When it comes to taking the Newfoundland Ferry, most people are referring to Marine Atlantic, the company that transports people, vehicles, and products across the North Atlantic from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland and from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia. Due to tourism, locals who work in other provinces, and all the goods that make their way to the province, the ferry leaves every day and is quite popular.
In this article, we’ll fill you in on everything you need to know about taking the ferry to Newfoundland or from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia.
Ferry to Newfoundland
There are actually four different ferries that can get you to Newfoundland but the most common path is to go from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland with Marine Atlantic. There are actually two ferries that depart Nova Scotia for Newfoundland with the most common going from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland. However, we’ll list all four of them below.
North Sydney to Port aux Basques: This is the most popular option for those taking a ferry to Newfoundland. This ferry runs year-round (although storms can cause delays), travels 96 nautical miles, and takes about 6-7 hours. The ferry basically connects the Trans-Canada Highway of Nova Scotia with the Trans-Canada Highway of Newfoundland.
North Sydney to Argentia: Departing from the same place in Nova Scotia, this ferry goes closer to St. John’s, Newfoundland. It might be more convenient for those looking to get to the capital city but it also takes around 16 hours, which is more than double the time of the ferry going to Port aux Basques. This ferry travels 280 nautical miles and arrives in Argentia.
Labrador Ferry: There’s also a ferry that runs from Labrador to Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula, connecting with the famous Viking Trail. It actually departs from Quebec’s Blanc Sablon but is literally right next to labrador. During peak season, the ferry runs several times each day, and the crossing takes less than two hours. Although this can be a great way to visit Labrador from Newfoundland, very few take this way coming from Labrador as the drive is long and adventurous.
St. Pierre and Miquelon: Did you know that France actually owns a couple of islands not far off the coast of Newfoundland? It’s truly a unique place to visit and is very popular during the summer months. Most people take the ferry from Newfoundland to the French islands but if you happen to fly into St. Pierre and Miquelon, you could take the ferry over to Newfoundland as well. It takes about 1.5 hours.
Newfoundland Ferry Cost
Since the most common ferry to Newfoundland is the Marine Atlantic crossing from North Sydney to Port aux Basques, that is the Newfoundland ferry we will focus on in terms of pricing.
The cost of the Newfoundland ferry depends on what you want. Are you crossing with a vehicle? Do you want general admission or do you want a bed? Whether you’re crossing during the day or at night, you can opt for a private room or simply walk on and find a comfy chair. Even the common room chairs are similar to a First Class chair on an airline.
- Adults aged 13 – 64 = $43.78.
- Children aged 0 – 5 = Free.
- Children 5 – 12 = $20.34.
- Seniors aged 65+ = $40.23.
Cabins: Prices for cabins depend on both the type and the time of crossing. There are four options, which include 2-berth, 4-berth, deluxe cabins, and reserved seating. Prices range from $11.25 – $169.25 in addition to your passenger fee and vehicle fee. Cabins have a small TV and a bathroom with a shower.
Vehicles: Prices for transporting your vehicle depend on whether it’s a standard car, a big motorhome, or a motorbike. Your average vehicle will cost around $115 whereas a bus is closer to $300.
For a current list of exact pricing, visit the Marine Atlantic Pricing Page.
If you’re wanting to snag a bed during a night crossing, you will want to book many nights in advance as this is the first thing to sell out. If you want a bed during the day, these don’t sell out nearly as fast.
What to Expect on the Ferry to Newfoundland
Marine Atlantic runs four different ferries, including the MV Atlantic Vision, the MV Blue Puttees, the MV Highlanders, and the MV Leif Ericson. Each ship will have different amenities, but in general, they all have some sort of cafe and restaurant, as well as a bar, lounge areas, comfortable seating, WiFi, and outdoor viewing areas.
Regardless of the time of your crossing, you need to be there two hours in advance. The ferries run like clockwork and although there are some delays at times, they generally work very efficiently. That two-hour span gives you time to check-in, get your vehicle in line, gives you some time to visit the terminal if you need snacks, gifts, or a bathroom break, and gets you on the boat at least 30 minutes before they actually depart.
As mentioned, there is a ferry terminal you can visit once your car is in line to board the ship. You will likely have 30-60 minutes to freely roam around the vehicles and to go inside the terminal to grab some food or visit the gift shop.
Once on the ship, you can either go to your room and get settled in or find a seat. The ferries are quite spacious and clean. There are people who can help you find where you need to go. We always recommend going outside and enjoying the view, especially as you depart.
Our last crossing was during Covid and so the main restaurants and lounges were closed, leaving only a small cafe open for things like pizza, fries, and cold sandwiches. However, when Covid is not an issue, you’ll also find nice restaurants, games rooms, a movie theatre, and even a toddler play area. We crossed at night a decade ago and there was even a live band playing music while we danced the night away.
Learn more about the Marine Atlantic Amenities.
Tips for taking the ferry to Newfoundland
We’ve taken the ferry to Newfoundland and back to Nova Scotia at least a dozen times, so we certainly know a thing or two about making it a pleasant experience. It’s quite straightforward but it’s always good to know some tips before you go.
Buy Gravol: If you think you might get seasick, you’ll want to buy some Gravol before you board the ship. Gravol recommends taking the pill an hour or two before you start feeling the motion of the ocean, so it’s best to take it once you’re in line in your vehicle. We’ve been on the ship when the water is as smooth as glass but we’ve also been on the ship when we’re hitting the walls while trying to make our way to the bathroom. It’s the ocean, so if you think you might get sick, take a Gravol just in case.
