Want to take a trip of a lifetime? Spend a week in Newfoundland, the large Canadian island off the eastern coast of North American. Newfoundland is known for their puffins, icebergs and whales and I am happy to say, we saw all three, in a lovely, quiet, unspoiled Newfoundland. Yes, even in July, we saw icebergs.
St. John’s ranks as Newfoundland’s largest and oldest city. This seaside destination exudes charm and rainbow-colored buildings dot the hillsides and the waterfront. Talk a stroll down Jelly Bean Row or make your way to Cape Spear – the eastern most point in North America. This fishing town turned top-tourist destination does not cease to amaze.
The Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland
The Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland, St. John’s offers superb service a wide range of amenities including a spa, on-site restaurant, indoor pool, fitness center and more. The hotel is situated in the center of town, right alongside the harbor and boasts beautiful views. The staff is great and the views from the room and the lounge upstairs are amazing.
McCarthy’s Party City Tour
There’s no better way to see the sites than on a tour hosted by McCarthy’s Party. They offer day tours, multi-day tours and charters. Choose from one of their many tour packages or customize your own. We opted for the 3-hour St. John’s tour which took us north to Cape Spear, east for whale-watching and back south into the city to Signal Hill. It was here that Marconi made the first wireless transatlantic radio transmission. Our guide had plenty of history to share along with cultural insights into this land of hardy souls. The weather can be daunting in winter and for centuries, fishing in the cold Atlantic was a way of life. Newfoundlanders are very proud of their roots, their strength of character. “We are as tough as nails,” said Gillian Marx, one of our hosts. “We’re the ones who stayed. We survived and we have a very nurturing culture. We all have a huge respect for the sea and we couldn’t have survived without each other.”
After getting oriented with the city, it was time for twacking! Twacking is a Newfoundland term used to mean casual shopping or exploring; not really buying anything you need. “Newfounese” is a quaint, local dialect. Twacking allowed us to see the sites of downtown St. John as well as the many cafes and shops.
Iceberg Quest Evening Boat Tour
Once again we found ourselves headed north to Cape Spear – but this time by boat. We boarded and set off through “The Narrows” – the only entrance into St. John’s Harbor. This two-hour narrated tour took us through clear waters, past ancient icebergs and alongside Atlantic puffins.
World-class cuisine and stunning views can be found at Portobello’s, situated along the St. John’s waterfront. Sink your teeth into their fresh seafood, poultry or steak while you take in the scenery. With a variety of mouth-watering menu options, you can’t go wrong. Call for reservations.
You can find Celtic Hearth on George Street – one of the oldest streets in America. At Celtic Hearth, come for the food and stay for the fun. Diners can expect Newfoundland and Irish inspired dishes. Try one of their 16 local and imported beers while listening to live music. Celtic Hearth is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night. The crowd is lively and friendly; George Street is home to many pubs and bars.
The Duke of Duckworth Pub
Well, this is the don’t-miss-place of St. John’s. The television show, “The Republic of Doyle,” takes place at the pub (recreated on a film set). Pop and jazz music, pool tables, slot machines and fantastic fish and chips make ‘The Duke’ folksy and fun. Order the large plate, and you will be “stogged” - full to the brim with tight pants.
We left St. John’s on a “mauzy” (or foggy) day in a rental car, headed for the small town of Trinity, first used as a fishing harbor in the 16th century. Picturesque doesn’t begin to describe it. Trinity was used as a filming location for the 2001 film The Shipping News and for the 2002 television miniseries Random Passage. Although Newfoundland is rural, it has a hip feel to it. Many 20 and 30-year-olds have set up businesses like small hotels, restaurants and bakeries. Trinity is worth the trip. Walk around the narrow streets and you’ll see one historic, charming building after another. Walk around town and admire any of their curious shops or stop by the Trinity Historical Society to learn more about this tiny Newfoundland town. Afterward, swing by Aunt Sarah’s Chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth and then head to Elizabeth Burry Studios to quench any artistic desires. The Rising Tide Theatre began in 1978 and ,has been bringing life to Trinity ever since. Each year the theater puts on a festival complete with the Trinity Pageant – a theatrical journey through the town retelling its history. The festival starts in the summer and runs through the fall. A cast of compelling characters portray all that is Trinity in this annual outdoor theater event. During tourist season, an assortment of plays are presented.
