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Exploring The Rock: Top Activities in Newfoundland

Newfoundland, affectionately known by locals as 'The Rock,' is perched right on the edge of North America. This unique geographical position makes it one of the most extraordinary places on the planet to immerse yourself in the grandeur of nature. It's a land where towering mountains reach for the sky; ancient rock formations whisper tales of time, and breathtaking coastlines stretch as far as the eye can see. Here, you can even get up close and personal with icebergs that are a staggering 10,000 years old! With a plethora of national parks and ecological reserves, Newfoundland is a veritable treasure trove for nature enthusiasts. It's a place where the wild and the beautiful coexist, where every view is a postcard, and where adventure awaits around every corner. So, pack your bags and head to this province to unlock the explorer within you. Get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime, to be awed by the raw beauty of nature, and to fall in love with a place that's like no other. Welcome to Newfoundland, the edge of the world where the adventure of a lifetime awaits.

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01 Lose yourself in the wilderness at Gros Morne National Park

When you visit Gros Morne, you're not just visiting a park; you're stepping into a world of stunning fjords, rugged coastlines, and towering mountains that seem to touch the sky. This park is more than just a beautiful landscape; it's a geological wonder that offers a unique way to experience the history of the Earth itself. Imagine walking on land that was shaped by crashing glaciers and colliding continents millions of years ago. Now, it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a testament to its global significance. Whether you're strolling through lush forests and bogs or hiking to the top of Gros Morne Mountain, every step you take is a step through time.

Hiking in Gros Morne National Park,Gros Morne,Canada Matthew Clemente / 500px / Getty Images

02 Answer the call of Signal Hill

Signal Hill isn't just a hill; it's a steep climb that offers an unparalleled view of St John's Harbour, the bustling downtown, and the narrow straits. This hill has been a crucial site for defense and communications, with a history that reaches back to the 17th Century. Fast forward a couple of centuries, and in 1901, Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless transmission from the highest point of Signal Hill. This achievement marked a significant milestone in global communications history. Today, Signal Hill is a fantastic place to explore hiking trails, watch the sunset, and reflect on the past.

Cityscape Stock photograph of St John's, Newfoundland, Canada as seen from the top of Signal Hill. benedek / Getty Images

03 History meets art at The Rooms

The Rooms is more than just Newfoundland and Labrador's largest public cultural space. It's a place where history, heritage, and art come together in a beautiful symphony. The architecture of The Rooms is a tribute to the history of Newfoundland and the fishing rooms where the community gathered to process their catch. It also offers stunning views over St. John. But the real magic happens inside. With an extensive collection of artifacts, including dioramas of the animal and plant life of the tundra and bog, and regular exhibits of both local and international artists, The Rooms is a cultural feast for the senses.

04 See how the lightkeepers lived at Cape Spear Lighthouse

Cape Spear Lighthouse is more than just Canada's most easterly point. It's a window into the lives of 19th-century lighthouse keepers and their families. As you explore the restored lighthouse and the lightkeeper's home, you'll learn about the families who worked tirelessly to keep the light shining brightly over the years. This beacon was particularly important during World War II, serving as a vital signal of safe passage. Perched high on a rugged cliff, with the vast Atlantic Ocean before it and all of North America behind, this lighthouse is a symbol of Newfoundland and Labrador's rich marine history.

Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site jimfeng / Getty Images

05 Get deep at the Jonson Geo Centre

The Johnson Geo Centre is more than just a museum; it's a unique geological journey built into the side of Signal Hill. Most of Memorial University's Johnson Geo Centre is below the hill's surface, offering a unique opportunity to go deep underground and explore the history of the Earth. Here, you can learn about earthquakes, volcanoes, and the varied species of coral that live off Newfoundland. Or, you can look to the skies and explore the future of space exploration. It's a journey through time and space, all under one roof.

06 See stars like never before at Terra Nova National Park

Terra Nova National Park is a place where the magic of Canada's most easterly national park comes alive. It's a place where land and sea compete for your attention, with a vast boreal forest that seems to stretch on forever. But the real star of the show is the night sky. As a designated Dark Sky Preserve, Terra Nova National Park offers an unmatched opportunity to experience the night sky with no light pollution. It's a chance to see the stars as Indigenous peoples and early settlers did, a celestial spectacle that will leave you in awe.

07 See old and new at Quidi Vidi Village

Quidi Vidi, often pronounced "Kiddy Vidi," is a historical fishing neighborhood in St John. It's built around Quidi Vidi Lake and a harbor charmingly named 'The Gut' by locals. From the 1600s, fishermen from Southwest England arrived at Quidi Vidi in spring and stayed until fall, establishing fishing rooms. Over time, some decided to build their lives there, and the village grew around them. Today, you can visit historical sites like Mallard Cottage and Christ Church. But Quidi Vidi isn't just about the past. With the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company and Quidi Vidi Village Artisan Studios, it's a place where history and modernity coexist.

Historic old fishing village of Quidi Vidi in St John's, Newfoundland, Canada pabradyphoto / Getty Images

08 Go deep underground on the No. 2 Mine Tour

When you visit the Bell Island Community Museum, you're not just visiting a museum; you're embarking on a journey through time. The No. 2 Mine tour takes visitors through underground tunnels bathed in a golden light, where guides share stories of days gone by. It's like stepping into a time machine. From deep in the mine, you can hear the sound of the sea around you, a surreal experience that will stay with you long after your visit.

