May 28th 2019 - Arriving in St John'sArrival
We leave Montreal at noon and arrive in St. John’s a few hours later, smiling and eager to explore the eastern province. We have the simplest vehicle rental of our lives at the airport, carried out by a friendly staff. (Literally) 5 minutes later, we are ready to roam the roads of Newfoundland.
For our first night, after supper, we drive around St. John’s in search of some nice spots to shoot. We find a lovely view on a lonely industrial pier. As we are near the end of the bay, the sounds of the city are muffled by the night air. The quiet is only troubled by small waves reaching the pier and the buzzing of electric street lights.
May 29th 2019 - Exploring St John'sSunny St John's
That morning, we head to Cape Spear, Canada’s easternmost point of land. We find it closed, as the season has not yet begun. However, we can still walk around the site and enjoy the endless view of the Atlantic Ocean. The weather is foggy, but it gets clearer as we make our way back to the city.
And there, immensity stood before us
After a few other visits, we end the day at another famous St. John’s spot, Signal Hill. In addition to being the site of the city’s historical defenses, it is also where Marconi received the world’s first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901 (thus the name). The view is stunning. We spend a long time sitting on the side of the trail, enjoying the sun. It is about 12 degrees, which is a warm spring weather in Newfoundland. But our Canadian hearts know how to appreciate warmth, even when it is shy.
May 30th 2019 - St John's > Mt CarmelIce & Birds
We leave St. John’s that morning and head to Witless Bay, which hosts a rich ecological reserve. A handful of companies offer boat tours around it. Even though boarding a boat with 80 to 100 other tourists for a sightseeing tour might feel a bit tacky to you, we highly recommend you succumb to it.
Navigating through the millenial ice colossuses, surrounded by millions of birds...
you couldn't feel more alive
We see so many icebergs. Like frozen giants, they gently move with the waves, like old men in their favorite swinging chair. After the ice come the birds, thousands of them. There are puffins, but also common murres, storm petrels and gulls, flying around or nesting in the nearby islands. We sadly do not see any whales, but they aren’t back from migration yet. Iceberg season and whale season don’t always coincide in Newfoundland; it’s a risk you will have to take.
We drive smoothly for the rest of the day, making a few stops there and there to take pictures of the beautiful, empty, poetic landscapes. One thing that surprises us in Newfoundland is how fast our surroundings can change as we travel. That is especially true in the Avalon peninsula, where we go from Northern forests to empty fields, to Far West-like tundra deserts.
May 31st 2019 - Mt Carmel > Arnold's CoveSinging Cliffs
Our main stop that day is the mystic Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve. The reserve is well-known for its amazing bird watching experience. Between 60 000 and 70 000 thousand birds roam and nest around the Cape. This includes one of the largest northern gannets colony in North America.
From the interpretation centre, we walk a trail that leads us to the majestic Bird Rock, home of the gannets. As we approach the cliffs, we are welcomed by the sound of waves crashing and by the raucous song of tens of thousands of birds flying above and around. Though it is our second bird-watching experience in two days, this is something else.
Blasted by the wind, blinded by the sun, deafened by the birds. Yet our senses never felt more aware.
We keep driving for the rest of the day, along mostly empty roads. We stop by a few not-yet-open-for-the-season touristic sites, that we visit by ourselves. We reach the small town of Arnold’s Cove at the end of the afternoon.
June 1st 2019 - Arnold's Cove > Fogo IslandTo the End of the Earth
Our aim that day is to get to the Fogo Island ferry, but not without enjoying the sights along the way. After almost running over a coyote with suicidal tendencies in the middle of Terra Nova National Park, we make a detour by Twillingate. The region is famous for iceberg watching. Hundreds of ice monuments drift by its shores every spring and early summer, on their way to St. John's. We eventually finish our scenic loop through the area and reach Farewell, to catch the ferry.
The next 24 hours on Fogo island are among our favorite of the trip. After diner at Scoff, a terrific restaurant in Joe Batt’s Arm, we catch a close-up view of the incredible Fogo Island Inn at sunset. This state-of-the-art sustainable hotel is a masterpiece of architecture. Perched on the rocky shore, its strange shape seems to challenge the ocean. Yet, it somehow fits, like in a curious harmony, with its surroundings. (Side note: it is incredibly expensive, so we did not spend the night there, but the hotel does welcome visitors to walk around and enjoy the sights). It is also a social enterprise that finances an art residencies program. Four artists studios, built by the same architect as the hotel, are “hidden” around the island. Their sight is a bit of a poetic surprise everytime we notice one of them.
June 2nd 2019 - Fogo Island > Gros MorneLook But No Stopping
The weather is foggy in the morning. Yet the mist lifts mid-breakfast, as we enjoy Eggs Benedict at Bangbelly, a charming local café. We continue exploring Fogo Island, going all the way to Tilting. Like many communities in Newfoundland, this fisherman village is of Irish descent. Historical wooden houses and boats bear witness to this particular past.
