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Daniel_Williams Jun 27th, 2017 02:41 PM

Newfoundland by Public Transit! Can't Be Done!
OR CAN IT? I'd never been to Newfoundland and was curious about it--"you need a car to go!", I was told. Maybe you could fly to St. John's they said but then you're stuck there. Not worth going for just St. John's they said. So, years passed and I never went.

I believed them for what I now think was for far too long. Certainly, I'll agree that without one's own vehicle there are many things one cannot do in Newfoundland. However, as I'm discovering, there's a lot one *can do* and I'd opine that even going for just St. John's without a car could make for a pretty darn amazing & eye-opening vacation! I won't deny however that doing a journey that involved more than St. John's required significant planning and basing the travel days around public transportation availability.

So, my plan was ambitious, involving no plane and no car rental starting from Montreal. Not my most ambitious (Montreal to Mexico and Guatemala by only trains & buses I think was more), but definitely up there!

So, what was the plan?

June 16 VIA Rail. Montreal QC-Halifax Nova Scotia sleeper
June 17-20. Halifax NS. Waverley Inn. See friends.
June 20. Maritime Bus. Halifax-North Sydney NS
June 21. Marine Atlantic Ferry. North Sydney NS-Argentia Newfoundland
June 22. Newhook's Taxi. Argentia-St. John's
June 22-26. St. John's Nfld
June 26. DRL bus. St. John's- Corner Brook Nfld.
June 26-28. Corner Brook, Nfld
June 28 . Martin's Taxi Corner Brook- Woody Point Gros Morne Nfld.
June 28-30. Woody Point, Gros Morne Nfld
June 30 Martin's & DRL. Woody Point-Port aux Basques, Nfld
July 1 Marine Atlantic ferry Port aux Basques, Nfld-North Sydney NS
July 2 Maritime Bus. North Sydney NS- Charlottetown PEI
July 2-7. Friend in PEI
July 7. Maritime Bus PEI- Moncton, VIA Rail Moncton- Montreal sleeper

I'm now in Corner Brook and I must say I've enjoyed Myself tremendously this trip thus far. Newfoundland is amazing and I even enjoyed being back in Halifax after 10 years of not seeing the Nova Scotia capital!

*Details to Come*

MmePerdu Jun 27th, 2017 03:14 PM

I look forward to hearing more. I lived in Montreal for a couple of years and wished I'd gone east. Maybe it isn't too late!

xcountry Jun 28th, 2017 04:02 AM

"Not worth going for just St. John's they said."

Nuts to that.

"Martin's Taxi Corner Brook- Woody Point Gros Morne Nfld."

I hope you report what that taxi fare was. We were there last fall but rented a car.

Daniel_Williams Jun 28th, 2017 01:50 PM

Martin's Taxi (which is more of a shuttle, stops in Deer Lake as well) from Corner Brook to Woody Point set me back a whopping $22.50. They apparently make money as well on package deliveries.

I'm in Woody Point now. A stunning place...

xcountry Jun 28th, 2017 02:20 PM

Good find on the shuttle.

Daniel_Williams Jul 4th, 2017 02:58 AM


I slept well, ate well and enjoyed the socializing as usual going on VIA Rail long-distance to Halifax. Having done this ride before, I was there to advise first-time visitors (lots of Brits and Australians on the train) to make sure to be in the dome car during scenic highlights such as the entry into Halifax via the Bedford Basin, in my opinion arguably the most dramatic entry into a North American city out there by train.


It had been 10 years since I had been to Halifax. I met up with two friends there, Derek from PEI and Adam from NYC. The city was a slight detour from my intent of getting to Newfoundland for the first time ever, but my friend Adam has long expressed an interest in going but has wanted to go with someone, our schedules meshed, so I thought, why not add an extra few hours and detour to Halifax?

It was great to be back in the Nova Scotia capital. The Public Gardens are truly phenomenal and ablaze in gorgeous colour as the azaleas and rhododendron were in bloom. The hues of pinks, purples, yellows, reds and oranges were placed so as to make a truly spectacular visual. In my mind, one of the great North American gardens.

We visited old favourites such as Peggy's Cove and the Citadel. I ate at the Sou'wester restaurant at Peggy's Cove, where we had a window seat that overlooked the atmospheric village in one direction and the waves crashing against the rocks in another. I also got to see some new things in Halifax. Went to Pier 21 to learn about Canada's 20th century immigration experience there and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which had an excellent exhibit on the Halifax Explosion a hundred years ago. At the latter museum, the story of Barbara Orr, who went out to see the flames, only to feel suddenly her body twisting & turning, carried as if moved by a wind, only to find herself landing 1/4 of a km after the explosion alive, I found particularly moving. Or the signaller who sent the message to stop the train coming into Halifax, saving many lives, with a goodbye postscript knowing he would not make it. After, I visited the handsome Hydrostone neighbourhood in the north of the city which I'd missed in prior visits, a section of town built for those displaced by the explosion; at the time considered functional housing for the destitute but now much coveted in a wave of urban gentrification, with concrete homes often made quite pretty with trimming, gardens and a nice dash of paint.

*Cape Breton to Newfoundland next. From here on in, I see parts of Canada I've not seen before*

thursdaysd Jul 4th, 2017 05:39 AM

So happy to find your report. I prefer not to drive and this area looked very dificult otherwise, but I really wanted to make it to L'Anse aux Meadows.

The train to Halifax is definitely on my list, having done the Canadian. Were you using buses there?

Daniel_Williams Jul 5th, 2017 03:41 AM

Hi Thursdaysd!

