There are certain things that are an absolute MUST if you are planning a trip to NL. These are a few of our tips (and a couple of trade secrets) that we feel anyone coming here should be aware of.
1. The Province is large. As in B-I-G. Plan to spend enough time while you're here!
Given that half of NL is an island, some people assume that it is small and easy to get around. The truth is, not so much. In fact, to drive from the west coast ferry port of Channel - Port aux Basques to the eastern-most capital city of St. John's, you are looking at over 9 hours of non-stop travel. (As in no coffee breaks, no pee breaks, and no stops to take a snap or two). That itinerary also fails to encompass our incredibly beautiful Northern Peninsula with it's beautiful towns, awe-inspiring Gros Morne National Park, and landscapes different than the rest of the island. If you did want to head north, add another 6 hours or so (again, without stops!). Folks, take it from us: you need to allow yourselves enough time to visit while you're here (although we certainly don't mind if you feel that you would like to come back and see more!). Also- Labrador is a destination worthy of exploration - one that is often overlooked by tourists and travelers alike.
Your own itinerary should be driven by your interests. What is it you hope to see or experience while you are here? What made you decide to visit? What activities do you hope to take part in while here? What cultural experiences would you like to have? What types of wildlife are you interested in? How do you anticipate getting around the province? Which brings us to number 2...
2. If you're renting a car, BOOK IN ADVANCE.
We know there are certain types of travelers who prefer the fancy-free idea of planning on the fly. Unfortunately though, given that half of the province is indeed an island, car rentals book up early - and there are no options for the companies to shuffle inventory from other locations. We can't begin to tell you how often we hear of people who fly in to YYT with visions of sites the many places they would like to visit but whom sadly have left a car rental to chance. This might work for certain trips, but not so much here. Take it from us... if you intend to rent a vehicle, it is always better to book one in advance. (Well in advance!).
3. If you're needing accommodations, BOOK IN ADVANCE.
This may seem a little repetitive, but again - take it from us. Not only do we live in this province, we also tour a bit of it every year. While it might be fun for some to travel wherever the wind takes them, we can tell you that it is not fun at all to have to drive hours just to find somewhere to lay your head. The thing is, the province is big (if you skipped number 1, please check it out). There are times when due to conferences alone there may be no beds available in St. John's... not just at Hotels but also at Bed and Breakfasts, Motels, and Hostels. Even VRBO, HomeAway and Air B&B listings can be difficult to get here without notice. Yes, we are a friendly bunch - but we think you'd probably prefer to spend more time enjoying your trip than trying to find a place to lay your weary head.
4. If you're planning an excursion, tour, or scheduled activity... you guessed it, BOOK IN ADVANCE.
So by now you probably think we have OCD (which actually helps in our profession btw), but honestly... think of it this way. Let's say you are interested in Mistaken Point (and make no mistake - this is one place that we think you should see!). For those unfamiliar, Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016 (which marks it as a place of international importance) and contains some of the oldest recognizable traces of life on earth. There is indeed a beautiful interpretation center nearby, however to actually traverse the 17-km stretch of the reserve you need a ticket on the guided tour. Here's where it gets "tangly": there is one tour per day with a limit of participants. Now just imagine if you came here from afar (let's say Japan) with your family (let's pretend there's 5 of you) just to see those fossils... you booked your air travel, car rental, and accommodation... but didn't book the tour (sadly this is a true story). Trust us; gut-wrenching dismay and heartbreak sound the same no matter what language...
That's it for the basics. Amidst the planning and details, remember to actually look forward to your trip! It should help to know that with a bit of work before you get here, you'll be assured to make the most of your time as your arrangements will have been made and you won't face frustration of having to plan on the fly.