As an East Coaster living on the West Coast, every time I tell people where I’m from, I hear the same thing: "I've always wanted to make it out that way, but I've never made it past Toronto." I understand—travelling in our big, beautiful country can easily set you back thousands of dollars once you factor in flights, car rentals and accommodations—not to mention outdoor adventure costs!
One thing that seems to have been a result of Covid-19 is a renewed appreciation for travelling within our own country, so if a trip to the East Coast is in your future, here’s why you need to visit Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland and Labrador—plus, how to do it on a budget.
Note: Each location is in suggested travel order.
Drive to Woody Point
The drive from Deer Lake into and around Gros Morne National Park is incredible, but the drive into Woody Point is on a whole other level. This is one of the coolest drives on the east coast, trust me on this. You’ll spend over an hour driving through prehistoric-looking landscapes where the mantle of the Earth is exposed alongside beautiful meadows. Maybe you’ll even see a moose!
Camping in Trout River
Camping is one of the best ways to connect with the rugged landscapes and to save yourself some serious cash. A personal favorite is Trout River Campground which provided a beautiful, private campsite, clean washroom facilities and access to pebble beaches where we were able to enjoy a campfire. Because Trout River is a quiet area, there is little light pollution so this makes a perfect opportunity to stargaze. This campsite is close to many awesome hikes in the area.
Hiking in Gros Morne National Park
Speaking of hiking, Gros Morne is a hiker’s paradise, and while most can’t visit without doing the iconic Gros Morne Mountain Trail, here are a couple of others that I highly recommend:
Green Gardens: This nine-kilometre in-and-out trail provides some of the best coastal views. After a 4.5-kilometre hike in, you’ll reach a lookout with steep and sketchy stairs that will bring you down to a pebble beach. Keep walking along the beach to find a hidden waterfall. Bring a lightweight towel and clothes you can get wet for a refreshing mid-hike dip! If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the local sheep.
Tablelands: The Tablelands are a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the few places in the world where you can explore the Earth’s exposed mantle. You can take it easy on the boardwalk or find your way up to the top.
There are seemingly endless waterfalls to explore in this part of the province, but one of my favourites is tucked away beside Middle Brook Cottages and Chalets. You’ll find a small parking lot and a trail that leads you to the falls. This is a local swimming hole with multiple layers of waterfalls and pools to explore. I highly recommend bringing water shoes! As always, be respectful of the space and make sure to leave no trace.
There are numerous waterfall trails that you will find along the highway from Deer Lake all the way to the top. These mostly involve short walks in.
Rent a Kayak or Paddle Board
Head to Norris Point and paddle around Bonne Bay—you can rent a kayak for $35 or $45 for two hours (depending on single or double). This is a great way to see the area from a different perspective!
(Water) Taxi, Please!
From the same area in Norris Point, you can hop on a water taxi, departing from The Cat Stop Pub & Grub. The water taxi takes you “across the pond” to Woody Point and only takes about 15 minutes. Round-trip, it will cost you under $20. You will get a true Newfoundland experience as the boat crew serenade their passengers with a song or two!
Local Music at The Cat Stop
A trip to Newfoundland wouldn’t be complete without catching some local musical talent. There’s an incredible show called Anchors Aweigh, but tickets will run you over $50 each and sell out quickly. If you want a more authentic local experience, stick around at The Cat Stop. On weekends, you will usually find amazing local talent performing for no extra charge.
Eat at Jackie’s
While most people want to eat seafood and moose while in Newfoundland (and you should), I’m going to go against most travel bloggers’ recommendations and suggest something totally different. My recommendation is to at least grab a bite at Jackie’s Restaurant while you’re in the area. You will have the best chicken and poutine of your life here, I guarantee it.
Visit Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse
About five minutes outside of Rocky Harbour is a small lighthouse called Lobster Cove Head. There are some short and easy trails around the lighthouse as well as down to a pebble beach. Get there at low tide and go beachcombing or enjoy the sunset.
If you continue to drive up the coast, you’ll hit Shallow Bay Beach. It is truly one of the best beaches in the area. Pack a lunch, bring a book and enjoy the nice warm weather (from July to August).
Now you’re prepared for a budget-friendly adventure in Gros Morne National Park. Happy exploring!