In Halifax, this time, my friend Adam rented a car which brought us on the scenic route to Peggy's Cove, but other than I walked everywhere in this pedestrian-friendly city. I have used the city bus & ferry system however on previous visits, such as when I took the ferry to Dartmouth followed by a bus to the boardwalks of Fisherman's Cove in the eastern passage. The bus service is do-able within greater Halifax but service is limited or nonexistent to surrounding areas of Nova Scotia.

There's no public transit other than Gray Line (maybe other?) tours out to Peggy's Cove. I took the one-a-day Maritime Bus route up to Cape Breton (North Sydney) this year. There are 2-3 runs daily to Charlottetown PEI and a few other places.

thursdaysd Jul 5th, 2017 04:09 AM

Thanks Daniel! I will have to look harder next time - or start with the sometimes unreliable rome2rio. I had no luck finding an alternative to driving to the Viking site other than a full blown tour, and Road Scholar wanted me to eat dinner at 5:00pm.

Daniel_Williams Jul 5th, 2017 05:57 AM


Specifically with regard to the Viking site at l'Anse aux Meadows: there may be a way to get there but I couldn't figure out how to do it either. It's quite a significant detour from many of Newfoundland's other attractions so I think it would have been tricky to fit it into this year's trip anyway.

Daniel_Williams Jul 8th, 2017 01:52 PM

*Halifax to Newfoundland*

*Last words on Halifax*

It was good to be back in Halifax after a 10 year absence. I'm a bit saddened by all the glassy high rise development that has taken place in the interim, blocking the view of the harbour from the Citadel now in multiple spots. I know Halifax is trying to "modernize" but I hope the city doesn't wipe out its historic character as well as that viewline, which is part of its appeal! Speaking of viewlines, I highly recommend eating in the cafe at the top floor of the Public Library in Halifax, which also has handsome views of the harbour!

I wondered longingly as I left the charming Victorian-era Waverley Inn, where Oscar Wilde and myself both stayed in Halifax, when I would next return to the Nova Scotia capital. However, a few minutes walk from the inn and these wistful thoughts dissipated as I was starting to get giddy to be on a new adventure, boarding the Maritime Bus bound for Sydney NS, which leaves right in front of the VIA Rail station. For the next 10 days, I would be seeing territory in Canada I had never seen before.

*Onward to Cape Breton Island*

The bus ride from Halifax is pretty uneventful until the Antigonish stop in the heart of the Saint F.X. (Francis Xavier) University campus with its handsome tall brick buildings. About 10-20 minutes after Antigonish, my excitement was really mounting as I could see the inlets of the beautiful blue Strait of Canso wedged between the rolling Mainland Nova Scotia farmland and the foresty green sloping shores of Cape Breton Island, a storied island I was seeing for the first time ever. Before long, we had crossed the piled-rock-surrounded Canso Causeway with the imposing water surrounding that takes one off the mainland to where I could almost immediately see the pride of Cape Breton identity visible in the bilingual (Celtic-English!)signs and the green & white with yellow circle Cape Breton flag I didn't even know existed before that moment.

*Cape Breton Island: North Sydney NS*

While there were a few uneventful areas that were just trees or fields on the Mabel & Alexander Graham Bell Way (Highway 105) heading north from Port Hastings after the Canso Causeway, mostly the scenery just knocked my socks off. Whether it was the curving inlets of the Bras d'Or Lakes near Whycocomagh or the Cabot-Trail-like sheer drops before we crossed a bridge a little north of Baddeck, I thought the landscape by and large breathtaking. And I could not help but think that I wasn't even seeing the part of the island that everyone raves about, the Cape Breton Highlands National Park!

*North Sydney NS*

Arriving in the ~6000 person town of North Sydney around 9pm, the ferry to Argentia, Newfoundland was not due to leave until 5 pm the next day. I had not particularly thought this part of my trip through and wondered what on earth I would do to keep myself busy until the 3pm boarding time at the Marine Atlantic terminal! My bed and breakfast "At the Harbourfront B&B" thankfully not only was within easy walking distance of the both the Maritime Bus stop and the Marine Atlantic terminal, but also of the main drag in town, Commercial Street, where one finds banks, stores and a number of restaurants.

The next morning, after walking to one side of the ferry terminal to check out the unfortunately closed Indian Beach, I went on the mission I had decided upon to check out Commercial Street on the other side of the terminal. My journey began at the free North Sydney Heritage Center, from whose displays I learned about North Sydney's historic important role as a Western Union post, as North Sydney was where transatlantic cables brought messages from Europe, being the first spot where these lines touched the North American mainland. As a consequence, North Sydney was the first place in North America to learn about the end of World War 1. Here also, I read about the sinking by a German U-boat of the SS Caribou in WW2, a Newfoundland to Nova Scotia ferry. This event brought that war close to home for many Cape Bretoners as quite a number of casualties were from North Sydney.

The teenage girls who worked at the Heritage Center strongly recommended I go to Black Spoon for lunch, which turned out to be a truly fantastic spot on Commercial Street whose spiced sweet potato soup & sandwich lunch special was delicious. After lunch, I walked for about half an hour along Commercial Street to Munro Park & Boardwalk. As I moved away from the more industrial port area toward the park, the views of the Sydney Harbour became progressively a more attractive green, with pleasing views of the opposite shore & some quite handsome homes with expansive lawns adjacent the road.

*Marine Atlantic Ferry Crossing Nova Scotia to Newfoundland*

When I arrived a little before 3pm, the ferry terminal surprised me that it had such a modern, polished look with TV displays, a souvenir shop and even an area for children to sit. Most of the passengers on the ferry crossing come in vehicles, but I was among 4 foot passengers who are taken aboard the boat MV Atlantic Vision via a shuttle bus along with some ship workers.

