Canada is full of incredible destinations to explore with abundant natural beauty. While there are plenty of bucket list spots like Banff National Park and Niagara Falls, it’s also home to many undiscovered places that are equally as impressive. One destination to consider is Newfoundland’s Central Region. Located right in the heart of the island, here you’ll find a little of everything that Newfoundland is known for.
On a trip here, you can spend your days hiking on jagged cliffs washed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean while looking out for humpback whales breaching in the distance. Or, relax in one of Central Newfoundland’s small towns and discover the province’s rich history by talking to the locals, many of whom are descendants of English fishermen who settled here more than two centuries ago. During my time living in Newfoundland, I discovered the many reasons why this unexplored island should be on your travel bucket list, and I’m sharing my top tips and experiences in this thrilling region of Atlantic Canada with you here in this post.
What is Newfoundland known for?
Part of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada’s youngest and easternmost province, the island of Newfoundland is known for its colourful fishing villages and some of the most remarkable nature escapes in the world: you can go whale watching, iceberg hunting, and hike parts of the stunning rugged coastline all in one day!
Make sure to bring your appetite, as Newfoundland is home to some of the tastiest seafood in the world, and we’re sure to feed you a “scoff” (which in Newfoundland means a large meal). No two days in Newfoundland will be the same, but what’s guaranteed is world-class hospitality and endless tales of the island’s storied past.
Newfoundland’s Central Region is a great place to learn about the rich history of the province, whether you’re talking to fishermen on the working wharves, visiting the remains of resettled communities, or learning about the Beokthuk population that once lived off the land. There’s no end to the unforgettable travel experiences you’ll have in this unexplored place on earth.
Top tourist attractions in Central Newfoundland
You can take your pick when it comes to tourist attractions and outdoor experiences in Central Newfoundland. Travellers can enjoy everything from hikes along the coastline, whale watching, chasing icebergs, exploring uninhabited islands on a kayak, or even paddling down rapids.
If you’re coming from St John’s, start your journey in Terra Nova National Park. It’s one of the best places for camping in Canada, home to 400 square kilometres of boreal forest and coastline ideal for nature viewing and hiking. Nearby is the Eastport Peninsula, home to some of Newfoundland’s best beaches, scenic hiking trails, and picturesque fishing villages.
The Trans Canada Highway 1 is the main road that takes you across the Central region through the city of Gander, but be sure to spend some time exploring the peninsulas off the highway on the east coast, as this is where you can find some of the best unexplored places in the province. One tourist attraction you don’t want to miss is Hare Bay, which offers some of the best whale watching experiences in Newfoundland.
A few hours north is the town of Twillingate, a beautiful small town and a nature photographer’s dream destination. It’s nearby to the ferry to Fogo Island, a remote island off the coast that has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Newfoundland. If you’re looking for unexplored islands to visit, take the ferry over to Change Islands where you can get off the beaten track.
If you have more time in your Newfoundland itinerary, add a night in Fortune Harbour and explore the scenic Bay of Exploits by kayak. On the way back, stop at Grand-Falls Windsor to go rafting down the exploits river. Finish off your trip at King’s Point, an area prominent for hiking trails and whale watching.
Must-do experiences in Central Newfoundland
While most people visit Newfoundland during the summer season, you’ll want to come in the spring if seeing icebergs is on your travel bucket list. Every year, these 10,000-year-old glacial giants float down from Greenland and end up along the coastline of Newfoundland. And the Central Region happens to be one of the best places to see them.
You can discover these magnificent giants by boat tour, sea kayak, or from land. Some of the best places for viewing icebergs in Newfoundland are Twillingate and Fogo Island. While it’s great to see an iceberg from the shore, seeing one up close is an entirely different experience. You won’t believe how big they are as the boat approaches! Twillingate Adventures offers boat tours on the island, which is a fantastic place to see, as the coastlines on their own are enough of an attraction. If you’re lucky, you might also spot whales and eagles on your adventures – this is known in Newfoundland as the trifecta.
Go whale watching
Newfoundland is home to 22 species of whales that gather in large numbers to feed and play. It’s one of the best destinations in the world to see humpback whales, who return here on their annual migration every summer.
One of the best places for whale watching in Newfoundland’s Central Region is Northern Bonavista Bay. You can join a tour with Hare Bay Adventures, where you’ll venture out to the middle of the ocean to see dozens of whales breaching in the water, happily fed from the abundant fish below. You’ll also see thousands of birds flying overhead here too, including puffins! It was one of my favourite experiences travelling in Newfoundland – it felt like we were in an episode of Planet Earth with so much wildlife around. What’s unique about this tour is that on the boat ride over, you’ll pass by several islands that were former communities that got resettled in the 1960s.
Other popular spots for whale watching in this region are Twillingate, Fogo Island, and King’s Point.
Discover the history
The Central Region has a rich Indigenous history that includes the Beothuk and Dorset peoples. One of the best ways to learn more about this is by visiting The Bay of Exploits area and joining a sea kayaking tour with Paul from Adventures Newfoundland.
