Autotour: The ports and trails of Newfoundland and Labrador

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THE PORTS AND TRAILS OF NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

As Canada’s youngest province, Newfoundland and Labrador embodies vigour of spirit that is reflected in the dramatic landscapes of the island and the rugged beauty of the mainland shore. This 14-night itinerary explores the European and First Nations histories of the region as well as the modern day lifestyle and cultures of one of the country’s most resource-rich provinces. Beginning in Nova Scotia’s capital Halifax the journey leads to the first of many ferry ports for passage to the welcoming shores of Newfoundland. During your time on

the island, you will see the earliest European settlement in the New World along the Viking Trail as well as sites where the first colonists and native tribes encountered each other. Vast areas of protected parklands such as the pristine Gros Morne and Terra Nova National Parks offer visitors ample wildlife viewing and hiking opportunities. The cities of Gander and St. John’s tell the story of Canada’s national wartime contributions and of a robust aviation and maritime tradition that lives on today. Returning to Halifax, end your vacation with a better understanding of the unique culture and geology that makes Canada’s eastern most province a jewel of the Atlantic coast.

 

Day 1: Arrival in Halifax 

Arrive at Halifax International Airport and transfer independently to your downtown hotel. Pick-up your Canada Roadbook at the front desk as you check-in. Remainder of the day is at leisure for exploring this bustling oceanside city.

Overnight in Halifax.

Day 2: Halifax 

Today is free to meander through the historic streets of this fascinating city. Highlights you may wish to visit include St Paul’s Church, the Historic Properties, Halifax Explosion memorials or the Victorian Public Gardens. Local restaurants offer a variety of delicious seafood and other east coast delicacies.

Overnight in Halifax

Day 3: Marine Atlantic ferry - North Sydney to Port aux Basques 

Today you drive north up the length of Nova Scotia through the lush Bras d’Ors basin, an excellent location for a short walk or picnic lunch Later in the day you reach North Sydney and board the ferry for your crossing to Channel-Port- aux-Basques As the ferry sails across the Cabot Strait, keep a close watch for whales and dolphins Many varieties of seabirds and birds of prey that live on the spectacular cliffs can also be seen Coastal barrens and forested mountains dominate the first impressions of Newfoundland’s landscape.

Overnight in Port aux Basques

Day 4: Port aux Basques to Cow Head 

Today you journey up the western coast of the island, the small communities along the shoreline depicting the fortunes of Newfoundland’s past. The village of St George still shows evidence of its colonial heritage as a French fishing port in the 17th century, as well as the some of the buildings related to it being major hub of the old Newfoundland Railway. For naturalists, a short hike at the Barachois Pond Provincial Park near Stephenville offers the opportunity for a closer examination of the island’s unique landscapes. Included today is admission to Gros Morne National Park. Arrive in the waterside town of Cow Head and check in for your one-night stay in this peaceful village.

Overnight in Cow Head

Day 5: Cow Head to St. Anthony 

The road leads north up the coast of the Gulf of St Lawrence en route to the upper peninsula of Newfoundland. You may enjoy a stop at Port au Choix National Historic Site. The rocky basin with its rich fishing waters has been populated for thousands of years by many different groups of people, including those who live there today. Make your way around the ‘horn’ of the island to the communities of the Atlantic shore and the small village of St Anthony.

Overnight in St Anthony

Day 6: St. Anthony 

Today is yours at leisure to further explore the area around the Northern Peninsula. You may enjoy
a day trip to L’anse Aux Meadows Historic Site. Reconstructions of three Norse buildings are the focal point of an archaeological site examining the earliest known European settlement in the Americas. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the attraction highlights the lifestyle and artifacts of the Viking culture. If time permits, perhaps explore the adjacent hiking trails to nearby bays and lakes.

Overnight in St Anthony

Activity

Board a comfortable cruising vessel in the breathtaking coastal waters off St Anthony renown for it icebergs, whales and seabirds. In season, this northern corridor of Iceberg Alley consistently has more icebergs than any other location in Newfoundland. The St Anthony coast is also a prime location for viewing humpbacks and Atlantic white-beaked dolphins as well as minke, fin and killer whales. You’ll be awestruck by the splendour of the bird life and cave formations. Visit fascinating colonies of kittiwakes, guillemots and Arctic terns - a bird that has a longer migration than any other creature in the world. Experience the excitement of viewing one of Newfoundland’s largest sea caves while listening to stories about local legends. On each tour, an experienced local naturalist will captivate the audience with a live interpretative program.

Day 7: St. Anthony to L'anse au Clair  

Departing the rugged east coast of the island,
you drive across the heart of the Highlands today and experience some of the most pristine and untouched wilderness in Canada. With more moose and bears per square kilometre than anywhere in the nation, the opportunities for casual wildlife viewing along the side of the road are many and often on your trek to the ferry port of St Barbe. Crossing the narrowing of the Gulf of St Lawrence, you land at Lourdes-de- Blanc-Sablon and continue on to the small village of L’Anse-au-Clair.

