Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Shelby Blackley stands at Canada's easternmost point – the Cape Spear Lighthouse.Shelby Blackley/The Globe and Mail

“Travelling home or visiting?”

My seat mate was staring at me as I came out of my in-flight nap.

“Visiting. I’m driving from St. John’s to Deer Lake,” I said. “By myself.”

He looked shocked. Perhaps he was right to be. In that moment, looking out the airplane window at the island we were about to land on, I was surprised at myself. This wasn’t my first solo trip – but it definitely felt like a challenge.

Newfoundland is not small. It’s 405,212 square kilometres of greenery, small towns and vacant areas. My goal was to cover as much as possible across the Trans-Canada Highway – which runs between St. John’s and Port-aux-Basques at the western corner – in five days and four nights.

Day 1: Saturday, June 8

It’s my first time in the province, so I spend the afternoon exploring St. John’s and the surrounding area. I buy some souvenirs at Posie Row, down a beer flight at Yellowbelly Brewery (the Wexford Wheat was my favourite) and fuel up on a chai latte with oat milk at Rocket Bakery.

I venture out of the city for an unofficial start to the road trip at Cape Spear. The fog is rolling in and I can barely see a few feet in front of me. I follow the pathway until I am at the easternmost point in Canada, standing on a ledge. I try to see anything out in front of me, but can’t. The rest of the trip will offer better views, I hope.

Driving distance: 70 km

Day 2: Sunday, June 9

I’m up early so I have time to fit in a visit to Signal Hill, a National Historic Site, and a hiking trail that takes me to the edge of the harbour. It’s quiet, but it gives me a chance to sit and look out on the ocean. I spot a few baby icebergs and think about how much joy this place brings me – the peacefulness, the simplicity, the kindness.

I visit Quidi Vidi before I hit the road. It’s a place where, once you arrive, you feel you’ve travelled far, when it’s really just a 10-minute drive from downtown St. John’s.

Open this photo in gallery:

The neighbourhood of Quidi Vidi, home of the Quidi Vidi Brewery.Shelby Blackley

The neighbourhood is best known for the Quidi Vidi Brewery. The second-floor tap room offers a breathtaking view of the lake and the mountains behind the village. I feel right at home when I grab a seat at the bar and try a house beer made using 20,000-year-old iceberg water.

I ask the bartender what there is to do between there and Gander, the next stop on my list. “Watch out for the moose,” he replies. Oh, alright then.

Driving distance: 294 km

Day 3: Monday, June 10

On my way to Burlington, a little town off the Trans-Canada, I detour west to the Twillingate Islands in Notre Dame Bay. I have yet to see a large iceberg and am determined to hunt some out.

I drive through the main area, telling myself not to get my hopes up.

And then I clear the hill.

In a small bay of water called Little Wild Cove, I spot one. It is wide, with a single peak that points at least 50 feet into the sky. I pull over, climb some rocks to get as close as possible and take my first-ever iceberg selfie.

And the excitement continues: I get to stay in a converted lighthouse tonight.

I ask my hosts where to find icebergs nearby, and instead of just giving me directions, they exhibit that famous Newfoundland hospitality and insist on taking me.

We drive for a bit and then hike our way out to a cliff. It’s a beautiful view, but the water is empty. I’m pleased; my hosts are not. "This way!” they shout.

We try a different route, and off a beach close to King Island is an iceberg - bigger than the one in Twillingate – with the sun setting behind the cliffs. My smile is huge.

Driving distance: 320 km

Day 4: Tuesday, June 11

Open this photo in gallery:

The Tablelands of Gros Morne National Park are where the continents of North America and Africa once collided.Shelby Blackley

Two hours after leaving Burlington, I hit Gros Morne, which almost instantly becomes one of my favourite national parks. The landscape is breathtaking and requires a steady hand when driving. I spend a good chunk of the day in the park, walking various paths and stopping at every possible lookout. It’s a particularly beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky and 18 degrees (warm for the island). I stop for awhile on the Tablelands, an area where the continents of Africa and North America collided. I sit for a good half hour, taking in the stark difference between plains and mountains. Again, I’m alone. And I’m enjoying it so, so much.

I end my day at Trout River, a town on the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the south end of the park. It is here I discover Seaside Restaurant, one of the best seafood joints I’ve ever been to. I order a heaping serving of snow crab (10 huge legs), a Caesar salad (because I’m healthy) and wash it down with an Iceberg beer.

Open this photo in gallery:

Snow crab and Caesar salad at Seaside Restaurant in Trout River, Nfld.Shelby Blackley

Driving distance: 280 km

Day 5: Wednesday, June 12

I head out to see the rest of the park – or at least as much as I can before I have to catch my flight. Still no moose, surprisingly, but I do see a bear and her baby cub.

I’m early for my flight so I sit in the café at Deer Lake Regional Airport reflecting on the journey I just finished. I’m disappointed in some aspects – I wish I had more time to hit up St. Anthony and the western part of the Trans-Canada Highway, but I’m proud of how much ground I covered. I finish my book – and then start making plans to conquer Labrador.

Total driving: 1,053 km

Live your best. We have a daily Life & Arts newsletter, providing you with our latest stories on health, travel, food and culture. Sign up today.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe