No drive across the island of Newfoundland is complete without a visit to Terra Nova National Park! This beautiful park highlights so much that’s amazing about Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada. There are opportunities to explore sea life, fantastic hiking, stargazing and more. Terra Nova National Park is an essential stop on your summer road trip across Newfoundland.

Here are six sensational reasons to add Terra Nova National Park to your Newfoundland road trip bucket list.

Terra Nova National Park is home to one of the best sea kayaking tours on the East Coast

What is special about Terra Nova National Park? Among Canada’s national parks, Terra Nova National Park’s Newman Sound is a unique geological feature. No other Canadian national park on the East Coast offers such easy and direct access to exploring an ocean inlet.

To fully get a feel for what makes this park so special, book a sea kayaking excursion with Happy Adventure Tours. If the weather cooperates and you have strong paddlers in your party, you can depart from the park’s visitor centre toward The Narrows. There, a guide will show you how to find some spectacular sea life. We spotted sea stars, crabs, urchins, anemones, and three types of jellyfish, including lion’s mane jellyfish and tiny comb jellies that glow!

We even had a chance to scoop some moon jellyfish out of the water and hold them in our hands. Don’t worry—their sting isn’t strong enough to penetrate skin and they don’t have brains or central nervous systems, so it’s safe for us and them to touch them briefly. Once they’re gently placed back in the water, they continue about their business.

This kayaking tour is a phenomenal experience not to be missed. Be sure to book in advance, and keep an eye on the weather forecast so you can try to rebook if it’s not favourable. You can find Happy Adventure Tours at the kiosk across from the entrance to the visitor centre.

Happy Adventure is a family affair in Central Newfoundland >

The visitor centre at Terra Nova National Park is impressive

In all our travels to national parks and national historic sites across Canada, we find the visitor centre at Terra Nova National Park to be a standout. You’ll find exhibits on local wildlife, aquariums and kid-friendly touch tanks, a classroom area where the park hosts events, and a well-stocked gift shop. Even if you’re otherwise passing through the park, this is a great place to stop for a picnic lunch—your kids will love it!

While you don’t need to buy a day pass if you’re driving straight through Terra Nova National Park, you do need to display one if you plan to make any stops. If you’d like to check out the visitor centre, don’t forget to stop by the kiosks as you enter the park along the Trans-Canada Highway to pay the entry fee.  

Terra Nova National Park is home to an important bird sanctuary

Bird watchers, heads up! The innermost section of Newman Sound, as far as The Narrows, is designated as the Terra Nova Bird Sanctuary. Southwest Arm, near Malady Head campground, is also part of this protected area. This important sanctuary protects the habitats of several migratory birds that frequent the area. Terra Nova National Park is visited by greater yellowlegs, common goldeneye, common merganser, and the Arctic tern, which stops here along its 30,000-kilometre annual migration, one of the longest of any animal on the planet! You may also spot bald eagles as you travel through the park since there are several mating pairs nesting here.

Terra Nova National Park’s Xplorers program for kids is fantastic

Parks Canada’s Xplorers program has inspired us to visit national parks and national historic sites across the country! This program helps kids and families engage with Parks Canada places and instills a mindset of curiosity and conservation. Here at Terra Nova National Park, there are some unique activities to explore. Kids can track what they find in the visitor centre’s touch tanks, find out how moose are impacting Newfoundland’s forests, try making a model birch bark canoe, and learn about the carnivorous pitcher plant, Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial flower. Don’t forget to visit the visitor centre, activity centre, or a campground kiosk to pick up your souvenir collectible medallion!

Terra Nova National Park is a Dark Sky Preserve

A Dark Sky Preserve is an area with controlled amounts of energy use and light pollution. This makes these areas ideal for stargazing! Terra Nova National Park has been designated as a Dark Sky Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada since 2018 and was the first such area established in Newfoundland.

According to Parks Canada, these are the best places in Terra Nova National Park for stargazing, all of which are reachable by car: at the visitor centre, atop Ochre Hill or Blue Hill, and at Sandy Pond. During the summer, you may also be able to join a stargazing interpretive program.

It’s easy to continue on to the Eastport Peninsula

Follow Newfoundland Route 310, the Road to the Beaches, toward the Eastport Peninsula and the magical summers you remember! Go go-karting, swimming, and mini-golfing at Splash ‘n Putt Resort, located just past the park’s northern boundary. Head eastbound along Route 310 from the Trans-Canada Highway for just 15 minutes to reach the communities of Eastport, Happy Adventure, and Salvage. You’ll find beautiful soft sand beaches, spectacular hiking, whale watching, swimming, ice cream and more!

Learn more about Newfoundland’s Eastport Peninsula >

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

When was Terra Nova National Park founded?

Terra Nova National Park was founded in 1957. It was the first national park established on the island of Newfoundland. Did you know Terra Nova National Park is older than Gros Morne National Park? Gros Morne, which is located in Western Newfoundland near Deer Lake, was first created as a National Park Reserve in 1973.

How do you get to Terra Nova National Park?

Terra Nova National Park is the easternmost national park in Canada. It’s located roughly 225 kilometres northwest, or a 2 hour 15 minute drive, from St. John’s, Newfoundland. The town of Gander, NL, is approximately an hour or 100 kilometres to the north.

Terra Nova National Park is very easy to reach by road. The Trans-Canada Highway, Newfoundland’s principal road, runs through the entire length of the park. All major points of interest within the park are reachable by a short drive from the highway.

Want to explore more of Newfoundland? Start here >

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