Picture yourself walking along a quaint row of colourful house fronts, passing local fish restaurants. Meters away you see whale watching boats retrace the paths of the mighty humpback. Just a few miles away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, an untouched wilderness often described as otherworldly unfolds. As you overlook the wind-swept landscapes of this island in the North Atlantic you spot some puffins building their nests. If you were to locate this destination based on this description, chances are that your finger will point on Reykjavik, Iceland, not St John’s Newfoundland. Iceland, of course, is famed for its landscapes and quirky travel experiences where, in recent years, the country has witnessed a tourism boom, attracting travellers from all over the world in the millions. Inspired by Iceland’s stellar career, we went on the look-out for other raw diamonds who also deserve a spot in the limelight. A glimpse a little further west on the map takes you to Newfoundland, the eastern Canadian island that shares many of Iceland’s peculiarities. Swap hectic Reykjavik for buzzy St Johns to kick off your wilderness adventure with the added bonus of giant moose strolling across deserted highways.
The feeling of being at the corner of the world
Just like Iceland, Newfoundland comes with that ‘at the corner of the world’ feel. After all, this is the place where the old met the new world for the very first time. Explorers with a knack for history can discover the heritage early Irish settlers, especially in music-loving St John’s, where you’ll often hear Irish music and folklore oozing through the doors of local pubs. Reaching the outskirts of town, a short scramble up on Signal Hill sends you to place where radio signals were first received in 1901. Besides, the element of surprise is not lost on Newfoundland history. At the North of the island, North America’s only UNESCO-protected Viking settlement stands testament to its earliest explorers. Vikings, who perhaps ventured out from Iceland?
Your own national park
If you dream of remote hikes, deserted scenic roads and up close and personal wildlife viewing, a visit to the national park of Gros Morne should be a key element of your travel itinerary. The trip taking you to the east of Newfoundland offers a sensational otherworldly remoteness. In the park vertigo-inducing fjords, glacial lakes and sandy beaches make any outdoors enthusiast’s heart skip a beat. Those familiar with Iceland’s barren landscapes are likely to find a striking resemblance between the desert-like landscapes experienced as they ascend the highland plateau. Only this time, it’ll feel like a truly off the beaten track experience!
A road trip into the wild
Similar to Iceland one of the best ways to explore the rugged island is by car as part of an epic self-drive holiday into the wild. See excitement levels soar as you begin to realise that it’s only you and the open road ahead. The trip offers plenty of chances to either admire the tranquil wilderness or local wildlife. Lucky travellers might spot black bears, arctic foxes and moose in the Gros Morne national park.
Whale watching, year round!
If you prefer to take to the sea, there are ample opportunities to get up close with humpback and Minke whales. Both species roam the nutritious waters of the island all year round, making Newfoundland one of the few destinations that enjoys the permanent company of the species. Sometimes the whales come so close to the shore, you might even feel like being able to touch them.
Greetings from the Arctic
Another sea encounter that will stay with you for a long time is that of the many blue icebergs circumventing the island. Each year thousands of icebergs migrate down from Greenland to the shores of Newfoundland. To many people a sighting of these gigantic ice sculptures can only be described as a larger than life experience. The passing icebergs are best witnessed from May till June. A visit to iceberg alley is complete when you get up close to nature's ice giants by kayak, RIB or from the comfort of a coastal lighthouse.
Newfoundland is renowned for its capricious seasons. Often each season makes an appearance within a day! Packing your shades, waterproof jacket and mittens is never a bad idea, regardless of the time of year. Something that is reminiscent of another island in the North Atlantic? To manage expectations, Newfoundlanders decided that four seasons didn’t quite fit the weather’s agenda. Another three seasons were amended to describe the ever-changing scenery of the island. Please welcome pack ice, trap berth and berry picking season!
How to get there
A direct flight from London to St John’s takes just under five hours, a mere two hours more than the three hour flight to Reykjavik.
If you like to find out more about how to plan your next trip to Newfoundland’s rugged wilderness please get in touch with the team of travel experts at Magnetic North Travel.