This is not intended to be every possible way to get to Newfoundland. We've just got some basic information on flying, driving and ferries. Some of the stuff you may have questions about when planning your trip.
First time driving for us was June 2015. We were pulling our trailer, so it was a little slower. The ferry dock in North Sydney, NS is as far from London, ON as Orlando, FL. We took 3 days for the trip down.
We made sure we weren't going through Toronto during rush hour. We went by Montréal and Québec City on a Saturday. Your GPS or Google might tell you to cross Montréal on the Trans Canada (Autoroute 40). I'd highly recommend you take the new Autoroute 30 that bypasses Montréal to the south. There is a small toll ($2.00) at the bridge crossing the St. Lawrence, but it's well worth it. The new bypass rejoins the Trans Canada (Autoroute 20) just west of St. Hyacinthe. From there it's clear sailing through to Québec City.
The final large city to get by is Québec City. Just stay on the Trans Canada (Autoroute 20) and you'll pass through Lévis, which is across the river from Québec City. There is a nice view of the bridge, the city and the mountains on the north side. Traffic still gets quite heavy, so avoid rush hours.
Québec has nice roadside rest areas and lots of places to stop for gas or restaurants. Most of Québec is divided highway and fairly flat. You get into mountains between Riviére-du-Loup and the New Brunswick border. Some of that is two-lane (Highway 185), a good road with passing lanes on the hills. It looks like they plan to make the entire stretch a divided highway (Autoroute 85). According to Wiki, this will be complete in 2018. The time changes at the New Brunswick border, so you lose an hour that travel day.
New Brunswick is bigger than you think and there's lots of big hills. The road is all divided highway. There are lots of places to stop most of the way. There's quite a stretch between Fredricton and Moncton where there's not many places to stop.
In Nova Scotia there is a small section of the Trans Canada that's a toll road. It was only about $5.00 for the truck and trailer. When you get close to the Canso Causeway, stop at one of the places there before you cross to Cape Breton Island. That's a good place for fuel and a snack. The next place to stop is a bit down the road.
When you get across the causeway, it's a little tricky. There is a traffic circle and you have to pay attention to get on the road to North Sydney and the ferry. The drive across Cape Breton is pretty, it's a winding two-lane road. Just before you get to the ferry terminal in North Sydney there are several places to stop. Take advantage, buy fuel (it's normally cheaper in Nova Scotia), and get a bite to eat, because there's not much at the ferry terminal.
I had a lot of questions about the ferry, particularly because I was towing a trailer. They were not all answered on the Marine Atlantic website, so hopefully this little write-up will answer some of your questions.
There are two ferries on the North Sydney to Port aux Basques run. They leave at 11:45 in the morning and 11:45 at night. The morning ferry would get into Port aux Basques at about 7:00 PM. The overnight ferry gets into Port aux Basques about 7:00 AM.
You need to make reservations in advance for the ferry. You make your reservations on the Marine Atlantic website. If you are towing a trailer, you'll need to measure your unit, bumper to bumper. If you are driving a car or standard size pickup truck, it's the same price. You need to list passengers and each passenger will need photo ID when you arrive at the ferry terminal. If you are going to reserve a cabin, you do this at the same time on the website. You pay for everything in advance by credit card.
Once you've completed your reservation, they'll send you an e-mail of your itinerary. (You'll probably book your return trip at the same time). Print out the e-mail, when you get to the terminal, all you do is hand them the e-mail.
They will give you boarding passes at the booth. If you have reserved a cabin, they will give you a key-card for your cabin. Keep the boarding passes handy. They will ask to see it again before you load your vehicle.
At the booth they will instruct you which lane to line-up in. About 2 hours before departure they make an announcement at the terminal to return to your vehicle, so loading can commence. They tell you to be there 2 hours before departure, I'd recommend you get there about 3 hours ahead.
Before you load your vehicle on the ferry, make sure you have a bag packed with everything you think you'll need while you are onboard. The islanders always take blankets along on the ferry. Once your vehicle is loaded, you are asked to proceed to the passenger decks. You cannot stay in your vehicle, and you cannot return to it during the voyage.
We like taking the night ferry and booking a room. It costs about $140 for us to book a room, so it's just a bit more than a B&B or a motel. We take our stuff up to our cabin and then we go down to the bar, where you can get a good view of departure. We'll head to bed about 12:30 AM. They make an announcement that you hear on an intercom in your room about an hour before arrival. We found that gives us time for a quick shower and we go down to the dining area for breakfast and coffee. It's quite nice, you can watch the arrival, while having breakfast. They make another announcement to go to your vehicle, depending on which deck it's on.
If you get seasick, make sure to take Gravol. If you forgot to bring some you should be able to get some at the pursers office on the boat.
If your room is on the outside of the boat you have a window, but for most of the trip, there's not much to see.
Getting off the ferry in either North Sydney or Port aux Basques is pretty simple. Just follow the line of cars, you're right on the Trans Canada. In Port aux Basques you can take the first exit, there is a Horton's and convenience stores. If you didn't buy breakfast on the ferry, you may be out of luck, generally restaurants and stores in Port aux Basques are not open when the boat unloads.
Just past Port aux Basques, you can stop at the Newfoundland Visitor Centre, which is right on the Trans Canada. In Newfoundland, they refer to the Trans Canada as TCH, and that's often all that's on the sign, when you are coming off side roads.
If you are going anyplace on the west half of the island (including the Northern Peninsula), consider flying into Deer Lake. There are direct flights from Toronto with both WestJet and Air Canada. The flight is only about 2½ hours. If you leave Toronto in the morning, you'll still have most of the day to enjoy after you arrive in Newfoundland early in the afternoon, even with the 1½ hour time change.
If you are planning to fly in, the first thing you need to do before booking accommodations is to reserve your rental car. There are a limited number of rental cars on the island. In peak season, they can all be gone. We arrived in early June, which is before the busiest time and we had to wait for our car to be washed from the previous customer.
Deer Lake is a very nice airport. You just walk out the door to the rental car park. You'll be in Rocky Harbour in 1½ hours.
If you are starting your trip in Twillingate or Fogo Island, you'll want to fly into Gander. Same advise as Deer Lake, make sure you have a rental car reserved in advance. Usually you'll get to Gander on a connecting flight from Halifax.
Gander is also very convenient, with the rental car park just outside the airport door. If you are heading for Twillingate, it's about a 2 hour drive.
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