Two years have passed since that fateful week when I fell in love with Gros Morne National Park. She was a wild one, full of winding mountain paths and menacing rock formations and 3000 shades of green. All I want in this life is to buy a cabin in the park and write books while raising goats and sheep and chickens and living with them all happily ever after because I couldn’t bear to kill them. The place is PEACE. It’s my word, and I know someday I’ll go back for good.
So on my most recent HittheRoad.ca road trip with Seattle, Ryan and Zak, I was stoked to be able to show them around.
We departed from St. John’s in the middle of a freak storm that dumped 25 centimetres of snow in Central. We had to drive through it, and although the sun came gloriously through for us on the west coast, it was COLD. But since I am the Weather Fairy and all, the sun did smarten up eventually. (And then disappeared for the remainder of our road trip.)
Here are some tips to make the most of your time in the park.
1. Get a rental car. Immediately.
This national park isn’t like other national parks with fully loaded public transit systems or busy towns with expensive tourist shops. Nope. As it turns out, this inconvenience is a perk – you’ve got all the stunning scenery a body can handle, but all while retaining that small-town Newfoundland feel.
The three main towns to set up camp are in Rocky Harbour, Norris Point, and Woody Point. Norris Point and Rocky Harbour are close together, and both are extremely small towns, but if you want to get to the Tablelands or even Woody Point, you’ll have to drive for at least an hour. During high season, a Water Taxi operates between Woody Point and Norris Point…but you can’t take your vehicle onboard.
Get a rental car.
2. Hike, hike, hike
There are a million and one hikes in Gros Morne. Or close to it. You might as well climb Gros Morne (Great Somber) yourself while you’re there, but it’s an intense hike with steep inclines and unstable footing. Give yourself a full day to do that one. You may see moose. They’re delicious.
The same goes for if you’re going to do the entire Green Gardens hike – it’s a full day endeavor, but you’ll move from the moonscape of The Tablelands to deep green forests to a beach with a bubbly lava wall. The boys did this hike on our final day in the park, but I was so ill all I could do was nap in the car and eat crackers.
My ultimate goal is to hike the epic Northern Rim, at the end of Western Brook Pond Fjord (see below). The route takes a few days to a week, and hikers are required to pass a map-and-compass test, but the views from the top of the fjord are unbelievable.
Easier hike: just do The Tablelands. Lazy arse.
3. Boat tours
One of my favourite places in the park is Western Brook Pond Fjord (Glacier Bay Inlet Mountain, etc). Glaciers carved out the area thousands of years ago, and when the depressed land bounded back, the pond was cut off from the ocean. The water is too pure to conduct electricity. You can cruise the pond with Bontours, who will take you deep into the fjord.
Another favourite: Trout River Pond (Lake Ocean Mountain Valley Pass) with Ocean Quest Adventures. You get The Tablelands on one side and the green gabbro landscape on the other, demonstrating one of the world’s best examples of continental drift. Plus the tour guide will point out a perfect example of Mohorovicic Discontinuity to you (the boundary between earth’s crust and the mantle). That sentence probably just turned a lot of geologists on.
Festivals and music
There’s a crapload of festivals going on throughout the year (my favourite being Writers at Woody Point). We happened to be there for the Trails, Tales and Tunes festival, and the place was BUSY. We went to the Cat Stop on Sunday night to see Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Cases perform (one of my faves), and we had to wait about 15 minutes to get in. I could hear my favourite tunes being played as I stood wistfully in the line-up, scowling at anyone who looked like they were having a blast.
Food and art
I always take people to Java Jack’s in Rocky Harbour when I’m in Gros Morne — I absolutely LOVE the cafe and the service is fantastic. Prices are affordable, and most ingredients are grown in the organic garden.
The cafe also features a ton of artwork from locals and other Canadians, including some impressive collections of jewelry. I had to buy this pocket-watch necklace from Overman. How could I not? Self-control, I guess. Shut up.
Where to stay
We were hosted by Gros Morne Cabins, in Rocky Harbour. The place was so cozy, I contemplated ditching the Cat Stop concert to appreciate the quiet cabin feel overlooking the ocean. We had two queen-sized beds covered in handmade quilts made by “Lillian”, and had the pleasure of cooking our own meals and working at ease in the cabin’s common area.
I’ve also stayed at The Tide’s Inn in Norris Point in the past, with easy access to the Water Taxi and the Cat Stop.
For those on more of a budget, campgrounds and hostels are available as well.
Thanks to Canada Keep Exploring for hosting me on the Cross-Canada Blogger Train to TBEX!