My dissertation AMBIVALAND: Tracing a Web of Cultural Ambivalence in Newfoundland is naturally related to the island of Newfoundland. Exploring the place has been at the roots of my project and is still part of my research. A couple of years ago, I moreover made Newfoundland my second home. For students ‘from away’ whose studies are not or merely indirectly place-related, though, I imagine the physical and cultural surroundings may easily take a back seat. Of course, winters are rather uninviting, and the long month of March – Newfoundlanders recite the first half of the year as “January, February, March, March, March, June” – does often not propose itself for exploring the place either; but the Newfoundland summers are like no others! This is why I encourage non-Newfoundland fellow students to go and see Newfoundland beyond campus and St. John’s during the summer break. You’re lucky to study at a place that flocks of tourists spend time and money on experiencing each year. Admittedly, public transport is virtually non-existent beyond the metro area. I suggest sharing a rental car if you don’t know anyone with their own vehicle. (Make sure to book well in advance for the high season of July and August).

Below, I briefly sketch three of my favourite day trips on the Avalon Peninsula and hope you’ll find them inspiring. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have questions or want more information on anything mentioned in the following. I’m happy to further promote the place I love.

Left: sketch of the three day trips on the map of the Avalon Peninsula; right: waterfall in Flatrock

Day trip 1 (shortest drive): Beautiful scenery in Torbay, Flatrock, Pouch Cove and Bauline

These rural communities are situated just north of St. John’s. Each features stunning ocean views and beautiful entries to different sections of the East Coast Trail (ECT), one of the most beautiful trail systems in North America. In Torbay, take a right turn onto Lower Street to the beach; or drive out to the little harbour in Tapper’s Cove and enter the ECT from there. In Flatrock, enjoy the view from the outlook across from St. Michael’s church. A little further on the main road and down Hickey’s Lane, the ECT takes you past amazing rock formations and a waterfall in only a few steps. In Pouch Cove, park the car at the ballpark and enter the trail from Bald Head Lane a little further down the main road. After a short walk through the woods, the scene opens up to stunning coastal views. A short climb up provides an amazing overview. If you’re up for art, contact James Baird ahead of your visit to view the gallery and artist retreat of the Pouch Cove Foundation. Bauline, other than the other three communities, sits on the western side of this finger of the Avalon Peninsula and offers afternoon sun over Conception Bay as well as more ECT to the north and south. If you have time and more exploratory spirits, drive to Portugal Cove from there and take the ferry for a tour around Bell Island before heading back to town. Avoid rush hour (around and after 5:00 pm) on weekdays, as there will be long lineups.

Day trip 2 (classical day trip): Whale watching from Mobile, history and scenery in La Manche and Ferryland

For whale and puffin watching, I recommend Molly Bawn Tours. The tour is operated on a small boat that takes a maximum of twelve passengers and features a marine biologist and a whale sniffing shetland sheepdog. It leaves from Mobile for its 1:15 hour tour of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. Afterwards, continue on Route 10 south to La Manche. (Go past ‘La Manche Provincial Park’ and follow the green sign simply stating ‘La Manche.’) Walk down to the beautiful bay that features the remainders of a resettled community and a suspension bridge. Further south along Route 10, you’ll reach Ferryland, the site of a seventeenth-century fishing colony, and a scenic lighthouse on a narrow land tongue with amazing views. If you continue driving south from there, the “Irish Loop” will take you to Trepassey and St. Vincent and back to St. John’s via the Salmonier Line and the Trans Canada Highway. While there are beautiful spots all along the way, the trip can get lengthy which is why I recommend heading back north to St. John’s from Ferryland.

Left: suspension bridge at La Manche; right: Ferryland lighthouse

Day trip 3 (quite a drive but worth it): World History and scenic beauty in Ship Harbour and Placentia, oil platform construction in Argentia

Take the Trans Canada Highway East all the way to Whitbourne and exit onto Route 100 to Placentia and the Argentia Ferry. In Dunville, take Route 102 to Ship Harbour. A sign already announces what you’ll find after twenty-four kilometres of curvy tertiary roads and four more kilometres of gravel road: the bay where, in August 1941, Roosevelt and Churchill met in secrecy to stipulate the Atlantic Charter, an important stepping stone in the joining of allied forces against the Hitler Regime and the basis for the creation of the United Nations. Besides being pregnant with world history, the place is stunningly beautiful and perfect for a picnic. Back on Route 100, it is then only a few more kilometres to Castle Hill, the site of the first fortification in Newfoundland, built by the French in 1693. Fort Royal does not only offer history, though but amazing views overlooking Placentia and some beautiful walking trails too. The trip is complemented with a contrasting element by visiting nearby Argentia, the former U.S. Navy base across from Ship Harbour. Today, the place hosts the terminal for the summer ferry to and from Nova Scotia as well as the dry dock where the West White Rose oil platform is being constructed. Besides the immense concrete gravity structure, you’ll find some of what, to me, look like the world’s largest cranes – and all this amidst an otherwise apparently pristine nature! If you’re still up for more, follow Route 100 all the way south to Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve, where a large colony of gannets are raising their chicks on a sea stack just metres from an onshore outlook. Driving home from there in the dusk or dark, be moose alert!

Left: Atlantic Charter memorial site in Ship Harbour; right: Castle Hill overlooking Placentia

Other places on the Avalon absolutely worth seeing include Heart’s Content in Trinity Bay, where the first transatlantic telegraph cable was landed from Ireland in 1866, the vibrant fishing community of Bay de Verde and Salmon Cove Sands. Indeed, all three could be combined into another day trip. Check it out! Finally, a cool website for “places wonderous, obscure, and off-the-beaten-path” all over Newfoundland that I have just come across myself is ‘Hidden Newfoundland‘.


So much to see and do during a Newfoundland summer! Luckily fall is usually beautiful too. 🙂