Even before I checked into my cabin, even on the shuttle bus, my excitement level was rising rapidly as I heard the quite different Newfie accents of many ship workers and the Marine Atlantic greeting staff. The whole boarding process was a harbinger of what was to come, since with some of the ship workers, I wouldn't understand about a third of what they said. Yet with them and with the staff, there was that warm Newfoundland friendliness that seemed to take the word friendly even a notch higher than what one experiences in the already quite welcoming easternmost provinces of the Mainland.

While the 17-hour crossing from North Sydney to Argentia might sound like a long ordeal to some of you, I found the time flew. While not inexpensive, I would strongly recommend going to the a la carte dining area of the MV Atlantic Vision. The chicken parmigiana and accompanying vegetables were mouth-wateringly flavoured and spiced and the seafood chowder appetizer was delicious. I'd skip the appetizer if I were to do it again, as it ended up being quite the big bowl of soup. Here I was charmed by the warmth and accent of my friendly brunette waitress, who I incorrectly assumed was a Newfoundlander, when in fact she was from Cape Breton (whose residents can also have an atypical North American accent). After the supper, a delightful British couple who had sat near me in the dining room invited me to come sit with them in the Colours bar/lounge area of the ship. Here we chatted some more while we half-listened to a musician singing popular, Canadian or Newfoundland folk tunes while playing guitar. I really enjoyed talking to them as they had stories from my home town of Montreal from when they lived there in the late 60s and 70s, some twenty years before I moved there in 1994.

After the bar, I slept quite well in the bed in my cabin, partook of the buffet breakfast spread and before I knew it, we had reached the foggy and cool yet atmospheric shores of Argentia Newfoundland where you could barely see the land even when docked.

*Coming up next: What were my thoughts on my first stop on the island: St. John's Newfoundland?*

laverendrye Jul 8th, 2017 04:14 PM

Great report! I'm looking forward to the next instalment.

thursdaysd Jul 8th, 2017 05:22 PM

Really enjoying this!

Daniel_Williams Jul 9th, 2017 07:21 AM

Sometimes it's the interaction with other people that can be as memorable as new landscapes. On the bus from Halifax to North Sydney NS, some kids who cried and screamed in a particularly earsplitting, loud and shrill manner boarded in Truro NS. Their shrieks managed to penetrate even with my finger in my ear. Listening to the loud mother was not much better, who had a voice that could have doubled for Roseanne Barr's character, "Marsha,I told you to sit down and SHUT UP!", "Get in your seat NOOOOW!", "Marsha, leave your sister ALOOONE!". I was disappointed when I heard the seemingly meek father say to his kids "Tomorrow, we're going to see Nana after the ferry ride", which meant they were going to be on the bus all the way to North Sydney along with me.

*Argentia to St. John's*

The $40 shuttle service for the hour-and-a-half ride between the Marine Atlantic Ferry Terminal in Argentia and St. John's called Newhook's Taxi was, shall we say, interesting. There's no Internet portal, so you have no choice but to telephone this number; it seems possibly to me to be a one-man operation. I tried to book a few months and even a week in advance but the man on the phone said in a half-comprehensible thick Newfoundland accent a few things, and I'm glad I understood that "ya call day 'fore!". So, I called the day before & the man-of-few-words on the phone said "OK, 'll be there" and that was the end of it. In this day and age of barcodes and electronic receipts, it's kind of funny to just have not more than a verbal "gotcha" as your confirmation. The fellow didn't seem write down my name and didn't ask for my contact info and I hadn't the least idea where I was supposed to meet him. I was so discombobulated by his difficult-to-understand and terse English that after I hung up, I realized that I had to call back to find out how much it cost!

Well, things went smoothly and us three foot passengers going to St. John's were pointed toward the Newhook's Taxi minivan when we got off the Marine Atlantic shuttle bus off the boat. During the ride toward St. John's, the elderly Newhook's driver listened to a Newfoundland radio program where they were interviewing for about 20 minutes this Irish-like Newfoundlander-accented woman Mary who had gained and lost weight over the years. "I've prolly lost 300 pounds," she said, "'cause I keep losing and then gaining!" and the interviewer would interject a variety of complimentary things from time to time into her monologue such as "Well, good on ya, Mary!". Half the time, the reception was more static than Mary and interviewer, but the Newhook's driver didn't seem to mind and didn't change the channel.

I must say, as strange an experience as this Newhook's taxi ride in was, I wouldn't have changed a thing about it. It seemed an almost magical, otherworldly introduction to Newfoundland especially combined with the phenomenal beauty of the gorgeous steep green slopes adjacent water inlets visible in the fog for the first part of the journey outside Argentia. The Newhook's driver despite being only half-comprehensible seemed kind and dropped the 20-something Ontarian passengers (who were as confused as I) off at the airport for their car rental and myself at my guest house in downtown St. John's.

Given that Newhook's from what I can tell seems to be under the exclusive purview of this elderly fellow, I hope that Marine Atlantic will continue to provide a shuttle service from Argentia to St. John's once he retires so that foot passengers can continue to do the Nova Scotia to Argentia crossing to get to St. John's. Unlike North Sydney, which is a town with B&B options, Argentia from what I could tell seemed to be the Marine Atlantic Ferry terminal and nothing else.

