House in Ferryland, Newfoundland

Driving The Irish Loop in Newfoundland

Last Updated on May 8, 2024 by Pamela MacNaughtan

To drive Newfoundland’s Irish Loop is to experience stunning landscapes, and interact with friendly locals. Of course, one must have a sense of exploration as off the highway (Route 10 from St. John’s) and driving through small towns, and down lonely roads can sometimes offer views that are sure to blow your mind.

My mind was blown several times today. In fact, I think there were a couple of times when I actually had goosebumps.

The sky was overcast and grey when I left St. John’s this morning driving a Ford C-Max (a hybrid car courtesy of Ford Canada). My goal was to drive the famous Irish Loop, one of Newfoundland’s most scenic landscapes. Sure, sunshine and blue skies would have been ideal, but today was my one chance to experience this part of Newfoundland. Besides, I kind of like the moodiness of an overcast sky.

Irish Loop Drive in Newfoundland

Witless Bay was my first pull-over destination of the day. The sky was still overcast and the air was cool, but I wandered off the main road and drove through residential streets looking for charming clapboard houses, and parked along the bay in hopes of capturing an interesting photo — as interesting as an overcast photo can be that is.

Driving the winding roads I had no idea how long it would take me to do the entire loop, all I knew was that it could be done in a day. As I drove my head bobbed from side to side, looking for interesting views on both sides of the highway. I looked for interesting clapboard houses (I didn’t find any that suited my fancy in Witless Bay), and secluded roads I could explore, but when I caught a glimpse of Tors Cove as I was cresting a hill my eyes focused straight ahead.

The cove was ahead on my right, and although the sky was still overcast, the small islands in the cove were splashed with sunshine, which made them pop out to the eye, and sent shivers down my spine. I was less than an hour into my Irish Loop road trip and falling hard for Newfoundland.

I pulled over at a small lookout and shared a photo on Instagram. Then I saw a small road off the highway leading towards the shore. Climbing back into the car I made a U-turn (I made like 20 today) and followed the road, turned to drive down a gravel path, and ended up at a small dock with a breathtaking view of Tors Cove. Placing the car in park I grabbed my camera, took a couple of photos, then sat and stared at the scene in front of me.

Tors Cove - Irish Loop in Newfoundland
Tors Cove, Newfoundland

Gorgeous, right?! I swear, I could totally live in Newfoundland. Sure, many of the towns are quite small, with grocery stores the size of mobile homes, and not a restaurant chain in sight, but that is part of the charm. It’s as though I’m travelling off-the-beaten-path and I absolutely love that.  It’s my first day in Newfoundland and I think I am in serious trouble. How can I possibly leave a province as gorgeous as this one?!

By the time I reached Ferryland (which was a little after lunch), the sun was shining and the sky was blue and dotted with fluffy white clouds. I also found charming clapboard houses! Yeah, I probably shouldn’t be so excited about them, but I really want a clapboard cottage along the shore somewhere in Newfoundland. It’s like the quintessential Newfoundland home, in my silly opinion.

Ferryland, Newfoundland - Irish Loop Drive
Ferryland, Newfoundland

South of Ferryland the highway went from winding around and hugging the coast to vast prairie landscapes. As I drove I marvelled at the open road in front of me, the landscape void of human life. It was Mother Nature at its purest, and when I saw small cottages here and there I wondered how they came to end up in the middle of nowhere. And I mean nowhere. No towns in sight, no neighbours, nothing. What would you do? I’m guessing a week in a tiny house with nothing around it could be relaxing, but I’m pretty sure it would only last about a day or so.

It was during this portion of the drive that I passed a bright yellow cottage with the word ‘shalom’ written on it that had been abandoned. Naturally, I had to make yet another U-turn and take a photo, maybe peek inside. And when I say peak, I mean peak. I was in the middle of nowhere all by myself. I stood in the doorway, took a photo and then practically ran back to the car.

It’s okay, I’m laughing about too.

The entire loop was about 359 km in length and took me about 6 hours to drive, but that is because I kept stopping to take photos, drive down little roads, and do things like eating fish n’ chips, twice!! At that time I only used about half a tank of gas, which I think is freaking amazing.

Where to stay in St. John’s, Newfoundland