A solo trip to Newfoundland Canada should be on everyone’s bucket list. The eastern most province in Canada, Newfoundland is an island that’s famous for it’s stunning landscape, fantastic seafood and Newfoundlander hospitality. You won’t meet a nicer group of people than the people of Newfoundland and you’ll feel welcomed everywhere you visit.
Traveling solo in Newfoundland requires some planning ahead but the island is very safe and relatively easy to explore. I’ve traveled to Newfoundland solo for the last ten years so I thought it was about time I put together a list of my favourite places to visit and some solo tips to help you plan your trip. Even if you aren’t planning on traveling solo, these tips will help you plan your trip to Newfoundland.
Getting to Newfoundland
You can arrive in Newfoundland by plane or ferry ride from Nova Scotia (the province beside Newfoundland). The plane is much preferred due to the length of the ferry ride being 7-14 hours. However, if you are driving across Canada or coming up for the United States, the ferry might be a good option for you.
Most planes arrive into the eastern side of the island, in the capital city of St. John’s, but there are other airports in central and western Newfoundland that are options as well. However, I highly recommend starting in the east and working your way across the island.
Getting around Newfoundland
You will need to rent a car if you are traveling anywhere outside of St. John’s. While there are tours that go across the island by bus, if you are going solo you’ll need your own transportation.
Make sure you have booked your rental car WELL in advance of arriving. There are limited cars and when they are gone, they are gone. In the summer this means booking a few months in advance.
Many people decide to fly into St. Johns and out of Deer Lake, so they don’t have to drive across the island twice. There is an option to pick up your rental car in St. John’s and drop it in Deer lake (and vice versa) so think about this option when planning your trip.
Traveling solo by car will give you the freedom to explore a bit off the grid and see the island on your own schedule. The roads are all in good condition but driving after dark is discouraged due to the high chances of hitting a moose. There are on average 600 moose collisions a year in the province so don’t take the chance.
When to go
Choosing when to go to Newfoundland will depend largely on what you want to see and your tolerance for the cold. Do you want to see Icebergs? Your best bet is May to early July. Interested in getting the best weather? Late July to early Sept.
Keep in mind that late spring to early fall is the peak season for visiting Newfoundland so it will be busier than usual but that just means you need to plan out your trip a bit more in advance. You can’t really “wing it” and just go exploring unless you are ok with potentially not having accommodation available at your destination.
The weather can also be a bit finicky in Newfoundland so you’ll have to bring a windbreaker jacket and some warmer clothes no matter what time of year you go. I was in Twillingate, Newfoundland in early July and it was 6 degrees for two days! That’s not normal but anywhere in the province can have cold spells. If you go in May you may get snow so be prepared and bring your hat and gloves.
What not to Miss in Newfoundland
The capital city, St. John’s, is the starting point for most visits to Newfoundland and definitely worth a few days of your trip. The downtown area is surrounded by the St. John’s harbour, enclosed by a small opening, commonly known as The Narrows. This picturesque view will be the backdrop for many of your pictures!
Some of my top picks for where to stay in St. John’s:
Budget: Hosteling International has a place on Gower street which gets great reviews, is in an excellent location and has the option for a private room.
Take you time to stroll the downtown St. John’s area and enjoy the local shops and restaurants. You can’t go wrong with ordering some seafood dish and a glass of local beer. If it’s whale or iceberg season, consider a tour on one of the iceberg tour boats to sail through the Narrows and see them up close! Bring a jacket- it will be cold.
In the evening, if you are interested in local music, head to George street in the downtown district. George street is a car free and has tons of bars to choose from. Nervous to go solo? Don’t be- the people couldn’t be any friendlier! Just pull up a stool at the bar and have a chat with those around you and you’ll soon find new friends.
My picks for restaurants to dine alone at in St. John’s:
Merchant Tavern– Lively spot with bar seating. You will love the seafood.
Rocket Bakery– Great place for lunch or a coffee! Lot’s of seating and free wifi.
