When I made the decision to go to Newfoundland for my next vacation the response from my friends was surprising. I was asked if I had family in Newfoundland because why else would I want to go there. I couldn't believe that fellow Canadians had no idea of what Newfoundland had to offer. That was almost 11 years ago and every time I see the commercials from Newfoundland Tourism I desperately want to go back.

Our journey began in St. Johns, Newfoundland. We flew in from Toronto and rented a car at the airport. St. Johns is a quaint town with the nicest people you could ever meet. We stayed at the Roses Bed and Breakfast. We were pleased with our accommodations and the location was excellent. Our first destination was Signal Hill (where Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless transmission). Situated on top of the hill overlooking the bay, Signal Hill is a beautiful yet historical location.

thebatteryAt Signal Hill there are two more points of interest. One is to take a walk along the trail which takes you to the bottom of the hill. The other must see is The Battery. The Battery is a small community of colourful homes resting along the edge of the cliff. A wonderful spot for photography enthusiasts.

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The following day we drove to Cape Spear. Cape Spear is the most easterly point in North America. It also has the oldest surviving lighthouse. During our stroll we were fortunate to see a whale which was a great start to our vacation. The weather was a little drab. It was cool, windy and overcast but we were prepared. After all, it's not the weather that draws tourists to Newfoundland and the dreary weather added to the drama of the sea water crashing against the rocks. 

 

 

 

 

Cape Spear Lighthouse

During our stay in St. Johns we were on the hunt for live Celtic/Eastern music. After our stroll along George Street we didn't find what we were looking for but we did enjoy a nice dinner at Duck Street Bistro. Before arriving in Newfoundland we were familiar with Screech and had entertained the idea of trying it because when in Rome...however, I really don't like hard liquor so I passed which was not very Canadian of me. 

The following day we set off on our whale watching expedition. We were a little challenged finding the location but eventually we found the dock where our boat was awaiting us. It was a very inconspicuous location, quiet with not a person in sight. It was cold and cloudy but it was this day or none. Shortly after our arrival our Captain found us. He was looking a little rough around the edges so we joked around implying that he had been in the Screech the night before. As it turned out we were the only ones who showed up for the tour. Perhaps because of the bad weather but our Captain was happy to give us a private tour. Our tour began with the pursuit of Puffins. We could see them flying around and on the water but they were pretty small. Our Captain was going to take us to the rocks where the Puffins were situated to see them up close but then we heard that familiar sound. The whooshing sound of a whale's blowhole.

humpbackImmediately we agreed to abandon the Puffins and head for the whales. At this point the wind had picked up the water was getting rough with the swells increasing in size but it also brought out the whales. They were jumping out of the water and crashing down on their backs against the waves. They were actually playing and it was an amazing thing to witness. To see them in their natural habitat playing like little kids. Our Captain was very accommodating and took us very close to the whales. We had seen a lot of Minke whales on past trips but this time we saw Humpbacks. We we so excited we were screaming like little girls. It was the best whale watching tour I have ever been on. When it was time for us to head back the waves were getting really rough and our little boat was tipping all over but I was confident in our Captain and hung on for dear life and enjoyed the ride. It was fun but unfortunately my cousin suffers from sea sickness and had to squat down in a corner until we arrived back at the dock. We had a blast!

Sadly we left St. Johns and drove to Sandy Cove Beach. We rented a cabin for a couple of nights and at that time were happy we weren't camping. The cool weather continued but the scenery was beautiful. The landscape was very rugged with a lot of coniferous trees. Sandy Cove was really a stop over for us on route to Twillingate. We mapped out our trip randomly and selected locations that were on the water but really had no idea what to expect. Many of the locations we thought we would want to go to were only accessible via boat. At that time there was one main highway from St. Johns to Gros Morne that we could travel on which made the drive pretty straight forward. We liked the sound of Twillingate and decided we should stay there. Twillingate is a small, charming community. The weather was warming up and now we were able to shed some layers and wear our summer clothes. Prior to our trip we booked Cabins by the Sea. A simple cabin but it had everything we needed. The location was wonderful. Grocery shopping can be a little challenging in certain parts of the Country, particularly NFL. Rural areas don't have access to the same foods we are used to. It's a good thing I like potatoes because the food selection, especially for vegetarians is very limited however, I believe I have evolved as a cook and am more creative in the kitchen so next time I do believe the dinners would be much better. Once we settled in our cabin it was time to explore the town of Twillingate. As we were walking back to our cabin I heard that unforgettable whooshing sound coming from the bay. At this point I felt like I was programmed to respond to this whooshing sound. We immediately ran to edge of the road and met a local who told us it was their local whale. I decided to call our local whale Twilly. Twilly liked to hang out in the bay close to where our cabin was.

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During our trip we were confident we would see whales but not sure if we would see any icebergs. It was late in the season but we did see one iceberg which was pretty far out. Just barely able to see it with our naked eye but we saw it. The following day we took a short drive to Durrell, which used to be a thriving fishing village. My sister had spotted a red stage (boat house) and wanted to take a photo of it. As she was doing that the owner of the boat house came over to chat with us. His name was Melvin. His red stage was on the cover of a tourism magazine which I thought was cool. Melvin spoke to us about the challenges surviving in a fishing community where their livelihood no longer exists. It was a sad story.

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Melvin offered to take us out on his boat and only asked that we pay for the gas which I thought was a deal. I always enjoy the perspective from a local. The water was crystal clear and we could see jelly fish, sea urchins and crabs through the water. We were out for 1 ½ hours. We had a great time on his boat. Melvin was proud to show off his town and we really appreciated it. Did I mention how friendly Newfoundlanders are?

