A local’s guide to IMCC4: Discover Newfoundland


By Rodolphe Devillers

Attending IMCC4? Consider spending a few days visiting the region! Here are some tips!

Isn’t it a shame to travel all the way to an international conference and stay the whole time a few hundred meters from your conference hotel? Newfoundland is a unique place, including for marine conservation, and I would strongly recommend taking a few days to visit the island. But first things first, you NEED a rental car and rentals are extremely hard to secure so don’t procrastinate and book your car now! I provide time estimates to the different locations from downtown St. John’s (thanks to Google Maps!).

1-2 days visits?

The coast of the Avalon Peninsula (where St. John’s is located) has been selected by the National Geographic as THE top coastal destination in the world for its authenticity and sustainability. Here are a few highlights:

  • Close to St. John’s, you need to visit Cape Spear (20 mins drive). With its iconic lighthouse, Cape Spear is the eastern-most point of North America, and is also a nice place for a walk – and to watch whales from the coast.

CapeSpear(Photo: Tourism Newfoundland©) – Cape Spear

  • If you keep driving south, consider stopping at the Petty Harbour mini-aquarium (25 mins), a catch and release aquarium involved in local marine conservation efforts. It is very small and obviously can’t be compared to large city aquariums, but it is a great example of a local ocean literacy project!
  • South again you will reach Bay Bulls and Mobile (30 mins from St. John’s), two communities hosting a number of really excellent whale watching tour companies. Those tours will also bring you to the largest puffins colonies in North America: the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. You can also see a lot of other bird species there, including storm-petrels, gannets, kittiwakes and murres.
  • Looking for a longer trip? Keep driving south and stop at Ferryland (1h) to visit the archaeological site of the Colony of Avalon, a 17th century permanent European settlement.
  • Further south (and it is really worth the trip!), consider driving to Portugal Cove South (1h 45mins) to see the unique geological site of Mistaken Point, a site with the most diverse and well-preserved Precambrian fossils known in the world! The site, currently considered for listing as a World Heritage site, is threaten by coastal erosion – so now is the time to visit it! You will need a tour guide (mandatory, but free). It is best to call them in advance to book a tour. You may even get lucky and see caribous on the way!
  • Not in the same area but still on the Avalon Peninsula, the Cape Saint Mary’s Ecological Reserve (2.5h) is one of the largest seabird reserves in Newfoundland, with over 24,000 northern gannets, 20,000 common murres, etc. An amazing site!


(Photo: Tourism Newfoundland©) – Gros Morne National Park

2-3 days visits?

Planning a few more days? You can visit the Bonavista Peninsula, with the towns of Trinity (3h) and Bonavista, for its beautiful coast and traditional communities. The Skerwink Trail next to Trinity is one of the nicest trails on the island. Just north of it is Terra Nova, one of the two National Parks on the island of Newfoundland. A bit further, consider Twillingate (5h) and/or Fogo Island (need to take a ferry), a place increasingly appearing on tourists’ lists for its beauty and culture. Note that you will have reached one of the four corners of the earth according to the Flat Earth Society!
Over a week?


(Photo: Tourism Newfoundland©) – Gros Morne National Park

If you are staying for longer, cross the island on the Trans-Canada Highway and spend a few days in the Gros Morne National Park (7-8h), on the west coast. The park is one of the few places on Earth where you can walk on the Earth’s mantle (brought to the surface by tectonic forces). But the park has many more wonders to discover! And if you are really REALLY motivated, then drive all the way north to the National Historic Site of l’Anse aux Meadows (11-12h) to visit the only known Viking settlement in North America!


Dr. Rodolphe Devillers is on faculty in the Department of Geography at Memorial University.  He is a member of the Scientific Program Committee for IMCC4.


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