New found love for Newfoundland
1 Day St. John’s Itinerary
Flying into St. John’s and only have 1 full day to explore the city? It’s nowhere close to the number of days you need to fully appreciate everything the province to offer but it is enough to give you a taste to make you hungry for more.
Alternatively, if you’re doing a road trip through the east coast of Canada, you might be looking at taking a ferry. If you are, make sure you know how to take the ferry to Newfoundland.
4:30 AM – First Sunrise
Bright and early in the morning, we woke up, packed a few snacks, and hit the road with our Lightning Blue Ford EcoSport. With darkness turning to grey and blue, we zipped towards Cape Spear. The good thing is that the most eastern tip of Newfoundland is only 15 minutes away from downtown St. John’s.
When we got there, we were torn by where we should set up to shoot the sunrise but wanting to get as close to the lighthouse as possible, we drive up the rocky path upwards but had no trouble with our Intelligent 4WD System. I quickly set up the tripod with camera and GoPro and started snapping away as the blues lend itself to purple, then orange, red, and yellow.
Watching the sun rise from the shimmering Atlantic with the lighthouse and white picket fence in the foreground and lonely fishing boat gliding across was absolutely incredible.
9 AM – Starting The Irish Loop
After the sunrise we made our way back to the JAG Hotel to nap and have a proper breakfast. Once we were filled up and hopped on coffee once again, it was time to hit the road. This time, we were to drive parts of what’s known as the Irish Loop – one of the main roads of the Avalon Region that covers the eastern shore.
With a few taps of the screen we let GPS be our navigator and promptly started jamming to our road-trip tunes (Taylor Swift may or may not have been playing). Just as it was when we drove to Cape Spear, we left behind the city and were soon greeted with tall trees, smattering of lakes, rustic houses, and charming towns.
By 9:45AM we made it to our pitstop, the Irish Loop Oceanside Chalet, a cottage rental property in the area of Tors Cove and Bauline East. I could just picture myself here with family and friends, BBQ-ing on the deck, and taking in the crisp ocean breeze, jagged rocks jutting out from the water, and protected bird islands that feel like are only a stone’s throw away.
11:30AM – O’Brien’s Whale and Bird Tours
No trip to St. John’s is complete without doing one of O’Brien’s famed boat tours and so we turned back on the Irish Loop and made our way to Bay Bulls.
Donning cute Paddington Bear-like yellow rainhats called the sou’wester, we left our dock and head out to the open Atlantic water. While it wasn’t quite whale season yet since this was in mid May, but as we circled around Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, we could spot puffins in the water and near their dwellings, kittiwake, razor-bill, and more common murre than you could ever imagine.
What really made O’Brien’s a great experience was the energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge of our guide who was on the microphone the whole time we were up on the upper deck. Layer on rhythmic stomping and Newfoundlander jigging, and this was an awesome tour.
2:30PM – A Pretty Petty Harbour
After lunch at Sailor’s Gallery Restaurant, we hit the road again, but only for 25 minutes to get to the picturesque town of Petty Harbour. I’m really not sure if I’ve seen anything more pretty as I stared at the fishing boats with colours out of a Crayola box. Where I stood was a pier that was equally as photogenic with a wooden house with a platform on stilt, lobster traps, and salt-worn paint.
Here, we had a chance to meet the folks that run the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium, tried our hand at being lumberjacks, and munched on a traditional Newfoundlander dish called toutons. Every culture needs to have their own version of fried dough right?
I’m not sure why they called it Petty unless settlers got petty over which harbour was prettiest. Now try saying that 3 times fast.
3:40 PM – Quidi Vidi Awesome
In my research of St. John’s, Quidi Vidi came up the most as somewhere that was a must-visit. Coming here myself, I could see why as historic fishing village nestled by the surrounding rock cradle various tokens of a once-thriving community. While it may not be like it once was, the wooden houses squatting over the water have given away to microbreweries, local crafts, hiking trails, and a famous cottage-turned-restaurant.
Comparing to Petty Harbour, Quidi Vidi is certainly more iconic but my personal opinion is that the lane of rainbow boats at Petty Harbour made it that much more photogenic.
The small-village vibe and charm of Quidi Vidi made us want to linger longer but alas we had to move onto our next spot.
