Tag Archives: Newfoundland

Travelling Newfoundland Off-Season: A Cautionary Tale

Travelers beware: Newfoundland takes its off-season very literally.

When we decided to do a two-week trip around “The Rock” starting early May, we expected limited opening hours and less frequent services, but with the bonus of less tourists and cheaper accommodation. Little did we realize that pretty much everywhere outside of St John’s goes into hibernation throughout winter and spring and doesn’t open again until late May or early June. Nowhere was this more apparent than when we traveled to the Eastern Peninsula.

Our first stop was the little storybook township of Trinity.

Trinity is quaint to a tee but unfortunately there was nothing open or happening when we were there so a quick drive around was all we could really do.

We then drove to Bonavista, hoping to continue our streak of good luck and spot iceberg number three (having already seen one off the coast of both St John’s and Pouch Cove). Unfortunately, true to its reputation, the Newfoundland weather decided to turn. With fog so extreme we couldn’t see 20 meters in front of us we missed the (apparently gorgeous) coastal views and dashed all hope of another iceberg sighting.

The only indoor thing we could do was eat (not to say that was a problem for us!). The cheap cheap homemade slices and desserts at the  Walkhams Gate Cafe hit the spot and was probably the highlight of our day.

As the day was winding down, we headed back to Trinity East to check into the hostel we had booked online. After circling the town to no avail (houses do not have street addresses here), we eventually asked a local for directions. Her response: “I don’t think that place is open yet for the season.”  Shit.

Sure enough, when we arrived at the property it was locked and deserted. Shit.

8pm, town of 300 people, off-season and nowhere to stay. Shit.

We debated our options. Camping was out of the question as there was no way our summer tents were going to hold up to the gale force winds blowing outside. Sleeping in our tiny tiny Kia Rio was a possibility, but not an appealing one. We had one last beacon of hope – the service station that was still open. If there was a place to stay in this town, they would know.

They suggested the Parkside Inn down the road. As we approached the Inn, our eyes lit up…

It was open!!!

And they had a room!!

And a bar!!!

And all the drinks were $3.75!!!

We ended up having a great night, chatting to the bartender, Debbie, for hours about life in Newfoundland. I can also credit her for introducing me to the delicious local beer, Dominion Ale.

We had such a good time we stayed a second night to check out the local “dance” (a big deal for the town, attracting people from 10 surrounding communities)

The promo poster for the dance.

We were also fortunate enough to have some rare sunshine the following day which allowed us to do the beautiful Skerwink Coastal Trail.

Sometimes things have to go wrong before they go right, I guess. But we learnt our lesson: always call to confirm that places are open before arriving!

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Struggling Up Signal Hill (St John’s)

Our second day in St John’s, we were surprised to wake up to blue skies and sunshine after flying into snow and zero degrees the day before (apparently this swift weather change is typical of Newfoundland). We decided to make the most of this fleeting good weather by checking out the Signal Hill summit overlooking the city.

There are two ways to get to Signal Hill:

  • walk or drive up the paved Signal Hill Rd;
  • do a breathtaking hike that winds along stunning cliff faces (Battery Rd).

While the choice of route may seem obvious, my (presumably) well-meaning guidebook was messing with our decision-making process. Describing the hike as “thigh-burning,” “very dangerous” and only recommended for people who are feeling “really energetic” we weren’t sure we were up to the challenge on a normal day, let alone after getting a little too “Newfie” at Shamrock City the night before. (As an aside, this pub was still going strong at 3am on a Monday night – this would never happen in Toronto!)

But embracing the Irish spirit, we eventually said “feck it” and set off to do the hike.

There was a moment of hesitation when we came across this sign at the start of the trail,

but we were soon rewarded with amazing views of the rugged coastline.

It took us a bit over an hour to reach the summit, stopping for photos and rest stops after each set of steeply ascending stairs (yep, definitely “thigh-burning”). As the top, we were greeted with more stunning views and Cabot Tower.

Cabot Tower: Here in 1901, Guglielmo Marconi received the first trans-Atlantic wireless message. It was the letter “S” in Morse Code sent from England.

We descended down the other side of the hill towards the little fishing village of Quidi Vidi, intent on rewarding ourselves with a cold one at their brewery. As we were approaching the village, Katie gave a casual look backwards towards the cove and spotted…

a freakin’ iceberg!!!! 50 meters from shore!!!

All in all, a great St John’s afternoon!


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