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Looking for the best things to do in Central Newfoundland? Let me help you! I grew up in Newfoundland and love going on outdoor adventures – which Central Newfoundland has plenty of!
Newfoundland and Labrador is a province packed full of outdoor adventures, but when it comes to the top places to visit, the central region is often overlooked.
If you ask most people about Central, they tend to draw a blank face and make some comment about getting gas in Gander.
Admittedly, I didn’t even know how much it had to offer, but after spending a week exploring the area with Adventure Central Newfoundland, my perception completely shifted.
River Rafting, whale watching, sea kayaking, trail hiking, and iceberg spotting – there are so many amazing adventures and fun things to do in Central Newfoundland.
I am blown away by the beauty of this part of Newfoundland and can’t wait to share it with you. If you don’t think there’s any outdoor adventure in Central Newfoundland, think again.
Best things to do in Central Newfoundland
#1. Marine Wildlife Safari in Hare Bay
Newfoundland is famous for its whale watching, and one of the best places to see whales is Hare Bay in Central Newfoundland.
We were meant to go with Hare Bay Adventures on a wooden row boat adventure, but the owner called the day before to ask us if we wanted to go whale watching instead. He said that he thought the area currently had the best whale watching on the island, so of course, I said YES!
We met with the owner of Hare Bay Adventures, Duane, and set off for a scenic boat ride through Northern Bonavista Bay.
The ride was beautiful, passing by several islands that were former communities resettled in the 1960s. The guides shared some of their stories of the resettlement history, which was so fascinating to hear.
If you’re interested in learning more about this part of Newfoundland’s history and visiting some of these islands, Hare Bay Adventures also offers resettlement tours.
After a while, spouts started to appear in the distance, so we followed them, making our way towards the playful whales.
As we got closer, I couldn’t believe how many whales there were! I have been whale watching several times in Newfoundland, and it’s never been this good. They were on all sides of the boat, I didn’t have enough cameras to keep up with how many there were! It was mainly humpbacks and a few minkes.
More to that, the whales were so playful. They were happily flapping around in the water, which to me looked like they were waving at us. It was such a magical experience!
The area is also full of sea birds. We went past a small island that dozens of Northern Gannets were perched on!
I was busy trying to get a photo of the Northern Gannets, only to turn around and see thousands of birds flying over the boat. It was a feeding frenzy and an incredible experience to witness. It felt like an episode of planet earth! It’s a great place to go puffin-watching in Newfoundland.
After an exciting afternoon of whale and bird watching, we headed over to Braggs Island for dinner.
Duane fried up some freshly caught trout and cod over a campfire, followed by a delicious partridgeberry cake. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day!
Hare Bay Adventures offers private whale-watching tours when the whales are in the bay, as well as a variety of other adventurous tours, including hiking, campfires, row boating, bird-watching, fishing, and more.
#2. Get Wet on the Canyon Run with Rafting Newfoundland
If you’re looking for an adrenaline-packed adventure in Central Newfoundland, then visit Grand Falls-Windsor and join Rafting Newfoundland for a tour on the Exploits River.
It’s the only place you can go rafting in the province, and it does not disappoint.
Rafting Newfoundland offers two different rafting tours: the Canyon Run and the Badger Chute. The latter is a family-friendly run suitable for ages 5+ and up, while the other is marketed as non-stop thrills from start to finish.
The last time I went rafting was on the Zambezi River in Victoria Falls, so OF COURSE, I opted for the more adventurous one.
After getting geared up and given a safety briefing, we climbed down the rocks to the river. The tour starts right by the dam, so there’s a sign indicating the area is dangerous, only adding to the ambiance that this is going to be a thrilling adventure.
We started off with a 15-foot cliff jump into the water, which was much more effective at waking me up than the 3 cups of coffee I had prior.
You get soaked on this tour, but the water is surprisingly warm. Before heading out, we swam over to check out a small waterfall, which the guides said you can sometimes see salmon jumping over. How neat!
