canada , Newfoundland , roadtrip , travel , travel stories 9:26 am
There is only one way to see Newfoundland: rent a car, take the ferry, and drive through the beautiful province that is Newfoundland and Labrador. Soak up every ray of sunlight, breathe every breath of fresh air along the way.
With our camper van all packed up, Alex and I left North Sydney Nova Scotia on a Sunday. The day-time ferry would take 6 hours and drop us off at the Port-Aux-Basque port of call by dinner time. Ferry is probably the best way - and most convenient way - to get to Newfoundland. Our journey on the Marine Atlantic ferry was smooth, we spent most of the time on the sundeck getting in a tan.
Our destination was Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. Our hiker friends sung its praises for all the wonderful hikes that the park had to offer. With our minivan camper, we were able to camp in the park and take advantage of its mid-country campsites.
On our first day there, we ran the Coastal Trail for some much-needed exercise after the long ferry ride. The 6km trail is flat and hugs the coast along the way, providing a gorgeous view the whole way. On day two, the foggy weather made it impossible to head out to the fjords so we headed to the top of Gros Morne Mountain. The 16 km return trip was a fantastic workout - the first 4km is largely flat and the rock scramble to the top was tricky but a lot of fun. The views on the way up Gros Morne Mountain is also rewarding to say the least.
The lush scenary of Newfoundland reminded me of the mountains of Vancouver, they share a calm serenity that calls the mountains into focus and draws you into the park.
Converting our minivan into a camper was easy (with Alex’s decades of construction experience) after we found the right design for a foldout bed but the hard part was now planning our trip to eastern Canada to fit in as much as we could in just 10 days from Toronto to Newfoundland, passing through Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia along the way.
In the beginning, we opted to camp at only Provincial or National Parks, but we quickly grew to love the personality of private campsites and their (often) much more accessible locations from the highway. We stuck to driving 5-6 hours a day so we could balance the trip with work commitments (the benefit of telecommunity and working for oneself) and sightseeing. Some nights, we had to set up camp late as we pulled in to our spot after dark. In the mornings, we’d awake to the gamble of what the campsite actually looked like.
My main desire of Nova Scotia was the Cabot Trail. I wanted to feel its every twist and turn, to stop at every doting town from Baddeck to Meat Cove, and to taste today’s fresh catch. Going up the west side of Cape Breton, the Cabot Trail can be driven by using right hand turns only. You can drive the Cabot Trail in a day, but if you have the time, stay for a weekend. The highlight of our trip was Captain Mark’s whalewatching boat tour complete with whales that swam right alongside our boat.
One of the highlights of our camper van roadtrip across Eastern Canada is Captain Mark's Whale and Seal Cruise in Cape Breton. We caught two seats on a research vessel and went out on the water with a group of students tracking and tagging pilot whales. It was a bumpy three hours out on the water but the captain and crew were determined - we weren't turning back until we spotted these guys.
When we finally caught up to a group of whales, it was incredible. We sailed with them for about 30 minutes, a pair of them swam close to the boat and we even saw a mother and her baby! Our sea legs were tired about the 3-hour trip, but I left feeling full of happiness to have spent the afternoon with some amazing sea creatures.
The sad truth is, I've never properly spent any time in Quebec. I'd been to Montreal 3 years ago take an entrance exam for law school - and that was that. This summer, the same thing happened when I passed through Quebec City for a few hours while driving east from Toronto to Halifax. This time, I at least had my camera with me.
With so much culture and atmosphere just oozing from the sidewalk, it's easy to see why Quebec City has become the getaway for so many tourists down south. Now that I'm living in New York, I continue to run into New Yorkers who rave about the magic of Quebec.
I spent most of the little precious time I had in Old Quebec - an area that was so quaintly beautiful that I considered extending my stay in Quebec just to enjoy it a bit longer, meanwhile kicking myself for not paying more attention in French class. I'm just searching for a reason to return to Quebec, properly, next time.