5:00 PM – High Winds and Jelly Beans
What about St. John’s right? So far we’ve been circling around everywhere but so it was time to give the capital city some love.
Perched up high, the sentry-like Signal Hill nearly blew us away literally with the wind that pummelled us but it was here that we got those 360 degree views that spanned Cape Spear out into the water and the coloured layers of St. John’s streets. In the middle of it all is Cabot Tower where we learned that this was the site of the first ever wireless transmission. Smartphone lovers, pay your respects here!
We wound our way back into town where colour is again the main theme here as several blocks of the downtown that stretch from Gower Street, Patrick Street, Kimberly Row, Cochrane Street, Kings Road, and the list goes on are all splashed with paint over the beautiful houses that feature so heavy in the provincial tourism ads.
I could have spent hours photographing the labyrinth of houses on the steeply graded hills reminiscent of San Francisco. The misnomer here is that they call the neighbourhood Jellybean Row but it really spans multiple blocks.
What I loved even more beyond the candy-coloured houses were their pint-sized drawings on the mailboxes that everyone seemed to have.
6:45PM – Becoming An Honourary Newfoundlander
If you’re feeling exhausted reading this, you aren’t far off of how we were by the end of the day but a 24 hour whirlwind in Newfoundland wouldn’t be complete without being Screeched In.
I had no idea what this meant at the beginning of the trip but soon found out at O’Reilly’s Pub. Newfoundlanders hav an age-old tradition of welcoming visitors to their land. It starts off with the retelling of a tale of how the tradition started before learning to recite a sailor’s saying, drinking a shot of Screech (burn-your-throat kind of rum), and kissing a frozen piece of cod in the lips. Sound ridiculous? It certainly was but was highly entertaining and luckily only embarrassing.
We ended off the night sampling a variety of local dishes including Moose meatballs, cod tongues (not real tongues), fish cakes, and classic Newfoundland desserts.
Hungry for Adventure Tempered With Comfort And Convenience
There’s no question that Newfoundland & Labrador is perfect for road-tripping. With open roads, loops and scenic points dotted everywhere you go, there’s no better way to see the province than roam freely with a car that can handle all conditions and terrain.
As you know, we were lucky enough to be the first in Canada to drive the all-new Ford EcoSport. SUVs have been dominating the market for years now and with that, car makers have been closing the gap between regular sedans and the larger SUVs on the market. Where the EcoSport fits in is that sweet spot where someone wants to have the footprint and nimbleness of a small car but with the power, height, and space that an sports utility vehicle affords.
Without going into all the technical specs of the car, here were my top 5 highlights:
- Huge touchscreen that was both easy to read and quick to navigate. CarPlay is an option you can add on and I loved how seamless the integration was to play my Spotify playlists.
- Plenty of power for city streets, steep up-hills, rocky off-road, and speedy highways – I didn’t encounter any issues at all and whenever I needed more speed, it was quick to respond.
- One-of-a-kind swing gate – There really aren’t many on the market that do this but I kind of liked how it was easier to open and close as opposed to the more traditional up and down back door that SUVs have.
- There’s so much storage everywhere. Whether it’s up front as a driver or passenger or in the back, Ford has really done their homework in terms of ensuring there’s enough cup holders, bins, hooks, and pockets (up to 30!!!). There are two particular ingenious designs that come to mind. #1 is the tablet pocket for the rear passengers so you easily store and access it on the road. #2 is the trunk’s clever configurable shelf that allows you to have multi-levels of storage to allow for flat items like pizza and egg cartons to sit at the bottom level and gym bags and other containers to sit on top without crushing anything.
- I loved how they built the car with the modern traveller in mind where you want to stay charged all the time. USB outlets up front made that easy to do and in the back are more USB outlets and a regular power outlet (not the car adapter ones). That means you can have your laptop plugged in at the back just using your regular charging block.
It was quite the long day in Newfoundland but we certainly made the most of it. This one day is truly a teaser for what the province has to offer so make sure to stick around. A longer 4 day itinerary to come!
Where Did We Stay?
For this one day in St. John’s and the rest of our trip in the province, we stayed at the JAG Boutique Hotel. Instead of me describing it, make sure you watch the full video below to get an idea of why we loved it so much.