of 108,860 square kilometres, Newfoundland is the world’s 16th-largest island. This province is made for explorers — from the wild and wonderful landscapes of western Newfoundland to the limestone barrens of the Great Northern Peninsula. Thick boreal forests make up most of central Newfoundland, while sheer cliffs and glacial barrens range along the coast of the Avalon Peninsula in the southeast. 

Hearty fishing families have endured the Rock for generations, making a living from the sea and developing a famously extroverted culture rich in folk music and friendly humour, delightful dialects and unique recipes. The best way to experience this rich culture is the old-fashioned way — by sea.

Adventure Canada offers a 12-day small-ship expedition cruise around the island, stopping in some of the area’s most sought-after locations. Beginning and ending in the vibrant capital of St. John’s, this adventure will take travellers full circle through Red Bay, along the northeast coast, to the L’Anse aux Meadows UNESCO World Heritage Site, and more. 

Throughout this adventure, guests stay on Adventure Canada’s Ocean Endeavor, an ice-strengthened vessel with spacious rooms. A fleet of Zodiacs transport guests to the stops along the way. And an on-board doctor, paramedic and medical clinic offer peace of mind. 

When guests aren’t engaged with land activities, sightseeing from the deck, or simply enjoying the views from the comfort of their cabins, they can explore Ocean Endeavor’s many extras —  a salt-water relaxation hot tub, sauna, fully equipped gym, library, gift shop and even an onboard spa. There is a regular schedule of presentations and workshops, and the bravest guests jump into the spirit of the themed parties — or the polar plunge. After a long day of adventure, guests can retire to the Polaris Restaurant with its ocean views — the perfect place to reflect on their adventures. 

Royal Canadian Geographical Society Ambassador Jenny Wong is an accomplished photographer who specializes in wild places and creatures, especially those at either pole. Wong always has her camera in hand and is ready to assist guests in their photography practice while participating in Adventure Canada’s Newfoundland Circumnavigation adventure.

  1. 1. St. John's

    This adventure begins in Newfoundland’s vibrant capital St. John’s, located on the eastern tip of the Avalon peninsula. Here, travellers will board the Ocean Endeavor for an evening departure after taking the morning and early afternoon to explore the city’s rich history and colourful seaside homes. 

    The vessel will depart from St. John’s historic port, where guests can marvel at Signal Hill, a National Historic Site and one of the province’s most visited landmarks. As the adventure begins, guests are encouraged to have their cameras ready. Whales and a variety of seabirds are common sightings.

  2. 2. Northeast coast

    Newfoundland’s rambling northeast coast is home to many charming and picturesque villages, visible as Ocean Endeavour sails north from St. John’s.

    This region enjoys cool summers and short, cool winters, which encourages a wide array of vegetation to thrive. Common trees include black and white spruce and balsam fir. Seabirds are everywhere, with murres, eiders and terns being some of the most common species.

  3. 3. L'Anse aux Meadows

    The next stop on this adventure highlights reconstructed Viking archaeology in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of L’Anse aux Meadows. Guests can wander through the only authenticated Norse settlement in North America and learn more about the fascinating history of Leif Eriksson and the Icelandic Viking saga, as well as the archaeologist Anne Stine, who discovered the area. 

    A highlight of this stop is the superb interpretation centre, where travellers can meet actors in period costumes who entertain visitors while educating them about the reconstructed Norse-style sod buildings and artifacts. Don’t miss the intricate scale model of what the site might have looked like at its pinnacle.

  4. 4. Red Bay

    In the small fishing village of Red Bay, Labrador, travellers can soak in the Basque whaling history, which played a major role in the area between 1530 and the early 17th century. In 2013, the Red Bay Basque Whaling Station became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a great location for visitors to learn about the 16th-century Basque whalers. Guests can also explore a number of scenic coastal walks. 

    In the interpretation centre, visitors can learn about the history of the whaling ship San Juan, which was lost in a 1565 storm, then found centuries later submerged in the harbour. Artifacts like tools, personal items and navigational instruments were recovered and are now on display at the centre. 

    Nearby Saddle Island is another small settlement where guests can learn even more about Red Bay’s rich Basque history.

  5. 5. Gros Morne National Park and Woody Point

    Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gros Morne National Park is a marvel not to be missed. This ancient landscape is characterized by deep fjords, soaring cliffs, greenery-filled bogs and forests, all combining to create the perfect location to experiment with landscape photography. Situated on the west coast of Newfoundland, Gros Morne covers 1,805 square kilometres and is the second-largest park in Atlantic Canada. 

    Adventure Canada travellers can stretch their legs and participate in a scenic hike through Gros Morne, soaking in the extraordinary views of Bonne Bay before visiting the historic and quaint seaside town of Woody Point. The hike also passes through the spectacular Tablelands, a 600-metre plateau that forms one of the world’s best examples of exposed mantle.

  6. 6. Southern coast

    A highlight of the trip is Newfoundland’s southern coast. Abundant wildlife, outstanding geology and beautiful botanical life is sure to awe. There are plenty of opportunities to explore the area by Zodiac, and guests can also participate in land excursions to experience more of this bountiful landscape. Humpback whales and many species of seabirds thrive in this area dotted with bays, coves and outport communities.

  7. 7. Miawpukek (Conne River)

    Formerly known as Conne River, Miawpukek is where travellers can experience Mi’kmaw culture and receive a formal welcome from local leaders of the First Nations community here. 

    During a visit to Miawpukek, guests will learn about the history of the community, which became a permanent settlement in 1822. Before then, the area was a semi-permanent camping site used by Mi’kmaw people, who traditionally travelled nomadically throughout the East Coast.

  8. 8. Saint-Pierre, France

    Saint-Pierre is the capital of the French overseas collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, two tiny islands located off the southern tip of Newfoundland. The compelling history of these French islands includes Basque fishing, rum-running, British military strife and more. As a charming finale to the trip, a visit to Saint-Pierre will allow guests to wander past the colourful homes and into cafes that impart a taste of Europe to Canada.

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