Last Updated on May 22, 2021 by Pamela
Anyone from Newfoundland will tell you the best time to visit is in the summer. When the snow finally melts, icebergs flow down from cold northern waters and make the breathtaking views of the coastline even better (there’s 29,000kms of it). Between the whales and puffins there’s plenty of nature to gawk at, and let’s not forget the myriad of music and theatre festivals happening across the island to get you doing a jig in no time flat. From long weekends in hundred-year-old houses to coastal hikes and all the craft shops, breweries and restaurants in between, the Rock’s welcome is roaring.
While lucky Newfoundlanders get to do a lot of these bucket list items every year, many of them are once-in-lifetime experiences even locals don’t get. Here’s how to have the best summer ever in Newfoundland.
ONLY IN NEWFOUNDLAND BUCKET LIST
Baycation in a saltbox house
Non-Newfoundlanders will quickly come to appreciate at the term ‘baycation,’ which means leaving St. John’s (a.k.a. town) and spending time relaxing in one of the hundreds of restored historic homes ‘around the bay.’ Rent a luxury reno on Fogo Island from The Old Salt Box Co or peruse Airbnb for the perfectly perched oceanside saltbox.
Explore Elliston’s root cellars
Elliston is the Root Cellar Capital of the World, and with more than 130 subterranean storage structures, it might be the closest thing to a real-life Hobbiton. Far from being fiction, this Bonavista Peninsula village is a living homage to Newfoundland’s homelife.
Watch the first sunrise in North America
You can be the first on the continent to watch the sunrise at Cape Spear, just outside of St. John’s. The cape’s lighthouse sits on the most easterly point of North America and is worth a visit even if you don’t make it out of bed in time for the morning show.
Hike to the fourth corner of the world
Jutting out of Fogo Island is Brimstone Head, considered to be one of the four corners of the earth by the Flat Earth Society. Once you hike to the top of the two-kilometre trail, you will see why.
Feel the St. John’s spirit(s)
Let the ghoulish storytellers educate you about the 500-year history of North America’s oldest city as you follow them through the streets and alleys of downtown on the St. John’s Haunted Hike.
Circumnavigate the Irish Loop
Take a road trip around the Irish Loop on the Avalon Peninsula, and along the way hit up Ferryland’s archaeological site (the Colony of Avalon was established in 1621), craft shops, lighthouses, boat tours and a whole lot of puffins.
Stand in awe of Fogo Island Inn
Even if you can’t afford the price tag for a stay at the world-renown luxury inn, a walk around Fogo Island Inn to experience the architecture is worth the ferry ride. Fogo Island has lots of places to explore which are destinations in their own right, from Joe Batt’s Arm to Tilting.
Strike a pose on Jellybean Row
Traipse up and down the steep streets of downtown to find the city’s most-Instagrammed sight: these brightly coloured row houses have earned St. John’s the title of the most colourful city in the world.
Wander through Quidi Vidi
Go Cod Jigging
Once the recreational cod fishery opens for the year, scores of dories dot Newfoundland’s coastline — just ask someone to take you along for the ride and see how fishermen have caught cod for centuries. Can’t find a local with a boat? Take a cod jigging tour with Bon Tours.
St. John’s Farmers’ Market
Set to move into its new home this summer, the St. John’s Farmers’ Market is the perfect place to devour delicious food and shop for local crafts, soap and baked goods on Saturday mornings.
Explore abandoned fishing villages
Between the 1950s and 1970s, hundreds of Newfoundland towns (and 30,000 people) were resettled in an effort to centralize resources and modernize the province. While some people chose to take their homes with them (you might have seen the iconic floating-saltbox images), other villages were abandoned wholesale.” If somehow you don’t come upon one in your travels across the island, check out Hidden Newfoundland for a guide.
Take a swig of Newfoundland
With more than 20 breweries set to open in Newfoundland by 2019, you can get the inside scoop with St. John’s Beer Tours who will guide you around the city’s breweries and tap houses.
Have a whale of a time
Taking a whale watching tour is almost a right of passage in Newfoundland; most locals have been on one for a bachelor party or a family reunion and they are fun every. single. time. Set sail with O’Brien’s in Bay Bulls or Molly Bawn in Mobile.
Hear the Codsounds
Spend the day foraging and learning about Newfoundland’s traditional ingredients and foodways, then have a boil up on the beach with Codsounds.
Take a bite out of St. John’s
With So Full Food Tours you will get to sample dishes from local restaurants ranging from Irish Pubs to high-end dining. (Book a tour here)
Ride an ATV with Pirates
Take the Pirate’s Haven ATV Tour in Robinsons to experience the scenic Bay St. George area on the west coast of the island while riding along beaches, hills, and river trails.
Encounter Iceberg Alley
During late May and early June, iceberg season starts with the first bergs flowing southward. What better place to experience it than Iceberg Alley near Twillingate? Iceberg Quest Tours has got you covered for boat tours to see those giant glacier chunks.
