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The Viking Trail is one of the best road trips to go on in Newfoundland. It takes you up the Great Northern Peninsula, also known as the Northern arm of Newfoundland. It passes through Gros Morne National Park, provincial historic sites, charming fishing villages, and two UNESCO world heritage sites.
While this scenic road trip is just under 500km, I recommend taking as long as you can to do it as there is so much to explore. This post will help you plan a perfect trip along the Northern Arm of Newfoundland with information on all the best stops. Whether you love nature, history, or simply a good road trip, the Viking Trail should be on your Newfoundland itinerary.
Where does the Viking Trail Start?
The Viking Trail starts just off the Trans Canada Highway 1 near Deer Lake, which has an airport. Though more then likely if you’re visiting Newfoundland, you’ll be flying into St. John’s International Airport or coming from the ferry in Port Aux Basques.
If you’re coming from St. John’s, it’s about a seven-hour drive from to Deer Lake. If you’re on an East Coast Canada road trip and coming from the mainland you’ll take the ferry to Port Aux Basque, and from there it’s about a three drive to the start of the Viking Trail.
Best Places to Stop Along the Viking Trail Newfoundland
Gros Morne National Park
Gros Morne National Park is one of two national parks in Newfoundland, as well as a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s absolutely stunning, and one my favourite places to explore in the province. The viking trail will take you right through the park, but I suggest spending a couple of days here to enjoy all that is has to offer.
Hiking Trails in Gros Morne
Gros Morne National Park is a paradise for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. There are many hiking trails in Gros Morne, ranging from easy walks to multi-day treks. One of the best day hikes is Gros Morne mountain. It’s an all-day 16km strenuous round-trip hike, but the views at the top are phenomenal.
The Tablelands, inside Gros Morne National Park, are one of the most fascinating places to visit in the park if you’re interested in geology. They tell the story of the earth’s geological past. It was this area where the theory of plate tectonics was confirmed. Thousands of years ago, the collision of the tectonic plates pushed the ocean floor up, which is what you can see at the tablelands. So you are looking into the earth’s crust! Pretty neat.
If you’re visiting the tablelands, you’ll turn off the Viking Trail onto highway 431. Nearby the tablelands, there is a small town just past it called Trout River. This is a great community to spend the night inside the park, as it’s also nearby to many hiking trails. I stayed at this Airbnb which was perfect. It’s a cute saltbox home with a very cozy inside!
Another worthy stop in Gros Morne National park is beautiful Bonne Bay. This is a great place to go sea kayaking or whale watching while in the park. You can book a boat tour here or stand up paddleboard tour here.
Western Brook Pond
While driving along the Viking Trail, you’ll pass right by Western Brook Pond. It’s well worth stopping here and doing a boat tour. This ride is one of the most magical places in Newfoundland – I felt like I had been transported to Norway. On the ride through you’ll pass by gigantic, glacier-carved 2,000 feet high fjords, and there are so many waterfalls!
Where to stay inside Gros Morne National Park
If you love the outdoors, one of the best places to stay in Gros Morne is at one of the Parks Canada campsites inside the park. Berry hill is my favorite. If you’re after more comfort, there are some hotels and Airbnb options to stay at in the communities around Gros Morne. One of the best to stay in is Rocky Harbour, which sits right along the ocean. Norris Point, and Cow Head are two other options.
After leaving Gros Morne National Park, it’s a bit of a long drive towards L’Anse aux Meadows national historic site. However the road is lovely, it goes right along the ocean through many quaint fishing towns. Along the way, it’s worth taking a detour to visit Port Aux Choice National Historic Site.
Port Aux Choix National Historic Site
About halfway along the Viking Trail is Port Aux Choix National Historic Site. This archeological site drew many people over the years including indigenous people, Maritime Archaic people, Dorset people, and Groswater people – all long before the European settlement. At the site, you can visit ancient burial sites, settlements and view original artifacts.
L’Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site
L’Anse aux Meadows is where you can see the settlements of the only Viking site outside in North America. Over 1,000 years, Greenlanders and Icelanders led by Leif Erickson founded the first European settlement in North America and built a site at the tip of the Northern Peninsula in Newfoundland.
