10 Things to Know Before You Visit Gros Morne National Park

Several months ago, I did a 6 day road trip from New York City with friends all the way up to Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland with very little planning and more so impromptu research as we went.

In hindsight, that lack of planning led to many mistakes being made and time lost, but despite the setbacks, we were able to have an incredible adventure and in this post, I want to share with you how to get the most out of a visit to this area as well as avoid the mistakes we had made along the way!

Firstly, it’s important to know why it’s even worth checking this place out and in case you’re not sure why Gros Morne National Park is worth visiting, here are:

The 7 best things to do in Gros Morne National Park Newfoundland:

  1. It has a famous area that looks like Norway (the Fjords).
  2. It also has icebergs.
  3. If you time it right, you may also see northern lights in Gros Morne as well.
  4. Additionally, there’s amazing coastal spots if you know where to go.
  5. There is a part of Gros Morne that is entirely on volcanic land.
  6. This area is also famous for having amazing tide changes you can witness.
  7. There’s amazing wildlife in the area including whales.

I had learned about these 7 things prior to checking it out and it’s what ultimately drew me here, but again lack of planning and understanding where and when to see what’s above led me to miss many of those things, a mistake I will help you avoid and for that, you need to know the following:

Here are the 10 things to know about Gros Morne National Park (before you go):

gros morne national park new 01

 

  1. The worst way to get to Gros Morne National Park is via ferry.
  2. The best way to get there is via plane.
  3. You can see icebergs on the eastern shore of Newfoundland.
  4. The main spot to see is Western Brook Pond (fjords).
  5. Here’s a list of what else there is to see besides the fjords.
  6. Visit Tablelands, it’s the volcanic part of Gros Morne.
  7. You can see the high low tides in many places there.
  8. The best place to see the northern lights is around St. Anthony.
  9. Beware of the moose (there’s many).
  10. Make sure to check out Trout River. It’s next to Gros Morne.

I’m going to detail every single one of these things so you have a better understanding of what to avoid and what to look for to truly experience the best this park has to offer.

The 10 things we learned about Gros Morne National Park (details):

Trust me when I say, that if you read these things, you will enjoy your trip there even more than we did (and avoid the annoying negative things we experienced too).

how to get to gros morne national park 01

1) Many people don’t know how to get to Gros Morne National Park but here’s the worst way to do it:

 

Gros Morne National Park is in Newfoundland but that happens to be a giant island basically and if you wish to get to there, you have 2 main methods:

Ferry or plane (next thing to know).

If you’re coming into Newfoundland from the south like we did which would be from Nova Scotia, there is a popular Ferry ride available that goes there.

The ferry is available (by reservation) in a place called North Sydney. One of the few right decisions my friends and I made while headed to Gros Morne National Park in New Foundland was reserve a spot a day ahead for the ferry, but in hindsight we regret it and here’s why:

  • There are 2 ferries which travel from North Sydney to Newfoundland.
  • One is in the morning and one is at night (we chose the latter).
  • The ferry ride itself is about 7-8 hours.
  • On top of that long ride, unless you register a cabin to stay in on the ferry, you’re likely not going to have a very unpleasant experience.

On the boat ride there, we slept in seats and on the carpet floor. The heater was also turned on very high so it was difficult to sleep. Very few areas in the ferry were open so there wasn’t much to do except perhaps star gaze (that’s actually not a bad sight, but it’s cold outside the ferry).

The food wasn’t that good either, and overall, it’s an experience I do not wish to repeat (but we had to do it again on our way back so we could get home). And on the ferry ride back, it was even worse, there was basically no heater and we were all freezing for hours before we finally got back to North Sydney. 

You can technically save more money with the ferry ride because you can take your own car, but it’ll add up and so I recommend the next option.

st johns newfoundland to gros morne 02

2) The closest airport near Gros Morne National Park is in St. Johns:

 

We didn’t know that Newfoundland had an airport and it’s called St. Johns International airport.

It’s located on the eastern side of Newfoundland. There is another one, but from my knowledge, most commercial flights don’t go there (it’s actually closer to the park). Anyway, the drive from St. Johns Internationall airport to Gros Morne is about 4 hours one way.

Depending on the prices for the ride there and renting a car, you may end up paying more or less the same than you would if you took your own car and did the ferry ride (which is also about 4 hours from the park) and remember, if you go into Newfoundland on ferry, you also have to leave it by ferry too, so that’s another expense to consider.