*Four days in St. John's Newfoundland next*

Daniel_Williams Jul 9th, 2017 01:05 PM

*Overview of St. John’s*

I must say I wouldn’t argue if someone declared St. John’s to be the most beautiful city in the USA and Canada combined. Certainly, Quebec City and San Francisco are up there and one could certainly make arguments for Vancouver, Charleston, Victoria and probably a few others. But in my experience, that stunning harbour in St. John’s combined with the particularly gorgeous hiking opportunities has no equivalent. And those colourful homes; parts of the city even make you feel like you’re in some charming fishing village! This said, to be honest, I find it best just to appreciate the beautiful offerings of whenever given such opportunity rather than fretting over who’s #1.

St. John’s has more than just beauty going for it, however. It’s arguably the oldest city in the USA and Canada, with preliminary settlements there during the 1500s. The city has a unique energy that while yes is influenced by its presence in Canada, yet it somehow simultaneously feels like nowhere on the North American Mainland. I kept remembering while there that Newfoundland was NOT Canada in living memory, only joining Canadian confederation in 1949. The differenct vibe stems I believe also from the Avalon Peninsula having been historically settled by folks in majority coming from the Waterford/Kilkenny region of Ireland, which infuses St. John’s with an Irish culture in a predominating way that one does not see in other North American cities.

*Overview of Time in St. John’s*

June 22. Arrive at Elizabeth Manor Guest House. I always start a new place by seeing what surrounds my accommodation, so explored downtown. June 23. O’Brien’s Whale and Puffin Watching Tour at Witless Bay. June 24. Hiked to Signal Hill. The Rooms (museum) due to rain. June 25. Hiked to Quidi Vidi, lunch at Mallard Cottage, then hiked more to Signal Hill from Quidi Vidi angle. June 26. Leave St. John’s at 7:30 am.

*Downtown St. John’s*
I would amble down most every day to Harbourside Park and sit on a bench to view the Narrows, an aptly named narrow strip of water between the rocky sloped Signal Hill on one side and similarly sloped Fort Amherst on the other. One evening I brought a sandwich to admire at length what is possibly one of the most striking views I’ve ever seen from a downtown city location.

For those who like big city pleasures, St. John’s downtown might seem small with limited opportunities. However, there are plenty of restaurants to keep folks busy and I very much appreciated its unique offerings such as the pub environment at places like O’Reilly’s and the Duke of Duckworth. At the former, a fiddler and two guitarists played some upbeat Newfoundland-style music and lots of women and a few men came out to dance in a style that not knowing the right words, I would describe as a jig. I had a blast!

The Rooms Museum was another highlight, where I learned much about the history of Newfoundland. I was saddened to read that the last surviving member of the indigenous Beothuk Shawnadithit died in the early part of the 19th century. Thanks to her, some knowledge of the Beothuk remains today.


In my mind, what makes St. John’s such a stellar city is the exceptional hiking opportunities, such a great way to stay fit. I struggle to think of another urban path that matches the moderately difficult North Head Trail, with its breathtaking views of the rocky coastline. Even the beginning, where you pass through an area of St. John’s that looks like a fishing village with wooden homes stacked up the rugged shoreline is quite magical. The Cabot Tower at the top of the North Head Trail has an interesting exhibit on Marconi, during which you learn of his ingenuity sending the first wireless message via Morse Code from Europe to Signal Hill. The path from similarly picturesque Quidi Vidi Village (Mallard Cottage here is excellent lunch spot and has a friendly ambience) with fishing boats offered yet more gorgeous rocky coast contours & vistas past Cuckolds Cove up to Ladies Lookout and Signal Hill.

*O’Brien’s Whale and Puffin Tour*

A number of tourists were picked up at area hotels in town by the O’Brien’s shuttle bus that took us about 30 minutes south to Witless Bay. The boat trip from Witless Bay was almost worth it alone for the ambience as the guide sang a Newfoundland-style tune and passengers clapped their hands and stamped their feet to accompany. Then we saw humpback whales GALORE, up-close, in pairs like synchronized swimmers spouting out air, even a tail. Incredible. Then the boat turned toward Gull Island, home to HALF A MILLION puffins, in addition to large number of the equally cute murres (that looked like miniature penguins although they’re in the auk family) and the second smallest gull known as the black-legged kittiwakes. I had never seen a puffin before and I was surprised at how small they were and that they fly remarkably quickly. I was expecting them to be about half the size of a penguin and like penguins, land-dwellers. They’re more quail-sized. I also thought we would only catch glimpses of them, not have swarms of the adorable orange-beaked bird fluttering above the boat! Oh yes, and did I mention that the scenery is quite beautiful with caves on the shoreline here?

On the boat, I thought it was a good moment to be “screeched in”, which is an initiation-rite-to-Newfoundland involving drinking a dram of screech rum (bleccch), saying some things in Newfoundland English and kissing a cod. We had no cod to kiss, so instead we kissed a stuffed puffin butt.

*Up next: DRL bus, Western Newfoundland*

xcountry Jul 9th, 2017 01:21 PM

Really nice report. In the late 90s I complained to a friend of mine who ran Canada's national parks that a section of the North Head Trail was downright dangerous (just after the trail starts at Outer Battery Road). The reaction of the specific office responsible for the trail was buzz off. A few years later they installed chains at the dangerous section. I guess either enough nervous hikers commented or the lawyers recognized some potential crown liability.