We took the car out in the “duckish” light – the end of the day - and drove out of town toward the ocean. As we rounded a small curve and drove upward a bit, there it was. An iceberg! Glowing and majestic, startlingly white, regally at rest on the dark blue Atlantic, it was wrapped in the faintest of cloud wisps. A shiver ran through me at the sight. Amazing. I’ll never forget it.
Vicarage Suites at Erisken Premises
Boasting charm and character, the Vicarage Suites are located near the Rising Tide Theatre and other historical sites in the area. You’ll feel right at home at Vicarage Suites, an entire house available for the price of a hotel room.
Trinity Mercantile serves home-style meals like chowder and chili or soups and sandwiches in a relaxed atmosphere. Trinity Mercantile is the perfect place to stop and enjoy a nice, casual lunch.
Twine Loft at Artisan Inn
Herbs and flowers are harvested from their garden before evening meals and the wine and scotch is hand-picked by their in-house sommelier. No attention to detail has been spared. Wild blueberries, rhubarb and fresh cod are just some of the locally sourced ingredients you’ll find on the menu. Watch the sun set as you enjoy a four-course meal at Twine Loft. Set menu changes frequently. With reservations, you can also stay overnight.
The next day we set off eastward to Elliston, which has two claims to fame – one of the best puffin viewing sites on earth and it is the “Root Cellar Capital of the World.”
Puffins are thriving in Elliston. It is a most unusual bird. Typically no more than 10 inches tall, they are black and white and appear cuddly; they sport a colorful beak during breeding season. Expect to see many of these unusual birds at a local puffin viewing site marked by a chair with a small sign. It is a five-minute walk to see thousands of puffins on rocks. Visitors can expect to get up close and personal with the puffins between the months of May and September. In the distance were five icebergs. We drove to the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse on a two-lane road leading out to a point. We stopped a good 30 minutes watching a mother and baby whale swimming and breeching, side by side, in the ocean. A glorious sight. This historic lighthouse dates back to 1843 and still contains some of the same working parts it did more than a century ago. Group tours and special programs available.
Root cellars, definitely not something most Texans have at home, were an ingenious outdoor storage system. Before the existence of electricity, these cellars kept vegetables cool during the summer months and kept them from freezing in the winter. The town of Elliston has more than 135 of these structures - some of which have been around for more than 200 years! Residents say this gives the town the right to claim the title of ‘Root Cellar Capital of the World.’
Fisher’s Loft Inn
Peace and comfort are never far away at Fisher’s Loft Inn. This upscale resort is composed of a series of buildings. The feel is Scandinavian and artsy. The Fishers are delightful hosts. John Fisher shared the unlikely start of his now famous hotel, which basically started as their personal vacation home. We sat in the lobby having a ‘cuffer,” or conversation. Included in your stay is a fabulous breakfast; they’ll even bring coffee to your room. If you don’t have time to stay a night, Fisher’s Loft Inn is also a great place for dinner.
Enjoy homemade teas and treats on the lovely patio at Mifflin’s Tearoom. The menu here features classic Newfoundland dishes and more. We tried toutons, a fried bread, and the Jigg’s Dinner (roast beef, potatoes, turnips, cabbage, carrots in gravy), served only on Sundays until it’s gone.They also serve Fisherman’s Brewis, a cooked hard bread and codfish mixed with onions. Dessert was partridgeberry tart – the small, purple berries grow wild.
Bonavista Social Club
You’ll find Bonavista Social Club facing Blackhead Bay. Stop by for excellent pizza cooked on their wood-burning stove. Young marrieds, Katie and Sean, delight in serving guests in their lovely restaurant with a view you won’t want to leave.
A short, but stunningly beautiful, drive away, you will find the Rugged Beauty Boat Tours in New Bonaventure. By sea, you will treated to three hours of fantastic coastline, accompanied by stories of the hard life early residents faced.
For more information, visit the website newfoundlandlabrador.com.