One potential option to consider is flying in for a few days, renting a car in Newfoundland, enjoying the sights and then exiting via the ferry to Nova Scotia instead of taking a plane back so you can explore more provinces in Canada like Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and trust me, there’s a lot of awesome places to see there too like Bay of Fundy and the Cabot Trail.

I would recommend taking some time to enjoy St. Johns in general because it has a lot of sights, is a big city and has many historic areas to enjoy as well.

Whichever option you choose (ferry or plane), you need to know 3 other important things:

  1. There are only 2 main roads in Newfoundland and one of them leads to Gros Morne.
  2. There isn’t much to see most of the time you’re on these roads until you reach the national park.
  3. Additionally, there are a few towns in Newfoundland to check out for restaurants and hotels and they are Stephenville, obviously St. Johns, St. Anthony, Corner Brook and Rocky Harbor (closest to Gros Morne). There are other very small towns, but these are the biggest.

iceberg in gros morne newfoundland 03

3) Icebergs can be seen off the eastern and northern shores of Newfoundland:

 

For the most part, the best areas to see them is:

  • St. Johns which is on the eastern side of the province (where you would take a plane).
  • St. Anthony’s which is the northern most point of Newfoundland.

Your odds of seeing icebergs near Gros Morne National Park are highly unlikely and I’m just letting you know this because I saw several photos of them associated with the park so I assumed they were in the area, but they aren’t.

Now another thing to know is that seeing the icebergs is also dependent on when you visit Newfoundland.

The more towards the colder seasons you visit (past September) the more likely you’ll see them, including the gigantic ones and there are even boat tours you can take around St. Johns to get close to them (whale watching is another attraction there).

gros morne newfoundland new 07

4) Western Brook Pond is the main attraction in Gros Morne National Park (fjords):

Based on my research, the most popular photos you see of Gros Morne National Park are the fjords that look like they’re in Norway and what you need to know is that this particular section of the park is called Western Brook Pond. I have included a link with everything you need to know about visiting that spot, but the short summary is this:

  • Western Brook Pond is a very remote area in Gros Morne National Park.
  • You can take a boat tour to see the fjords.
  • The very famous overlook is here.
  • This is the most popular Gros Morne hiking trail.
  • Hiking here has many restrictions, options and costs money.
  • It is truly a stunning area to check out.
  • There’s more to know but that link above will explain what you need to know.

gros morne national park tablelands new 02

5) Explore the Gros Morne National Park Tablelands (volcanic desert land):

Another section of Gros Morne I didn’t know existed until I came here is a place called Tablelands which is actually amazing and highly recommended.

Tablelands is a desert like area of the park that has awesome trails and there’s even a divide in the land where the green area of Gros Morne cuts off and the desert begins and I’ve included a photo of that so you can see what I mean.

I did a short hike in Tablelands to get a great view of this spot, but it is absolutely amazing especially when you see the divide area between the volanic land and green spots.

I later learned that Western Brook and Tablelands are 2 of the most popular attractions in the park to explore, so make sure you don’t miss this one and there are tours, hikes and even a waterfall in this area too!

gros morne hike new 03

 

6) Here’s what to see in Gros Morne National Park (besides the fjords and Tablelands):

 

Let’s say you’re on your way to check out Gros Morne or perhaps you finished exploring it. What else is there to check out in terms of scenic spots? Well there are other parks and regions in Newfoundland besides this area to explore:

  • Pistolet Bay Provincial Park (mellow park in the northern section of Newfoundland).
  • Cape Norman Lighthouse (near Pistolet Bay).
  • Rocky Harbour (great place for restaurants and sunset views).
  • Barlett’s Point Park (great high and low tide views).
  • Barachois Pond Provincial Park (south of Gros Morne, great hiking trails).
  • Terra Nova National Park (close to St. Johns, also has good hiking trails).
  • Steady Brook Falls (giant waterfall at the southern entrance of Gros Morne).
  • Arch Rock (north eastern coast of Newfoundland, hard to reach but good views).

Obviously you should prioritize visiting Gros Morne National Park first as it is the main attraction of Newfoundland for good reason.

7) Where to see the best high and low tides in Gros Morne:

things to do in gros morne national park new 08

Something I didn’t see talked about when I was looking into this park was the high tide experience, but it is absolutely one of the best attractions in Gros Morne National Park. The key is knowing where to see it and that would have to be Norris Point.

Additionally, one of the things that apparently makes Eastern Canada worth visiting is the fact that some of the biggest high tides happen in this area, particularly Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy that I mentioned earlier, but they are also amazing to witness in Gros Morne National Park too.

