From the towering Tablelands of Gros Morne National Park to the windswept fishing villages lining its shores, the Great Northern Peninsula in Western Newfoundland is majestic at every turn. These unbelievable vistas will lure you, but it’s the warmth that will make you glad you came. The friendly greetings, genuine conversations, and Newfoundland home cooking combine with the scenery to make a Viking Trail road trip entirely unlike any other.
We think the Viking Trail road trip is one of the best road trips in Canada. Discover it for yourself before the secret gets out.
Where is the Great Northern Peninsula?
The Great Northern Peninsula is the northernmost portion of the island of Newfoundland and is its largest and longest peninsula. The Viking Trail follows Newfoundland Route 430 for the peninsula’s entire length, and this makes for a spectacular road trip.
Where do you stop on the Viking Trail?
The Viking Trail includes Gros Morne National Park, L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, and points in between. We recommend dedicating five to seven days to a Viking Trail road trip itinerary, depending on your preferred pace. This will give you time to travel the full length of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula and enjoy the many sights and experiences along the route.
As you’re planning your trip, keep in mind there’s only one road into and out of the Great Northern Peninsula. You won’t mind, we promise—a Viking Trail road trip is so stunning, you’ll be glad to do it twice! That said, it’s wise to plan some stops for your northbound drive to St. Anthony and others for the southbound return trip. This will help break up the drive in both directions.
Viking Trail road trip, stop 1: Deer Lake
Deer Lake, Newfoundland, is a natural starting and ending point for a Viking Trail road trip. Newfoundland Route 430, the road designated as the Viking Trail, branches away from the Trans-Canada Highway in Deer Lake. At 413 kilometres, Route 430 is the longest road on the island, apart from the Trans-Canada Highway itself.
The town of Deer Lake sits on the shore of a lake that shares its name. If you’re driving, you’ll approach from Port aux Basques and Corner Brook from the west. Coming from the east, you’ll arrive via Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor. Several airlines operate direct flights from elsewhere in Eastern Canada to Deer Lake, either seasonally or year-round. These include Air Canada, Flair Airlines, and PAL Airlines, Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial airline.
Should you fly or take the ferry to Newfoundland? We’ll share our thoughts on this very soon!
If you’re looking for a good night’s sleep before setting off on your Viking Trail road trip, we recommend the Holiday Inn Express Deer Lake. This hotel offers clean and comfortable rooms, an indoor pool, and an extensive breakfast buffet. It’s located less than 10 minutes from the Deer Lake Regional Airport and less than a kilometre off the Trans-Canada Highway.
Enjoy creepy crawly fun at the Newfoundland Insectarium
Before you leave Deer Lake or on your way back into town, be sure to visit the Newfoundland Insectarium. At this summer attraction, you’ll see a beehive producing honey, a two-storey colony of leafcutter ants, a butterfly conservatory, and thousands of live and preserved insects from around the world. This is a fascinating way to spend a couple of hours or more, especially if you have kids along!
Viking Trail road trip, stop 2: Gros Morne National Park
The first major landmark you’ll encounter after leaving Deer Lake is Gros Morne National Park. You’ll be on Route 430 for less than half an hour before you reach the entrance gate. It will take roughly another 30 minutes from there to reach the town of Rocky Harbour. Most visitors use Rocky Harbour as their home base for their stay in Gros Morne National Park.
With so much incredible geology to explore, Gros Morne National Park is one of the true gems of Canada’s national park system. Take a boat tour to see the far reaches of Western Brook Pond, one of Canada’s most iconic vistas. Drive on Route 431 between Woody Point and Trout River to follow the Tablelands scenic drive. This is one of the few places on the planet where the Earth’s mantle is exposed.
Tour the historic Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse, visit a working marine research station, and end your days in either a cozy hotel room or a rustic cabin. We’ve stayed at the Fisherman’s Landing Inn and the cabins at the Berry Hill campground and thoroughly enjoyed both. The choice is yours!
Gros Morne National Park and the two national historic sites along the Viking Trail—Port au Choix National Historic Site and L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site—participate in Parks Canada’s Xplorers program. If you have young explorers with you, they can ask for an activity book at each location. If they complete the activities, they’ll receive a collectible souvenir to take home!
Viking Trail road trip, stop 3: The Arches Provincial Park
As you continue north on your Viking Trail road trip, you’ll travel in and out of national park lands as you drive past the communities of St. Paul’s, Cow Head, Three Mile Rock, and Parson’s Pond. North of Parson’s Pond but before you reach Portland Creek, you’ll see a small green shield-shaped sign on the west side of the road marking the entrance to The Arches Provincial Park.
You won’t be able to see much from the road, so you might be tempted to drive past this stop. But trust us: you don’t want to miss this view. Once you drive past the cover of trees, you’ll be met with a breathtaking sight. A trio of arch formations has been carved from the rock by the sea across thousands of years!
Newfoundland’s The Arches Provincial Park has no admission fee. It’s a great place to take in wonderful views while stretching your legs or enjoying a picnic.
Viking Trail road trip, stop 4: Port au Choix National Historic Site
Our first sight upon arriving at Port au Choix National Historic Site was a caribou descending over a ridge. It was a fitting preview of the tranquil natural wonders we were about to experience.
Humans have been visiting this midway point on the Great Northern Peninsula for more than 6,000 years. While Port au Choix National Historic Site sits on a peninsula today, this land was once an island. It’s been inhabited by five different Indigenous peoples as well as the Basques, who once frequented this area’s rich fishing waters.
There’s plenty of history here to explore. Check out the Basque wood-fired oven, the historic Maritime Archaic burial ground, and the Paleo-Eskimo settlement site at Phillip’s Garden. In a way, though, Port au Choix is as much a day-use park as it is a historic site. You’ll gain the most from your visit by exploring its many kilometres of stunning coastal trails. On quieter days, you may have the seaside entirely to yourself.
A visit to Port au Choix National Historic Site is a trip through human history. It’s well worth making the 20-minute detour off the highway to visit as part of your Viking Trail road trip.
Viking Trail road trip, stop 5: Ferry to Labrador
Who knew a road trip could come with a side quest? Located roughly an hour north of Port au Choix, St. Barbe, Newfoundland provides one of only three ways to enter Labrador with a car. A ferry departs from St. Barbe and transports you to the community of Blanc-Sablon, Quebec. From here, you can explore the northernmost reaches of Quebec’s Côte-Nord region, or you can head east and drive some or all of the remote and awestriking Trans-Labrador Highway.
Even if you only have a couple of days to spare for this side trip, there are some great reasons to consider adding it to your itinerary. If you love exploring the road less traveled, you want to see these starkly beautiful barren landscapes, or you’re arriving later in iceberg season and want a better chance of seeing one for yourself, this voyage is for you!
How long is the ferry ride from St. Barbe to Blanc-Sablon?
On average, the St. Barbe-Blanc Sablon ferry completes its journey across the Strait of Belle Isle in 1 hour and 45 minutes. You’ll find a canteen on board the Qajaq W. selling refreshments. There’s plenty of window seating, with or without tables, for enjoying the views. If you visit during late spring or early summer, you’re likely to see icebergs from the boat along the way.
Don’t forget to factor in the time difference when you depart or return. Blanc-Sablon, where the mainland ferry dock is located, is the easternmost settlement in Quebec. It operates on Atlantic time but doesn’t observe daylight savings time. Meanwhile, the island of Newfoundland and the southeast portion of Labrador operate on the Newfoundland time zone.
This means the time difference between Blanc-Sablon and St. Barbe or southern Labrador can be either a half hour or 1.5 hours, depending on the time of year. For example, if it’s 3:00 PM in Blanc-Sablon in July, it’s 4:30 PM in Newfoundland and southern Labrador. This can really mess with your understanding of the ferry schedule, so be sure to account for it when calculating arrival and departure times.
We’ll have much more to share about visiting southern Labrador from Newfoundland soon!
Viking Trail road trip, stop 6: L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site
Although the northernmost reaches of the island of Newfoundland are considered remote today, to early seafaring peoples they were among North America’s most accessible places. The Norse first landed in Newfoundland’s far north a thousand years ago, tracing a path that ran from modern-day Norway through Iceland, Greenland, and Labrador. Today, the only undisputed remains of a pre-Columbus European settlement anywhere in North America are preserved at the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site.
But wait—aren’t we talking about a Viking Trail road trip? The Viking Trail’s name stems from a common misnomer. The Norse people were seafaring settlers, traders, and farmers. Vikings were Norse, but their name refers specifically to groups of vigilante warriors who raided and pillaged. Evidence among the ruins at L’Anse aux Meadows suggests the settlers here were peaceful, so it’s more accurate to refer to them as Norse. (Vikings certainly sound more exciting, though!)
What’s special about L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site?
L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site is home to the oldest Norse (Viking) settlement in Canada. It received designation as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1975. In 1978, L’Anse aux Meadows became the first cultural location in the world to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Prior to its excavation, this site didn’t look like much more than a hilly spot on a bay, according to a Parks Canada tour guide who has lived nearby his entire life. He says he recalls playing on the “strange hills” as a child and remembers when Parks Canada arrived to begin excavating in the 1960s. It’s remarkable that something once looked upon so casually turned out to be so important to human history.
What is there to see at L’Anse aux Meadows?
