Snaking its way along the Northern peninsula coast, the Viking Trail is one of Canada’s best road trips. At 489 km, the journey can be done in as little as five hours. However, to truly appreciate what the route had to offer, you’ll want to spend as much time as you can. With so many scenic communities, coastline, historical sites, and majestic Gros Morne National Park, one could spend an entire month here and not get bored. Whether you love nature, culture, wildlife, or simply a scenic drive, the Viking Trail is one for the bucket list.
Best Time to Visit:
Spring, summer, or fall is the best time to make this road trip. The weather is always unpredictable in Newfoundland, especially this far north, but the summer months of late June, July and August will offer the best temperatures overall. However, if you’re looking for icebergs, you’ll want to come between mid-May to mid-June.
How to Get There:
The Viking Trail starts near Deer Lake, which also has an airport. The Trail then goes through Gros Morne National Park and up to St.Anthony’s and L’anse aux Meadows, which is right up on the tip of Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula.
Aside from flying into Newfoundland, there is also a ferry from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland, which departs North Sydney and arrives in Port aux Basques. It takes about 6 hours. Once you arrive, it’s a 3-hour drive to Deer Lake.
If you happen to be in Labrador or are wanting to go to Labrador, there’s also a NFLD ferry that goes from St. Barbe to Blanc Sablon.
It All Starts With Spectacular Gros Morne
Beginning around Deer Lake, the Viking Trail takes you along highway 430, and right through Gros Morne National Park. This is one of our favourite national parks in the entire country. It offers so much. From incredible hiking trails to landlocked fjords to wildlife and scenic boat tours, there’s really something for everyone. Due to its size, we’ve written an article all about Gros Morne National Park, which offers much more information on what to do.
We recommend staying a minimum of three nights in the park or in nearby Deer Lake. There’s both a south side and a north side of the park and both are equally incredible. Don’t miss the Tablelands, Trout River, Bonne Bay, and Western Brook Pond. Gros Morne is also home to some of the best Newfoundland hiking, including Green Gardens (4 hours), Gros Morne Summit (8 hours), and the Tablelands (2 hours). Popular boat tours include Wild Gros Morne on Trout River Pond, Bon Tours on Western Brook Pond, and various boat tours around Bonne Bay to spot whales and eagles.
There’s much more to the park than what we’ve listed here, so make sure you visit the parks visitor centre and speak to one of the parks staff to learn more about what you should experience in the park.
Driving North to L’anse aux Meadows
Once you leave Gros Morne, you’ll be heading North all the way to L’anse aux Meadows. Along the way, you’ll pass a variety of small fishing villages before arriving in St.Anthony’s, which is the biggest town on the peninsula. While there are all sorts of places to visit during your Viking Trail journey, we definitely recommend experiencing the places mentioned below.
L’anse aux Meadows
Perhaps the main reason why visitors make it this far north in Newfoundland, L’anse aux Meadows is a site you don’t want to miss. Home to the only Viking settlement in North America (outside of Greenland), this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a glimpse into the Viking life, including Viking artifacts, the actual archeological site, a re-created village with actors, and a variety of scenic views.
Dating back to the year 1000, it’s widely accepted that this is also the home of pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact, which means this site is likely where Europeans first had contact with America’s indigenous population.
Looking for Vikings in Canada? This is where you want to go. Anyone interested in the Vikings location will be incredibly impressed by L’anse aux Meadows and the nearby Norstead Viking Village, which offers another re-created village with more actors, more buildings, and a Viking replica ship!
Raleigh and Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve
This small town offers some scenic views and cottages as well as the stunning Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve, which protects more than 300 planet species, of which 30 are considered very rare. We had just a short tour but would love to come back in the summer when the flowers are in bloom.
The site has a large area of exposed limestone and a naturally harsh climate that permits the growth of rare dwarf flora often found in arctic and alpine areas. Being quite barren, the area actually reminded us of being up in Tuktoyaktuk. The coastline is absolutely beautiful and in one of the massive caves we visited, they once found a polar bear eating a whale. Talk about a wild experience.
If you’re hungry, pop into Burnt Cape Cafe in Raleigh, which is run by the same guy who does the Ecological Reserve Newfoundland tours. We sat down for some delicious cod tongues, sea snails, and beer. It was cooked to perfection.
Since visitors love to pick up souvenirs and local snacks, the Dark Tickle Company is a great place to visit. Not only do they make all sorts of local jams, but they also sell a variety of souvenirs and house a small museum. In addition, you’ll find Café Nymphe, which is located upstairs. The Café offers a delicious lunch menu (we had the seafood chowder) and a variety of hot drinks, such as a partridge berry latte, hot chocolate, or even a screech-infused baked apple concoction. Very, very tasty.
St. Anthony Newfoundland
This is the main city on the Northern Peninsula, which makes it a great place to find accommodation, restaurants, and things to do. It’s famous for both icebergs and whale watching but has a number of other sites as well, including Grenfell House Museum, Grenfell Interpretation Centre, and Tea House Hill, which is a popular place to go for a short hike.
If you’re coming in the spring to see icebergs, you may want to time your visit with the Iceberg Festival. The festival makes it possible to experience Newfoundland culture in a way you may not be able to do otherwise, including live music and skits. During our time there, we listened to a variety of local music, comedians, and comedy sketches. We also got to dance with mummers, which is a tradition normally performed around Christmas. There’s also a variety of opportunities to try local foods as well as experience a polar dip on the last day of the festival.
Tuckamore Lodge and beyond
If you have more time to get off of the main highway, you can take highway 432 over to the Eastern side of the peninsula. There are some beautiful towns over there as well, such as Englee, Croque, and Roddickton. We had very little time to explore the area during our visit, but we did spend a night at Tuckamore Lodge, which is popular with people who want to go on fishing and hunting trips. Due to weather, our boat trip in Roddickton was canceled but we did take a quick trip out to Englee to see some icebergs near the shore. It was beautiful and even more “off the beaten track” than the other areas mentioned above.
The Viking Trail
Regardless of what you decide to see and do, the Viking Trail will impress you. Not only will you find beautiful landscapes and historical sites, but the people of Newfoundland are some of the friendliest and most welcoming you’ll ever find. This is one of the top reasons why Newfoundland travel is so popular. It’s the people. Whether it’s your tour guide or the lady managing the convenience store, you’ll be delighted to strike up a conversation with the locals. For those interested in hiking in Newfoundland, you’ll find many wild and beautiful hikes along the Viking Trail.
If you’re making your way all the way to Newfoundland’s North Peninsula, you’re likely going to be spending more time in the province. For that, we recommend visiting our Newfoundland Travel Page where you’ll find videos and content to help you plan the best trip possible.
Other articles we recommend:
- Best Things To Do in St. John’s
- Best Things To Do in Newfoundland
- Three Moose and a Mountain in Gros Morne National Park
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