We hit the first rapid soon after, which, as the guide explained, changes daily as it depends on the dam outflow. So much fun! Although the rapids can be intense here, the route is actually very safe because there’s always a large body of calm water after each rapid.
There are only a couple of major rapids on this route, but the guides make it fun by ‘playing’ in the water. We purposely took the raft back into several of the rapids, which is unlike any other rafting experience I’ve done before. One of these is called the ‘toilet bowl’ where you flood the raft with water. It’s a blast!
The guides can basically customize this tour to be as adrenaline-packed as you want it. You wanna flip the raft? You got it!
All of the guides are stoked with energy and make the experience so much fun. The route itself is also gorgeous, taking you through the canyon along the exploits river. After the last rapid, we floated gently back to the starting point, which was the perfect way to end the afternoon.
#3. Hike to the top of Alexander Murray Hiking Trail
One of the best things to do in Central Newfoundland is hiking the Alexander Murray Hiking Trail in King’s Point, which is just outside of Springdale.
The hike is named after Sir Alexander Murray, who was the first person to make a geological map of Newfoundland.
It’s an 8km round-trip hike, made more challenging by the number of stairs. The trail starts off seemingly easy through the forest, but as you get closer to the top, you will be faced with what feels like never-ending staircases. To be more precise, it’s actually 2200 stairs, but that’s up AND down.
It’s all worth it, though; the views at the top are incredible.
The summit, called HayPook, offers 360-degree views of Green Bay. It’s definitely one of the best views I found while traveling in Central Newfoundland.
There are also several waterfalls along the trail, although they were pretty dry when we hiked it as it hadn’t been raining much.
The trail took us about 3 hours round-trip to hike, which included lots of photos at the top. The trailhead is by the entrance of King’s Point at the Visitor Center on Highway 391, 12 KM off the Trans Canada Highway.
#4. Go Sea Kayaking around The Bay of Exploits
One of my favorite adventures in Central Newfoundland was sea kayaking around the Bay of Exploits with Adventures Newfoundland.
After spending the night in Fortune Harbour, we met the owner Paul in nearby Lawrence’s harbor, where we hopped in his boat to the Bay of Exploits.
Along the way, we passed by cliffs that have 450 million-year-old lava pillow crusts. Just a casual boat ride in Newfoundland!
The weather was not looking overly favorable in the morning, so we decided to wait it out because you can always count on the weather changing in Newfoundland. Paul took us inside his cozy cabin and entertained us with stories over scones and coffee.
The Bay of Exploits has a fascinating history that Paul is a wealth of knowledge about. The land was inhabited by the Beothuk Indians before the arrival of European settlers, and when European settlement began, serious conflict developed.
If you join a sea kayaking tour with Paul you will not only get to see this beautiful part of Newfoundland but also learn about the native Beothuk population and their fascinating but tragic story.
Our waiting paid off and the skies became perfectly clear in the afternoon, so we headed out into the kayaks for a beautiful sunset paddle. Located within the much larger Notre Dame Bay, the Bay of Exploits offers some of the most scenic sea kayaking in Newfoundland.
I was worried that the ocean kayaking would be tough, but the bay is so sheltered that it’s pretty easy to paddle through. The kayaks are also top quality!
My travel partner, Matt, may have also been kindly pulling the weight in our double kayak while I took photos, but he agreed that it was an easy paddle.
For the more adventurous paddlers, Adventures Newfoundland also offers multi-day journeys that will take you to the exposed Northeast coast of Newfoundland.
Whether you want a one-day paddle or a week-long camping adventure, Paul can customize the tour to your needs. Visit his website to learn more!
#5. Visit One of the Four Corners of The Flat Earth
Fogo is a small island that has become increasingly popular in recent years largely in part to the five-star Fogo Inn.
While the inn is certainly impressive, what I love about visiting Fogo Island is its ease of access to nature. Walking around, it feels like the entire island is a hiking trail.
We met with local Al Dwyer, who runs a walking tour in Tilting, one of the communities in Fogo.