Pack a Carry-on Bag: Once you leave your car, you can’t return until you reach your destination. The entire area is locked off for the safety of everyone. So, rather than forget something or rush to pack once you arrive, pack a little bag in advance. We typically bring Gravol, Tylenol, a book, a notebook, a pen, headphones, some snacks, and some water. These are our crucial things but just plan in advance. The ride takes 6-7 hours, so plan accordingly. Oh, and don’t forget a camera!
Wear Layers: Depending on the weather, it can be a little chilly. Of course, the ship is heated, but just like a plane, it might be cooler or warmer than you like. We also recommend going outside to get some fresh air and admire the beautiful ocean views, which often means you’ll be experiencing wind. So, we recommend bringing layers, such as a rain jacket or coat, a sweater, and maybe even a toque and gloves. Oh, and sunglasses!
Stay the Night: If you’re taking the day crossing, you might want to book a night at a hotel for when you arrive at your destination. You may also want to book a hotel at your departure location. Generally, the ferries leave around noon and arrive around 6-7 pm. In the summer, you might be fine, but just be mindful as to the time of sunset, as driving at night can be dangerous due to all the moose roaming the area. We will give some hotel recommendations below.
Popular Newfoundland Ferry Questions and Answers
How long is the ferry ride to Newfoundland?
If you’re taking the most common ferry, which goes from North Sydney to Port aux Basques, then it takes approximately 6 – 7 hours.
What is the cost to take the ferry to Newfoundland?
The cost of taking the ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port-aux-Basques, is around $44 per adult passenger and $115 per car. If you’re traveling in a larger vehicle, like an RV, that price will be much higher.
How much is a cabin on the ferry to Newfoundland?
2-berth cabins start from $53.50 for a day crossing and 4-berth cabins start at $58.50. Deluxe cabins run from $112.50 to $169.25.
Can you sleep in your car on the ferry to Newfoundland?
Sleeping on floors, decks, and in vehicles is not permitted. In the event of a sailing delay or vessel switch, accommodations are not guaranteed. Once you leave your vehicle, you cannot return.
How many passengers does the Newfoundland ferry take?
This would depend on the ferry you take. However, a ferry like the Ericson carries 500 passengers and 250 automobile-equivalent vehicles.
Can you smoke on the Marine Atlantic ferry?
Smoking is permitted in designated smoking areas, which are outside.
How do I book the ferry to Newfoundland?
To make a reservation, you can either book via www.marineatlantic.ca or you can speak with a Reservations Agent by calling their toll-free reservations line at 1-800-341-7981.
Do Marine Atlantic ferries have WIFI?
For those travelling between North Sydney and Port aux Basques, complimentary Wi-Fi is available on the vessel. There’s also Wi-Fi in the ferry terminals. In our experience, Wi-Fi isn’t always that great. However, our cellular coverage was sometimes better than being on land in the Atlantic provinces. For the longer crossing to Argentia, the signal is much worse.
What is the best month to visit Newfoundland?
To learn more about planning your trip, we recommend visiting our Things to Do in Newfoundland article. The best times to visit Newfoundland are generally between late June and early September. However, if you want to have a chance at seeing icebergs, the best time would be between May and June, whereas the fall colours would start to come out in early October.
Where to Stay When Taking the NFLD Ferry
Depending on the time of year or the time of crossing, you may want to spend a night in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, or in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland. If you have to drive after sunset, we recommend getting a hotel as there are quite a few moose roaming the area throughout the year. You do not want to hit one!
Chambers Guest House B&B – North Sydney
North Sydney is a great place to find charming guesthouses and Chambers Guest House B&B is one of our favourites. This charming 1880 Victorian home has been in the same family for four generations and was actually built by the current owner’s great grandfather who was a sea captain and merchant.
Run by Cheryl, spending the night at Chambers is like stepping back in time with antique furnishings, collectible china and glass, and gracious hospitality. There are four bedrooms, some of which have private bathrooms, and offer great value at only $75 – $100 per night. This includes a delicious gourmet breakfast, such as fresh fruit, boiled or scrambled eggs, a variety of cereal accompanied with in-season berries and yogurt, waffles with local maple syrup, and a variety of delicious homemade muffins, loaves, and cake. Beverages include milk, juice, tea, and coffee.
Honestly, you won’t find better value anywhere in Canada. During our stay, Cheryl even offered free wine and nuts. There’s also a lovely garden and the house is a 3-minute drive from the ferry terminal. Highly recommended! Visit the Chambers B&B website for more information.
St. Christopher’s Hotel – Port aux Basques
Unlike North Sydney, there aren’t any Victorian homes to spend the night in here. However, there are a variety of guesthouses and hotels. During our last visit, we stayed at St. Christopher’s Hotel, a big hotel with beautiful views of the harbour and just a few minutes’ drive from the ferry terminal.
Although this is an older hotel, our room was incredibly massive, the beds were comfortable, and it was a much-needed relief to have an elevator after weeks of staying in century-old homes with narrow stairways. There’s plenty of parking and there’s also an on-site restaurant that serves up tasty food, including breakfast for those wanting to fill their bellies before boarding the ferry.
If you’re gonna be exploring Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, don’t miss our many guides to these beautiful and charming Atlantic provinces.