Newfoundland: Canada’s Unsung Hero

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Unsung Heroes.”

I was pleased to see The Daily Post’s theme centred around the idea of ‘unsung heroes’, as it’s a category that is a great conversation piece. I guess it’s the kind of thing that would usually prompt thoughts of criminally underrated albums, works of art or literature. For me, I think there are also  a great many ‘unsung heroes’ when it comes to travel destinations. Perhaps the most spectacularly underrated destination I’ve ever visited is Newfoundland, Canada’s (nay, North America’s) Eastern most province.

Sunset at Rocky Harbour, on the Western shore of Canada's most Easterly province.
Sunset at Rocky Harbour, on the Western shore of Canada’s most Easterly province.

Granted, Newfoundland is a little out of the way. It’s only accessible by air or an arduous ferry journey. But the journey, for those who make it, is so very rewarding! I visited in Autumn 2013 with two friends. We flew into St John’s and picked up a rental car and went on a cross-province road trip to the stunning Gros Morne National Park, located on the West coast of Newfoundland. There are only two words to describe what we saw: stunning scenery. The drive across the island is an eye opener in itself. The land is a vast wilderness of rock, trees and the occasional river running by. You have the feeling of being at the (very sparsely populated) ends of the earth.

Stopping off at a hidden lake while driving across the province, we were the only ones around!
Stopping off at a hidden lake while driving across the province, we were the only ones around!

Gros Morne National Park is in itself an underrated gem. Of all of Canada’s truly outstanding national parks, this has got to be up there as most overlooked. I’m sure I could write an entire post just about Gros Morne itself, but perhaps I’ll save that for another day! The hiking here is incredible, the scenery is amazing and just as ruggedly good looking as its Western cousins. There is wildlife to be spotted too. We stumbled upon three moose, almost literally, while hiking – two males and one female – after just 48 hours of being in Newfoundland. This was more than I had the good fortune of seeing after a year and a half of living in Western Canada!

Heading down the hiking trail across Gro Morne Mountain we spotted a Moose grazing
Heading down the hiking trail across Gros Morne Mountain we spotted a Moose grazing
Checking out a moose grazing in the mountains of Gros Morne National Park
Checking out a moose grazing in the mountains of Gros Morne National Park

Clifftops and sea views are what Newfoundland boasts, and Gros Morne is short of neither. There’s something about being near water that I find so relaxing, and gazing across calm waters from the top of a mountain? Heaven!

Sheer cliffs, rocky mountain tops, and steely waters - Newfoundland scenery at it's best
Sheer cliffs, rocky mountain tops, and steely waters – Newfoundland scenery at its best

Rugged outdoorsy adventuring is not all that Newfoundland has to offer. St. John’s is Newfoundland’s cultural hub, and offers history, good food, art, good nightlife, and of course the not-to-be-forgotten Newfoundland favourite: cliff tops and sea views!

The distinctive, brightly coloured houses found through St. John's
The distinctive, brightly coloured houses found throughout St. John’s

The people of St. John’s are very friendly, which makes a refreshing change for a city. We couchsurfed with a lovely family in St. John’s, who were very kind and recommended us some interesting places to check out. We took a long walk around the waterfront area of St. John’s and along the walking trail near Cabot Tower at Signal Hill. This was probably my favourite part of our St. John’s adventure. It was pretty cool to feel as though you were teetering on the edge of North America and that there was nothing between you and Europe, except wild Atlantic Ocean.

The Mile 0 Terry Fox Memorial - from here Terry Fox planned to run across Canada, sadly he never made it past Ontario
The Mile 0 Terry Fox Memorial – from here Terry Fox planned to run across Canada, sadly he never made it past Ontario
Which way? The end of the earth!
Which way? The end of the earth!
Somewhere out beyond the Atlantic is Europe...
Somewhere out beyond the Atlantic is Europe…
A young eagle guards its catch carefully
A young eagle guards its catch carefully
Taking flight...making off with the catch over the beautiful St John's
Taking flight…making off with the catch over the beautiful St. John’s

So! There we have it. It may not be as perfectly picturesque or daintily attractive as various other Canadian provinces, it may not be adorned in year-round snow capped mountains and there may not be so many snap-happy tourists, especially in the more far flung regions of the province, but Newfoundland certainly has its draws. Strong and proud it sits on its Easterly perch, waiting patiently for those equally patient travelers to cross it’s magnificent threshold. If you’re looking to explore an underrated gem, then give some of your precious travel time to Newfoundland. It surely won’t disappoint.

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