Aside from being incredibly picturesque, what’s interesting about Tilting is that it’s the only Irish settlement in Fogo. The accent of those from Tilting, including Al, sounds remarkably Irish. I could listen to him talk all day!
We started the tour at the Tilting National Historic Site, where you can see well-preserved fishing stages and saltbox houses.
Hiking along Oliver’s Cove Path, we passed by traditional gardens, ancient graveyards, stunning coastlines, and interesting monuments such as the Devil’s Rocking Chair.
Throughout the walk, Al told us many stories about what life was like here when the Irish first came and what it was like to grow up in Tilting. He has stories for days!
Just in time for sunset, we headed up to Brimstone head for a quick hike to one of the four corners of the flat earth, or at least what’s believed by the Flat Earth Society. The other three are Hydra, Bermuda Triangle, and Papa New Guinea (new travel goal)?
Whether you believe it’s one of the four corners of the earth or not, this is an epic place to catch the sunset and get stunning views of the town of Fogo. It’s only about a 15-minute walk to the top.
#6. See Where the Continents Collided at the Dover Fault
Newfoundland is full of fascinating geological history.
From the tablelands of Gros Morne National Park that helped develop the theory of plate tectonics to 650 million-year-old fossils in Mistaken Point on the Irish Loop, a trip to Newfoundland will help you understand how the present-day shape of the planet was formed.
One significant geological area to visit in Newfoundland is the Dover Fault. It’s the site where the North American and European continents collided 150 million years ago!
The town of Dover has set up an interpretation site where you can go and learn about it.
Although you can visit on your own, I highly recommend going with Duane from Hare Bay Adventures. He is a wealth of knowledge about the area (history, geology, biology – there didn’t seem to be a question Duane couldn’t answer).
As he explained to us, the rocks you see on either side of the Dover fault are completely different from each other.
The remnants of Africa and/or Europe are east of the Dover Fault (the Avalon), and the Appalachian rocks are west of the fault. I will never stop being amazed at how cool the geology of Newfoundland is!
Nearby, you can see the remnants of a plane crash from 1942.
#7. Hike the Damnable trail system
If you’re looking for a beautiful place to go hiking in Newfoundland, check out the Damnable trail on the Eastport Peninsula. The trails were just completed in 2020, and they’ve done an amazing job building them.
The paths were largely developed from the remnants of old walking trails and hauling paths forged by the first settlers to the area. The trails are a great complement to nearby Terra Nova National Park, which offers mainly inland trails.
The trails you’ll find on the Damnable network offer incredible coastal views, where you can sometimes spot humpback whales in the summer.
We spent the afternoon hiking the trails with Wayne and his friendly dog.
The Damnable trail network was built with the principle of being both accessible and challenging, so there are trails for all levels, including wheelchair-accessible ones.
The trails were also built to take you through the communities in the area. One of them actually starts right behind the museum in Salvage, taking you to a gorgeous viewpoint of the community.
#8. Swim in the Ocean next to White Sand Beaches
White sand beaches in Newfoundland? This is another great feature of Central Newfoundland – beaches that aren’t just rocks (although those do have their own charm).
After hiking the Damnable trail system, we went to Eastport Beach to cool off for a swim. I know, swimming in the ocean next to sandy beaches? this definitely isn’t the Newfoundland I’m used to!
Because it was getting late in the day, The water wasn’t quite as warm as I hoped it would be, but I did manage to go in for a partial dip.
I can count the number of times I’ve been swimming in the ocean in Newfoundland on my hand, so the fact that I got in without immediately getting hypothermia is remarkable to me.
As I sat back on the beach, a friendly doggo came over to me to say hi, followed by his owner, who asked us if we were allergic to chickens (he had a box with him).
It was a strange question to be asked on a beach, and I expected him to pull out a box of BBQ chicken or something, but instead, a dozen or so baby chicks came out.
The owner told me that he just got the chicks, and he can’t leave them at home alone, so they come everywhere with him, including the beach! You’ll meet all sorts of characters while traveling in Newfoundland; it’s just part of the charm.
