Following Newfoundland’s West Coast

A Toronto native takes the road trip of a lifetime, and discovers the wild beauty and warm-hearted locals of Newfoundland's west coast.

I used to think that the best drive in our great country was from Calgary to Jasper by way of the Icefields Parkway, but I am going to let you in on a secret: the west coast of Newfoundland is every bit as amazing. I know many people who have travelled to the eastern part of the province and have raved about it, but the west coast is rugged, full of small fishing communities and some of the nicest people you will ever meet.

Being from Toronto, we don’t have the type of rugged landscapes nearby that offer a glimpse of what Eastern Canada truly has to offer. You can imagine my surprise at the wondrous vistas before us the minute we got off the plane at Deer Lake. Our visit was to take us to Norris Point, then to Lobster Cove, Gros Morne, St. Anthony and then back to Port aux Choix and finally to Lark Cove, west of Corner Brook.

Our first stop in Norris Point was to give us a home base to get to Gros Morne, but one of the wonderful people we met gave us the opportunity to climb one of the mountainous hills close to our accommodations. It took a while, but the struggle was worth it when we saw the view from over 600 metres above Neddy Harbour. After an hour of taking some great landscape shots, it was time to call it a day with a sunrise call at 3 a.m. to get the view of Neddy Harbour from Main Street.

West Coast Newfoundland - Norris PointPhoto: Randy Nickerson
Norris Point at 3 a.m.

It was like the sun never really went down, when the rooster crowed to get us up and at ’em. With a hot coffee in hand, off we went to the harbour and what we saw made our eyes as wide as saucers. The sun was starting to rise but was still behind the hills, and a slight layer of cloud was just hanging above the water. We set up our tripods and began clicking away, capturing some quality photos that I have been challenged to get since.

West Coast Newfoundland - View from the Gros Morne ferryPhoto: Randy Nickerson
The view from the ferry in Gros Morne.

A couple of hours later, it was time to travel to Gros Morne. This natural beauty, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was high on our list. Spectacular in its beauty, you are dwarfed by the size of the valley of cliffs that the tour boat passes. Ninety minutes later, as we departed the boat, we could not stop talking about what we had witnessed. Waterfalls and cliffs that match the fjords in Norway were a surprise for us and occupied our conversation as we travelled to Lobster Cove for lunch.

West Coast Newfoundland - Lobster Cove at low tidePhoto: Randy Nickerson
Lobster Cove at low tide.

We really did not know what to expect at Lobster Cove, but we’d heard back home that we needed to stop by there to experience the vistas. The century-old lighthouse once served as a beacon to safely guide fishermen and sailing vessels into Bonne Bay. It did not disappoint as a terrific focal point for our afternoon shoot.

West Coast Newfoundland - Fishing boat KathleenPhoto: Randy Nickerson
A retired fishing boat named Kathleen, along with her sister craft.

One thing that became clear was the slowed down pace of life that we were starting to adapt to. Back home it was always go, go, go and here it is slow, slow, slow. It was now time to return to our home base in Norris Point and get a good night’s sleep before our trip to St. Anthony to hopefully get a shot of an iceberg.

West Coast Newfoundland - Fishing Point HeadPhoto: Randy Nickerson
476 steps on Dare Devil Trail lead to the top of Fishing Point Head.

It was a mere four-hour drive up the western coast of Newfoundland to get to St. Anthony, which is close to the northernmost point of Newfoundland and the gateway to Labrador. It was wonderful. We spent the rest of the day climbing the more than 400-steps on Dare Devil Trail to get a great shot of St. Anthony from above. It hit us that we were so far north when we realized it was still light out at 11 p.m. There must be big sales on blackout curtains for people who live here!

West Coast Newfoundland - St. Anthony United ChurchPhoto: Randy Nickerson
Some gravestones at St. Anthony United Church date back to 1823.

We had an 8 a.m. scheduled tour time to go out and spot icebergs in St. Anthony. We boarded the boat in the harbour and took some seats at the front of the boat for the best view. Fun fact: the waves get really high once you get out to the ocean, which had us running to the safety of the inner, closed-in viewing area.

West Coast Newfoundland - Spotting icebergs at St. AnthonyPhoto: Randy Nickerson
The blue glow of an iceberg in St. Anthony.

Thirty minutes later there it was, about nine metres high, the ice beneath the surface of the water glowing with an aqua colour I have not seen before. Circling the mammoth piece of ice, likely thousands of years old, was a stunning sight. To add to the experience, the captain had a sense of humour—playing the theme song from the movie Titanic while we toured around.

West Coast Newfoundland - Port Aux ChoicePhoto: Randy Nickerson
Waiting to fish in Port aux Choix.

Next was a three-hour drive to Port aux Choix, where the Point Riche Lighthouse is located; we were hoping to see what life is like in this working fishing town. The owners of the B&B we stayed at were so wonderful, as it seems all Newfoundlanders are! They told us if we asked one of the lobster fishermen in the bay, they would take us out while they checked their traps. So, ask we did and at that point we gained a whole new respect for these men and women. The work is hard, and the water is rough and yet these wonderful people go out every day. We spent the rest of the day at the lighthouse and even caught sight of a minke whale following a fishing boat for the spoils of the catch.

West Coast Newfoundland - Point Richie LighthousePhoto: Randy Nickerson
Point Richie Lighthouse.

Now we were on to the final two days of our trip. We’d booked a great cabin just outside of Corner Brook close to Lark Harbour. As we spent the night enjoying the deck and the view of the water, we saw three or four bald eagles soaring around us. Although they were too far away to snap a good photo, it was enough just to enjoy their company.

West Coast Newfoundland - Bottle CovePhoto: Randy Nickerson
An amazing cliff-top view of Bottle Cove.

Our final stop before we made our way home was to Bottle Cove. Its turquoise waters and jagged cliffs made this our favourite stop of the trip. It was too bad we did not have an extra day to spend there as it provided the best photo opportunities of all the beautiful locations we visited.

It was time to say goodbye to this bucket-list trip. If you’re ever in the region, make time to see the west coast of Newfoundland—you won’t regret it.

Check out more essential experiences in Atlantic Canada.

Originally Published in Our Canada