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Trip Report: Newfoundland-icebergs and so much more!

Trip Report: Newfoundland-icebergs and so much more!

Old Jul 21st, 2019, 05:27 AM
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Trip Report: Newfoundland-icebergs and so much more!

June 21-29, 2019: Icebergs and so much more! [Sorry for the long report!]

I’ve been following a Facebook group called “Newfoundland Iceberg Reports” for about 3 years and finally planned my trip to see this amazing phenomenon. The ice breaks off the Greenland ice sheet and drifts south with the currents. Mostly in May and June, the bergs get close to the Newfoundland shore – close enough in many cases to see them from land or you can take one of many boat trips out to get a close-up view. You never know where they are going to be or whether it will be a good year or whether they will all melt before getting to NL. This has been a great year and as I write this (mid-July) I’m still seeing beautiful pics on that Facebook group.

So choosing where to stay was a little difficult, but we decided to just commit to staying in three places and take advantage of everything that the provence has to offer besides the icebergs! Background: we are two women friends, empty nesters, and just needed a little break from our husbands!

Day 1:We flew into St. John’s from Boston, through Halifax and back through Toronto. Arrived the first day in late afternoon, picked up rental car and headed into St. John’s for one night at Wit’s Inn B&B. (We made most of our reservations through booking.com.) This was a nice in in an old house. Each room has its own bathroom and breakfast was delicious! St. John’s is very walkable, and this inn is toward the Signal Hill end but it was an easy walk to many restaurants. Heading out for the evening we first stopped at Bannerman Brewing Co., a new brewery right around the corner from our B&B. It was busy and we shared a table with two couples. This began our love of the people of Newfoundland: everywhere we went we spoke with people sitting next to us, who gave us advice, etc. and were genuinely interested in our trip! We also noted that the brewery’s food looked fabulous and returned for fish tacos at the end of our trip. Then on to Bernard Stanley Gastropub for dinner, where we ended up sharing a table with two flight attendants on layover -by choice. What fun! Good food, reasonably priced, began my week of eating cod at least once a day! (There are higher end restaurants in St. John’s, which are probably very good, but we wanted something more casual.) We ended our evening at Yellowbelly Brewery (a theme is developing here), where we sat at the bar next to a young man who had helped actually build the bar. He was waiting to meet friends from out of town and invited us to join them for a ‘Screeching In’ at 11 pm, but we passed as we had been up traveling since 5 am. (Screeching In is a ceremony of stories, drinking a shot of Screech Rum, kissing a cod, and becoming an honorary Newfoundlander. We were invited to join in several times, but didn’t quite make it.)

Day 2: left St. John’s to head north to catch the Fogo Island ferry. It is about a 4 hour drive on good roads. From the Trans Canada Highway we saw a berg in lower Conception Bay so got off the highway to venture to Bacon Cover to get a better view. It was fabulous and the sun came out just as we got to the berg. (If you’re looking for bergs, there is a Newfoundland Iceberg Reports website that is helpful in conjunction with posts on the previously mentioned Facebook page.) We then drove to Gander, where we stopped to pick up some snacks and then for an early dinner at Rosie’s. There isn’t much in Gander but apparently Rosie’s is the place to go. Fish and chips again for me. Rosie’s is a diner-like place with good food and low prices. We also knew that Gander would be the last big town where we would get a large grocery store before heading to Fogo. Took the 7 pm ferry to Fogo and drove to Tilting Harbor B&B. Tom welcomed us warmly.

Day 3: We had seen a poster on the ferry advertising several ‘geology hikes’ with the island’s ‘geologist in residence’ and one was this day so we met the group after Tom’s delicious breakfast. Fogo reminded me of the Scottish moors – lots of exposed rock, peaty bogs, low vegetation. The walk was on a trail near Tilting and was interesting and beautiful. Along the way we saw a bald eagle, Arctic fox, and gannets (sea gull-like birds who dive into the water to fish like bullets being shot out of the sky). We then drove to Fogo for lunch at Bangbelly Café (more delicious cod!) and two more hikes: Brimstone Head and Fogo Head. Beautiful views from these bedrock bluffs with lots of stairs! Back to Tilting Harbor to clean up and then off to the fabulous Fogo Island Inn for wine and an appetizer. We had tried to get a dinner reservation but couldn’t get in. Despite the $2,000+ a night cost to stay there, they welcome you for eating or drinks and to see the wonderful architecture. This time I had a salt cod parfait: basically, a cracker spread made with salt cod mixed with mashed potatoes and herbs. Delicious! Back to our B&B for the second night.

Day 4: Before catching the mid-day ferry we did a hike out to Joe Batt’s Point to see the Great Auk statue: a monument to a bird that was hunted to extinction. More terrain that begged me to call out “Heathcliff” and the surprise of seeing two young caribou along the hike! Took the ferry back to Farewell and drove to Bonavista – maybe 3 hours drive? Stopped at the Port Reston brewery for a late lunch of delicious gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches from the food truck parked there. Arrived at our efficiency apartment at Oceanside Cabins. (Rather than separate cabins there are 3 buildings, 1-story, with 3 or 4 apartments in each one.) We stayed in a building that looked brand new, and the water view and sunsets were spectacular! We also spotted an iceberg off Dungeon Provincial Park and made a detour to get a closer look. Decided that we would do a boat tour out of Bonavista the next day for a closer look!

