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Report 1901: A Month on the Rock

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2010

Trip Description: Trip report of a month spent in Newfoundland and Labrador in September 2010

Destinations: Countries - North America; Regions/Cities - Canada

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Vacation Rentals; Day Tours; Sightseeing; Walking/Hiking; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 31: Initial Planning and Thoughts

photo by Michael

Newfoundland is bare rock, trees and water.....

We love out of the way places and Newfoundland and Labrador have been on the list for a long time. We were intrigued by its early history (the Vikings first settled here a thousand years ago) and how it was settled from the 16thC first by the French and later the English. It has a very different feel to the rest of Canada.

I ordered a copy of “Lost and Found” from Newfoundland and Labrador Tourist Board. This has a lot of information about driving routes, things to do and see as well as accommodation. They also produce a good, free map which I used for all planning. Once in Newfoundland we bought a copy of Map Art "Atlantic Canada Back Road Atlas" which covered Newfoundland and Labrador on a scale of 1cm to 5 km. It marked all roads, even access roads, so map reading was easy.

I relied heavily on the Internet for information when planning the trip as I wasn’t impressed by either Frommers “Newfoundland and Labrador” or Lonely Planet’s “Nova Scotia, New Brunswick & Prince Edward Island” which has a section on Newfoundland and Labrador. They covered all the tourist ‘honey pots’ but had little or no information on less popular places.

A basic itinerary gradually began to take shape. One thing we realised was that driving distances were long. Apart from a few newer, industrial towns along the Trans Canada Highway, all the settlement is along the coast reached by ‘feeder roads’ off the Trans Canada Highway.

We decided to fly into Deer Lake and out of St John’s as this would save at least a day and 650km of driving. (An important consideration as the car rental only gave us 5200 free km.)

We decided to rent a car through Enterprise. We had used them the previous year in the Prairies and knew they allowed travel on gravel roads. We had to ring to arrange a one way hire as this couldn’t be done on the Internet but they did agree to honour Internet rates. They would let us take the car across to Labrador but would only let us drive as far as Red Bay. Beyond was gravel and we were told the “roads were very bad.” We think this may have been an overstatement but accepted it.

We decided to fly into Deer Lake and visit Labrador early in the itinerary. We knew that the ferry across the Labrador Straits could be canceled in bad weather so built an extra night into both Labrador and the Northern Peninsula to allow for this.

Scenically this is probably the wrong way to do the trip. Labrador is bare rock and open countryside with few trees, except in sheltered areas. The Northern Peninsula is also bare ‘Coastal Barrens’ scenery. It spoilt us, as the rest of Newfoundland has a lot of trees.

Driving on the Trans Canada Highway was mind numbingly boring as all we saw were trees. As we got further east it also got busier.

We decided on September (too late for icebergs, puffins and gannets) but hopefully with reasonable weather and fewer other tourists. Newfoundland has been promoting itself heavily on Canadian TV and visitor numbers have increased dramatically. As for the weather - no one warned us about hurricanes...

We experienced two during our stay. Hurricane Earl swept up the Labrador Straits and caused damage around Corner Brook. Hurricane Igor hit the area to the west of St John’s and did a lot of damage. Roads and bridges were washed away and many communities were isolated for several days without electricity and other services.

I pre-booked all our accommodation several months before we arrived using “Lost and Found.” The places have been inspected by the Tourist Board and standards are guaranteed. There can be problems with accommodation not featured in the guide.

Accommodation was a mix of self catering (either efficiency units or housekeeping units - we never did work out what the difference is and no-one else seemed to know either) and bed and breakfast accommodation. One thing which did surprise us was that very few places we stopped were serviced during our stay, and that included B&B accommodation.

We enjoyed the freedom of self catering and buying our food in the many small convenience stores in every settlement. These were open long hours and even small shops had a wide choice of produce. The fish and beef were excellent. The quality of fresh fruit and vegetables did vary but cabbage, carrots and bananas were a safe standby. We enjoyed the Newfoundland bread, especially the ‘home baked’ bread and found that it kept really well.

Our final itinerary was:

  • Fly from Halifax to Deer Lake. Edgewater Inn, Steady Brook - 2 nights
  • St Barbe Motel - 1 night
  • Early morning ferry to Labrador. Sea View Cabins, Forteau - 3 nights
  • Late ferry back Newfoundland. St Barbe Motel - 1 night
  • Snorri Cabins, Straitsview - 4 nights
  • Bottom Brook Cabins, Rocky Harbour - 3 nights
  • Windermere Cabins, Rattling Brook - 2 nights
  • Southern Port Hotel, Harbour Breton - 2 nights
  • Rum Runners Roost, Twillingate - 2 nights
  • Inn by the Sea, Eastport - 1 night
  • Top of the Hill, Trouty 2 nights
  • Best View Efficiency Units, Bay Bulls - 3 nights
  • Fly from St John’s to Halifax

As we were flying from Halifax we decided to add a few extra days on to the end of the holiday to let us see something of Nova Scotia. This has been written up as a separate trip report.

We had a marvelous time. We loved Labrador and the Northern Peninsula.

With hindsight there are certain changes we would make if we did the trip again.

I had chosen Forteau as being in easy reach of all the places we were likely to visit in Labrador. We loved Red Bay and I wished we had built in more time here with at least one night accommodation there as well as in Forteau.

After Labrador and the Northern Peninsula, we found Rocky Harbour very busy and full of tourists. Another time I think I would choose to stop at Woody Point.

We had picked Rattling Brook as the base for Baie Verte as we thought the accommodation option was better - it probably was. We had wanted to visit the Dorset Soap Stone Quarries. It was a long drive. While we enjoyed seeing the quarries I’m not sure that they justified the time taken to get there and I think I would miss them out another time. It was raining heavily the day we arrived at Ratting Brook with low cloud so there didn’t seem much point in exploring some of the side roads around there. We wonder whether they would have been a better investment of time than the quarries and Baie Verte Peninsula.

The day allocated for Terra Nova National Park was also very wet so we didn’t see much of that either. However I’ve a feeling that there may have been too many trees along the walks for us ... I would miss that another time.

We didn’t have time to visit the Burin Peninsula and do rather regret this having enjoyed Harbour Breton so much.

We didn’t visit any of the Islands. If we came again I would try and include a visit to Fogo Island.

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