Newfoundland and Labrador: Why it is an Ultimate Canadian Road Trip

Being a travel blogger and an expat in Canada, I am always intrigued by the different cultures and places of this great nation. For the past three years, I have visited the east provinces, the west, and Atlantic Canada. Now one of the places I have always wanted to, but could not set my feet on, is Newfoundland and Labrador (NL).

Newfoundland and Labrador are the easternmost province of Canada. It covers 156,500 square miles and above 90% of the population lives in Newfoundland. Labrador, north of Newfoundland and bordering Quebec, has a long stretch of coastline and is home to humpback whales, seabirds, and quaint fishing villages.

Canada road trip - Newfoundland
Gros Morne National Park Photo Credit: Emmanuel Milou via Flicker

As I have yet to visit this great land, I have researched this beautiful place and discovered some interesting facts.

Interesting Facts

– Although the total land area of Labrador is twice the size as that in Newfoundland, about over  90% of the province population lives in Newfoundland.

-Newfoundland has a unique time zone that is 90 minutes ahead of EST.

-The capital city St John’s is the oldest city in North America and Canada’s foggiest city with 121 foggy days a year.

-On September 11, 2001, 27 US airplanes were diverted to Gander. Passengers were taken to local homes, on exploration tours, and to care facilities. They received treatment like cruise passengers until the airspace reopened. 15 years later those passengers still remember their host families and their legendary kindness and hospitality.

-Newfoundland and Labrador joined the confederation on March 31, 1949, and hence is the youngest province in Canada.

-The world’s first wireless communication took place in Signal Hill, St John’s on December 12, 1901.

-Newfoundland and Labrador’s has the most distinctive dialect of English in Canada.

How to get to Newfoundland and Labrador

Canada road trip - Newfoundland

From mainland Canada, there are four mode of transport to Newfoundland and Labrador. Ultimately, it depends on your budget and your preference. From my point of view, unless you have your own vehicle or plan to hitchhike, all transportation will cost you an arm and a leg. The exorbitant transportation cost is the major reason that prevent me from visiting Newfoundland and Labrador.

Plane

Newfoundland and Labrador has two international airports – St John’s International Airport and Gander International Airport.  Toronto has regular flights to the capital city St. John’s. The airfare usually starts from $460 roundtrip. If you fly to other airports like Deer Lake in Newfoundland or Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador, be ready to pay more.

Marine Atlantic Ferries

If you plan to arrive on the ferry, be prepared for a lengthy domestic sea crossing from its neighboring province, Nova Scotia (NS).  Year-round ferry service runs from North Sydney, NS to Port aux Basques, NL. From June to September, there is an alternative ferry service from North Sydney to Argentia.

Rates for ferry crossing:

                  North Sydney, NS – Port aux Basques, NL (One Way)

Canada road trip - Newfoundland

Canada road trip - Newfoundland

                     North Sydney, NS –  Argentia, NL (One Way)

Canada road trip - Newfoundland

Canada road trip - Newfoundland

*Note: All rates is effective until March, 2017 / Source: Marine Atlantic 

As you can see from the table above, vehicles cost more than passengers do.

If you arrive in Argentia, it takes 90 minutes to drive to the St John’s. Port aux Basques is actually very far away from St John’s, and you need your own vehicle to travel around the island upon arrival, unless you plan to hitchhike to avoid the exorbitant inter-province vehicle shipping costs.

Both ferries are different in terms of departure schedule, costs and the length of crossing. In case you wonder which ferry to take, please read on part of the answers from Top 10 Questions about Riding to and in Newfoundland and Labrador:

You have 2 choices, catch the 6 hour, 178 km ride from North Sydney to Port aux Basques or the 18 hour, 520 km ride from North Sydney to Argentia. Port aux Basques is on the province’s west coast and you have a 10 hour, 900 km ride to St. John’s on the east coast.  Argentia is on the province’s southeast coast and you have a 1.5 hour, 135 km ride to St. John’s from here.  If you travel via Port aux Basques, a night ferry crossing is recommended so that you can sleep and have a fresh start to ride in the morning.  A common practice is to take one ferry to Newfoundland and the other back for maximum experience.  Note that the Port aux Basques ferry runs several times a day however the Argentia ferry runs only a few times a week”. 

Road trip from north Quebec

Labrador City can be reached from NortBaie Comeau, Quebec, via Trans-Labrador Highway ( 581 kilometers road trip) in nearly nine hours drive, without taking into account visiting roadside attractions, rest stops, construction stops, and wildlife viewing. In the event of unpleasant weather, the road can be muddy and sticky, and is difficult to travel.

Only 1/4 portion of the road is paved. For the rest of the road trip, your four-wheels will endure the loose gravel road, sharp rocks and pot holes. Your cell phone will not receive any signal during this trip. It is a very long and hardcore journey, and you have to be brave and totally trust the kindness of strangers. There are hotels in Labrador West, Churchill Falls, and Happy Valley-Goose Bay, convenience shops and restaurants in the small town. Bring extra fuel as there is only one gas station on this road.

Canada road trip - Newfoundland
Labrador Off-Road. Photo Credit: Overland Expert via Google Image

As I said previously, the road trip from Quebec to Labrador involves many challenges, but you will be rewarded by sweeping vistas of the Atlantic Ocean, icebergs, seabirds, whales, and the kindness of locals. In winter, you will have rare opportunities to encounter caribous and travel under the glow of the Aurora Borealis.