Daniel_Williams Jul 10th, 2017 07:58 AM

*DRL bus to Corner Brook, Newfoundland*

If you want to get across the province by public transportation, the one-a-day DRL bus line from St. John’s departing the MUN Centre at 7:30am *is* your only option. Of note for those who use credit cards for everything; the bus works in an old school way. As of the summer 2017, you pay WITH CASH once you get on board; no reservation can be made on-line but you can find prices on their website. Bob drove while Molly collected the money and gave the receipts; Molly was in charge of the entertainment, putting movies into the DVD player for your viewing pleasure. Molly also called everybody at Gander Airport restaurant to let them know the lunch break was over and it was time to get back on the bus. DRL says “guaranteed travel” is their motto, but it still made me a bit nervous not to have a reservation as my plans relied on them getting me from St. John’s to Corner Brook. The bus turned out to be maybe 70% full, however, so it worked out.

People had told me that the ride along the highway across the province is “dull, all you see is trees” and while there’s a bit of that, I think those trying to dissuade me from doing this must not have done long stretches on I-95 in the US South, where one truly almost sees nothing but trees or fields. I actually found the road had some fantastic portions. The highlights for me were the views of the inlets approaching Clarenville, the long stretches adjacent Gander Lake and the dramatic hilly green topography beside Deer Lake and the Humber River approaching Corner Brook from the north. Even outside these stellar parts of the trip, the terrain was more undulating than I-95, which offered lovely vistas of tall hills and valleys on many an occasion, which made it tremendously different from that famed largely flat NY-Florida highway.

*Corner Brook*
I caught a cab around 6pm from the Circle K bus stop to my hotel, the Greenwood Inn & Suites, in downtown Corner Brook. In my initial exploration of Corner Brook my first night, I was questioning my decision to spend 2 nights and almost 46 hours there before continuing on to Gros Morne. Walking in my immediate vicinity, I found little to get me excited about being there; a number of chains, little inspiring architecture or statuary and what stood out was an ugly pulp & paper mill belching out its industrial fumes. My initial impression was that Corner Brook was a dump and I was beginning to regret not making a reservation for just one night.

Nevertheless, the next day, I was determined to make the best of it and went across the street to a café adjacent a bicycle shop, one of the few seeming beacons of possibility I had seen the night before. The independent café had a pleasant, sociable feel about it (I spoke for awhile to a friendly resident who had lived in Montreal awhile back) and I felt somewhat-doubtingly hopeful that maybe the bike shop would have a pleasant bike ride to suggest in the surrounding area. Speaking to bike staff initially, I thought my hopes were dashed as the clerk said all their bikes had already been taken out for the day. But then the bearded, hipster-like bike shop employee said, “However, we do have the electric bikes out front that you can rent for $20/day”. I right away expressed my disappointed stating that I had never ridden an electric bike before and my goal was in part to get exercise that day. However, the employee quickly pacified these qualms by informing me that you could put the bike on 0% assist mode which would cause the bike to powered by your feet if not using the throttle and took several minutes to show me how to operate an electric bike. So, before I knew it, I was off on my first bike adventure in Newfoundland and first electric bike adventure ever!

*Bike Ride in Corner Brook*
The fellow at the store had recommended I head toward Griffin Drive and pedal west on a designated path. I was initially not encouraged as the traffic and layout of the roads made me quite nervous to cycle, but after a few missteps, such as getting on the somewhat-busy-with-truck-traffic Griffin Drive since I didn’t see the bike path, I found my way to the several km long car-free trail, after which, I cycled on road but with significantly low-volume traffic as far as Mount Moriah.

It turned out that the views of the beautifully blue Humber Arm of the Bay of the Islands with the sloping green hills on the shore opposite were some of the most gorgeous I had seen since my arrival. I especially enjoyed sitting and strolling on paths in Bartlett’s Point Park where, while consuming a sandwich lunch and drink that I’d picked up at a convenience store in nearby Petries, I admired the coastal hill humps and waves lapping against a rocky beach on the beautiful, sunny day on a picnic table.

*Hiking in Corner Brook*
Late that afternoon, continuing the theme of trying to get fit, I walked up to the Captain Cook National Historic Site, which had me trekking on the side of steep sidewalk-less roads in Corner Brook up to a point overlooking the Humber Arm. This spot had some well-maintained trails, plaques and lookouts, and must be one of the emptiest historic sites I’ve ever seen, with no more than 2 other visitors there during any given moment of my visit. Here, not only did I learn of Captain Cook’s scientific expertise mapping the coastline of Newfoundland, but I also was treated to some spectacular views of the mini-fjord-like royal blue Humber Arm below. It seems a pity more people don’t visit but I suspect most visitors to Newfoundland are rushing past to get to the typical places on a Newfoundland checklist. I wish the city of Corner Brook would install sidewalks to the site to encourage prospective visitors.

The next morning, upon telling the barista at my now favourite little Corner Brook café about how much I enjoyed the Captain Cook Historic Site, she advised me to check out the Three Bear Mountain Trail before taking the shuttle to Gros Morne that afternoon. This trail was very close to my downtown hotel and gets one into a forest area that makes one feel again far removed from a mill town. There are even a number of lookout points where one can get some pretty views if looking away from the pulp & paper mill.

At this point, I had gone from thinking that Corner Brook was lamentable to thinking that the town, for those who could accept its limitations, was a destination I would actually RECOMMEND to visitors for the terrific cycling opportunities and pleasant trails! But I had one surprise yet to come!

