Complete Guide to RVing in Newfoundland and Labradorby DrinkTeaTravel
When it comes to off-the-beaten-path destinations in Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador is a top contender. The province is known for its rugged beauty and incredible landscapes. It’s a destination that rewards intrepid travellers willing to go beyond top sights and tourist attractions.
One of the best ways to go off the beaten path in Newfoundland and Labrador is to explore the province with an RV. Reaching the island portion of the province with a ferry means having the freedom to explore the region with a home on wheels makes it all worthwhile. RVing in Newfoundland and Labrador allows you to take the time to admire the sights, relax in nature and offers an alternative accommodation option.
Our friends at DrinkTeaTravel have put together this comprehensive guide to RVing in Newfoundland and Labrador as a great place to start for anyone looking to explore our neck of the woods by RV.
How to get to Newfoundland and Labrador with an RV
There are two ways to get to Newfoundland and Labrador with an RV. You can either travel overland from Quebec to Labrador via the Trans-Labrador Highway now known as Expedition 51, or hop on a ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to either Argentia or Port Aux Basques.
Overland via Trans-Labrador Highway
The Québec-Labrador Highway, also known as Expedition 51°, is the main highway connecting the province of Newfoundland and Labrador to Quebec and the rest of Canada. The road is fully paved and runs for 1246 km (774.6 miles). It is suitable for motorhomes and RVs. There are small mining communities along the way and the journey offers an interesting alternative to the more traditional ferry route.
Newfoundland is connected to Labrador via a ferry that runs from St. Barbe on the island’s Great Northern Peninsula to Blanc Sablon, on Québec’s southernmost coast. The ferry crossing takes less than two hours and the service runs all year around.
Once in Newfoundland, RVs will find it easy to navigate the region. The Trans-Canada Highway (Route 1) spans the island from Port aux Basques to St. John’s and totals 905 kilometres (562.3 miles).
There are two ferry routes available to RV’ers looking to cross from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland. The service is run by Marine Atlantic to Port Aux Basques year round and Argentia seasonally.
North Sydney to Port aux Basques: The main route to Port aux Basques on the southwest coast of Newfoundland takes about 7 hours. This route from North Sydney in Nova Scotia runs all year round and offers the best option for those planning to start their Newfoundland RV trip in the western part of the island. Bookings are essential, especially in the summer months. Prices differ depending on the length of your RV.
North Sydney to Argentia: The seasonal route into Argentia on the Avalon Peninsula is a longer crossing, available only from June to September. The crossing takes 16 hours and costs about double compared to the Port Aux Basque route, but spares the long drive across the island. Prices differ depending on the length of your RV.
Both ferry routes offer cabins on board for either day or night use. The cabins are equipped with beds, private showers and plugs, offering more comfort during the crossings. There’s also an on board restaurant, snack bar, lounge and various dining options to suit travelers.
For those traveling with an RV:
- Carefully follow the directions of terminal staff during boarding and parking.
- Get ready to leave your vehicle promptly once parked on the ferry.
- Note that passengers are not permitted to return to their vehicle or RV once the vessel leaves the port.
- Rates vary depending on vehicle and length, but there are options for vehicles with trailers, campers, motor homes, vans, and minibuses.
Best Time to RV in Newfoundland and LabradorThe perfect RV season is undoubtedly summer, between June and August. This is the warmest season and best time to visit for a range of activities. The average summer temperatures are at or above 16°C during the day and 10-15°C at night. On the warmest days of the year, the temperature may reach high 20s and low 30s.
If traveling in Newfoundland and Labrador in the summer, be sure to install mosquito nets on your RV doors as flies and mosquitos can be active around the campgrounds.
Alternatively, consider visiting Newfoundland and Labrador in the season extensions, particularly during the months of June and September. The weather during those months can be a bit more unpredictable, but it is still relatively warm and pleasant. You won’t encounter too many bugs or mosquitoes, but the temperatures may drop during the night, so it’s a good idea to bring a heater for your RV as well as extra blankets and warmer clothes.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of accommodation options for those traveling by RV around Newfoundland and Labrador, including National and Provincial Parks and private campgrounds.
National Parks: Gros Morne National Park offers five campgrounds with toilets and hot showers. Two of the five campgrounds don’t have electrical hook-ups. Bookings are required. Terra Nova National Park has two campgrounds with campsites for RVs. Bookings are required. Torngats National Park in Northern Labrador is unreachable by road and does not offer campgrounds suitable for RVs.
Provincial Parks: There are more than 30 provincial parks around Newfoundland and Labrador. 13 of these parks offer overnight camping suitable for RVs and motorhomes. Bookings are required for each campground.
Private Campgrounds and RV Parks: There are many different private camps and RV parks all around Newfoundland and Labrador. Many RV parks offer seasons spots as well as nightly sites on a first-come first serve basis. Some RV parks and private campgrounds have websites with online reservation systems, but many do not. Be prepared to pick up the phone and call the parks to reserve your spots.
How Much Time is Needed
Being Canada’s fourth largest island, Newfoundland is a vast destination to explore. Plan to spend at minimum 2-3 weeks to see the main sights and attractions in Newfoundland alone. 4-6 is recommended to add Labrador to the itinerary. 2-3 months is a great time frame to explore both Newfoundland and Labrador at a leisurely pace.
Best Places to Visit
Home to Gros Morne National Park, Western Newfoundland is a must visit for adventure seekers. There are many things to see and do in the region, including the island’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, glacier-carved fjords, sand dunes and beautiful beaches, national and provincial parks, a recreated Viking site, and plenty of hiking trails to explore.
