How to Spend Three Days Along Newfoundland’s Viking Trail

Discover ancient history and maritime culture in Western Newfoundland.
 

L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, photo by Sheldon Stone/Parks Canada

Beginning near Deer Lake, the 489-kilometre Viking Trail (Highway 430) winds its way along Western Newfoundland’s windswept and rugged coastline. It passes through colourful fishing villages and Gros Morne National Park, through the town of St. Anthony, where 10,000-year-old icebergs float by, and ends at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, the only known Viking settlement in North America. Laced with ancient rock formations, the landscape is as appealing to intrepid hikers as it is to Sunday drivers. Take your time. This is a trail that’s more about the journey than the destination.

Day 1

Morning: Start at the Parks Canada Discovery Centre in Woody Point to learn about Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, through exhibits that touch on its freshwater fjords and rare plant species. Visitors can also learn how the area’s complex geology, deep ocean crust and rocks from the earth’s mantle exposed throughout the park helped geologists prove the theory of plate tectonics.

Afternoon: Fuel up with pan-fried cod tongues—a surprisingly delicious local delicacy—at the Old Loft Restaurant in Woody Point, then drive five minutes to the Tablelands Trailhead for a four-kilometre hike. Tableland’s barren landscape of rust-coloured rocks stands in stark contrast to the rest of lush Gros Morne; these rocks were pushed up from the earth’s mantle by the collision of tectonic plates during the last ice age.

Evening: Drive about an hour to Rocky Harbour to check into Ocean View Hotel, where local bands play traditional Newfoundland music nightly at the on-site Anchor Pub. Prepare yourself for an East Coast kitchen party and friendly locals keen to tell you a story, or three.

Day 2

Morning: From Rocky Harbour, it’s a 25-minute drive to the parking lot at Western Brook Pond and then a 45-minute walk to the boat terminal. Sign up in advance online with BonTours for this two-hour boat cruise that takes you into a billion-year-old freshwater fjord. Being landlocked, it’s a rarity, and interpretive guides expound upon its natural wonders as you drift by ancient, towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls. After, enjoy a bowl of clam chowder at the dockside café.

Afternoon: Make your way to St. Anthony. It’s a long drive (nearly four hours), so break up the trip with a stop halfway at Port au Choix National Historic Site. This 5,500-year-old aboriginal settlement was home to four groups, including the Maritime Archaic Indians. Tour sacred burial grounds and view ancient artifacts.

Evening: Once you reach St. Anthony, stretch your legs with a jaunt along the craggy cliffs at Fishing Point. There are four trails, each with a spectacular view of the steely Atlantic and passing icebergs. At the trailhead parking lot, Lightkeepers Seafood Restaurant serves local fare such as moose spring rolls.

Iceberg alley, photo by Steve Sheppard Photography

 

Day 3

Morning: Explore St. Anthony’s famed iceberg alley with a Northland Discovery Boat tour. June is one of the best months to view these white monoliths, and there’s a good chance you’ll spot the humpback, minke and fin whales that migrate off the coast. From here, it’s a 40-minute drive to L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, so stop for lunch first. The Daily Catch along Highway 436 offers a variety of traditional meals such as fish and brewis (salt cod and hard tack bread).

Afternoon: When you arrive at L’Anse aux Meadows, head to the visitor centre for interactive exhibits on the Norse adventurers’ Atlantic crossings. Outside, explore this carefully preserved 10th-century Viking outpost. Boardwalks overtop the bog lead to the recreated encampment of timber-and-sod huts. Step into the longhouse and allow costumed interpreters to transport you back a thousand years with tales of camp life.

Evening: If you haven’t had your fill of seafood, chow down at Northern Delight restaurant in Gunners Cove before making your way back to St. Anthony. Frequented by locals, Northern Delight is known for its fish and chips and cod chowder.

Getting there: WestJet flies to Corner Brook/Deer Lake 21 times a week from Toronto and Halifax, and to Gander once a day from Halifax.

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