Day 5: Made an online reservation for the 1:00 tour with Bonavista Puffin & Whale tours and set out to explore the Bonavista Lighthouse and the puffin colony there. (More on puffins later.) Then a quick sandwich and to meet the boat. Basically they will head to wherever the bergs or whales take them and we went straight to the berg we had seen the evening before. (Note: Iceberg season is generally May and June, and we were late in the season. When making reservations we tried to pick locations where icebergs were typically seen. Usually Fogo is a good bet, but there were none there this time. We heard there were some in Twillingate, but we decided to skip that area in favor of staying in each location for more nights.) The boat tour was great and we even had an Iceberg beer on the way back. Really thrilling for me to see an iceberg up close. That night we had dinner at the Bonavista Social Club. A new restaurant specializing in brick oven pizza and a farm to table vibe. I had pizza with Snow Crab and fresh veggies and we just barely glimpsed the back of a minke whale from our table! (We were too early for the whale season. This year’s cold spring delayed them a bit, so go later if you’re looking for whales!)

Day 6: Headed back to Port Rexton to hike the Skerwink Trail – reportedly one of the top 10 hiking trails in Canada. It didn’t disappoint with dramatic cliffs and wide open ocean views. Even saw a cow moose and her calf toward the end! Picked up sandwiches at Two Whales Coffee Shop for lunch and headed back to the brewery to eat them and enjoy another craft beer. Then we explored Trinity, a historic village with some nice shops and a little theater. It was a beautiful, warm day so we went to the Twine Loft for happy hour on the harborside dock. For our last night in Bonavista we had dinner at Skipper’s Restaurant, a basic seafood place near the harbor. I had been hearing about “Cod tongues and scrunchins” the whole trip, so tried them. Cod tongues are little fatty pieces of cod, lightly fried. Scrunchins are small pieces of fried pork fat. I had to try it at least once!

Day 7: Left Bonavista to drive back to St. John’s. Stopped in Brigus to do the Lighthouse and Seal Lookout hike. Beautiful trail to a lighthouse and, surprise, the iceberg we saw the first day was still hanging around, although it had moved quite a bit. Then to St. John’s for two nights at the Homotel near Signal Hill. This is an odd hotel. It looks like it is converted townhouses. But the rooms are nice. Breakfast was not the best we had on our trip, but it was fine and the location was convenient. We headed over to Quidi Vidi to visit the famous brewery. It was packed, and the harbor was fogged in but the sun was trying to break through, creating a beautiful scene. As everywhere on the trip, we talked with people next to us, compared trip notes, etc. Then we went back into St. John’s for dinner at the Gypsy Tea House, which is a pretty standard restaurant with a diverse menu, despite the name.

Day 6: This was actually the worse weather day of our entire trip. Foggy with light drizzle most of the day, some real rain. We drove up to Signal Hill but couldn’t see a thing so decided to go to The Rooms, which is a provincial museum covering cultural and natural history and housing changing contemporary art exhibits. It is great and we wouldn’t have gone if it hadn’t been raining. Glad we did as we put together a lot of the things we had seen on our trip. Then we drove to Petty Harbor for lunch at Chafe’s Landing-reportedly the best fish and chips around. It WAS delicious and we saw another iceberg in the harbor. Then off to the Cape Spear Lighthouse, and glimpses of more minke whales off the point, but it was drizzling and windy, so we didn’t do too much exploring. For our last night in St. John’s we opted for a light dinner of cod tacos back at Bannerman Brewery, after visiting a few of the gift shops in town.

Day 7: Before flying home we walked from the Hometel to Signal Hill. It was still cloudy, but clearer than the previous day and the views are magnificent!

Conclusion: YES! We would definitely return to Newfoundland! We were happy with all our location, accommodation, and dining choices. There are so many areas to visit, though, and we would try to visit other areas. We were happy with what we could accomplish in a week without feeling rushed.

Sorry this was so long and rambling. Please feel free to message me if you have questions about specifics!

cindyj is offline  
Old Jul 21st, 2019, 05:33 AM
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Very useful trip report! It was interesting to read and will be useful to those who are going to make a similar trip!
rossbear is offline  
Old Jul 21st, 2019, 06:59 AM
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Wonderful trip report! Not too long at all. We led our visit to Newfoundland and will retur.
Elizabeth_S is offline  
Old Jul 26th, 2019, 07:49 PM
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What a different experience than I had with Newfoundlanders. I was there for three weeks a few years ago, my daughter was a visiting professor at MUN ( university of Newfoundland). Everywhere I went people were really unwelcoming. I would try to strike up conversations with people, say at the hardware store, coffee shop, clothing store, and no one responded. I took my daughters dog to the dog park by myself, tried to strike up conversations and nothing. Basically everyone was really cold and rude. I don’t know how anyone could live there. Ugh.
uppsala30 is offline  
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