Train

Tshiuetin Rail transports passengers from Sept-iles to Emeril Junction in Labrador. Labrador City is a nearly 45-minute drive from Emeril Junction.

Due to the shortage of information about this train, double check with the information office for the price, length of travel, and the schedule. Check out the Tshiuetin Rail website for recent updates.

How much it costs to travel to Newfoundland and Labrador

As previously stated, it takes much effort and money to get to Newfoundland and Labrador. However, the cost of traveling inside Newfoundland and Labrador depends on the length of your trip, as well as you choice of activities. Newfoundland and Labrador is a vast land with a long stretch of coastline, varied bird species, abundant wildlife, otherworldly national parks, and artistic culture. It is not a province that can be easily explored in one to two weeks. Thinking about watching the sunrise in St John’s and then hiking in Gros Morne National Park? Plan ahead and give yourself a week of time.

Canada Road trip - Newfoundland

Gros Morne National Park by VisitGrosMorne 

After speaking to the previous travelers, I cannot adequately describe the vastness and the beauty of this place that has remained almost unspoiled to this day. I know that it takes long to save up and head off to the last great province in Canada, but I also know that the trip will be worth every penny.

Note: This article is created based on extensive research and conversations with previous Newfoundland and Labrador travelers, as I have not personally traveled to Newfoundland and Labrador yet.

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Newfoundland and Labrador: Your Ultimate Canadian Road Trip
Newfoundland and Labrador: Why It is An Ultimate Canadian Road Trip

Newfoundland and Labrador: Your Ultimate Canadian Road Trip

 

Julie Cao

Julie Cao is a travel blogger, travel writer, and global citizen currently living in Toronto Ontario.

14 thoughts on “Newfoundland and Labrador: Why it is an Ultimate Canadian Road Trip

  • October 23, 2016 at 10:18 pm
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    Wow, what a stunning place to visit – I’d like to go too! I love places that are off the beaten track like this. It looks like you visit and enjoy the splendour of that scenery in absolute solitude.

    Reply
  • October 24, 2016 at 6:40 am
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    I can see why you would want to go! Newfoundland and Labrador sound amazing. I actually work in North Sydney (but in Sydney Australia) and I had a little chuckle every time I read it in your post. So close but so far!

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    • March 2, 2017 at 6:14 pm
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      I would love to visit Sydney Australia sometime too. It is interesting that there are lots of city in Canada share the same name as the ones in UK and Australia. It gives me chuckle too.

      Reply
  • October 24, 2016 at 8:33 am
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    NFLD and Labrador always look so beautiful! It’s amazing that I grew up in New Brunswick, my parents have a cottage just outside North Sydney, and yet somehow have no made it to that stunning part of the world! Loved the fact session – I had no idea it was the foggiest city in the country!

    Reply
  • October 24, 2016 at 2:52 pm
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    Newfoundland and Labrador made me instantly think of cute little puppies 🙂 Love both breeds of dogs, Didn’t realize there was a town called Labrador. Interesting history would like to visit these cities in Canada some time!

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    • March 2, 2017 at 6:16 pm
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      It remind me of the labrador breeds too. Labrador is actually a province not a city but I have read it is one of the most beautiful places in Canada. Hope we both can make it there someday!

      Reply
  • October 24, 2016 at 3:50 pm
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    I did this road trip in June/ July of this year. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to Labrador! I didn’t realize the train was an option either. The cost is totally worth the trip. Make sure you go to Gros Morne National Park and climb Gros Morne Mountain. It’s a 9 hour hike but the view are worth it.

    Reply
    • March 2, 2017 at 6:18 pm
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      I heard that Gros Morne National Park is the most beautiful place on earth and your experience inspires me to visit. I believe the costs is totally worth it, and I am still trying to save my pennies for this trip.

      Reply
  • October 24, 2016 at 7:47 pm
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    I would love to explore this part of Canada, I have heard about it before from my sear neighbor on a plane from Cuba to Toronto, who was living in St John. The first time I actually came across this beautiful area of Canada was when I moved to England. My first house used to be on Labrador Driver, corner with Newfoundland Road. 🙂

    Reply
  • October 24, 2016 at 10:34 pm
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    You have nailed the Newfoundland trip as a dream vacation for anyone. I live in Toronto and have never ventured out east to the rock just yet! The shorelines are just breathtaking I seriously need to plan a trip. I focus so much on seeing the world, I forget about Canada’s beauty sometimes.

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    • March 2, 2017 at 6:19 pm
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      You are right about seeing the world. I have lived in Toronto for two years now and I keep forgetting to explore my own backyard. Where do you live in Toronto by the way? We can meet and explore the city together when we both have time. Seriously.

      Reply
  • October 25, 2016 at 11:56 am
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    wow this looks like such an amazing place to go to. I have to admit I never heard about it before but you have now put it on my radar.

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  • October 25, 2016 at 12:02 pm
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    Newfoundland and Labrador look beautiful. We love going on road trips and we had to visit we would prefer to drive. Though the road looks challenging but if the vistas are rewarding the stress of journey can sure be worth it 🙂 Thanks for the information here it would be handy on planning a trip.

    Reply
    • March 2, 2017 at 6:21 pm
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      I wish you will do the road trip to Labrador someday, it is really stunning and the scenery is totally worth it. The strangers you met on the road are legendary too.

      Reply

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