Due to its historical significance, L’Anse aux Meadows became a designated UNESCO world heritage site in 1978. Parks Canada reconstructed the Viking Site, and you can come now and visit it. There is also an interpretation center there which tells the fascinating history of this era.
L’Anse aux Meadows is open from June to September. While visiting, you can explore the site, meet costumed Viking interpreters, and learn about the history inside the interpretation centre.
Along the way from L’Anse aux meadows to St. Anthony, take a stop at the Dark Tickle Company to pick up local souvenirs and jams which you’ll pass on the road. You can’t miss the sign! There is also a cafe upstairs with delicious food.
St. Anthony is one of the main communities on the Northern Peninsula, with a population of about 2,500. Since it’s about a four-hour drive to travel from Gros Morne to L’Anse aux Meadows, most people opt to spend at least one night on this side of the peninsula. St. Anthony is a great option for that.
Where to Stay in St. Anthony
I recommend the Grenfell Heritage Inn & Suites. It’s a nice hotel with small apartments with kitchens, set right by the ocean. It’s right next to the Grenfell House Museum, which tells the story of the important role that Dr. Grenfell played in Newfoundland’s history.
It’s also right next door to Ragarock brewing, which is one of the only places to drink in town. That said, it’s a very nice bar on the inside with tasty local craft brews.
Icebergs and Whale Watching
St. Anthony is best known for its iceberg and whale-watching boat tours. This northern part of the Great Northern Peninsula has Newfoundland’s longest iceberg-watching season and is also one of the best places for whale watching in Newfoundland late into the summer.
The best time to see icebergs is in June when the Giants make their way down the coast from Greenland. The best time to see whales is from July to August, but if you’re lucky you may be able to see both on the same trip.
St. Anthony even has an iceberg festival, where you can attend live music and skits, and have the opportunity to partake in a polar dip.
Fishing Point Hiking Trails
Fishing Point is a great place to explore in St. Anthony if you want to go hiking. It’s just a 5-minute drive from town. There are four different walking trails you can take, which make a great place to spot icebergs in the spring.
Optional: Go to Labrador!
The Viking Trail is also the jump-off for the ferry to Labrador. You can take a ferry from St. Barbe to Labrador through the Strait of Belle Isle. If you thought Newfoundland was rugged and wild, Labrador is next level. I haven’t done this yet, but it’s high on my list. On the other side is Red Bay, which is another UNESCO world heritage site.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best time to drive the Viking Trail?
The best time to road trip the Viking Trail is from June to September, which coincides with the summer season in Newfoundland. This is mostly due to the weather, but also because many of the attractions are only open during these months including L’anse aux meadows. Many of the restaurants are also only open during the summer season.
The summer season is also when you can do boat tours in St. Anthony. if you’re looking for icebergs, you’ll want to come between mid-May to mid-June.
This isn’t to say you can’t visit the other times of year, it just requires a bit more planning and the realization that some things may not be open. Winter can be quite treacherous in Newfoundland, so if you’re visiting then I’d plan for the potential of snowstorms significantly delaying you. The shoulder seasons tend to bring wet weather, but the fall season is quite beautiful with the leaves changing colors in Gros Morne National Park.
How long should you spend driving the Viking Trail?
While you can technically drive the viking trail in 4-5 hours, I recommend spending at least 3-5 days on this road trip. This will give you time to explore some of the hiking trails inside Gros Morne, visit the provincial and UNESCO world heritage sites, and search for whales and icebergs along the coast.
When did the Vikings come to Newfoundland?
The first Vikings came to Newfoundland approximately 1,000 years ago when Norsemen explored and settled areas of the North Atlantic including the Northern tip of Newfoundland which is now known as the Viking Trail. The remains of Norse buildings were found in L’Anse aux meadows in the 1960s.
If you’re planning a road trip through Newfoundland, you’ll want to add the Viking Trail to your itinerary. Taking you through national parks and some of the best small towns in Newfoundland, it’s sure to be a memorable experience.