The beaches don’t stop in Eastport either, I’ve been told they are all over Central Newfoundland. Burgeo and Lumsden are apparently some of the best.
Another beach that’s worth mentioning in Central Newfoundland is Glassy Beach in Springdale. It’s not sand, but it’s almost all beach glass.
Glassy Beach is on Google Maps and easy to find; it’s just a short drive down a dirt road off the main road in Eastport.
There’s a well-marked sign to indicate where the beach trail starts, and it’s just a couple-minute walk down to the beach.
#9. Search for Icebergs in Twillingate
Twillingate is one of the most beautiful places to see in Central Newfoundland.
One reason why is that it’s part of Newfoundland’s Iceberg Alley. Every spring, giant 10,000-year-old icebergs float by here, often getting stuck in the bay.
The best time to see Icebergs in Central Newfoundland is late May into early June, although depending on the year, they can hang around into July.
Unfortunately for me, 2020 wasn’t a good year for icebergs (apparently, the icebergs are social distancing, too), but we still headed out on a boat tour with Twillingate Adventures.
Even without icebergs, it’s worth going on a boat tour in Twillingate. Because you are always guaranteed the coastline, and the coastline here does not disappoint.
The landscapes around Twillingate are stunning. There are so many neat rock formations you can see around here, as well as several species of birds. We saw ospreys and bald eagles! Boat tours are one of the top things to do in Twillingate in summer.
There are also several species of whales that hang around the water here, especially when the capelin start rolling (usually around mid-July).
I thought this boat tour was great without whales and icebergs, so I can only imagine how magical it would be to see either alongside these stunning landscapes.
The boat that Twillingate Adventures uses, the Twillingate Spirit, is the smoothest boat I’ve ever been on in Newfoundland.
It was custom-built for Twillingate with a wave-dampening design, so you barely feel the waves you’re going through, which is rare in Newfoundland. If you’re worried about getting seasick but want to do a boat ride in Newfoundland, this is a pretty safe bet!
#10. Fuel your Adventures with Experience Twillingate
With so many outdoor adventures, you’ll need to fuel up! For one of the best food experiences in Central Newfoundland, check out Experience Twillingate with local Crystal Anstey.
We met Crystal at a gorgeous beach in Twillingate, where she prepared an incredible four-course meal, all using local ingredients right on the beach.
Using the campfire and a hot cast iron pan, the first course was fried scallops cooked to perfection and served in a very adorable mini-sized cast iron pan.
Crystal gave me cooking tips the whole way through and almost had me convinced I could do it myself (cooking is not my strong suit).
Following the scallops was a cod dish with kale that melted in your mouth. Crystal is all about using minimal ingredients, as the seafood in Newfoundland has so much flavor on its own.
What I loved about this experience is that every single item Crystal uses is local and sustainable, downright to the wood boards she uses to serve the food. Her kids even caught the fish!
Then came the main event of the night, the lobster.
I helped by collecting the water from the ocean, which is the perfect amount of salt for cooking (how neat is nature?).
Last but not least, for dessert, we had mini strawberry pies made with fresh strawberry jam made from local berries.
This entire meal was set amongst the sunset on the beach in Twillingate. As the sun set, you could see the reflection on the houses in the water.
Aside from the delicious flavors and beautiful setting, Crystal is just an awesome person to hang out with. You may start the night as strangers, but I can guarantee you’ll leave feeling like you spent the night with your friends.
With such a beautiful backdrop, good company, and incredible food, I cannot think of a better way to spend a summer evening in Newfoundland. If you want to book this experience, visit her website here.
Final Thoughts: Things to do in Central Newfoundland
I’ll never look at Central Newfoundland the same way after such an amazing week of experiences. If you just get off that highway, adventure awaits.
There are so many amazing towns in Central Newfoundland to explore, I hope this post could inspire you to visit.
From hiking through pristine parks to discovering the rich history and vibrant communities, this region promises unforgettable adventures for every traveler.
Big thanks to Adventure Central / Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism for sponsoring this trip. As always, all opinions are my own.
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