The second portion of our trip in Newfoundland we took the little Twinnebago and headed east to the other coast. This particular adventure was built around our choice for the whale tour which was in Bay Bulls, Nfld just a short distance from St. John’s.
We barely got started on our day of driving when we saw signs for the Newfoundland Insectarium. And since this is the trip for rest stops and adventures we stopped.
One child was more willing to hold bugs.
We enjoyed a butterfly garden and even saw one come out of it’s cocoon.
When planning this venture east we needed to keep in mind the long drive back to the ferry just 2 days later so we opted to say a few hours out from St John’s. The choice in the end was the other national park called Terra Nova and the campground is Newman Sound. I found the search for a good campground was a bit tricky on this end. Reviews aren’t great for a lot of them. And I like the idea of taking advantage of as many national parks as we can on this 150th birthday year of Canada so this was a desirable option.
The general impression of the campground was that it was very busy compared to the one we just came from at Gros Morne National Park. Way more trailers and busyness overall. It didn’t have the private sites that I prefer with lots of trees and underbrush (we did get one of the better sites), but it did appear to be a great place for long stays with kids. There was a schedule of events each day and it was enough to keep people busy. Especially families. When booking I was under the impression we had water and electricity. Turned out that we did not have water, but it was fine. We were only using the campground to sleep in anyway.
The visitor centre at the park has high reviews so we set up camp and went back to check it out. It really is pretty and had another touch tank for the girls. HUGE starfish!
First thing on the agenda the next morning was to get to Bay Bulls for our whale watching excursion. I’ve been looking forward to this since forever. We turned off the main highway to St. John’s and onto yet another very bumpy small road and it was so nice not to be cringing at every bump and wondering about the trailer. We could bounce all the way down the road and just enjoy the scenery and, boy oh boy, the scenery!! It just keeps getting better and better. I thought I loved the west side, but the east side took me further into what felt like the Irish countryside. Instead of rocky hills it was more like hills with rocks.
The town of Bay Bulls itself was super quaint. Much like the town of Petty Harbour that we drove through later that day. These towns on the ocean are so intriguing to me. The houses are all built on the slope of the hills so it seems everyone has a view. I’m probably intrigued partially because I have no idea what maritime life is like. I kept asking myself “What does everyone do around here? Are they all fishermen?” I doubt it, but coming from the prairies this girl can only wonder.
The tour company is called O’Brien’s Boat Tours and is family run. You could tell by the younger boys that were helping out on the tour. Our main guide was hilarious. He sang for us a couple times as we attempted to sing along and mentioned that he’s sung for years with a group that I recognized the name of but can not for the life of me remember now. Google is not helping either. He was very knowledgable about all the creatures we saw and pointed out a few defective whales (ones that wouldn’t show their tales when he expected.)
This particular day the sighting were 3 different whale species of which the humpback was the most visible. We were surrounded on all sides with probably 30 in the area. The other two were Minke and Fin. My youngest and I were disappointed to hear that the day before they had orcas, but we missed out. My bucket list includes seeing orcas outside of SeaWorld.
The other thing that people come to this tour to see is the birds. I took pictures like everyone else and smelled the stench as we floated right by the bird sanctuary/island. It was pretty disgusting. To get a beautiful description of this portion of the day you’d have to ask someone who doesn’t have issues with birds…. The puffins were cute though!!
We went from there thru the previously mentioned Petty Harbour and on to Cape Spear. This was one stop that I read as TripAdvisors #2 tourist destination in the St John’s area. Normally I’m not too impressed with tourist infested areas and not because the stop itself isn’t great, but rather I find myself so disappointed that my view isn’t the same as all the pictures I’ve seen. Instead I’m surrounded by so many people I can really never get a good photo and I feel like I’ve been tricked. That said, I felt like it would be a good stop to fill our day. After all, it was right along the road to the city.
WOW! Amazing! The water and the rocks are stunning!
On one side we walked up a path that was surprisingly, free of other people so I got lots of good shots! Once on top of the hill and at the lighthouses that changed but I was so enthralled with everything at this point I didn’t care. On the other side we saw whales breaching close to the rocks and I just spun in circles. Slow circles. I wasn’t doing any Sound of Music scenes. “The hills are alive…..!” I felt like every time I turned around the view took my breath away again. If you’ve been keeping up with my daily Instagram log of our trip you’ll have read my sentiment “You can have your sandy shores. I’ll take the rocky shores with my whole heart.” Or something like that. A sandy beach has never caught my breath like this has. Ever.
Once again we were able to take advantage of Canada’s birthday since this is yet another historical site and they all have free admission this year. So, in we went to the old lighthouse that is now a museum.
Our girls learned on this leg of our trip about the Parks Canada Xplorers program for kids thanks to a very informative park attendant when we checked into Terra Nova. The national parks and national sites have a little booklet for kids to complete and then hand in for a special dog tag with the name of that particular site on it. Cape Spear had one and our oldest was very intent on doing the work to get her tag.
With the booklet activities to complete and the beauty of this site taking our attention we spent more time here than intended so our stop in St John’s would be short. We had one thing we wanted to see and that was the jelly bean houses which are all over the downtown of St. John’s. We found a place on the harbour to park and just walked around for awhile. The houses really are something to see.
We had some pizza from Piatto Pizzeria for supper and headed back to the campground. The next day was going to be a long day. We had a long drive back to the ferry and back to the mainland.
We packed so much into a short week. It’s hard to believe. Erick did some math and figured that with the miles we’ve put on our car up till now we could have driven to Guatemala. Yikes! We’re ready for the next part of our trip that has some longer stays and less driving days.