Scuba Dive with shipwrecks
Newfoundland was one of the only places in North America to experience a direct attack from German forces during WWII. Now, you can explore the resulting shipwrecks on the coast of Bell Island while scuba diving in Conception Bay with Ocean Quest.
Marvel at the fjords of Gros Morne
Sail through Western Brook Pond with Bon Tours to see the 16 km in-land fjords, which are the northernmost part of the Appalachian mountain range. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can get dropped at the top of the fjord and take the 3-4 day Long Range Traverse Hiking Trail back.
Take Glamping to a whole new level (sea level)
Comedian and Canadian TV personality Shaun Majumder has taken on glamping at ‘Ome with nine gorgeous hotel room-like tents, complete with solar power and coffee makers. This is also the site of the much-loved The Gathering, an annual food and music festival.
Take a hike!
Spend an hour or several days hiking on the 300 km of groomed trails along gorgeous shorelines on the East Coast Trail.
River Rafting in Central
Just outside of Grand Falls-Windsor, you’ll find Rafting Newfoundland who will take you whitewater rafting down the Exploits River, the longest river on the island.
Scale Gros Mourne
Hiking to the peak of the Gros Mourne is like stepping onto the Norwegian fjords. Gros Mourne National Park has plenty of spots to camp too.
Bonfire on the beach
This quintessential summer activity is a necessity: pick a beach, any beach (Topsail Beach and Middle Cove Beach are the most popular in St. John’s), grab some friends, some firewood and some mussels for a big boil up right on the beach!
Camp in Canada’s most easterly park
Whether you choose to camp in the oTENTiks or go backwoods style you’ve got to experience the boreal forest and fjords of Terra Nova National Park.
Soak up the sun and sand
Yes, there are actually sandy beaches in Newfoundland! Sandy Cove and Eastport on the Eastport Peninsula have gorgeous sandy coastlines, while Salmon Cove, Lumsden Beach and Sandbanks Provincial Park in Burgeo have white sand beaches rivalling the Caribbean.
Hike Signal Hill
Signal Hill Historic Site dones the iconic view of the St. John’s narrows and is the site where Marconi first established a radio connection with Europe. With 6.9 kms of walking trails, it’s also a popular place for the city’s residents to hike in the summer. Wander through the castle-like building, or experience what the changing of the guard looked like in 1795 at the Signal Hill Tattoo.
See Newfoundland fossilized
The Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve is home to a World Heritage Site and a whole lot of fossils. Take a guided tour on the Avalon Peninsula to see the oldest fossils in the world (they’re more than 500 million years old).
Zip down a ski hill
During the summer months, Marble Mountain Ski Resort near Corner Brook becomes Marble Zip Tours, which provides amazing views from one of the highest zip lines in Eastern Canada.
Go bird watching, a few thousand times
During the breeding season, Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve is home to more than 65,000 birds, including black legged-kittiwake, common murre, and thick-billed murre.
Trek Trinity Bay
The Trinity area has been populated since the 1600s and there’s no better views of the little villages dotting the harbours than from Skerwink Trail, with its coastline paths.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS
Start summer at the Nickel
Grab the popcorn and see local, Canadian and international short films, features and documentaries at The Nickel Independent Film Festival at LSPU Hall in St. John’s.
Rock out in Grand Falls-Windsor at a music festival
Head to central Newfoundland’s biggest town for four days of live music, a Salmon Dinner Gala and family day. The Exploits Valley Salmon Festival takes place in various locations.
Join in on the Kelligrews Soiree
With a name taken from a famous 19th century Newfoundland ditty, the Kelligrews Soiree is as good as the song promises. With a month full of folk music and garden parties, take the trip to Kelligrews in Conception Bay South
Celebrate Klondyke Days
Head to Bay Roberts for two weeks of fun events like live music, community BBQs, afternoon teas, parades and garden parties. There’s usually a big name music act for the big show at Klondyke Days.
Hear live music on George Street
North America’s most famous concentration of bars is also home to the annual George Street Festival in St. John’s. Head downtown for live music performances on a closed-off street, but there’s never a bad time to stroll the street — you’re bound to find live folk music no matter when you go.
Play regatta roulette in St. John’s
The Royal St. John’s Regatta is celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2018, making it the longest running sporting event in North America, complete with a day of races, live music and games of chance. The tricky part about the date? The regatta is always held the first Wednesday in August, but if it’s too windy to race, it’s moved until the next day. Locals who spend a late Tuesday night on George Street while hoping for a holiday the next day are said to be playing regatta roulette.
Learn the jig at Newfoundland Folk Festival
Listen to the best of the province’s musicians as they belt out traditional and original tunes underneath the leafy ceiling of Bannerman Park in St. John’s at the NL Folk Fest.
