Exploring the Irish Loop in Newfoundland, Canada
Updated: Jun 24
A Magical Trip to Ferryland, Newfoundland and Back Again
Though most travel has completely shuttered we are fortunate to live in a province that has so many magical seaside towns. One of the unique enclaves in Newfoundland is the Irish Loop. Along this route you will find pristine places for whale, bird and iceberg viewing and the perfect rest stop for a magical lunch.
The start of the Loop (Southern Shore Highway/Route 10) is just a 10 minute drive outside of the Capital, St. John's and will circle you around the whole southern shore of the Avalon Peninsula. If you drive the whole Loop without stopping it would take you about four and a half hours to complete. Of course there is so much beauty to take in from the passenger seat as you wind through vast marshes and colourful hamlets, but it wouldn't be a real road trip if it didn't include a few sights to visit.
This adventure will explore the first third of the loop, from St. John's to Ferryland and back again. Which, round-trip this is only about a two hour trip, minus the sightseeing along the way.
Photo by Rocket Bakery
Starting off your road trip in St. John's, I would strongly suggest getting a breakfast to go from Rocket Bakery. Located on one of the main downtown streets (Water Street) their brightly decorated cafe offers scrumptious options that are easy to take on the road. Two of my favourite treats from them are the fish cakes, which they make fresh every day and can reheat for you before you go, and their carrot cheese cake. The cake offers layers of cheese cake and carrot cake with a whipped cream cheese icing, it is DIVINE! Since your second stop along the Loop will be a boat tour, I do suggest having something light in your stomach to quell any motion sickness if that is an issue for you, like it is for me.
The first leg of the drive to stop number one, Bay Bulls, is somewhat uneventful. Mostly it takes you through relatively flat land that is either farms or deeply forested. It is right as you are about to make your first stop that the whole land opens up before you, showcasing the beautiful town of Bay Bulls. Here is where you will hop on board Gatherall's and enjoy a puffin and whale tour around Witless Bay and Gull Island.
To be 100 percent honest I am not a bird person, but I do love Atlantic Puffins. Not only are they the provincial bird they are also the cutest little colourful puffs that are quite clumsy. In the summer months they literally flood the skies around Witless Bay. It is the largest colony in North America and only a 15 minute boat ride from Bay Bulls. While here they mate and gobble up all the fish they can. The abundant of sea life is also why whales are usually easy to spot here. It is also a part of iceberg alley, so if you visit in late spring you may be able to see them as well like we did.
The tiny specks in the sky above the mom and calf humpback whale are all birds! Puffins, gulls and razorbills.
If you are feeling particularly adventurous you could pay to be screeched in on Gatherall's as well, but I would say that it isn't for someone who would mind getting wet. I won't ruin the surprise but I will say if you have plans to continue the next part of the trip pack some extra shoes and maybe socks as well.
After your boat trip it's time to get back on the road to your lunch stop.
It was only a year ago, when my dad came for a visit, that I found my favourite place in Newfoundland, Ferryland Lighthouse Picnics. Though the name Ferryland sounds like a town plucked straight from a children's story book this magical place wasn't really named after faeries. The name Ferryland is probably derived from the French (forillon) or Portuguese (farelhão) for "steep rock" or "reef," and was first noted on maps as early as 1529.
Located along the Avalon Peninsula this idyllic area is home to the best "dining table" views around. Usually in the summer this experience gets very quickly booked but 2020 would be an ideal time to go if you are looking for a stay-cation day trip.
After a 30 minute hike from the rustic parking lot (there is also a "shuttle" available if needed) you come upon the magical white and red lighthouse that is home to Lighthouse Picnics. Every day the people who are fortunate to work here bake fresh bread and desserts. Each time I have gone I select the curry chicken salad sandwich, orzo salad and a dessert that features seasonal fruit. You also get a large mason jar of freshly squeezed Lemonade. Everything is incredible, not to mention that you get to pick your very own seaside picnic spot to enjoy.
While devouring your lunch you can take in the breathtaking views and maybe even spot a few whales splashing by. The cliffs along Ferryland also make for an ideal photo shoot spot for your Instagram. I just told my friend Brit that if we had to do our wedding photos again I would do them here.