I’ve included a map that shows you where the best high and low tide experience is. In fact, I missed an opportunity to stay at a hotel right by Norris Point to actually witness this and it was right around the time high tide was supposed to start. Unfortunately, a 10 minute delay in decision making led to the last hotel room being filled up there but the actual bay near Norris Point is very scenic and you can see it up close from that spot, or from a distance if you travel to Tablelands.

best time to visit gros morne new 04

 

8) You can see the northern lights at Gros Morne National Park (but St. Anthony is the best place for it):

Our trip took place in early September, and there are images on Google which show that Gros Morne does have northern lights around that time, but apparently they happen more frequently closer to the winter there, and if you can time your trip to this park in October and up, then you have a good chance of seeing them.

Sadly in our case, we weren’t there at the right season and if you really want to have a strong chance of seeing these lights in this province, head further north to St. Anthony.

That town is said to have good chances of seeing them, but it is 400 km away from the park, so plan wisely. Otherwise, you can see the lights within the park, but it has to be during wintertime.

If you have the option and love mountains and want to see the Northern lights, there are 2 options:

moose gros morne national park 01

9) There are many moose in Gros Morne and around Newfoundland:

I’ve never seen so many warning signs for moose until I visited this area.

If I were you, I’d only travel during the day and keep your eyes open, especially when you hike here. And it’s just as important you be careful when driving around Newfoundland as you may get distracted by the views.

In fact, on our way to Newfoundland, we were traveling through Maine at night and ran into a moose on the road. And they are apparently just as frequent (if not moreso) to run into further north.

I’m happy to say that at least for us, we didn’t see a single moose in Gros Morne while we were there but there’s a strong possibility you might if you visit this place.

In addition there is other wildlife in Gros Morne (like bears).

gros morne national park trout river eastern point trail

10) Visit Trout River and explore Eastern Point Trail!

 

One of the last locations my buddies and I visited before leaving the park was Trout River, a cove like location similar to Rocky Harbor and it is located south west of Tablelands.

It’s officially not part of Gros Morne National Park, but the landscape is amazing and worth the visit. Basically the cove itself is a beach with large cliffs, wild sheep and a few great restaurants. There’s also a trail called Eastern Point trail that I recommend exploring that has amazing costal views.

I’ve compared the views in Trout River to some spots I saw on the California coast as well as the Oregon Coast, although I’d say the coastlines in those states are better in every way.

Yet if you visit Gros Morne National Park, I assure you that you only stand to gain great views and experiences by hiking to Trout River and it’ll be a great way to mix up your experiences in the area.

And for hikes in Gros Morne, these products should have you covered and ready:

Questions about Gros Morne National Park:

What is so special about Gros Morne National Park?

There are several features which make Gros Morne very special including the volcanic rock area of it, seeing the northern lights, the high and low tides, and the fjords of Western Brook Pond.

How many days do you need in Gros Morne National Park?

Generally if you spend 2-3 days in Gros Morne National Park, you should be able to see and do most of the main activities there.

Is Gros Morne worth visiting?

Gros Morne is beautiful but generally speaking, there more southern provinces of Canada (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) have more to offer in my opinion.

How hard is the Gros Morne hike?

The popular hike in Gros Morne to the famous overlook is about 5 km one way and is pretty strenuous. You are also required to hire a guide beforehand.

Overall, would I recommend checking out Gros Morne National Park?

For a one time visit, it’s a pretty awesome spot to visit, so yes.

And considering we literally only spent 1-2 days there, we didn’t get a chance to explore it as much as we wanted, but the lessons we learned and from what we saw, we really did enjoy the experience.

I would say there’s better parks I’ve been to and recently, taking a trip to the Pacific Northwest of the U.S, on the opposite end of Eastern Canada, it really made me wonder if I had a choice to revisit the areas there or Newfoundland, the answer would easily be the west coast.

Gros Morne National Park as of now is a one time visit for me personally and this is mainly due to the logistics of reaching it. I have been fortunate enough to visit other spots in Canada that I also find to be a bit more adventurous such as:

I’d recommend all of these places above Gros Morne National Park, not just for the better views, but the easier logistics of reaching them, but that’s my personal opinion.

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12 thoughts on “10 Things to Know Before You Visit Gros Morne National Park”

  1. I really enjoyed your post, very informative! Only yesterday, my husband and I decided to take our camper van (we live on the Jersey Shore) to Nova Scotia and then up to Gros Morne NP sometime in Aug so was delighted to find your blog and read your highlights/opinion.

