My Top 10 Newfoundland Travel Tips
It’s winter…that time of year when many of us start planning our motorcycle trips for the coming season. I don’t know about you, but there’s not much I’d rather do on a snowed-in Saturday evening than sit down with a beer, sizing up maps and planning trips for the warmer months.
I’ve been contacted several times by folks from out-of-province, expressing their desire to visit this beautiful island. It’s a journey completely feasible for almost any rider in North America, but there’s a few things you need to know about this place.
1. As of this point in time, you cannot rent motorcycles here. Though this may change in the next year or so, plan on riding your own bike to Newfoundland. That means, of course, that you will need to take a ferry from either Nova Scotia or Quebec. Bear in mind that the Quebec option entails traveling the Trans Labrador Highway, a road that should not be traversed by inexperienced off-road riders. You will have two options in Nova Scotia: a six-hour sail to Port-Aux-Basques on the island’s south-west tip, or a 12-14 hour cruise to Argentia on the Avalon Peninsula. If you have the time, I would suggest getting to Newfoundland via Argentia, seeing the Avalon and Eastern portion and then traveling westward, taking in the Northern Peninsula and the West Coast before returning via Port-Aux-Basques. Bring your own ratchet straps to tie your bike down on the ferry, never trust that they will be provided!
2. There’s thousands of moose here. Though quite tasty, they’re massive and stupid and love to hang out on the highways. Avoid night riding like the plague. Motorcycle/moose collisions happen more often than you can imagine.
3. Newfoundland is part of Canada, so visitors from the United States and beyond will need a valid passport. The temperature is in Celsius, speeds are in kilometers per hour, and the Queen is on the money. Almost everyone here speaks English, but it’s often disguised by a dialect particular to the region that they come from. Expect everyone to say at least one thing that you don’t understand.
4. Always keep at least a hundred bucks cash on hand, as many small stores in rural areas do not accept debit or credit cards. If your bike absolutely must have supreme fuel, you will need to carry a jerry can as supreme is scarce outside major centres.
5. Don’t assume that the tap water is drinkable. St. John’s has some of the best tap water in the world (according to Russell Crowe) but the water in many rural communities needs to be boiled before you can drink it. The tap water in our parks and campgrounds falls into this category. When in doubt, don’t drink it. Nothing puts a damper on a motorcycle trip quite like gastrointestinal upset.
6. If you’re from a place far from the ocean and you claim that you do not like fish, it’s probably because you’ve never had truly fresh fish. Seafood is tops on the menu in every restaurant, prepared in every way imaginable. Be sure to try the cod tongues.
7. The best motorcycling weather is usually from the middle of July to the middle of August, but there’s no guarantee. Bring warm clothes that you can layer, especially if you’re going to be staying in a tent. Top quality rain gear and waterproof boots and gloves are a necessity. Motorcycle season coincides with the Atlantic hurricane season, so do keep an ear to weather forecasts. You DON’T want to get caught in a hurricane, believe me. For more information on when to travel to Newfoundland, be sure to read Newfoundland Trip Tips by Ken Sooley, owner/operator of Cape Race Cultural Adventures.
8. Spontaneity is great, but if you’re planning to stay in the capital city of St. John’s it’s important that you book ahead to avoid finding yourself with no place to stay. Because of festivals and conferences, it has happened that there’s no accommodations available in the entire city. When booking a bed and breakfast, be sure to mention that you’re traveling by motorcycle and ask if you will be able to park somewhere secure. This tip is pretty much irrelevant for most of the island, but if you’re staying at a B&B in the downtown it would be nice to have secure off-street parking.
9. Be prepared to get off your bike. Newfoundland is an outdoorsperson’s paradise, so bring your sneakers. There are hiking trails in almost every community, many leading to places with cultural, historical and geographical significance. Ship wrecks, plane wrecks, natural rock arches and sea-stacks; we have it all but you have to put in the effort to see it! If you’re a fan of the water, rent a sea kayak to get up close with whales and icebergs. For the truly adventurous, there’s even scuba tours of underwater caves.
10. Don’t try to see it all, and don’t keep yourself so tied to an itinerary that you miss out on spur of the moment adventures. I’ve been traveling Newfoundland for the past three summers and I have yet to see everything I set out to see. Most people who travel to Newfoundland say that the best part of their trip was the encounters with locals, so be sure to leave room for that. Newfoundland has a very high concentration of motorcyclists per capita, so be prepared for a chat whenever another rider notices your license plate!
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