09 Trek the East Coast Trail

The East Coast Trail is more than just a trail; it's a 336 km (208 miles) journey through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. As you trek along the trail, you'll pass by deep fjords, ecological reserves, lighthouses, abandoned historic settlements, a natural geyser, and even icebergs. If you're lucky, you might even spot a whale or two. Starting from Topsail Beach and heading north to Cape St Francis before turning back south towards Cappahayden, every step you take is a step into the wild.

10 Live a Viking life at L'Anse Aux Meadows

L'Anse Aux Meadows is more than just a historical site; it's one of the best authenticated Norse settlements in the world. Dating back around 1,000 years, this site offers a unique glimpse into the lives of the Vikings. In addition to the archaeological site, several sod huts have been reconstructed, offering a taste of Viking life. The guided tours by staff in period dress come highly recommended, offering a unique opportunity to step back in time. As the sun sets, you can sit around the campfire listening to tales of the past, a truly unforgettable experience.

Ancient homes of Viking settlers in L'Anse aux Meadows national historic site on the island of Newfoundland, Canada GeorgeBurba / Getty Images

11 Visit Iceberg Alley

Iceberg Alley is more than just a place; it's one of the best spots in the world to view icebergs. Every year, from late April to early June, colossal chunks of ice arrive from the Arctic. On clear, sunny days, these behemoths come in all shapes and sizes, with colors ranging from the snowiest white to deep aquamarine. It's a spectacle that's as beautiful as it is awe-inspiring.

12 Take a ride down memory lane at Trinity Train Loop

Trinity Loop is more than just a derelict amusement park; it's a place where history and nature collide. Once a railway designed to work with the area's rugged terrain, it later became a beloved amusement park with a Ferris wheel, overnight accommodation, and a museum. Today, it's an interesting place to explore, snap pictures, and get a little spooked. It's a ride down memory lane that's as fascinating as it is eerie.

13 Visit Dildo, Newfoundland

Dock in Dildo on the atlantic in newfoundland

Dildo is more than just a town with a funny name. Located a short drive from the capital of St John's, it's a charming little fishing town with a lot to offer. The well-known 'Welcome to Dildo' sign and town mascot 'Captain Dildo' are great photo ops, but there's more to Dildo than just its name. With a great craft beer brewery and the opportunity to row a traditional fishing boat or dory, it's a place where history and modernity come together in a unique way.

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14 Take a seat at the Tablelands

The Tablelands is more than just a hiking trail; it's a 4km (2.5-mile) journey through a landscape like no other. Made up of the Earth's mantle, which was thrust into the open during geological events millions of years ago, it's a place where you can drink in panoramic views, check out unusual rock formations, and maybe even spot the odd bear. It's a place where the beauty of nature is on full display.

15 Visit the ever-changing Museum of Whales and Things in Port au Choix

The Museum of Whales and Things in Port au Choix is more than just a museum; it's an art project that's constantly evolving. While it does contain a fully preserved skeleton of a Sperm Whale, among other natural objects from the area, it's the collection of oddities that makes it truly unique. From bones and skulls to nets, old newspapers, sand dollars, lobster traps, and strings of Christmas lights, it's a place where the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

16 Elliston Puffin Site and Root Cellars

Puffin pair at Elliston Puffin Viewing site

In the quaint town of Elliston, find yourself amidst the delightful company of puffins at the closest viewing site in North America. These charming birds, with their colorful beaks and playful demeanor, are a sight to behold against the backdrop of the rugged coastline. Not far from the puffin's haven, explore the historical root cellars, a testament to the ingenuity and resilience of Newfoundland's early settlers. These underground storage spaces, dotted around the landscape, offer a unique glimpse into the past and the resourceful spirit of the people.

 

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17 Get screeched-in on George St, St John’s

Embrace the heart and soul of Newfoundland culture with the time-honored tradition of getting "screeched-in" on George Street in St. John’s. This lively ceremony, a rite of passage for visitors, involves a shot of the local rum known as screech, a short recitation, and the unforgettable experience of kissing a cod. The vibrant atmosphere of George Street, lined with bars and pubs, provides the perfect backdrop for this unique and jovial Newfoundland welcome.

18 Jellybean Row, St Johns

St. John's Newfoundland- Jellybean homes

Stroll through the whimsical and colorful streets of Jellybean Row in St. John's, where each house is a splash of vibrant color, painting a picture as unique as the province itself. These iconic row houses, with their bright hues and charming architecture, are more than just homes; they're a canvas that tells the story of a community vibrant, resilient, and full of life. As you meander through these streets, each corner reveals a new palette of colors, making Jellybean Row a photographer's and artist's delight.

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19 Birdwatching at Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve

The bird rock with Northern Gannet birds nesting overlooking Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve in Newfoundland and Labrador Canada.

At Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve in Newfoundland, birdwatching transforms into an immersive experience. Perched on rugged cliffs, this ecological park offers intimate views of thousands of seabirds, including gannets and puffins, set against the majesty of the Atlantic Ocean. The experience is both sensory and educational, as guides share insights while you navigate the scenic paths. This visit offers a profound connection with nature, leaving lasting impressions of its raw, untouched beauty.

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20 Whale watching with Sea of Whales Adventure

Join the Sea of Whales Adventure for an intimate and thrilling encounter with the giants of the deep. In the pristine waters off Newfoundland's coast, these tours offer a chance to witness the majestic humpback whales in their natural habitat. As you glide across the waves in a zodiac boat, keep your eyes peeled for the awe-inspiring sight of a whale breaching the surface. This experience is not just about seeing whales; it's about connecting with nature in its most raw and powerful form.

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