The magical landscapes of Gros Morne National Park were carved by glaciers millions of years ago. In their wake glaciers left tall fjord-like cliffs, flat-topped mountains, deep freshwater lakes and a rugged coastline. The scenery is stunning.
We had driven across Canada on Our Great Canadian Roadtrip and were excited to explore the most eastern province of Newfoundland.
We hadn’t even officially entered Gros Morne National Park when we enjoyed our first of many stunning vistas. The long undulating shore of Bonne Bay’s East Arm makes a breathtaking scene. We stopped several times as we drove around this inlet, amazed by the perfect landscape.
As we drove further along the shore of East Arm the rounded top of the park’s namesake, Gros Morne Mountain, came into view. At 806 m it’s the second highest mountain in Newfoundland. They may not be tall mountains, but they are beautiful.
Gros Morne translates in English to ‘large lone mountain’. On the western side of Newfoundland there are a lot of French names. With names like Port aux Basques, Port au Port, L’Anse aux Meadows and Gros Morne it’s easy to see the strong French influence in the area. In 1763 when the 7 Years’ War ended between France and Britain, the fishing rights to western Newfoundland were given to the French. As a result there was a large influx of fishermen from Brittany, Normandy and Basque who established French settlements in this region.
There are more than 100 km of hiking trails in Gros Morne National Park. Most are short walks to ocean viewpoints, but others are long, steep climbs to the mountain tops. The most well known is a hike to the top of Gros Morne Mountain. Since we were more interested in coastal views, we didn’t do this hike.
Picturesque Lobster Cove Head protects the entrance to Bonne Bay. There are several easy walking trails that allow you to explore the coastline. The trails extend for a kilometer on either side of the pretty Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse and offer lovely views across the bay.
The main town in Gros Morne National Park is Rocky Harbour which has a picturesque setting on the edge of Bonne Bay. The backdrop for the view of town is Lookout Hills on the other side of Bonne Bay.
The mountains in the park are unlike mountains we would see in Western Canada. Many have flat tops that drop off suddenly into shear walls. Glaciers formed these interesting landscapes a millennia ago. In fact, Gros Morne National Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its glacial and geologic history.
The most famous pictures of these flat-topped mountains are from Western Brook Pond. Tall fjord-like mountains drop into a large, calm freshwater pond. An easy 2 km flat trail takes you to the edge of the pond where you have a closer look at these shear cliffs. Layers of mountain walls seem to overlap like a zipper making it appear that there is barely enough room for a pond to fill in between them.
A popular boat cruise will take you on the narrow lake between the giants. The boat can drop you off at a hiking trail that takes you to a lookout point for the iconic view of the park. Unfortunately a guide is required for this hike and there is a $250 per person fee for the boat ride and guide. That price was a little too steep for us to pay for a hike and we were satisfied with our view from the lake shore.
Berry Hill was one of the most scenic hikes we took that had views away from the ocean. From the top of the small hill was a pretty view of Berry Pond below with Gros Morne Mountain in the distance.
Green Point is a small grassy cape with sharp cliffs leading to a pebble beach. Between the beach and the flat top, the sides were covered in dense bush. We tried to cut a path through them, but it wasn’t possible. Along the shore a few colourful fishing shacks were the icing on the cake of this postcard perfect spot.
In addition to beautiful scenery it’s also an important geological spot. Fossils are imbedded in the cliffs at the tip of Green Point. Specific fossils found here allowed geologists to determine the boundary between the Cambrian and Ordovician periods. This area was designated as a global stratotype and it now serves as a benchmark to correlate ages of sedimentary rock around the world.
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.
- Watch for moose while driving, especially between dusk and dawn. With 125,000 moose on the island there are, on average 700 moose-car collisions per year. That explains the funny signs we saw along the highways.
- 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 so do don’t forget to change your watch.
- Don’t confuse St. John’s, Newfoundland’s capital city with St. John in New Brunswick.
Where to stay in Gros Morne National Park
Camping – There are 5 campsite in Gros Morne National Park. We absolutely loved our site at Green Point. In addition there are a few private campgrounds in and near the park.
Hotel, Bed & Breakfast – There are quite a few options for hotels and Bed & Breakfasts both in and near the national park including the communities of Rocky Harbour, Trout River and Norris Point.
Getting to Newfounland
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.
Coming Next – Vikings in Newfoundland – Visiting L’Anse aux Meadows
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