The most engaging display at L’Anse aux Meadows is the replica sod hut, where costumed interpreters explain and demonstrate what life may have been like in this Norse settlement 1,000 years ago. You might see them whittling tools from wood, playing games, preparing food, or even practising for battle!
Not far from the sod hut, you can view the historic ruins themselves. Today, these remain little more than strange lumps in the grass. Helpful labels are provided to explain the roles the structures may have played in the settlement. As you walk among them, you’re sure to be struck by the gravity of walking on the same ground the Norse did a full millennium ago.
You can also tour the visitor centre to see some of the artifacts found on the site and learn more about Norse history. With the proper timing, you can take part in an escape room or attend a retelling of a Viking saga. Given a little more time, you can walk the 2.4-kilometre trail. You’ll follow the coast to see where Indigenous campsites have been identified, and you’ll also walk through the surrounding bog. This is where the Norse collected bog ore, which they smelted to extract iron for shipbuilding, tools and repairs.
How long do you need to visit l’Anse aux Meadows?
Plan to spend at least two hours at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site exploring the visitor centre, historic ruins, and interpretive programs. If you’d like to explore the hiking trail and/or take part in timed programming, allot four hours or more. No food service is offered, so bring a picnic lunch, or time your visit around a midday meal at The Norseman Restaurant, located a five-minute drive from the site.
Is it worth the drive to L’Anse aux Meadows?
The drive to L’Anse aux Meadows is absolutely worth taking at least once. It’s a long drive to complete a Viking Trail road trip, spanning more than 400 kilometres from Deer Lake, but the journey is made richer by picturesque mountains and coastal villages. The site is educational and entertaining, and there’s nowhere else in North America where you can walk on the same ground as intrepid Norse explorers did centuries ago.
Viking Trail road trip, stop 7: St. Anthony
St. Anthony is the northernmost town on the island of Newfoundland, and it marks the end of the northbound half of your Viking Trail road trip. You’ll reach St. Anthony after driving across nearly 80 kilometres of uninhabited expanse once you turn inland from the west coast of the Great Northern Peninsula. You’ll hardly believe your eyes when you reach this place that seems so far-flung and find a Tim Hortons, a Subway, a microbrewery and a car dealership. It’s mind-blowing how far services need to reach in this vast country!
While you’re in town, pay the Grenfell Historical Society a visit.
What is Sir Wilfred Grenfell known for?
The Grenfell Historical Society in St. Anthony records the life and work of Sir Wilfred Grenfell, the first European doctor to settle in Newfoundland and Labrador. Grenfell was the first trained doctor to deliver modern medicine to villages along the coasts of Labrador and northern Newfoundland.
Grenfell established a health network of six hospitals, seven nursing stations, and two hospital ships. His work improved living conditions in coastal communities throughout the province. (We feel obligated to note that Grenfell also acted as a Christian missionary in Indigenous communities. Some visitors may deem this worth celebrating, while others may not.)
Where does the Viking Trail end?
If you’re as much a fan of completing things as we are, take Newfoundland Route 430 and then West St. all the way through St. Anthony to the end of the road at Fishing Point Municipal Park.
Since the rest of the drive follows the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Strait of Belle Isle, this is the only point along your Viking Trail road trip where you’ll be looking directly at the Atlantic Ocean!
Check out the Fox Point Lighthouse, have a great homecooked seafood meal at the Lightkeeper’s Café, stroll through the gift shop, and watch the sun set over St. Anthony Harbour.
When you’re ready, rejoin Route 430 to head west and then south to return to Deer Lake.
2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid
For our Viking Trail road trip, we drove the 2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid. If you’re looking around here at RoadTripper.ca, you may see this car featured in multiple road trips. That’s because we spent a full month driving it through Atlantic Canada in the summer of 2023, covering more than 9,000 kilometres!
While it’s been available for years in the United States, 2023 marks the first time the Honda CR-V Hybrid has been offered in Canada. This is because its next-generation hybrid system is the first that’s been capable of all-wheel drive, a critical feature north of the border.
At launch, the CR-V Hybrid was sold only in the most expensive Touring trim, priced at just over $51,000 including fees. We find its combined 204 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque to be plenty in almost all applications, and we traveled with four people and several weeks worth of luggage and gear with no space issues.
Our total fuel economy average for the month was 7.2 L/100 km, which is higher than the 6.4 L/100 km combined estimate from Natural Resources Canada. But this makes sense for the terrain we covered, and a non-hybrid CR-V would have burned more.
Our biggest frustrations with the CR-V Hybrid are flaky phone connectivity and its price, which for 2023 was well above the competition. However, a new Honda CR-V EX-L Hybrid trim is here for 2024, which is somewhat more attainable at $48,909, fees in. The review linked below was filmed before the EX-L Hybrid was announced, so it’s worth bearing that in mind while you’re considering your options.