Puffins, Whales, and Coastal Trails: Hiking Newfoundland's East Coast Trail, Canada

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13233A, Lodge


  • Hike one of the world's most beautiful long-distance coastal trails
  • Take a Zodiac boat ride to see nesting seabirds and humpback whales up close
  • Kayak beneath the dramatic cliffs of Cape Broyle Bay


  • Attractive lodging in St. John's
  • All breakfasts, lunches, and trail snacks
  • All on-trip transportation


DatesJul 13–20, 2013
StaffMarleen Fouche

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Trip Overview

The Trip

On this trip, we'll be hiking Newfoundland's spectacular East Coast Trail, which hugs the rugged edge of Eastern Canada. Our hikes will cover some amazing terrain -- dramatic headlands and colorful rock formations, pristine forests and bakeapple bogs, pocket coves and wide sea meadows. There will be good wildflower viewing on all our hikes; we'll even see orchids and pitcher plants.

We'll have beautiful ocean views from the trail, but to get an even closer look we'll take a Zodiac boat trip into the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve and see islands teeming with millions of nesting puffins, murres, kittiwakes, petrels, and their chicks. We'll also see minke and humpback whales.

We'll also enjoy a guided kayak paddle in Cape Broyle Bay. Novice and experienced paddlers alike will appreciate this unique perspective of the bay's dramatic cliffs, cascading waterfalls, tilted rock formations, and narrow caves. Our guides will help us identify marine life, and with luck lead us to close up views of humpback whales, which are normally in the bay during July.

In St. John's, the cosmopolitan capital of Newfoundland, we'll walk along North America's oldest streets, admiring the brightly painted wooden homes that overlook the harbor. Another part of our city tour will take us along the Narrows, the dramatic entrance to St. John's harbor.

We'll visit Cape Spear, the easternmost point on the North American continent, to tour the 175-year-old restored lighthouse. At Ferryland, we'll visit the museum and take a tour of the archeological dig of the Colony of Avalon, founded in 1621.


Here's the general plan for the week of July 13, however the hikes might change due to the weather.

Day 1: We'll meet at noon at The Roses B&B. We'll pack a lunch and then drive to the Cobbler's Path trailhead in Outer Cove. This is one of the loveliest trails on the East Coast Trail. Distance: 5 miles, with elevation gain. We'll walk around St. John's to view its parks and beautiful homes, then walk to a restaurant for dinner. During the week, there are music and plays available in St. John's for those who wish to do more in the evenings.

Day 2: We'll drive to Pouch Cove to hike the Cape St. Francis Trail, with great views of the ocean from the headlands and a dramatic waterfall that rushes into the sea at Freshwater. Distance: 5 miles, with elevation gain. We'll walk to a restaurant in St. John's for dinner.

Day 3: Today we'll drive to Witless Bay for a Zodiac boat ride to see humpback whales and nesting puffins, murres, kittiwakes, herring gulls, and black-back gulls in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve -- always a great trip. We'll drive to our trailhead in Mobile, have lunch, then hike the Beaches Path along the headland back into Witless Bay. In past years, at Herring Cove we've been able to view the nest of adult bald eagles and their chicks -- we hope they'll be back this year. On this hike, we'll go through a coastal forest with open views of the ocean and of Mobile and Witless bays. It's a flat trail with a short incline or two. Distance: 4 miles, mostly flat. In the evening we'll eat dinner at The Captain's Table in Witless Bay.

Day 4: We'll drive to Cape Spear and walk to the easternmost point of North America to look back toward St. John's and admire the magnificent views of the coastline. We'll tour the restored 175-year-old lighthouse. Then we'll hike the Cape Spear Path out onto the headland. The trail offers open views of the ocean on one side and forest, ponds and bakeapple bogs on the other. Along the trail we can stop to look at the many low-growing bog plants, including Newfoundland's official flower, the pitcher plant. Distance: 8 miles, mostly flat. After the hike, we'll eat dinner in Petty Harbour at Chafe's Landing, then head back to The Roses.

Day 5: After driving to Cape Broyle, we'll kayak with a guide on Cape Broyle Bay and see the bay's dramatic cliffs, cascading waterfalls, tilted rock formations, and narrow caves. Our guides will help us identify the marine life of the bay. After our paddle, we'll drive to Ferryland for a tour of the archeological dig at the Colony of Avalon, founded in 1621. We'll then return to St. John's. In the evening, we'll walk to a restaurant for dinner.

Day 6: Today we'll hike up Signal Hill to tour the Geo Centre's outdoor displays of Newfoundland geology and flowers, and then stop in Cabot Tower to learn the history of Marconi's first wireless transatlantic signal that was sent from here. We'll return to The Roses via a trail along the narrows of St. John's harbor and the Battery. Distance: 3 miles, with elevation gain. The afternoon is free to walk around St. John's, visit The Rooms (St. John's excellent art and natural history museum) or the Geo Centre (a museum with educational displays on Newfoundland's geology), stop in a café or pub, or have tea and all the homemade pastries you could possibly eat at the Anglican Church (Tea in the Crypt). In the evening, we'll walk to a restaurant for dinner.

Day 7: Today we'll drive to Flatrock, shuttle the vans, and then hike from Flatrock to Pouch Cove. Along the way, we'll see sweeping views, dramatic rock formations, waterfalls, and a beautiful sea meadow -- it's the leader's favorite coastal trail. Distance: 7 miles, with elevation gain. We'll walk to a restaurant in St. John's for dinner.

