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Newfoundland is big. “The Rock” is two Nova Scotias. It’s one and a half New Brunswicks. It’s one and a third Vancouver Islands. It’s bigger than Virginia, Tennessee…you get the idea. If you plan to visit but have only a week, you’ll have to choose your locations very carefully.
When my wife and I toured the island in the summer of 2015, we stayed for three weeks, driving 4,000 kilometers to stay in eight destinations, and we wanted to stay longer. There is a lot to see, and it’s all breathtaking.
Here, in the order we visited, and edited for brevity, are the sights of Newfoundland.
Burnt Cape – Northern Tip of the Western Peninsula
South of L’Anse aux Meadows, home of the Viking heritage site, is the settlement of Burnt Cape. Remote and windswept, it consists of a few homes dotted around a small lake. Walk around the lake when the light is right and you will be rewarded.
Gros Morne National Park, Central Western Peninsula
A case could be made that if you want to spend a week on the island, you should spend it entirely in Gros Morne. It’s a photographer’s paradise due to the wild, and wildly varied, landscape. One example: The two-hour boat cruise that traverses Western Brook Pond — and “Pond” is a misnomer, in that it’s 16km long and covers 23 square km – gives stunning views of fjords with sheer 600m cliffs. The Park is alternately lush and hilly, barren and rocky, quaint and very maritime.
Twillingate – North Coast, Central Region
Summer hiking in Twillingate can give you a strong sense of dislocation: “Am I still in Canada?” The perimeter, reaching out into the North Atlantic, is reminiscent of the Caribbean. There are greens and blues that you wouldn’t think belong this far north.
Change Islands / Fogo Island, North Coast, Central Region
East of Twillingate, and accessible only by ferry, are Change Islands and Fogo Island. Change Islands is named for the migration that inhabitants undertook: when summer ended, they would change islands and relocate from the north island to the south. Change and Fogo are emblematic of postcard Newfoundland: colourful homes hugging the water, fishing villages, small towns connected by two-lane roads. Fogo is home to the new Fogo Island Inn, a high-end retreat whose restaurant windows seem to sit on top of the Atlantic. The Inn’s architect designed the building to resemble another iconic Newfoundland fixture: the iceberg.
Vibrant, cosmopolitan, fun – St. John’s is small by Canadian capital city standards but it’s a wonderful place to spend a few days, and the photographic opportunities are everywhere. Street photographers will love George Street, home to more bars per capita than any other North American city. Landscape fans should head to Signal Hill; it offers equally spectacular views of the harbour, the city, and the Atlantic. It’s the perfect spot to capture the well-known and quirky house-painting pattern that gives rise to the nickname “jellybean houses”. Legend has it that the houses are painted this way to make it easier for the fishermen to enter the right home after a night on the town.
Is That All There Is?
Not even close. I’ve purposely avoided the clichés of whales, icebergs and puffins, knowing that experienced photographers will want to explore roads a little less travelled (and postcarded). I didn’t mention the inland sights, or Bonavista, or any number of famous hiking opportunities like the Skerwink Trail. You’ll just have to do some exploring on your own!