I had 4 ½ hours AFTER visiting Gros Morne in Corner Brook before catching the bus to Port aux Basques where I would board the ferry to Nova Scotia. I had attempted hiking on the Stream Trail in the heart of the town BEFORE visiting Gros Morne and couldn’t for the life of me understand why people recommended it on Trip Advisor. The parts I had seen of the Stream Trail had a little trickle of a brook (which I probably inaccurately imagined contained industrial waste from the mill) near a pipe and a nothing-special wooded area near a wetland between some stairs off Park St. and the Glynmill Inn. So, since I had these 4 ½ hours, I decided to continue walking on the path next to the wetland out of curiosity which I had just assumed would continue to be nothing special when I walked on it before visiting Gros Morne. Turns out the continuation of the path lead to some terrific vantage points of a beautiful, maybe 25-foot wide rushing stream with rapids between coniferous trees that made one feel like one was somewhere remote in Newfoundland. Handsome bridges crossed the stream in places and lead to the Glynmill Pond below the charming Tudoresque Glynmill Inn where a swan and its baby cygnet were swimming. The Stream Trail ended up being a delight just as people had said on TripAdvisor!

In summary, Corner Brook left me thinking of a number of mottos such as “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and “First impressions are not always valid”. What I initially thought was going to be a total bust of a visit to Corner Brook where I imagined myself possibly reading my book in my hotel or whiling away time in a Tim Horton’s, turned out to be an amazing two days!

*Next: Gros Morne National Park? By Public Transportation?*

thursdaysd Jul 10th, 2017 12:26 PM

More good stuff!

Ah yes, the dreaded I-95 through SC. Nothing but sand and pine trees, sand and pine trees, aside for a few seconds crossing the lake in the middle of the state. Drove that far too many times, way back when.

Daniel_Williams Jul 11th, 2017 06:42 AM

*Woody Point, Gros Morne National Park*

So, Martin's Taxi (really a shuttle service) picked me up at the Millbrook Mall in Corner Brook at 4pm as well as some passengers in Deer Lake a bit later, which seemed to be a bit more of a town with amenities rather than just the few highway-side hotels, petrol stations and restaurants as I had originally thought.

The ride into to Woody Point was as gorgeous as one would expect and the driver dropped me off in front of my hotel. My accommodations at the Bonne Bay Inn had panoramic windows from my room, the breakfast lounge and dining room that offered beautiful views of the Bonne Bay and the surrounding coastal rocky or green humps and plateaus, with both villages of Woody Point and Norris Point visible. The inn was exceptional, with innovative and delicious suppers, muffins warm out of the oven as an item for breakfast and had a delightfully friendly, sociable & helpful hotel, dining and bar staff as well as, as it turns out, fellow guests whose sociability stemmed it seemed from wanting to share their pleasure at being in such a stellar setting.

In the morning, I walked 15 minutes over to the Gros Morne Discovery Centre, where they had a lovely video on some gorgeous parts of the National Park such as Western Brook Pond and the Green Garden Trail. Most of which I realized I would not have time to see for my 2-night stay, LOL. I, however, was very happy with hiking 2.5 km up to the two red Muskoka chairs at Lookout Point from the discovery center. The views of the striking brown mesa-like Tablelands seemed like something out of the Lone Ranger except for the deposits of snow in its upper regions, and the sight of the sinuous, small-mountainous green coastline around the Bonne Bay from up high was just eye-popping. Be warned however that the path up can be a bit muddy!

The village of Woody Point was accessible from the Bonne Bay Inn either by road or a beach trail. The trail had an area of mud which was unavoidable, so I'd recommend walking to the village by road if it's rained recently. The village has some beautifully painted homes & businesses and includes a tavern with musical entertainment, a cafe, a deli, a library, a post office and others. That afternoon, I took the boat across the Bonne Bay to Norris Point, from which I took a boat tour of the Bonne Bay. On the boat ride, we saw a number of bald eagles and a few people gasped and made attention-getting utterances when they thought they spotted either a dolphin or a minke whale, but the trip was less about wildlife and mostly about getting a fuller feel of the bay from the vantage point of the water.

The next morning, it was all over and I was taking Martin's Taxi back to Corner Brook. How quickly my stay in Gros Morne came & went! There were plenty more things I could have done but I'm glad I got this little taste.

*Port-aux Basques & PEI to come, as well as final thoughts on Newfoundland*

xcountry Jul 11th, 2017 07:52 AM

That Lookout Point trail is indeed terrific. We had hoped to see a moose but instead we saw a bear with her two cubs.

What a great idea to put those chairs up there.

Daniel_Williams Jul 12th, 2017 05:24 AM

*Port aux Basques*

I ended up taking Gateway Bus Lines ($36) from the Millbrook Mall to Port aux Basques instead of DRL since 1)it left Corner Brook at 3:45pm rather than 6pm, giving me a 4 1/2 hour layover in Corner Brook rather than DRL's 7 hour wait and 2)it left from the exact spot that Martin's Taxi arrived from Woody Point, so saved me from getting an extra taxi to the DRL stop.

While there were pleasant stretches of road sprinkled throughout, my favourite part of the Transcanada Highway from Corner Brook south was the mountains approaching Port aux Basques, which to me had a beautifully distinct look with what appeared to be slots between some lakeside flat-topped green mountains, as well as the near-pyramid-shaped verdant mountain that reminded me a bit of some Guatemalan peaks.

I almost instantly liked the look of Port aux Basques upon arrival. The 4000-person-town I think offers a delightfully atmospheric beginning to the island for those arriving in Newfoundland there via the shorter ferry from Nova Scotia with its slightly-elevated, barren, moss-green rocky coasts visible in one direction and low-rise painted fishing-village-like wooden homes visible in the other direction with sea beyond. Scott's Cove in the heart of Port-aux-Basques, right next to the St. Christopher's Hotel where I stayed, had some cute colourful vendors' mini-shacks surrounded by flags in the shape of rainbow-coloured sails or boats. These flags gave the waterfront area a delightfully festive look that I assumed (incorrectly?) was unrelated to a Gay pride event there.

