Moose, mountains and mankind. I recently experienced all that and more as my wife and I explored the wonders of Newfoundland. We began our journey with a six-hour ride on the Marine Atlantic, a modern multi-level people/car ferry. It has bright, modern seating areas, restaurants, and cabins with comfortable small beds and clean, well-equipped bathrooms for overnight travel. We embarked at North Sydney, and arrived at Port aux Basques on Newfoundland's southwest tip.
After we arrived on The Rock, our image of Newfoundland as a mostly flat, rocky plain with few trees and much fog drastically changed. Much of The Rock is mountainous with deep, narrow fiords cut by retreating glaciers. Some of Earth's oldest rocks -- to actually see and touch -- are here.
The best place to see Newfoundland's mountains and beaches is Gros Morne National Park. The 697-square-mile park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Due to the violent collision of two passing tectonic plates, Earth's geological history has been ripped and thrust up, leaving 2,644-foot-tall Gros Morne Mountain open for all to see.
Go down to the beach where the ground has been tilted vertically and layers of rock stand stacked like books on a library shelf. Representing various epochs, some are from when the area was a seabed, others from volcanic flows. They are thin, like sheets of compressed tissue paper, or set in thick stone waves.
Moose ahead! There are so many moose on Newfoundland, that moose/car collisions are a real problem. There are numerous warning signs because when a car and moose collide, nobody wins. We had three peaceful moose encounters, thankfully, none while driving. Once, while quietly taking photos along a boardwalk, a young male moose suddenly crossed directly in front of us! Calmly marking his territory and munching on plants, his message was clear: "Remember whose turf you're on."
Moose and mountains are not all that you can experience. Spouting whales are seen off the coast, and icebergs are in the province's Iceberg Alley. The bergs come from Greenland and travel southward to melt along Newfoundland's East Coast.
You can safely see icebergs (and sometimes whales) by taking guided boat tours from communities on the northeastern shore. We went out on the MV Daybreak, a 55-foot-long ship operated by Twillingate Adventure Tours. It features a wide-open top deck plus enclosed lower area, for those inclined to seasickness.
The captain found and circled a beautiful melting iceberg. According to our guide, it could have taken up to three years to arrive. We didn't get too close; icebergs are fragile and can shed sections in seconds. The resulting waves can swamp your boat if right alongside.
These are just some of the natural wonders we saw in Newfoundland. Man has also left his mark. Fishing villages are tucked into the coast. In larger centers like the capital, St. John's, there are neat rows of clapboard houses in rainbow colors. The people in Newfoundland are smart and renowned for being among the friendliest folks.
Seafood dominates this historic fishing region. Even in the most humble of restaurants, we found excellent chowders and fisherman's platters with cod, shrimp, scallops and all kinds of bounty from the sea.
We drove a lot the first day and stayed in the delightful Freshwater Inn in Gambo, on the northeast side of The Rock. This deceptively simple-looking trio of spacious rooms in a stand-alone building overlooks Freshwater Cove. All are beautifully decorated with high ceilings, fine furniture and amenities. Multi-course breakfasts are fresh and tasty.
Our next stop was Rosedale Manor B&B Inn in Placentia; about a 1.5-hour drive from St. John's. This restored Second Empire home has gorgeous period rooms, great views of the harbor, a relaxing outdoor garden and a koi pond. Go nearby to Philip's Café for simple food, beautifully prepared. The chef's signature molasses and raisin bread is locally famous!
Downtown St. John's was our third stop, at the Avalon Guesthouse. This high-end, smoke-free youth hostel offers private rooms with cable TV and a bath in an authentic 19th-century setting. It has laundry facilities, computer access, free Wi-Fi, street parking, a self-catering kitchen, lockers, late night check-in and luggage storage.
We then stayed at the award-winning George House Heritage Bed and Breakfast in Dildo. This luxurious 1885 Second Empire hilltop mansion with sea views offers period-furnished guest rooms with silk wall coverings and ensuite bathrooms with whirlpool tubs. Enjoy gourmet meals at the Sea Level Dining Room down the hill at the Inn By The Bay.
Heading westward to Port Aux Basques, the Anchor Down Bed and Breakfast in Rocky Harbour welcomed us. This clean, well-kept B&B is in the heart of Gros Morne National Park. Stay in a comfortable room with a bath; one has a two-person Jacuzzi tub. A great breakfast is served promptly at 8 a.m.
We overnighted at the Humberview Bed & Breakfast in Deer Lake. This modern B&B features exceptionally furnished rooms with ensuite baths and a spacious Grand Suite with a Jacuzzi. We enjoyed excellent food, amenities and hospitable hosts before taking the ferry back to the mainland.
The place and people of The Rock are unique in their own way, and our image of Newfoundland expanded after exploring the many wonders of Canada's East Coast.