I'm still recovering from a week in Central Newfoundland, an affordable, off-the-beaten-path destination for adventure enthusiasts, with outdoor pursuits galore. Even if you can't get away for that long, the area's abundant hiking trails, quaint coastal towns, and friendly locals make for a great weekend getaway. But there are a few things I wish I would have known ahead of time – like the offset time zone. Here, some travel advice from my trip to help you start planning yours.
Hike with caution. As I wrote last week, Central Newfoundland is chock full of excellent hiking trails, many of which are underutilized. It’s not uncommon to finish a long hike without running into another soul, so if you hike solo like me (not ideal but unavoidable), that means a minor mishap – a twisted ankle, a bee sting – can turn into a major disaster if you don’t have a working cell phone or emergency kit. No matter how short your excursion, be sure to let a contact at your accommodations or someone at a local information center (a great place to pick up free trail maps, too) know where and when you’re headed out.
Gas up (and eat) when you can. The TransCanada Highway, the world's longest national highway with a length of 4,860 miles, runs 577 miles across Newfoundland from Port Aux Basques to St. John’s. But there are long stretches without any service stations (or signs indicating how far away the next one is). Gas is even scarcer in smaller towns, so fill up when you can to avoid getting stranded. In addition, many small towns have limited dining options, so plan ahead to make sure your meals aren't solely convenience store snacks.
Don’t forget about the time zone difference. Unbeknownst to me until I arrived, Newfoundland has its very own time zone: Newfoundland Standard Time (NST), a half hour later than Atlantic Standard Time. But it’s not observed in the whole province – just the southern part, mostly on Newfoundland and not Labrador. Airport and tourism officials I spoke to said that difference screws up visitors all the time, so set your watch as soon as you arrive to avoid missing flights and ferries.
Plan ahead for what you want to see and do. Newfoundland is rich in unique outdoor pursuits like whale watching, iceberg tours, and kayaking, and just a little planning can help you take advantage of the opportunity to experience it all. For iceberg viewing, the towns of Twillingate and La Scie are good bets to catch the ‘bergs on their way from Greenland through the famed Iceberg Alley, but they have a limited time frame, generally starting in April and running through late June and sometimes early July. For whale watching, time your visit between May and September, when the majestic humpbacks make their migration south.
In addition to Twillingate, a quaint town with whale and iceberg watching opportunities, plus plenty of other outdoor pursuits, is the aptly named Happy Adventure, located on Newfoundland’s eastern coast near Terra Nova National Park. The Inn at Happy Adventure is an excellent home base for your excursions, from cod fishing with inn owner Chuck Matchim (that’s yours truly in the photo at the right, though the fish I caught weren’t quite that big) to sea kayaking to some of the best hiking I experienced in Central Newfoundland.
Learn to speak the local language. No, I don’t mean French – I mean the quirky version of English that Newfoundlanders are known for. Start off with what locals consider proper pronunciation of Newfoundland: The “land” sounds just like “stand;" keep pronouncing it “lund,” as mainlanders do (and I initially did), and you’ll have locals telling you “UnderSTAND, NewfoundLAND” over and over. But get it right from the start, and you’ll earn instant respect.
Check out more top tips and recommendations in my Adventures in Central Newfoundland slideshow.