On the way there and back, we hold our breath and survey the landscape, hoping to come across the Island’s famous wild caribou herd. In the end we have no luck seeing it, but we still feel lucky to simply be there.
We catch the ferry around noon and drive for the rest of the day, all the way to Gros-Morne National Park (about 400 km).
We hadn't left and yet we were already longing to be back
Despite what the title of this website might have you think, we did stop a lot to look and to take photos. As you can see above, the inspiration came to us through a road panel in Gros-Morne, which urged drivers to look at wildlife but not to stop. We thought the phrasing of the panel, LOOK BUT NO STOPPING, in big bright letters, was kind of funny. And it also resonated in a way with the relatively fast-paced style of our road trip through Newfoundland..
June 3rd 2019 - Gros Morne > St BarbeUnplanned circumstances and encounters
Our plan that day is to discover Gros-Morne National Park. It is hard to visit this world-class geological and ecological site in one day, so we prioritize the Tablelands. We also hope to visit the Western Brook Pond and its land-locked fjord in the afternoon, weather permitting.
The Tablelands are the result of a billion-year-in-the-making geological phenomenon. Two continents collided and started bringing the Earth’s mantle to the surface, giving the place its red, almost barren appearance. We walk a short 4 km hike and behold the majestic landscape. Small trees and not-yet melted snow garnish the red and rocky soil. Some snow at the top of the "Tables", we are told, will remain year-round.
As the weather gets foggier, we learn that the Western Brook Pond boat tour will not be happening that day. Rain also threatening, we decide to not attempt the trail that leads to the Pond's shores. From where we stand, we can however make out parts of the glacier-made fjord cliffs through the mist.
The most marking encounters are always unplanned
On our way to St. Barbe, where we plan on taking the ferry to Labrador the next day, we spot our first moose (!) on the side of the road. Jp having spent most of his life in France, a moose is an exotic sighting. He was really crossing his fingers to see one (hopefully not one jumping on our car hood) during our trip. As for me, despite being Canadian, I had never seen a moose in the wild. So let’s just say we are both very excited by this encounter. We spend a long time observing the young cow and taking pictures. Unless she was the one observing us? For a short moment, time seems to suspend its run as we are mere feet away from the wild animal.
At our arrival in St. Barbe, we learn that, due to poor weather, the ferry to Labrador did not run that day. Even though our tickets are for the next morning, it gets us thinking. Even if the ferry runs, it might not the following day. If this happens, it will be physically impossible to drive back to St John’s in time for our return flight. We can't afford to be stranded in Labrador. In the end, we elect to abort the crossing of the Strait of Belle-Isle, and to spend one more day in NL
Even the best laid plans can go wrong. They usually do.
June 4th 2019 - St Barbe > BotwoodAborting the Labrador crossing
Can you miss something you've never experienced? It feels like it
We wave Labrador a distant good-bye from the shore and head back to Gros-Morne. We hope to see Western Brook Pond this time, especially since our newly-changed itinerary would permit it. But it seems not meant to be, as rain starts pouring just as we reach the parking lot. Instead, we stop by Green Point, a smaller site of geological interest which does not involve a 6 km trail in the rain.
We enjoy some delicious moose at lunch in a Norris Point restaurant and shop for some souvenirs of our adventures on the eastern region before leaving. We cruise through central Newfoundland, all the way to Botwood.
June 5th 2019 - Botwood > St John'sShipwrecks, Planes, and whisky
At our surprise, Botwood has a rich and passionating aeronautical past. For part of the 20th century, it has been with Gander a stop-and-refuel point for transatlantic flights. Artifacts and memorials attest of this history. The invention of more performing engines allowed for direct flights between Europe and North America biggest cities. This ultimately rendered the two airports almost obsolete. But not completely. Transatlantic flights still sign off today with Gander as they embark for the longest leg of their journey across the Atlantic North.
After a short visit, we head back on the road. Instead of going straight to St. John’s, we make a scenic detour through Conception Bay. We treat ourselves to a taste session at a famous local distillery, followed by some shipwreck hunting across the hundreds of coves in the bay.
We end the day in St. John’s. We have the opportunity to dine at the Mallard Cottage, a well-known restaurant in Quidi Vidi. The place was fully booked during our first passage in the city, so this is a happy (and delicious) silver lining.
June 6th 2019 - St John's > MontréalBidding farewell
For our last day, we drive around the peninsula north of St. John’s. We catch a few last shots of Newfoundland's majestic cliffs, rocky beaches, and colorful houses. We then head back downtown for lunch, savoring one last taste of lobster at a local pub on the famous Georges St.
We come back to Montreal with our eyes, hearts and lungs filled with ocean air, dreams of endless roads, and songs of lovely landscapes.