The Scenic Coast of Western Newfoundland

Standing on the ferry’s outer deck we watched as the flat topped mountains of Newfoundland got closer and closer. The town of Port aux Basques started to come into view. Seeing the rocky shore scattered with cute houses and mountains in the distance, we already knew we’d love Newfoundland.

We were about to explore the final province on Our Great Canadian Roadtrip. We took the ferry from North Sydney Harbour in Nova Scotia to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland. The seven hour ferry ride to Canada’s most eastern province was smooth and went by quickly. Midway through the trip we checked Google Maps on our phones and noticed that ferry was on the TransCanada Highway. It really is a coast-to-coast route!

Trans Canada Highway
Trans Canada Highway
Screen shot from our phone while on the ferry

As the ferry approached port we felt a warm welcome from the brightly coloured homes in Port aux Basques. This harbour town is a great introduction to what Newfoundland has to offer. Spread out along the jagged shore colorfully painted homes shone in the setting sun.

The homes are built on harsh, rocky ground, showing the resilience of the people. It helped us understand the nickname for Newfoundland as ‘The Rock’.

Most visitors to Newfoundland head straight for Gros Morne National Park or the more populated side of the island on the east coast. If you have time though, plan to explore the province’s western side. The scenic drive on Port au Port Peninsula to its tip at Cape St. George is a great option.

It had rained heavily the night before we drove on the coastal road to the Cape St. George. The result was the formation of new waterfalls along the coast. Dozens of small waterfalls were cascading straight off the steep cliffs beside the road and into the ocean. It made the pretty coast even more spectacular.

Seeing these small pop-up waterfalls let us know we should stop at an actual waterfall. True to its name, Hidden Falls is tucked away below the highway. As we were driving on the short approach road, we couldn’t imagine that an impressive waterfall was close. The ground seemed too flat but then, all of a sudden we had a steep descent to reach the shore. From the parking lot we could see the powerful waterfall. Huge blasts of water cascaded down the short drop. The water was rushing from the waterfall directly into the rough ocean where dramatic waves crashed into the rocks just off shore. It was definitely worth a stop.

The cliffs became taller and taller as we drove along the coastal road. The final stop at the end of Port au Port Peninsula is why we highly recommended this detour. Cape St. George was exactly what we had hoped to see. Standing high above the rough waves of the Atlantic, we admired the long, steep coastline. For as far as we could see were shear, rugged cliffs. It is a breathtaking view.

The cape is also an important nesting ground for gannets. We watched as dozens of these large white birds flew overheard on their way to fish in the deep, rough ocean.

The main city in western Newfoundland is Corner Brook. Located at the mouth of the Humber River as it enters Bay of Islands, it has a nice setting. Receiving over 5 m of snow in the winter, nearby Marble Mountain is a popular downhill ski resort.

With this amazing coast we couldn’t wait to see the rest of this scenic province.

Tips for Visiting Newfoundland

  • The TransCanada Highway in Newfoundland is shaped like a horseshoe as it travels along the west, north and eastern edge of the island province. There are smaller highways leading to the various capes, but in order to get from east to west, you have to drive all around the northern edge. There are no shortcuts across the island. It will take a full day to drive from one side to the other.
  • If you’re planning to rent a car or RV, the best advice is to book early. Even when there isn’t a worldwide pandemic, there are not be many available.
  • Newfoundland Standard Time is 30 minutes ahead of Atlantic Standard Time do don’t forget to change your watch.
  • Don’t confuse St. John’s, Newfoundland’s capital city, with St. John in New Brunswick.

Getting to Newfoundland

Marine Atlantic ferries travel between Sydney, NS and western Newfoundland’s Port aux Basques (7 hrs) twice a day and to the eastern province’s Argentia a few times a week. If traveling to or from Argentia it is a long 16 hour trip, usually overnight. The best way would be to arrive at one port and leave from the other so you can tour the province. During Covid however, the ferries were booked weeks in advance and we weren’t able to coordinate schedules so ended up driving back to Port aux Basques. Another ferry travels between Blanc Sablon, Quebec and St. Barbe on the Great Northern Peninsula. It’s a much shorter ferry ride, but the drive to reach Blanc Sablon is quite long.

Most flights travel to St. John’s, but there are also international airports in Stephenville and Gander. Gander is famous for accepting planes from the US during 9/11.

Where to stay in Western Newfoundland

Camping – We found the provincial park campgrounds in Newfoundland to be excellent. They are reasonably priced, have clean facilities and often nice settings. In western Newfoundland we recommend Barachois Pond Provincial Park, JT Cheeseman Provincial Park and in Gros Morne National Park we loved our site at Green Point.

Hotels, Bed & Breakfast – There are many cities and towns near the TransCanada Highway in Western Newfoundland. Depending on what you want to see, consider staying in Port aux Basques, Corner Brook, Stephenville or Deer Lake.

Read more about Newfoundland – Stunning Landscapes in Gros Morne National Park, Vikings in Newfoundland, Bonavista Peninsula, Trinity, Conception Bay, St. John’s, Signal Hill, Day Trips from St. John’s

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