Win a pie-eating contest at Brigus Blueberry Festival
The much anticipated Brigus Blueberry Festival ripens every year amongst the heritage properties of this historic town, and features traditional Newfoundland music, parades, fireworks and of course, the Miss Blueberry Pageant. Feast on traditional food and browse the handmade crafts.
Listen to folk music on the edge of the earth
The annual Brimstone Head Folk Festival takes place on a beach on Fogo Island where you’ll hear traditional music float over the impressively steep Brimstone Head, one of the four corners of the world according to the Flat Earth Society.
FOOD & DRINK
Have on oceanside picnic at the lighthouse
Grab a basket loaded with homemade sandwiches, lemonade and treats from Ferryland Lighthouse Picnics and enjoy the views of the ocean — they’ll even give you a warm blanket to sit on!
Sip on Newfoundland Beers
From Port Rexton Brewery to Split Rock Brewing Company in Twillingate and Yellowbelly Brewery in St. John’s, there are more than 20 craft breweries set to open in Newfoundland by 2019 so there’s no need to be thirsty!
Grab some pizza in Upper Amherst Cove
Take a roadie out to Bonavista Social Club for a wood-fired pizza or some fresh bread with a side of ocean views.
Welcome summer at Berg’s
This ice cream shop is an institution in St. John’s and a sure sign summer is here is the pilgrimage to nearby Manuels for Berg’s Famous Ice Cream.
Watch the caplin roll in
These frenzied fish roll ashore once a year to a crowd of rubber-boot wearing people ready to catch some fresh fish for supper. Middle Cove Beach has the best view of this yearly tradition.
Sip on juniper gin in Clarke’s Beach
Located in Conception Bay, The Newfoundland Distillery Company opened up their tasting room just last summer, but they’ve hit the ground running and you can sample their vodka, aquavit, gin made with local juniper berries, and seaweed gin at their distlillery.
Munch on Newfoundland Chocolate
Dine at Fork
This restaurant popped up in Witless Bay at the Irish Loop Coffee House, and you can dine on gourmet food with cocktails cooled down with iceberg ice at Fork.
Order Fish and Chips (anywhere)
From the Duke of Duckworth down a St. John’s alleyway to Chafe’s Landing in Petty Harbour (or any takeout for that matter), you will have a hard time not getting a good two piece fi-and-chi (as the locals call it).
Patio drinks on George Street
There’s an array of patios along this street to enjoy the sparse amounts of warm sun throughout the summer — when it’s nice they are packed! O’Reilly’s has an under-the-radar rooftop patio perfect for summer nights, while the Sundance is the biggest and most visited, with killer eats.
Go berry picking
Grab a bucket and head out into the province’s low-lying brush for some berry picking (there are more than 15 varieties that grow there!). August/September is blueberry season in Newfoundland, but there are also blackberries and raspberries by the bucket in July, while partridgeberry (known to the rest of the world as lingonberry) season comes later.
Eat like a fish merchant baller in Carbonear
The Stone Jug’s multi-million dollar renovation of a 19th-century fishing merchant’s house was well worth it. Dining on the second floor of the restaurant feels you’re eating with medieval kings.
Afternoon tea in a crypt
During July and August, the Anglican Cathedral in St. John’s hosts the Crypt Tea Room where you can devour subterranean sandwiches.
HISTORIC & CULTURAL
Stroll through a 19th-century fishing village
Walking through the clapboard buildings of the Ryan Premises National Historic Site in Bonavista is like strolling into the rich history of Newfoundland’s fishery.
See Shakespeare in Cupids
The Perchance Theatre company puts off the bard’s best in a wooden open-air theatre modelled after the Globe in the oldest colony on the Avalon Peninsula (circa 1610)
Stand where the Vikings first stood
Wander through the Viking village at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site. This UNESCO World Heritage Site at the northernmost tip of the province is the only authenticated Norse site in North America.
Experience the aria of Newfoundland
Opera on the Avalon is Atlantic Canada’s only professional opera company. Staged in St. John’s, many of the productions are inspired by Newfoundland’s history and culture.
Gawk at the rows houses in Port Union
As the only union-built town in North America, a strong sense of history permeates the strings of row houses in Port Union now left abandoned.
Spend a day at The Rooms
In addition to the great museum showcasing the provinces natural and cultural history, you can wander through the art gallery featuring world-renown Newfoundland artists or brush up on your family tree at the provincial archives. The view of the narrows from the cafe at The Rooms is worth a stop for lunch, too.
See where Europe first connected to North America
In 1866 the first transatlantic telegraph cable was hauled ashore at Heart’s Content Cable Station.
Stroll through the scenes of Trinity
The Rising Tide Theatre company has been putting off the New Founde Lande Pageant in Trinity for more than 20 years — the sets of the production take you through the historic town.
Visit the site of a Beothuk village
Explore the site once home to a Beothuk village more than 300 years ago at the Boyd’s Cove Beothuk Interpretation Centre.