Evoo in the Courtyard– many gluten free and vegetarian options!
Keep in mind, you should prioritize seeing Cape Spear and Signal Hill when it’s sunny for the best views.
Cape Spear, a national historic site, is approximately a 10 minute drive from downtown and the location of the oldest lighthouse in Newfoundland. The grounds allow you to walk through the remains of a Second World War Coastal Battery and tour the inside of the lighthouse. There are also guided tours in the summer months. I would budget about 2 hours here.
On your way back to downtown St. John’s make a left turn at the sign for Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove and head down the road for some lunch. This cute town has one of the best fish and chips places in St. Johns- Chafe’s Landing. Stop here for some delicious cod and chips and you won’t be disappointed!
If you are wanting some exercise, you can park your car and walk up Signal Hill to the top but I would suggest only doing this if you have proper running shoes and water. Once at the top, enjoy the gorgeous view of St. John’s, and explore the gift shop in Cabot Tower. The tower, located at the top of the hill, houses exhibits about Marconi and the wireless station that operated from there.
About a five minute drive from downtown, the cute village of Quidi Vidi is not to be missed. Make sure to visit the brewery and enjoy some local beer. The roads are very narrow here so it’s best to park your car near the beginning of the village and have a walk around. The best place to eat in Quidi vidi is Mallard Cottage but make sure you make reservations online prior to your trip or you will be out of luck! It fills up fast!
If you have another free day in St. John’s, I recommend a tour down to the Irish loop in the south of the island. The Irish loop takes you down the coast with some lovely stops along the way. It’s a drive to be done on a day preferably with no rain so you have good visibility. You can read more about this drive in my guide to St. John’s here.
This peninsula is about 3 and a half hours drive from St. John’s and comprises the towns of Trinty, Port Rexton and Bonavista. This stunning area is worth at least a three day visit. There are shuttles between St. John’s and Bonavista but the best way is to drive so you can explore all three towns.
Where to stay
Since you are traveling solo, I would suggest setting yourself up at the Port Rexton, Skerwink hostel for a few nights. This area is ideal for hiking the Skerwink Trail and visiting the sites of Port Rexton.
Feeling the need for a bit more solitude? Stay in a Tiny house like I did. Read all about my tiny house in Port Rexton here.
Another option is to stay in Bonavista at the HI Bonavista hostel which is very well located in the downtown area.
*My tip* I’ve stayed in fantastic bed and breakfasts in this area and it’s my preference to stay in these while in Bonavista. The owners will help you set up tours etc and are so welcoming. You also tend to meet a lot of other travelers on the same route as you so you can share stories over a communal breakfast. My favourite bnb was: Puffins Landing Bed and Breakfast. Book this place way ahead of time!!
What to do:
Skerwink Trail– the Skerwink trail is a fantastic 5 km circular hike that goes along the coastline between Port Rexton and Trinity and is my favourite hike in Newfoundland. The trail is well constructed and should be hiked clockwise so you get to see the views of Trinity.
Port Rexton– Home to the wonderful Port Rexton brewery, this town is a popular stop for weekends breaks from St. John’s. During the week it’s a lot more quiet. Besides the brewery, check out Two Whales cafe for a great lunch.
Trinity– This town is a wonderful historic town made up of narrow little streets and houses. Best explored on foot, you can venture to the many houses that have been turned into museums. Trinity is great for a day trip but I would base yourself somewhere else as a solo traveler as it is very quiet.
Bonavista– is the largest town on the peninsula and a good option for a home base. The town has exploded in popularity with the St. John’s crowd in the last few years and tends to get busy on the weekends in the summer. New restaurants and shops have popped up in the last few years making it a great place to explore for the day. Don’t miss the Bonavista lighthouse for wonderful sunsets, the Garrick theatre, a multi-use 200 seat theatre, and the Murray premises for a look at an historical fishing family.