When we arrived back at our cabin we grabbed a bag of Doritos and cold beer and headed to the top of the cliff overlooking the bay to look for Twilly. The weather was beautiful and we were unwinding from a fantastic day. It was so peaceful and quiet. Not a single thought entered my mind. Seriously not a thought. I completely blanked out. I experienced something I have never experienced in my life. I think I was mediating without even trying. Not a care, worry or image. Just Zen. I was at peace with nature and there was something spiritual going on. Once I came to we spotted Twilly again and enjoyed our beer and munchies. Perfect ending to our day.

The next day we were informed of the Dinner theatre in town. It was called “All Around the Circle” and was hilarious. At times we couldn't make out the dialogue because of their accents but got the gist of it.

One of the hikes we did was Sleep Hill Trail. There was a section that was very steep and at one point we just slid down the hill. From that point the trail was flat and we had yet another whale siting. It could have been Twilly but he didn't answer me when I called so not sure:) Getting back up the hill was tricky. I had to push my cousin up to help her along. After our hike we stopped at the Tea Room and were rewarded with a chocolate covered marshmallow for our efforts. The nicest people.

Gros Morne Mountain was our final destination. We stayed in Rocky Harbour at The Sunset Housekeeping units. Our cabin was not on the water but we did have a babbling brook in the back which was very nice. We did see a lot of water front cabins but for some reason they did not come up on our search when we were booking but that was a long time ago and I'm sure today everyone would have their cabins on line. Next time I will book one of the water front properties because the location was amazing.

The following day we drove to Southeast Brook Falls where we spotted a large moose. At this point we had seen a lot of moose, elk, caribou and mountain goats but we always stopped to take photos. We did a short hike on Lookout Trail in Woody Point and the scenery was amazing. There was saw two more moose.

Prior to our big hike on Gros Morne we had done two more easy hikes. Bakers Brook Falls which is a 10 km hike. Long but the terrain is flat. There we met up with a local photographer who is known for his photographs of berries. I had seen his work in many of the gift shops and had purchased a few of his postcards so I chatted with him for a bit and had my photo taken with him. We also hiked the Berry Hill Trail. It was only a 1.5 km hike up a small mountain but there were bear warning signs posted on the trail which made us nervous the entire time we were on the hill but we made a lot of noise during the hike and did not see any bears. Phew.

On the back to Rocky Harbor we stopped at tourist information to get a little bit of info on hiking Gros Morne. We watched a video showing hikers on the trail scrambling up the mountain. It talked about how challenging the hike was and that anyone who was not in good shape should not do the hike. As we watched the video we could see that the hike could be challenging but did not believe it would be a problem. We were not aware of the scrambling part of the hike but were now prepared for it. That night we carbed up and had a good nights rest.

Gros Morne Mountain. The hike is 16 km and took us 7 hours to complete. The first part of the hike is flat and relatively easy. The trail that lead us to the mountain was long- it took us through a bushy treed forest which was nice but at one point my sister had stopped me to find out why there was blood dripping down my neck. Then we saw blood on my cousin's neck. We were getting bitten by those tiny little black bugs we call “no see ems”. We didn't feel them biting us but had to cover up to avoid them chowing down on us further. Once we reached a sunny area the bugs were no longer a problem. We reached the mountain face here was where the scrambling would begin.  The climb was straight up, bolder after bolder after bolder. We scrambled up the mountain face for about an hour it seemed but I was enjoying it. The rest of the hike was not too challenging. We took our time and enjoyed the view.

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Top of Gros Mountain

Once we reached the summit which was 806 metres above sea level we were ready for our picnic. We enjoyed our lunch looking over Ten Mile Pond. It was a beautiful spot. So lush and green. There were a lot of other hikers there, many from Germany enjoying the view as well. We saw a few primitive camping grounds on the mountain which looked like an absolutely amazing place to stay. A little too rustic for me but I could appreciate how the effort would be well worth it. We took our time getting down as our legs were starting to feel a little wonky and once again we saw more moose. It was a great hike.

The following day we enjoyed a easy hike on Green Garden Trail. A 13 km hike in an open terrain with small rocks. The weather was quite hot which we loved. Unfortunately we had missed the tide so we couldn't explore the caves which were a point of interest but the trail had a lot of variety. There was a forest and then a wide open area, inclines and declines. Once we reached the coast we noticed there were sheep out in the field. One of them made a loud noise and charged towards us. I turned around and just ran. Of course monkey see monkey do and right on my heels were my sister and cousin. My cousin turned around and could see that nothing was following us. We had a pretty good laugh over that. City folks eh? We hoped no one had witnessed us doing that.sheepnewfoundland

 

 

Next on the agenda was The Tablelands. It was a 4 km, flat trail. The Tectonic plates had collided exposing the rocks which were originally beneath the ocean. That was quite interesting. We saw a moose again by the side of the road but didn't even stop this time. After all, at that time there were 150,000 moose in Newfoundland.

We ended our trip with a boat tour of the fjords. The scenery on the tour was beautiful. The trip along the fjords was a 2 ½ km trip and during that time the Captain was enjoying giving us the low down of the fjords and glaciated valley. Once we reached the end of the valley the boat had docked to let out a group of hikers who would be camping for about a week. The Captain had said that likely half of the hikers would be returning the next day because of the mosquitoes. Yikes! We thoroughly enjoyed our boat trip which was a wonderful way to end out trip.

We wished we had more time during our trip to visit L'Anse aux Meadows which is a world heritage site. There you can see the remains of the 1000 year old Viking colony. Will definitely include that on my next visit to Newfoundland.