Day 8: After breakfast, those who need a ride to the airport should be packed up and ready to leave by 9:30 a.m., when we'll say our goodbyes.



Getting There

On the first day of the trip, we'll meet at noon at The Roses B&B in downtown St. John's. The taxi ride from the St. John's airport to the B&B takes about 15 minutes and costs approximately $25 Canadian. An email with participant arrival times will be sent out to participants who wish to "cab-pool" from the airport.

St. John's can be reached via nonstop flights from Toronto, Montreal, and Newark. There are also flights from Boston with a stop in Halifax. A passport is required. For those who wish to drive, there is a car ferry (14 hours) from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Argentia, Newfoundland and then a two-hour drive to St. John's. If you are driving, check on current identification requirements. On the trip, we'll be traveling in minivans, so participants will not need to rent cars.

For lodging the night before the trip (not included in the trip price), it works out well for everyone to stay at The Roses B&B, where we'll be spending our week. That way, you can get settled in early, plus you'll be able to meet everyone over a pleasant breakfast at The Roses on the morning of July 13th. Arriving more than a day before the trip will help you recover from jet lag as well as give you extra time to spend in St. John's. Its brightly painted wooden homes, excellent museums, and many pubs and cafés make for an enjoyable visit.

Your flight on the last day should depart no earlier than noon. We will be glad to drive you to the airport that morning. If you need to schedule an earlier flight, a taxi to the St. John's airport is about $25 Canadian. 

Accommodations and Food

The trip price includes seven nights' lodging in St. John's at The Roses B&B, two restored 19th-century homes located across from a park. The rooms are spacious and attractive, with either a queen bed or two beds in each room. Single individuals will share rooms. From The Roses, we can easily walk to restaurants, shops, and pubs.

Our meals begin with lunch on the first day and end with breakfast on our last day. Breakfasts, lunches and trail snacks are included in the trip price. We'll all take turns preparing meals and cleaning up afterwards. To sample the local fare, we'll dine out seven nights at moderately priced restaurants. We'll pay individually for these dinners. Those who have special dietary needs should discuss them with the leader before the trip.

Other Costs:

The Zodiac boat ride to the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve and the kayak trip in Cape Broyle Bay are optional and not included in the trip price. They cost approximately $60 Canadian each. (The Zodiac trip is reduced by $5 if paid in Canadian cash.)

We'll dine out seven nights at moderately priced restaurants. We'll pay individually for these dinners, approximately $30 Canadian depending on your appetite (excluding alcohol, but including tax and tip). For our last dinner, we'll splurge a bit.

Trip Difficulty

Participants must be in excellent physical condition for this trip. On some of the hikes, there will be elevation gains of 1000 to 2000 feet, and the rugged terrain presents a challenge as well. The trails are well defined, but we'll encounter rocky terrain, tree roots, boggy areas and logs, so hikers must be fit and agile. The hikes will cover 5 to 8 miles at a moderate pace, with enough time to stop and take in the wildlife, sweeping views and wildflowers (camera and binoculars are recommended).

Equipment and Clothing

Summers in Newfoundland are pleasant, but rainy days are possible, so waterproof raingear and lug-soled, waterproof hiking boots are required for hiking. Dress in St. John's is casual. The leader will send out a complete equipment list to all trip participants.



  • Morgan, Bernice, Random Passage.
  • Johnston, Wayne, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams.
  • Proulx, Annie, The Shipping News.
  • Hubbard, Mina, A Woman's Way through Unknown Labrador.
  • Wallace, Dillon, The Lure of the Labrador Wild.


  • The East Coast Trail Association puts out a set of excellent maps with descriptions of the completed trails. The maps can be purchased from the Trail Shop on its website, at http://www.eastcoasttrail.com



In only a few years, the nonprofit East Coast Trail Association has planned and built 200 miles of scenic paths along the rugged coastline of Newfoundland. They've broken ground for many more and, when complete, this 300-mile coastal trail will take its place among the world's premier long-distance hiking trails. The association has worked closely with communities along the trail, encouraging them to develop accommodations, restaurants, kayak rentals, craft shops, and similar opportunities to boost the local economies, which were hit hard by the demise of the cod fishery. In some areas, the association is encountering land rights issues caused by increased private development of the coast. Whale researchers have encouraged boat tour operators in the bays and coastal areas of the trail to adopt standards for non-harassment of wildlife. We'll learn more about all of these issues on our trip.

To view photographs and find out more about the East Coast Trail, take a look at the website at http://www.eastcoasttrail.com.



Marleen Fouché has led hiking and service trips in Newfoundland and backpacking trips in California. She views Sierra Club trips as a wonderful way for people to explore new areas and to enjoy the solitude of the outdoors with the companionship of a group.

Assistant Leader:

Alline Anderson has been leading Sierra Club trips since 1991 and loves doing it! Beginning in the backpack section, she has since branched out into lodge, Hawaii, and international trips. At home she runs a bookstore for a small non-profit, where she gets paid to play with books on ecology, nature, sustainability, and alternative building. When she is not reading, hiking, or hanging out with her husband Kurt, she can be found in the garden, at the quilt frame, or running around the 280 acres of Dancing Rabbit EcoVillage with her dog.

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