When most people conjure an image of Newfoundland’s coastline, they see waves crashing into rocks. Big cold waves. Big jagged rocks. While there’s certainly some truth to this picture, the west coast of the island is an epic place to experience on a paddleboard—as long as you know how to read the tides and winds and waves, and aren’t afraid to ask locals for advice.
Gros Morne National Park is the main attraction in western Newfoundland
Towering cliffs rise from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, humpback whales and orcas migrate through, bald eagles and ospreys soar overhead, and laidback harbor towns have the essentials—fish and chips, and beer. On Bonne Bay, a double-armed fjord carved out by a pair of glaciers, a sill protects the inner bays and provides generally calmer waters. The scenery here is no less majestic than the open ocean, especially if you’re paddling beneath the Tablelands, a barren, rust- colored, flat-topped mountain formed when the earth’s mantle was forced skyward millions of years ago.
At 1,805 square kilometers, the park can easily keep you in paddleboarding bliss for a week—two if you’ve got the gear for cold-water SUP surfing. There are also inland rivers and lakes, and thousands of kilometers of coastline to explore.
Plan Your Trip To Gros Morne National Park
IF YOU HAVE HALF A DAY:
For a challenging paddle in the national park, hit the shoreline below the Green Point campground. You’ll need booties to negotiate the slippery rocky entry, and a wetsuit if you plan to ride some waves. If you want to surf, take stock of the bigger boulders beforehand at low tide, and bail before you reach the impact zone. Or hit the sandy beach further north at Cow Head instead.
IF YOU HAVE A DAY:
Norris Point, a small town perched on the promontory where the two arms of Bonne Bay meet, is home to Gros Morne Adventures. The beach behind the outfitter’s cozy office and café offers access to the water, and proprietors Kristen and Robbie Hickey can help you map out a route, which could include a stop for lunch across the fjord in Woody Point.The Hickeys plan to add SUPs to their rental fleet of kayaks for the 2019 season.
IF YOU HAVE A WEEKEND:
The Humber River flows past the back lawn of the Marble Inn Resort in Steady Brook. With due diligence on water levels, currents, rapids and other obstacles, an upstream overnighter in the deep green river valley is magical. Stop in at the resort first for a chat with owner Joe Dicks, who runs Explorenewfoundland.com and is a veteran kayak guide. Ask for info about any spot on the island. If he hasn’t paddled there himself, he probably knows somebody who has.
IF YOU HAVE A WEEK:
The problem with talking to Joe Dicks about paddleboarding destinations is you’ll want to visit every place he mentions. Barasway Bay, just west of the town of Burgeo on the south coast, is about three hours from Steady Brook, which qualifies as a short drive in Newfoundland. Here, you can paddle and camp among abandoned outport villages in sheltered waters and, if you’re lucky, spot a local trifecta: an eagle, seal, and caribou in a single glance.
Other Things To Note:
July and August are your best bets for sun and warmth, but with neoprene and fortitude, you’re good from May until at least November.
Parks Canada’s oTENTiks—half tent, half rustic cabin—at Green Point is worth the splurge for a heavenly home after a day on the water.
Western Brook Pond, a freshwater fjord hemmed in by sheer 600-meter cliffs, is a three-kilometer walk from the highway. Unfortunately, paddling is discouraged here.
Icebergs are common early in the season, and whale watching heats up by mid-summer. Hike to the 806-meter summit of Gros Morne Mountain.
Parks Canada doesn’t offer SUP-specific info for Gros Morne, but their kayak page will give you all the basics, www.pc.gc.ca.