Elliston– Great for a day trip, the Puffin lookout (see photo below if you don’t know what a Puffin is) should be explored by everyone. Arrive early in the morning in puffin season and you’ll have the place to yourself. A short walk will bring you to a rock that Puffins use to nest on. You should see hundreds! I would recommend a zoom lense for great photos. Elliston is also the root cellar capital of Newfoundland so keep an eye out for some along the way.
My top picks for dining alone:
Two Whales in Port Rexton– A great place to grab lunch, snacks or coffee.
The Boreal Diner– great food with lot’s of seating. Good for dinner.
Bonavista Social Club – wonderful pizzas and outdoor seating
This town is a must visit for it’s gorgeous scenery and boat tours. The area is a popular spot to see icebergs, puffins and whales during the late spring through summer. If you are obsessed with seeing icebergs like I am, you may want to stay for 2-3 days. If not, I would suggest a night here with two days of sightseeing. It’s not my favourite place for solo travelers as the town tends to cater more to families and groups.
Where to stay: There is a great hostel with dorms and a private rooms called Hi Tides Hostel, Twillingate & Beyond Inc. I’ve stayed here before and really enjoyed it. It’s quite small though so you may not run into too many other guests.
Things to do:
Iceberg and puffin tours– There are a fair amount of these boat tours in Twillingate so you will have your choice of whatever suits your schedule. The tours aren’t cheap so if you are hoping to see icebergs make sure you check with the tour operators to see if some in the area. The puffins will definitely be around and I’ve seen whales on one tour out of three.
There are a few museums, a few hiking trails to try and some cute pubs for dinner and drinks.
Top picks for solo dining in Twillingate:
The Cozy Tea Room- great food at affordable prices, has take out option as well
Pier 39– Nice patio to sit on a sunny day
Georgie’s Restaurant– at the Anchor inn hotel.
Made famous by the opening of the Fogo Island Inn hotel, Fogo is a very special place and should be visited for a few days, if your schedule allows. It takes a little bit more time to get there as it’s on an island and needs a ferry crossing. It’s not possible to pre-book your spot on the ferry so if it’s a busy time of year (summer, holiday weekend etc), make sure you are at the dock at least an hour before to line up.
I would recommend staying in Fogo for three days at least to enjoy the island and not feel rushed.
Where to stay in Fogo
If you are traveling here solo, keep in mind there are no hostels or big hotels besides, the Fogo Island Inn, which is very expensive. Your best bet is to stay in a bed and breakfast or rent a house for a few days.
* Travel tip: I highly recommend having all your accommodation booked prior to going to Fogo or you may be out of luck.
Fogo Island is a really seasonal place so if you are there in the off season (Oct-May) you will not have a lot of choices for dining or accommodation. I basically ate at the same place every night when I visited in May. It was good though! I would also recommend taking some food with you for lunches while you are exploring the area.
I did some great hiking in Fogo, including the amazing Brimstone Head trail. The flat earth society believes it’s one of the four corners of the earth. The views were incredible and I was even able to see some icebergs from the top. Check out my post on iceberg hunting! Dress warm…my fingers have yet to warm up!
Top picks for dining solo in Fogo (there isn’t much):
Bangbelly– casual place withgreat food for lunch or dinner
The Cod Jigger diner– spent alot of time here as it was the only restaurant open in spring! Get the fish and chip! So good. Also a good option for take out.
Fogo Island Inn– You can book this special place for lunch ahead of time by booking through opentable. https://fogoislandinn.ca/your-stay/dining/ . I highly recommend this option.
Although not the easiest place to travel to solo, it is definitely doable and very recommended! It’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been and it’s got a special feeling you can’t describe unless you experience it first hand.
The final destination that you must see on your solo trip to Newfoundland is Gros Morne National park. This may be the only place some people visit when they come to Newfoundland. To drive from St. John’s to Gros Morne is about 8 hours so doable in a day but not recommended. If you are only interested in seeing Gros Morne, you should consider flying into Deer Lake which is about an hour away from the park.