The land was inhabited by the Beothuk Indians before the arrival of European settlers. When European settlement began in the early 16th century, serious conflict developed. Paul’s a wealth of knowledge, and will tell you all about the island’s history while paddling through the same scenic islands that the Beothuks once did.
If you’re interested in aviation history, be sure to add a stop at the Central Newfoundland town of Gander. It was once known as the “Crossroads of the World” due to its perfectly positioned airport that played an important role in World War Two. Gander was in the international spotlight again after the community came together to take in thousands of stranded travellers during 9/11. The story was so heartwarming that it’s now an award-winning Broadway musical called Come From Away.
Of course, there’s also the incredible natural history to discover in Newfoundland. Along your road trip, be sure to stop and check out the Dover Fault Lookout & Interpretation Centre in the small town of Dover. From the site’s observation deck you can see where the North American and European continents collided more than 150 million years ago.
Take a hike
With over 65 hiking and walking trails in the Central Region, there’s no shortage of places to explore on foot.
One hike not to be missed is the Alexander Murray Hiking Trail in King’s Point. This 8-km round-trip hike takes you up a set of stairs, passing by cascading waterfalls to the summit, HayPook, where you’ll be rewarded with stunning 360-degree views of Green Bay and beyond. While challenging, this three-hour hike was my favourite in the region.
Another hiking trail to check out in Central Newfoundland is the brand new Damnable Trail System on the Eastport Peninsula. The paths were primarily developed from the remnants of old waking trails and hauling paths forged by the first settlers of Newfoundland. They were built to be both accessible and challenging so there are options for all levels, including wheelchair-accessible paths. Most of the trails here are coastal, so it’s a perfect complement to the ones in nearby Terra Nova National Park, which are mostly inland.
Newfoundland is famous for its seafood, and the Central Region is no exception to this. One experience you don’t want to miss is a beach boil-up! While you may be lucky enough to be invited to one by a local, you can also book it as a tour through Experience Twillingate. Local resident Crystal will make you an incredible four-course seafood dinner on a gorgeous beach, all using sustainably sourced ingredients. The dinner takes place at sunset in a dream location for taking photos, as the brightly coloured houses are reflected on the ocean.
Some great restaurants to sample Newfoundland’s best seafood are Annie’s in Twillingate, Happy Adventure Inn on the Eastport Peninsula, and By the Sea Inn and Café in King’s Point. If you make your way to Fogo Island, you can also eat at the Fogo Island Inn, which is one of Canada’s top restaurants.
Go river rafting
If you’re looking for a bit of adrenaline on your road trip through Central Newfoundland, book a rafting tour with Rafting Newfoundland in Grand-Falls Windsor. Their Badger Chute tour is such a thrilling experience. It starts off jumping into waterfalls with salmon coming down, then you’ll paddle through several rapids along the Exploits River with peaceful breaks in between. The guides are so much fun, and can make the adventure as adrenaline-packed as you want by paddling back into the rapids.
Where to stay in Central Newfoundland
You won’t find many big-name hotels within the smaller communities in the Central Region, but you will find the kindest hospitality in the world. Here are some quaint hotels and locally owned guesthouses to inspire your stay in Newfoundland.
- The Comfort Inn in Gander
- Hodge Premises in Twillingate
- The Gillepsie House in Fortune Harbour
- Freshwater Inn in Gambo
Find your perfect hotel stay in Newfoundland with our hotel search.
How to get there
Since Newfoundland is an island, you can only get there by flight or ferry. The ferry comes from Nova Scotia and goes to either Port aux Basques on the west coast (8 hours) or Argentia on Newfoundland’s east coast (16 hours). If you’re planning to explore more of Atlantic Canada, then the ferry to Newfoundland can be a great option, but flying is the way to go if you’re short on time.
To travel to Newfoundland by air, you can either fly into the St John’s International Airport or Gander International Airport. While the city of Gander is part of Central Newfoundland, most people choose to fly into Newfoundland’s capital city of St John’s and start their adventure from there. This also gives you some flexibility to check out the East Coast Trail if you have the time on your Newfoundland itinerary.
How to get around
Public transportation is very limited in Newfoundland, especially around this region, so you’ll want to rent a car to get around if you aren’t bringing your own. Rental car availability can be limited during the busy summer tourist season, so be sure to do this in advance if you’re booking a trip.
If you’re looking for undiscovered places to explore in Canada, it doesn’t get better than Central Newfoundland. Whether you want to spend your trip on boats searching for giants icebergs and pods of humpback whales, getting in touch with nature hiking along the shores, or learn the island’s storied past through the tales of the locals, a trip here is sure to make for an exciting getaway when it’s time to travel again.
Please note: Before booking any type of travel, always make sure to check the local guidelines of the region. Our coronavirus travel advice has the latest updates on international and domestic travel for Canadians.
What are the travel restrictions for Canadians?
Wondering about the latest travel restrictions for Canadians? Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top international destinations reopen for travellers like you.