On our way to pick up our van we stopped in the beautiful Canadian province of Newfoundland (and Labrador, but we didn’t get into that part!), and toured around for 4 days.
Our first afternoon in the capital of St John’s eased us into Canadian life. This trip has been so long in the planning, with so many expectations and unknowns, we were both a bit shell shocked. This was actually happening. We were actually doing it.
We wandered the quaint, colourful streets of the city, smiling at people who smiled back and said hello. We went to a bakery where the staff went out of the way to be friendly and help explain the local delicacies. Random people complimented us on our sunglasses.
It was all very disconcerting.
But we soon assimilated ourselves. It sounds obvious, but it is so nice to be in a place where people are nice. In the evening we did as many of the other locals and took an evening stroll up the nearby signal hill. The paths were rugged, the views were amazing, and right at the top we spotted something moving down in the bay. Whales! Just there, swimming right in front of us. We sat and watched them until it got cold, feeling pretty amazed that this was just our first night in Canada.
The next few days turned into a whale (and bird) watching bonanza. We went out into Witless Bay on a whale watching boat and were surrounded by beautiful humpback whales.
We saw one of the biggest puffin colonies in North America
We then drove around the “Irish loop” on the Avalon Peninsula and spotted whales off the coast while we were driving (as well as enjoying unbelievable scenery!).
We stopped at St Vincent’s beach, one of the most awe-inspiring places we’d both ever been to. The sea is really deep very close to the shoreline, so the whales are just swimming along about 10m from the beach. It was also seemingly a hidden gem, there were more whales in the bay then people on the beach.
We went to Cape St Mary to get up close and personal to the largest gannet colony in North America. We saw yet more whales playing in the bay!
It was simply unbelievable. The whole 4 days. We couldn’t believe there weren’t more people there.
We stayed at an Airbnb one night with Mary, the mayor of a small town called St Josephs. The house was completely adorable and quaint, a traditional Saltbox style house. But the conversation was even more interesting. We talked about the lack of tourism and infrastructure – we simply couldn’t believe the fact somewhere like St Vincent’s Bay hadn’t been exploited more (there was no shop, no toilet, no restaurant…not even a hotel!). She said that quite a lot of the locals just don’t realise how stunning their home land is.
Because the place is stunning. We could have spent weeks there. Four days just scratched the surface.
And, at only 5.5 hours from London, it’s pretty accessible.
Flights -WestJet has direct flights from London Gatwick at about £600 return
Transport – definitely worth hiring a car. Just make sure you hire it from St John’s not Saint John. They are different places it turns out…learnt that the hard way!
Accomodation – not plentiful. We stayed in the only hostel in St John’s which was very basic and expensive for the standard. Along the coast there are a smattering of airbnbs and expensive hotels. One night we just stayed in our hire car. Lots of people just stay in their cars!
When to go – June you can see icebergs from the coast which is pretty awesome, but mid July to August is when the whales come out to play…which is also awesome!
What to do:
- Spend more than four days – at least ten, if not 2 weeks. One week would be better than nothing!
- Look at the Newfoundland website – it is stunning and very informative
- Go on an O’Briens whale watching tour
- Visit St Vincent’s bay and spend an evening watching the sunset and whales playing out at sea
- Visit Cape St Mary’s nature reserve
- Sample St John’s folk scene at all the buzzing bars
- There’s much more….but we didn’t have time for it!