    We did a 9 month, 16,000 mile tour of much of the western US in 2020-2021, seeing some of the most stunning scenery ever, which made especially appreciate your comparison to some of those sites to keep our expectations at bay. We had missed Banff because of the border closing and I can’t get hubby to travel across the country again (we returned to the west this past Jan for a shorter 3 month excursion) so driving to NL seemed like a more doable option while still visiting new territory.

    I was ‘kinda’ looking forward to the ferry but after reading your experience, I’m now not sure since our camper van is our lodging therefore have no choice but to take it across with us. I think we will now look more into the cabins.

    Am so glad I found you while Googling Bay of Fundy! Signed up for your newsletter and will certainly be checking out much more of your blog. Great content!

    Reply
    • Hi Sandy, thank you very much! Regarding your trip to Gros Morne, I’d just pay for a cabin and do the overnight thing if you can to give you more time to explore the area. Really glad you got to see the western US and I have so many places that I’ve seen there and recommend you check out too so if you have any questions about that, feel free to let me know! Hope your future trips are just as awesome if not more than before and that you get to see Banff and the Canadian Rockies, as they are truly something and perfect for exploring in a camper van!

      Another very interesting place I think you would enjoy checking out is the North Shore in Minnesota and South Shore of Wisconsin and Michigan. Amazing places which are also great for such trips!

      Reply
    • We brought our camper across on the ferry and it was wonderful. We sailed during the day and enjoyed the spectacular weather on deck. We packed a backpack to bring with us during the sail that included all the drinks and snacks we wanted. The reclining seats were comfortable. The room was a bit stuffy, but I really didn’t spend my time in the seats since it was a nice day on deck.

      Reply
      • Hi Melinda, I wish I had a similar experience when I was on the ferry to New Foundland. My experience was completely different, in a bad way, but I now know to either rent a room on the ferry or take a plane to St. Johns instead.

        Reply
  2. I’m just a NL citizen, and not involved in the tourism industry at all. I do love Gros Morne and have spent a lot of time there. Glad that you enjoyed your trip, and most of your troubles with the vacation were due to quick planning.

    The government’s tourism sites should be a good starting place for planning a well-organized fulfilling vacation. The ferry is annoying, but like you said, a night crossing is most advisable.

    There are several airports in Newfoundland, the one in Deer Lake being only 35 km from Gros Morne Park. Not sure what post-pandemic tourism will look like, but most attractions at Gros Morne are outdoor activities, so there shouldn’t be many problems. There are hiking trails to meet a wide variety of abilities, and a wide variety of cultural experiences (Woody Point Writer’s festival, Theatre at Cow Head, boat tours, etc).

    Reply
    • Hi Darryl, I know I rushed to see Gros Morne NP when I went and I certainly made a number of mistakes, but overall, I enjoyed the experience and want to thank you for suggesting the things you did.

      Reply
  3. Hi! Wow, this park sounds amazing! Thanks for allowing us to see your vacation through pictures. 

    I really love the Tablelands where there’s a desert on one side and green mountains on the other the point where the two worlds collide. Just amazing to think about. I know I want to go there now, and I never even knew this place existed before. Do you know how warm does it get in the summer? 

    Reply
    • I’d say it can get pretty hot there Lynda. Judging by the green nature there, I am certain that spot gets a lot of sun and I wouldn’t be surprised if temperatures there hit over 80 degrees in the summer. But it IS very cold there too, especially at night. Like I said, I went in September of 2018 and at night, it was literally freezing there.

      Reply
  4. Reading about your trip and seeing your gorgeous pictures made me put Gros Morne on my bucket list. Especially if I’d have a chance to see the northern lights there. 

    It seems to me you are a very active and sportive person. Do you think it would be enjoyable too for someone who has less stamina? I wonder if there are possibilities for people who can’t hike for hours, but who love recreational walks in nature. 

    Sometimes the best views and most beautiful places can only be reached after long hikes. How fit would I need to be to enjoy Gros Morne National Park?

    Reply
    • Most of the scenic spots in Gros Morne are right off the road and you can honestly do most of the scenic hikes without issues. For Western Brook Pond, which is the most popular spot, you will have to walk a few kilometers to reach the boating area, but from there, they’ll take you across the gorge and you won’t have to do much from there but enjoy the sights 🙂

      Reply

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