Walking from my hotel the next morning to the Marine Atlantic Ferry Terminal, I was sorry that I had only planned an evening and a morning in Port aux Basques, as I would have liked to have explore more. All I ended up having time to do was walk a bit on the boardwalk and have a fish cake supper at the 1 Ton Pub & Grill during my rainy evening. By the way, beware if you do decide to walk to the Ferry Terminal from the St. Christopher's Hotel that even though it LOOKS like it's only a 10-minute walk given the distance on a map, that the terminal is at a lower altitude and is gated in the direction of St. Christopher's. To get to the terminal, it took me 25-30 minutes as I had to cross a pedestrian-unfriendly bridge quite a bit past the terminal and then come back toward the terminal on the shoulder of a curvy road; I was starting to get anxious about being late for the ferry boarding!

*Ferry Port aux Basques-North Sydney. Final Thoughts on Newfoundland*

I felt a certain sadness to be returning to the Mainland as I boarded the MV Highlanders boat on the Marine Atlantic-provided mini-bus. Whether it was leaving the warmth & friendliness of the Newfie-accented folk or leaving the phenomenal scenery and hiking opportunities, I felt that even though it was Canada's 150th anniversary and passengers had gotten an $150 voucher for their next Marine Atlantic trip, that there wasn't the same sense of festive excitement and anticipation to be leaving Newfoundland as there was on the MV Atlantic Vision ferry I took to Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula some 10 days earlier. It seemed almost a communal sadness to be pulling away from that magical isle that is Newfoundland. However, it is quite possible that I was projecting my own thoughts onto others as I ate my rather disappointing meal where I had a choice of mostly burgers-and-fries type options in the dining area, comparing it to the superb meal I'd had on the Argentia,Nfld.-bound ship a week-and-a-half prior.

*Next: North Sydney-PEI. I return to the Gentle Island after a 7-year Absence*

nfldbeothuk Jul 12th, 2017 08:02 AM

First, I admire your intrepidness (if that's a word). I've lived in NL most of my life, and I'd hesitate to travel here without a car,unless it was to visit St. John's and environs.
I'm glad you found a way to make it work, happy that you saw the beauty of my often-dismissed hometown (Corner Brook), and sorry that you didn't get to see more of Gros Morne (which really needs more than 2 days even if you have a car!).
Yes, the multi-coloured flags in Port aux Basques are there all summer to attract visitors to the vendors, and I THINK the colours are meant to evoke the Colours of Newfoundland tourism commercial (

Daniel_Williams Jul 12th, 2017 11:15 AM

*North Sydney-PEI*

I only realized after I purchased my ticket that getting from Cape Breton Island to PEI involved three different buses: Sydney-Truro NS; Truro-Amherst NS; Amherst-Charlottetown. While this might sound like an ordeal, the schedules at Maritime Bus are really well thought-out, that only a half-hour wait in Truro and a 15-minute wait in Amherst were involved.

*Prince Edward Island*

My friend runs a B&B about 20 km outside of Charlottetown, a profession he unquestionably has a knack for, being one who loves hosting, loves cooking, loves gardening and loves collecting all sort of treasures for his little cottages. I enjoyed experiencing his highly rural living and meeting some of his friendly neighbours, quite a few of whom have the sort-of-country-British-Isles-sounding PEI accent, something I wasn't even aware existed on my only previous visit to the province, when I stayed with an Ontarian couple in Charlottetown in the summer of 2010! Even some children & young adults speak with this accent, as I saw with my friend's plumber and the ever-so-charming Orwell Corner Historic Village, which re-enacted life in a 19th century PEI farming community.

I remembered that PEI had red soil, rocks and beaches, but I think one forgets HOW beautiful it is until you are back within its midst. It's funny how almost immediately after crossing the bridge to New Brunswick, the soil turns back to brown.

In Charlottetown, we saw some glorious tall ships leave Charlottetown Harbour and for $5, I visited the Victorian period Beaconsfield House, which belonged to a wealthy, ostentatious shipowner named James Peake. Actors and actresses walked around town in 19th century costumes to create an early Charlottetown semblance. Walking the streets of Charlottetown was sort of nostalgic after so long an absence; I was amazed how much Charlottetown has grown since my last visit 7 years ago!

At the Confederation Center, we went to Anne of Green Gables, the Musical. I was very impressed with the Broadway-like production quality. What I was expecting to be light, maybe slightly cheesy fun, brought me to tears at times with the stellar acting and singing; I especially loved the actress playing Marilla Cuthbert and the incredible acrobatic dancing.

We also did a tour of a woman's Cornwall garden, which was featured in a recent Victoria magazine article. For such a remote location, there were dozens upon dozens of visitors who were cooing and exclaiming over Ms. Aiken's tearooms, pond, statues, weigelas, mock oranges and delphinium. Well, it WAS quite the stunning garden!

An outing to the Dunes, which has not only a cafe but also a phenomenal collection of Indonesian and PEI art and furnishing, brought us again to yet another spectacularly-arranged garden with a rich blue intercoastal waterway, dunes and north shore all gorgeously visible in the distance. This Dunes visit was capped off by supper at the old-world Victorian charm of Dalvay-by-the-Sea.

Mostly, though, PEI for me was about relaxing. Getting on my bike either alone or with my friend and pedaling for hours on empty manure-smelling roads and the magnificent Confederation (Bike) Trail surrounded by the red soil fields as countless gold finches and yellow warblers fluttered ahead of me and bald eagles swirled overhead. At one point, I even saw a seal bobbing in & out of the Vernon River as it was swept in, along with likely some tasty fish, due to the high tide!

