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Enjoy a long weekend in Newfoundland and the freedom of a self drive whale watching experience.

St John’s, Newfoundland makes a great base for a long weekend on Canada’s eastern seaboard. Your visit includes two whale watching excursions by boat and you can also see puffins and other seabirds. You’ll have a hire car you can use to get out and enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Cape Shore, and visit its huge colonies of gannets, kittiwakes and Brunnich’s guillemots. From the tops of the high sea-cliffs you can even watch whales as they cavort offshore in their northern coastal feeding grounds.

Suggested itinerary

  1. Day 1: Fly to St John's, collect hire car and transfer to your accommodation

    On arrival at St John's International Airport, collect your hire car and drive to your accommodation nearby.

    You have the use of a small compact hire car with unlimited mileage for the duration of your stay. The car will be issued with a full tank of fuel. To avoid being charged for fuel, you must return it with a full tank at the end of your stay.

  2. Day 2: Whale watching

    This morning you drive to Ferryland (roughly 60 kilometres i.e. an hour's drive away) in time for a whale watching boat trip with a local specialist operator, which has been arranged for you. The trip lasts between 2-5 and 3 hours. The rest of the day is free to enjoy the spectacular coastal scenery, using your hire car.

    First established as a station for migratory fishermen in the late 16th century, the sheltered harbour of Ferryland was used by ships of various European nationalities well before then. By the 1590s, however, it had become one of the most popular anchorages in Newfoundland, and was known to - and praised by - Sir Walter Raleigh. Known as Farilham to the Portuguese fishermen and Forillon to the French, its name was at some stage anglicised to Ferryland.

    A couple of decades later the area was granted by charter to the London and British Company, which founded a number of short-lived English settlements. By 1620 the territory had passed into private hands, and its new owner set about establishing a village that became the first successful permanent colony in Newfoundland, whose population grew in some five years to around 100 souls. In the Charter of Avalon (1623) James I granted the area to Lord Baltimore, creating the Province of Avalon. Baltimore was given complete authority over all matters, and duly selected Ferryland as the site of the principal settlement. Although this was destroyed by New France in 1696 and virtually forgotten for hundreds of years, in the late 1980s archaeologists started to excavate the original settlement.

  3. Day 3: Whale watching

    Today another whale watching boat trip has been arranged for you with a local specialist operator. Once again the trip is scheduled to last between 2.5 and 3 hours, but today it starts right on your doorstep in St John's. As before, the rest of the day is free to enjoy the spectacular coastal scenery, using your hire car.

    You can see whales off the coast of Newfoundland and New Brunswick all year round, but sightings are most common during the period from mid-June through to mid-August. Just before them (i.e. May through to mid-June) and immediately after (i.e. mid-August through to late September) sightings are still possible, but less consistent.

    Humpback whales are easily recognised by their balloon-shaped blow and the way they lift their tails in the air as they dive. Their long, white side flippers can measure as much as one-third of their body length.

    Fin whales have a straight high blow the shape of an ice-cream cone. The next thing you catch sight of is the streamlined black back emerging before its long curved dorsal fin appears above the surface. Its underside is white and its side flippers are small and pointed.

    Solitary minke whales, the smallest baleen whale, are a common sight in the bays off the coast. Their blow is low and often barely noticeable. Minkes are black on top with a tall, hooked dorsal fin and small side flippers with a white patch. Their bellies are pure white.

    The distinguishing feature of the orca, or killer whale, is its pointed fin - which in males can be up to two metres long. Behind the eye you will see a white spot that stands out against the glossy black body. They have been observed eating humpbacks on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

    Harbour porpoises are the smallest of the whale family, called  ""puffin pigs"" in Newfoundland because of the grunt they make while breathing. The rounded head has no beak, the skin is dark grey on the back, and speckled white underneath. Small black flippers are always located on the white portion of the body, and the strong triangular dorsal fin is sited right in the middle of the back.

  4. Day 4: Free day, then depart St John's

  5. Day 5: Arrive UK

Key info

Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
  • Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 5 days from £1,645 pp
  • Duration and price excluding international flights: 4 days from £745 pp
  • When to go: Jun-Aug
  • Activities available:
    • Boat trip
Featured location:

Newfoundland

Each year large numbers of whale, dolphins and porpoises migrate to the waters around the Newfoundland coast – about 15 species are normally present, seasonally or year round. St. Mary’s Bay is well-known for whale watching, and is easy to reach on a self-drive tour from the capital, St John’s.

  • Where: Newfoundland & Labrador
  • Ideal for viewing: fin whale, humpback whale, minke whale, pilot whale, sperm whale
  • Excellent for: Self-drive, Whale watching, Dolphin watching