Gros Morne National Park: This UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts a variety of landscapes including barren tablelands, fjords and Newfoundland’s second highest peak, Gros Morne Mountain. There’s lots of hiking, backpacking, kayaking and camping opportunities for outdoor lovers. A boat tour of Western Brook Pond with Parks Canada is a must.
St Anthony: Located in the northern tip of Newfoundland, the incredible drive from Gros Morne and Rocky Harbour to St Anthony is known as the Viking Trail. The route follows Highway 430 to the top end of Iceberg Alley. The route is famous for lighthouses and offers spectacular views of whales and icebergs off the coast.
L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site: Located north of St Anthony, L’anse aux Meadows is a Viking settlement and the second UNESCO World Heritage Site to visit in Newfoundland. It’s the site of the first known evidence of Europeans in North America with rich history daring back to more than 1000 years ago.
With a mixture of forest, ocean and history, Central Newfoundland offers something for everyone. Explore Terra Nova National Park, camp under the stars, hike, go whale watching or iceberg chasing, there is no shortage of activities to keep everyone busy in the Central region. There’s plenty of human history to discover as well, especially for those who have extra time to explore the islands off the north coast.
Terra Nova National Park: Often overshadowed by Gros Morne National Park, Terra Nova is an equally beautiful national park in Newfoundland's Central region. The forested park offers hiking trails, kayaking opportunities and camping in pristine nature.
Twillingate: Known as the iceberg capital of Newfoundland, this picturesque fishing town is a quintessential Newfoundland and Labrador vacation experience.
Fogo Island & Change Islands: Hop on a ferry from Farewell and spend a few days exploring Fogo Island and Change Islands. These islands are home to a small community and are rich in culture, beautiful scenery and old stories. There are RV parks and other accommodation options on the islands, including the famous Fogo Island Inn.
The Eastern part of the province is vibrant and dotted with hot spots. Both the Bonavista and Burin Peninsula as well as the Avalon Peninsula are well suited to scenic touring routes and places to stop and stay. Historic fishing villages, nature, history, culture and food make these must explore areas for your NL bucket list.
Bonavista: The fishing town has been an important settlement since the Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto (aka John Cabot) landed on the peninsula in 1497. There are many historic sites in town, as well as beaches and hiking trails around the coast.
Burin Peninsula: Festivals, fossils, lighthouses, and more than 375 years of history. Settled by French and Portuguese families, the communities along the Burin Peninsula offer a glimpse into a past with a bountiful fishery in the Grand Banks, rich fluorspar deposits, and rum-running during the American prohibition. Take a trip to France on a year-round passenger ferry connecting Fortune to Saint-Pierre et Miquelon and stroll around the cobblestone streets while enjoying a French pastry or baguette.
St John's and Avalon Peninsula
The capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, St John’s is located on the eastern part of the island on the Avalon Peninsula. The harbour was settled by the British in the 1600s making St John’s one of North America’s oldest cities. The city alone is a must visit on any trip to Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s known for its colorful houses and old streets, whale watching and sea kayaking off the coast and historic sites to learn about the culture and history of the region.
Signal Hill National Historic Site: Known as a symbol of the rich communication and military history of the city, it also offers a gorgeous vantage point over the area.
Cape Spear Lighthouse: Another National Historic Site and the oldest lighthouse on the island. Located at North America’s most easterly point, Cape Spear offers a spectacular view at any time of the day, but particularly at sunrise.
Downtown St Johns: Known for its colorful row houses, downtown St John’s is a fun place to wander the streets and peruse the shops and cafes.
Quidi Vidi: the quaint neighbourhood of Quidi Vidi is a popular spot to visit in St John’s, offering a few good restaurants, a brewery and a scenic walk around Quidi Vidi Lake.
Note that narrow streets and tight corners make this quite challenging to navigate St John’s with a large motorhome or RV. Parking downtown may be limited and not suitable for large RVs.
Travel Times and Distances
Distances can seem misleading when traveling around Newfoundland and Labrador. The long drives between destinations mean that it’s worth planning an itinerary with plenty of stops to break up the time spent behind the wheel. Dividing a Newfoundland and Labrador RV adventure into western, central and eastern regions can help plan a trip with manageable driving times and distances.
Some popular destinations and distances between them for a Newfoundland touring itinerary:
- Rocky Harbour and Gros Morne to St Anthony: 350 km (217.5 miles) or 4 hours drive
- Corner Brook to Twillingate: 414 km (257.2) or 4.5 hours drive
- Bonavista to St Johns: 300 km (186.4 miles) or 3.5 hours drive
Important Tips and Advice
Avoid driving at night: Wild animals, especially moose, are active at night and can cause accidents. Drive with caution.
Stick to main roads: Most highways and main roads are fully paved so there’s no need for a 4x4 in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Check road conditions regularly: 511 Traveller Information System and NL 511 App is a great source of up-to-date information on road conditions, construction and major incidents, including highway cameras, ferry status, and more. It’s a handy app to have while enjoying scenic drives in Newfoundland.
Fill up propane tank before you go: It can be difficult to find propane fill ups service on the island. The Canadian Tire next to the North Sydney ferry terminal offers it, so it's best to fill up the tank before arriving in Newfoundland
Book ahead for campgrounds: Due to the short travel season, campgrounds, RV parks and popular accommodation tend to book out well ahead. Ensure you get the best spots by planning in advance, especially when traveling in an RV.
Share your RV’ing adventures with us on Instagram with #ExploreNL and tag us @NewfoundlandLabrador.
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