Overnight in L’Anse-au-Clair

Day 8: L'anse au Clair 

Discover the rich history of the area by independently visiting the burial at L'Anse Amour, recently designated a National Historic Site of Canada. You can learn more about the Maritime Archaic Burial Mound from the interpretation panels and the commemorative plate at the site. Or, you may visit the Red Bay National Historic Site featuring a Visitor Orientation Centre where you can view The Basque Whalers of Labrador, a 30 minute video that documents the research associated with the site. Through interpretive displays and numerous original artifacts the centre tells the story of hardship, exploitation and profit associated with 16th century Basque whaling in Labrador.

Overnight in L’Anse-au-Clair

Day 9: L'anse au Clair to Rocky Harbour 

Today you cross back to the shores of Newfoundland and journey down the coast. You may wish to stop and visit Gros Morne National Park, named a World Heritage Site because of its unique glacier-formed mountains. You can hike the trails to the summit of Gros Morne Mountain to admire the sweeping views of the Tablelands and enjoy the serenity of fishing villages enclosed by towering cliffs and steep fjords. You may explore the unique, windblown landscape of the James Callaghan Trail, or admire the near-conical mountains around Western Brook Pond. Take advantage of the variety of activities including wildlife watching for Arctic hare, black bear, lynx and caribou. Continue on to arrive in Rocky Harbour.

Overnight in Rocky Harbour

Activity

Take a cruise on scenic Bonne Bay from Norris Point and pass over some of the deepest waters of the Gulf of St Lawrence, reaching depths of 230m. Live commentary throughout the tour highlights the surrounding features and wildlife such as Gros Morne Mountain, the geology of the Tablelands, the whales that frequent the deep waters of the fjord and bald eagles. A brief history of the small villages nestled on the shores is also provided. Groups can request to partake in an age-old tradition known as a "screech in" featuring live traditional music. You must repeat Newfoundland sayings, do a lively dance step and sample a little of the famous Newfoundland rum - Screech Participants come away with certificate declaring them "Honorary Newfoundlanders” as a memento of their experience.

Day 10: Rocky Harbour to Gander 

After checking out of your hotel, drive east through a landscape covered with woodlands and visit some of the historic sites of the mysterious Beothuks tribe who once inhabited the island. After arriving in Gander and checking into your hotel, perhaps visit the North Atlantic Aviation Museum. As the main staging area for both fighter and bomber squadrons during World War II, Gander played a critical role in the war effort and became a hub for the developing aviation industry that followed in the post-war years. The museum features displays, artifacts and presentations that celebrate the long relationship the city has with the dream of flight.

Overnight in Gander

Day 11: Gander


Take a day and explore the dramatic landscape of the northern coast and the small fishing villages and communities of both European and First Nations descent. Explore the Kittiwake Coast, where dense forests give way to fabulous seascapes of inlets, coves and islands. Plan for a stop at the “Roads to the Isles”, an excellent vantage point for observing towering icebergs as they slowly drift past for southern waters.

Overnight in Gander

Day 12: Gander to St. John's

The journey today is just as scenic as the destination with a short drive along the Trans-Canada Highway. If time permits, we suggest a stop at Terra Nova National Park. Explore the pristine wilderness along the numerous hiking trails that crisscross the protected parkland. Continuing south, you soon reach Conception Bay where the air of piracy and tall ships still lingers, imbuing the community and landscape with a sense of historic flare. The frequent mist lends a mystical aura to these parks and villages that still are home to buildings and other remnants of their swashbuckling past. Continue on the provincial capital of St John’s, where colourful streets compete with the natural beauty of the surrounding hills.

Overnight in St John’s

Day 13: St. John's 

Today you are at leisure to explore the fascinating city of St John’s and the surrounding area. The city is one of the oldest in North America, emphasizing innovation and progress while cherishing its long and rich past. Wander through the steep narrow streets of the old city and climb the rock slope of Signal Hill for an unforgettable view. St John's is home to a large number of historic buildings and sites, and hosts several annual festivals and events throughout the summer months.

Overnight in St John’s

Activity

Discover the rich history of old St John’s that will explore the legends and lore of the oldest community in North America. Your visit will include the National Park at Cape Spear, the most easterly point of land in North America

Day 14: St. John's to Argentia 

After enjoying a final morning in St John’s, travel across the heartland of Newfoundland to the west coast of the island and arrive in the small village of Argentia Board a large, comfortable ferry for your overnight journey to North Sydney.

Overnight on the ferry

Day 15: North Sydney to Halifax / End of tour 

Disembark in North Sydney in the morning. Drive back to the Halifax airport and drop off your car to check in for your return flight.