Things To Do On A Family Vacation In Newfoundland
Families will love the windswept coastlines, rich heritage and warm hospitality offered in Newfoundland. If you’re looking for a trip that will delight each member of your family and leave you with incredible memories, look no further than this stunning island in the Atlantic. Canada’s easternmost province has so much to offer families looking for a meaningful holiday.
Why take a family vacation in Newfoundland?
While the dramatic scenery might make you feel like you’ve travelled to a different world, Newfoundland is actually quite accessible, especially for those visiting from Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces. You can be in St. John’s in only 3 hours by air from Toronto, just over 2 hours from Montreal.
If you are a family of road-trippers, you can drive to Newfoundland as well by utilizing the ferry system. Travellers can take the ferry from North Sydney in Nova Scotia to Port aux Basques Newfoundland all year long and, in the summer, an additional ferry service travels from North Sydney to Argentia. (It is also possible to reach to Newfoundland via a ferry from Labrador, although this is a much more challenging and isolated drive.)
Once on the island, Newfoundland is a fantastic destination to explore with kids. From the colourful houses of St. Johns to the icebergs floating just off the coast, Newfoundland is a wonderland of scenic beauty. Visitors flock here for the amazing combination of friendly hospitality and epic natural scenery — and kids are no different.
Family-Friendly Attractions in Newfoundland
“Family-friendly” is a subjective term when it comes to travel. What might work for one family, will be more challenging for another. Kids of different ages and temperaments have different needs and enjoyments — so please take this guide simply as a suggestion of things to do in Newfoundland with kids. There are so many amazing places to discover all over the island depending on your comfort and energy levels.
Exploring St. John’s Newfoundland with kids
If you are flying into Newfoundland, chances are your first experience on the island will be in the capital city of St. John’s. This dynamic city is full of charm, most recognizable by the colourful row houses that line the downtown. Although known as Jelly Bean Row, the bright iconic houses are not on any one particular street, but rather all along the steep hilly roads of the downtown core leading in a step-like fashion to the water below. Shops and restaurants abound in this area.
Perched high above St. John’s is Signal Hill, a popular tourist attraction for good reason. The landmark overlooks the city and is worth a visit for the views alone but it is also an amazing place to learn about history and geology. At the Johnson Geo Centre, you can travel underground to see rock that’s more than 500 million years old and learn about natural forces that have shaped our world.
Related: A Landsby Spotlight on St. John’s
Best Outdoor Adventures with Kids in Newfoundland
Adventurous families will find plenty to keep them busy in Newfoundland. Spend a day at the beach, try your hand at fishing, or go for a hike along one of the many scenic trails around the island. The possibilities are endless and the hardest part will be deciding which adventures to fit into your trip.
A good place to start is by exploring some of the 30 provincial parks around the island. For magnificent sandy beaches, try Sandbanks Provincial Park (not to be confused with the Ontario park of the same name, also famous for its beaches). Located slightly off the beaten path, Sandbanks has seven kilometres of flat, sandy beaches that everyone in the family will love. Or visit La Manche Provincial Park where you can take the kids on a hike through the forest to a cool suspension bridge that overlooks a rushing river — on the other side, you’ll find an abandoned village where you can explore the ruins.
Gros Morne National Park, located in western Newfoundland, is on many Canadian’s dream list. This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers plenty to see and do as a family: you can cruise the cliff-lined freshwater fjord of Western Brook Pong, visit one of the colourful coastal villages or hike the many trails. The trails range from easy walks on gently rolling terrain to difficult hikes with steep sections for more experienced hikers. The park has 236 campsites spread out along five different campgrounds for those who want to pitch a tent or park their trailer. If you’re a camping family but left your gear at home, the park offers several oTENTik and rustic cabins for rent.
Singular Family Experiences in Newfoundland
1. Spend a day discovering the unique fishing history of Newfoundland with a hands-on workshop at the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador. Sign your kids up for the one-day Junior Builders program where they will learn about local heritage, assemble a full-size dory and enact a traditional boat launch (with lessons on buoyancy and stability). The kids will have the chance to build their own model sailboat and then test out in a nearby brook before taking it home as a keepsake.
2. Water is a huge part of life in Newfoundland and there’s really no substitute for getting out on a boat in the ocean. You’ll find charters and sightseeing tours from various places throughout the island. Newfoundland is one of the best places in the world to whale watch and any up-close-and-personal experiences with these gentle giants is sure to be very memorable for the kids (and parents). Another amazing experience is to head out on the water to see the immense icebergs in Newfoundland’s iceberg alley — definitely an unforgettable travel moment!
3. The official bird of Newfoundland is the cheery Atlantic puffin. With its distinctive orange beak, these adorable seabirds are easy to spot and fun to watch, whether they are flying over water and hanging out on land. You can take a boat tour out to see them but the closest spot to view them from land is at Elliston Point on the Bonavista Peninsula. Take the kids on a short stroll from the lighthouse to a viewing area and watch their eyes light up with delight as they spot these quirky little birds.
This post was originally published in March 2022 and updated in January 2023.