Gros Morne National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, recognized for it’s stunning fjords, unique landscapes and wonderful hiking trails. This is a destination you must have on your list to visit and I recommend at least 4-5 days in this area to see everything.
Where to stay in Gros Morne
The park is made up of a few towns: Rocky Harbour, Norris Point, Woody Point, Cow Head and Trout River. Each has it’s own pros and cons but for first time visitors I would recommend staying in Rocky Harbour. This area has the most restaurants and shops and is a good base for hikes.
Getting from Norris Point to Woody Point can be achieved by ferry or by car. Keep in mind if you are driving from one to the other it takes close to an hour to get to Woody Point from Rocky Harbour. Many people stay a few days on the Rocky Harbour side and then stay a day or two in Woody Point/Trout River.
Places to Stay solo:
Budget: The Out East Adventure Centre in Rocky harbor is a hostel that gets good reviews but I have not stayed there myself. The location seems great and it has a common area which would make it easy to meet fellow travelers.
High end: The Fish sheds– These six cabins are built on a hill over Rocky Harbour with gorgeous views of the ocean. There is a kitchenette and Netflix available. These cabins are good for solo visitors who want a bit more comfort at the end of the day.
What to do in Gros Morne:
Western Brook Pond– The boat ride through this land locked glacier fjord is a must do on a trip to Gros Morne. The walk to the boat tour is about 3km on flat ground so keep this in mind if you have mobility issues. The guided tour is about 2 hours on the lake, providing you with a history of the fjord’s formation.
The tour is run by Bon Tours and you can get your tickets online ahead of time or at the dock. It is better to try and book ahead though since the tours can sell out. Another tip is to make sure if you buy your tickets dockside, you have cash as their internet can be intermittent there.
This was my number one favourite activity I did in the park and it’s not to be missed.
Hiking– There are tons of beautiful hikes in Gros Morne, the most popular being the hike up Gros Morne mountain itself. If you are going solo, be warned that this is not an easy hike and usually takes about 7 hours or so total. The weather can impact the safety of the climb. If you are not a very experienced hiker, I would recommend booking a day tour for this hike through https://grosmorneadventures.com/book-day-hike/ .
Other recommended hikes that are fine to do solo:
Green Gardens Hike
Lookout Hills Hike
Burnt Hills walking trail (located dockside – Norris Point)
The Tablelands are a barren reddish mountain range that tower hundreds of metres above the Atlantic Ocean. The location is south west of Gros Morne National Park, about a 10 minute drive from Woody Point.
The mantle is actually the remnants of an ancient ocean floor that was pushed to the surface by tectonic forces. An easy hike here is about 5 km along flat surface at the base of the mountains ending at a small river. There is also an option to do a guided hike with Parks Canada throughout the summer months at specified times. Check their website for details.
There are different kayaking tours offered by Gros Morne Adventures around Bonne Bay that depart from Norris Point. There are tours for different levels from beginner to intermediate that allow you to experience the area from the water. I have taken the three hour tour and can highly recommend it! It was also a great way to meet other travelers.
Where to dine solo in Gros Morne:
Anchor Pub– Rocky Harbor-Grab dinner and watch one of the live shows- you’ll need tickets for the show though so book ahead.
The Black Spruce– Bit of a fancy place but the mussels are worth the drive to Norris Point
The old loft– Woody Point- great patio right on the water and good food.
Earl’s– Rocky Harbor- Has moose stew, moose burgers etc. Great for take out. Gets busy so go early.
Although I just chosen five of my favourite places in Newfoundland, you really can’t go wrong with any area you explore. Wherever you wander you will enjoy stunning landscapes, great food and the wonderful Newfoundland hospitality.
Traveling solo in Newfoundland is something you should definitely try! With a little planning ahead of time, you will have a fantastic trip and experience one of the most beautful places in the world. Enjoy!