As we sat down to our last meal in St. John’s, Newfoundland, after a busy week of activities and exploring in the city as well as around the Avalon Peninsula, I asked my 17-year-old daughter if she would recommend Newfoundland as a family vacation spot for her friends.
“Only my adventurous ones,” she said.
Newfoundland is unlike any other province in Canada. With 29,000 kilometers of coastline (including Labrador), boasting the most eastern part of North America at Cape Spear, the topography is constantly changing. With it, the adventures and activities you can do. “Newfoundland is one province, but two lands,” said our tour guide, Larry. The population in Newfoundland and Labrador is sparse; only 150,000 in St. John’s (the capital city), with a total population of less than 500 000 in Newfoundland and only 28,000 in Labrador.
First things first, there seems to be some confusion on how to pronounce Newfoundland. Residents tell us to remember it like this “Understand Newfoundland,” making the two words rhyme.
Traveling with teenagers can be a challenge, but I knew when I started researching for our trip that we would be able to find a mix of physical activity, exploration, and (when they weren’t looking) learning as well.
We started our stay in downtown St. John’s, home to many restaurants, pubs, and shops. It is also adjacent to St John’s area, which is often featured on postcards and travel brochures; the Jelly Bean Row houses. These row houses are brightly colored and line the surprisingly hilly streets just north of the main strip of downtown St. John’s.
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According to Larry, the tradition came from using the leftover paint from the fishermen’s’ days (fishing boats). Today, you can pick the color, but the city has the approval to make sure there aren’t two houses of similar color in a row. And colorful describes most of the people we met, their storytelling and friendliness matched only by the pride they have in their home province. After all, you often hear people refer to themselves as Newfoundlanders, but when’s the last time you heard someone say they were an Ontarian?
“How can you tell a Newfie in heaven?”
“He’s the only one who’s saying he wants to go home.”
So, coming “from away” as we did, our week-long itinerary in Newfoundland had plenty to offer. Here’s a breakdown of what you can pack into that timeframe. And as our sea kayaking guide Stan Cook reminded us, “If you don’t like Newfoundland and Labrador, that’s your problem. What to do:
McCarthy’s Party: Day tours in and around the St. John’s area. We took a City Tour, which included Cape Spear, Signal Hill, Quidi Vidi, Petty Cove, and a quick spin down St John’s main street. Guide Larry was fantastic.
The Rooms: St. John’s Art Gallery and Museum all in one. Great moving exhibits plus permanent displays; good for kids of all ages and adults too. Restaurant as well.
Stan Cook Sea Kayaking: We took the two hours guided tour, which included a ride back. Kayak in caves, see sea creatures 80 feet down in crystal clear water—great stories from our hosts.
North Atlantic Ziplines: Canada’s longest zipline course; 10 lines with longest being 2,200 feet. Great tandem rides out of Petty Cove; views unbelievable.
Gatherall’s Whale Watching: A humpback whale waved a fin and breeched right in front of us. 90-minute tour; Gravel recommended.
Salmonier Nature Park: 3km boardwalk trail through woods and wetlands. We spotted moose, caribou, owl, and more.