As Maritime Bus left Charlottetown and crossed the bridge toward the steep muddy banks of the Petitcodiac River of Moncton, New Brunswick, from which I would catch VIA Rail back home, I again was a bit sad to be leaving the friendly peacefulness of the Gentle Island. I reflected on what an amazing trip I'd had to Atlantic Canada with each day filled with discovery and yet simultaneously much peace and opportunities for healthy exercise! I hope that each of you visits this magnificent part of the world some day.

In fact, with this trip, I've now spent at least one night in all 4 Atlantic provinces, and adding Newfoundland this year means I've now set foot in all 10 Canadian provinces. Fascinatingly enough, this accomplishment makes me realize the huge amount I have left to discover in each of them, including my home province of Quebec.

Thanks for Reading & Happy Travels! Daniel

Daniel_Williams Jul 12th, 2017 11:34 AM

xcountry-- Some folks saw some bears at the Green Garden Trail the day I did the Lookout Trail. I was HOPING not to see any :). And by the way I know exactly where you're talking about on the North Head Trail and I was VERY GLAD those chains were there as the drop is dizzying!

thursdaysd, laverendrye-- Thanks for enjoying! And no worries, no stretch of highway in Newfoundland I saw resembled in the least I-95 :).

nfldbeothuk-- Thanks for the explanation of the Port aux Basques flags. And while I too am sorry that I didn't get to see more of Gros Morne (Woody Point I discovered books up quite early, so I was only able to get 2 nights), I'm amazed I was able to plan a way to see it AT ALL as I originally thought it would be impossible! PS I've been saying nice things about Corner Brook to everyone I've spoken to. :)

xcountry Jul 12th, 2017 12:09 PM

Daniel you might enjoy this thread which offers different perspectives on trail safety.

Daniel_Williams Jul 22nd, 2017 07:41 AM

Thanks xcountry for sharing this North Head trail discussion, on which people seem to have strong opinions. The trail was a definite highlight of my visit to St. John's. There may have been but I didn't notice if there was a warning sign about possible danger.

unaryan Jun 6th, 2018 11:24 PM

Canadian Idyll
Dear Daniel

During this winter I started researching a 3/4 week exploration of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & PEI by public transport - and found your blog. Thought all my Christmasses had come at once but unfortunately failed to note your details & promptly lost you again. Up early today, decided on one last trawl & eureka, there you were!
Q: We ( archaeologist Con Manning & moi) plan to leave Dublin Irl mid- Aug. Where do you think we should start, Halifax or St John’s, given the likely weather? I’m a huge fan of the late great Alastair McLeod so NS is a must & I’d like to avoid the crowds if possible..
Thanks for your wonderfully informative and entertaining account, I so hope I can now make this work.

Daniel_Williams Jun 23rd, 2018 05:42 AM

Hello Una,

Sorry I'm only now noticing your message. Thank you for your kind words about my report; I'm glad you enjoyed and best of all, found it helpful. August is a good time of year for the Maritimes & Newfoundland. I might be too late in replying but I don't think it matters terribly which you do first. For non-Atlantic Canadian anglophone North Americans, I'd probably suggest Nova Scotia first as Newfoundland feels more different from what they know. Newfoundland also has more dramatic scenery (not that Nova Scotia is a slouch in this regard) and it would be fun to save that for last, to have something to look forward to.

Wishing you a fantastic trip in one of my favourite parts of the world!


unaryan Jun 23rd, 2018 07:56 AM

And P E I??
Great to hear from you Daniel, many thanks. I take your point about seeing some of NS first. However our only direct flight option is to St Johnís.. So Iím considering exploring that area first, then taking a ferry to NS, also PEI, then a ferry back to NFL and exploring the Gros Morne region. Feel free to tell me if thatís bonkers! About PEI- I realise you have a friend there which changes everything. But perhaps you could recommend a base place? And will we need to hire a car there? I hope youíre doing another fascinating trip this summer and writing about it, something else to look forward to!

All best, Una

Daniel_Williams Jun 24th, 2018 05:23 AM

Hi Una,

I have visited PEI only twice so others may be able to advise better. Most people do hire cars frankly everywhere in Atlantic Canada including PEI, as there are precious few public transit options in this part of the world, so one is limited in what one can do without one. Nevertheless, for those who don't drive, I can say basing oneself in Charlottetown can make for a pleasant car-less trip as I did this back in 2010 before I had a friend living on the island. Charlottetown has a lovely walkable core and there were shuttles out to Cavendish (Anne of Green Gables house). We enjoyed some great cycling routes out of Charlottetown and in the Cavendish area if that sort of thing interests you.

Best wishes,, Daniel

unaryan Aug 15th, 2018 01:28 PM

Made it!
Largely thanks to your great blog Daniel, we have just arrived in Halifax & are staying in The Waverley Inn. Following the literary thread, we head to Cape Breton on Friday hoping to pick up traces of the wonderful Alastair MacLeod. Five days there, six days on PEI and 16 days in Newfoundland ( just reread The Shipping News) Finally, weíre not driving ourselves but Highland Tours here have got us off to a good start & we managed to get a booking with McCarthyís Party in Newfoundland. Honestly I donít think Iíd have managed to pull it together if I hadnít found your blog!
Warmest thanks.

Daniel_Williams Aug 18th, 2018 08:57 AM

Hi unaryan,

What fun to think you're at the Waverley Inn! Oscar Wilde suite? So glad things you were able to make this trip happen. How great to be able to get to have such an extended visit to the Atlantic provinces. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have! Best, Daniel

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