Guide to St. Vincent's BeachBy Cailin O'Neil for Newfoundland & Labrador
The main attraction for visiting St. Vincent’s Beach in Newfoundland and Labrador is to see the whales. From June to August humpback whales can be found just off of the beach feeding on capelin and other sea life in the area. The 5km beach is the largest site in the world where you can view humpbacks and other whales from land. Due to a steep drop off in the water not far from shore the whales are able to get quite close to the beach when feeding making for an incredible experience for visitors.
How to Get to St. Vincent’s BeachThe only way to get to St. Vincent's beach is by driving. There currently aren’t any tours or public transportation options available to take you to the area. There are however a few things to see and do along the way so plan to make a day trip out of your visit or even consider spending the night at a nearby Bed and Breakfast.
Where to see the whales at St. Vincent’s BeachLocals say that whales can be seen year round at St. Vincent’s Beach but the most popular time is in the summer months. You are almost guaranteed to see the humpback whales when the capelin are spawning and rolling. There are local facebook pages that post when that is happening that you can follow.
When arriving at the beach a good idea is to look out over the beach from a higher viewpoint to see where the whales might be. Once on the beach check out the area near “The Gut”, where the Holyrood Pond flows into the ocean. Often the whales are attracted to that spot because of the freshwater and other fish that might be coming from the large pond.
What to bring with you to St. Vincent’s Beach
In the summer months at St. Vincent’s Beach the weather can be variable, spontaneous even. However under those varied weather conditions you can still get a sunburn so be sure to bring sunscreen lotion and a hat. The beach is basically all rock and pebbles so it is a good idea to bring closed toe footwear for walking along the shore. Also a fold-up chair to sit on while waiting to see the whales or at the very least a blanket or towels to sit on. Another good idea is to bring water and snacks or even a picnic lunch.
For the best viewing options be sure to also bring binoculars and a camera with a telephoto lens if you have it. Also be sure to have your phones and batteries charged.
You won’t need to bring a bathing suit though because the waves on this beach can be quite fierce. Also the beach drops off steeply so it is not a safe place to go swimming.
What to see and do on the way to St. Vincent’s Beach
The most enjoyable way to get to St. Vincent’s Beach is driving clockwise the long way around the bottom of the Avalon Peninsula from St. John’s on route 10. There are several great places to stop along the way for scenic hikes, photo opportunities and more. This is the kind of drive where you see beautiful things and stop and check them out along the way at your leisure.
A great stop along the way is Ferryland, which is a good place to stop to learn about our history at the Colony of Avalon where they have an archaeological dig looking into the history some of the first European settlers to the area. In Ferryland you can also do some beach combing, visit a gift shop, enjoy a dinner theater show, take gorgeous pictures of the nearby islands and go on a hike to the lighthouse. If you book in advance you can also enjoy a popular lighthouse picnic as well.
Another notable stop along your drive is to the Cape Race Lighthouse National Historic Site of Canada. Not only does this lighthouse play an important role protecting ships at sea in one of Canada’s busiest shipping lanes but it was also one of the first places to receive a distress call from the Titanic. Today you can visit the Myrick Wireless Interpretation Centre next door to learn all about the distress call and the sinking of the Titanic as well as the history of wireless communication and telegraphy in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Located by the Cape Race Lighthouse you must also visit the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve Interpretation Centre. Here you can learn about Mistaken Point, which is famous for fossils dating back over 565 million years.
While driving along both route 10 and 90 to and from St. Vincent’s beach you will pass by the 1,070 km2 Avalon Wilderness Reserve. It is home to the endangered Woodland Caribou. There are less than 1,000 of these left and they are the most southerly caribou herd in Canada. Keep your eyes peeled for moose, fox, and various birds and wildlife.
Don’t forget that whales are never guaranteed, and are wild animals. Whether you see whales at St. Vincent’s Beach or not, your trip is sure to be a memorable one with lots of great things to see and do along the way.
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