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NEWFOUNDLAND

WEST COAST - GROS MORNE

Gros Morne One of the reasons people flock to the west coast of Newfoundland is the majestic long range mountains of the Northern Peninsula. The mountain range starts in Channel-Port aux Basques and continues northward where they gradually start to lose altitude near the L'Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site. If you are taking the ferry from North Sydney, NS the approach to Channel-Port aux Basques provides scenery that somehow seems to belong to another age. Colourful homes perched on rock seemingly ready to blow over at the smallest gale, but never do, rugged mountains rising out of the mist in distance and small personal boats tethered waiting for a chance to go to sea. The combined elements that make up this port town provide a warm welcome to the island and sneak peak of what's to come. The biggest draw for tourists on the west coast is Gros Morne National Park and it is here where I will be providing information on cycling.

EAST COAST - AVALON

Newfoundland - Avalon Peninsula The east coast of Newfoundland is home to the beautiful city of St. John's. This vibrant city is bursting with impressive art galleries, music opportunities second to none, magnificent restaurants and shop till you drop retail opportunities. The people are extremely friendly and will even stop to let you cross the road when they have the right of way. No honking here!!! Big city dwellers beware, friendly interactions and polite conversation are the norm, so you'd better practice if planning to visit. In addition to abundant night life, the city sits on the extreme eastern edge of the island where sweeping, dramatic coastlines are virtually everywhere giving this region a vibrant city feel embraced with scenes of jaw dropping nature with every turn of the head. Smaller communities are a short drive away where solitude is quickly evident. Even further out of the city roads will lead to areas that seem to jump right out of Conan Doyle's "The Lost World". Old Perlican is one of those places. Look for the route out of Heart's Content for more info. There are endless things to see and do on the east coast of Newfoundland. Stay for a week, stay for two. Either way, you will still leave wanting and I'm sure ready to return as soon as time allows.

NEWFOUNDLAND CYCLING ROUTES

Town/CityDistance (km)Elevation Gain (m)Categorized Climbs
ViewGros Morne93 km1034 m1 - Cat. 2 | 2 - Cat. 5
ViewGros Morne52 km918 m2 - Cat. 3
ViewSt. John's73 km1249 m1 Cat. 3 | 1 Cat. 4 | 3 Cat. 5
ViewSt. John's52 km791 m1 Cat. 3 | 1 Cat. 4 | 2 Cat. 5
ViewHeart's Content110 km1547 m1 Cat. 3 | 6 Cat. 5

WEST COAST INFORMATION

Suggested Accommodations


For the authentic Gros Morne experience I suggest the Gros Morne Cabins. These rustic cabins are clean, but small, with a great view of Rocky Harbour. The cabins are situated on the other side of the harbour so your view from the property is across the bay upon the town itself. The cabins are log, with all your basic amenities, but the price is right and the view is fantastic. The other option is your "find everywhere" hotel room. The Fisherman's Landing Inn provides rooms that are very much the same as any mid level hotel chain. Trustworthy and inexpensive every time. Their is no view here, but the ocean is never far away in Rocky Harbour.

Even though Rocky Harbour tends to be the jumping off point for Gros Morne National Park, the two small communities of Woody Point and Norris Point, offer something a little different from Rocky Harbour. The two choices of Inns noted above, tend to be upscale from anything found in Rocky Harbour. Either of these two Inns will not disappoint.

Please refer to the FAQ section below for a complete listing of accommodation options.

Tour Operators


I'm one of the lucky ones who have a wife who is willing to be my support car on most occasions, if planned in advance and I ask really, really nicely. The same can't be said for others. Some of the nicest roads Gros Morne have to offer is the traverse of the park, which is just about 90 km in length. Experienced cyclists can most likely do a double traverse in one day and get back to their cars after a long day in the saddle. For those who don't want throw up at the end of the day, a supported trip might be something to think about. I have included two companies that offer trips through the park. I have never used them, but like all things Newfoundland, how bad can they possibly be? Beyond the scope of the park itself, these two companies offer trips that keep going north all the way to St. Anthony's on the northern tip and Northern Peninsula. I have never cycled that far north, but I have driven it and the scenery is spectacular.

EAST COAST INFORMATION

Suggested Accommodations


I've never been a big fan of large hotels, so I usually try to find small boutique inns that reflect the nature and personality of the area that I am visiting. The first two inns on the list fit that description quite nicely. Both of these small inns are located right in the heart of downtown St. John's only steps away from the busy working harbour. The harbour is one of the biggest sheltered harbours in the world where you will be able to view the comings and goings of marine traffic up close and personal. The Murray Premises is located in an old building where much of the old wood is still evident in both the rooms and the hotel itself. Blue on Water is newer, but it still displays a high end rustic charm of original exposed brick. In my opinion, either of these two inns provide a perfect place to rest your head when visiting St. John's.

If a big hotel is what you prefer, then the Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland will suit your needs. It's big, it's high end and it's what you would expect from a Sheraton hotel.

Please refer to the FAQ section below for a complete listing of accommodation options.

Tour Operators


There's not much choice for supported tours of the St. John's area except for Freewheeling Adventures. Due to the nature of the routes, you don't really need to have support as the routes out of St. John's are loops that can be done in a single day. If you are going longer, say the loop starting in Heart's Content, then you can always arrange a self guided tour with support through Freewheeling Adventures or you can stretch your limits and try to do the loop in one day. After all, it's only 110 km's. If you happen to break down and you don't have support then almost every Newfoundlander is willing to lend a hand. When cycling on the Avalon Peninsula you are never far away from the help you need.

FAQ

Where can I find cycling stores?

The closest bike store to Gros Morne National Park is Cycle Solutions in Corner Brook. If you are driving from Channel Port-aux-Basque you will drive right through Corner Brook on your way to Gros Morne.

Corner Brook, NL  |  Cycle Solutions (1-866-652-2269)
     Sales, repair, bike rental

How do I get to Newfoundland?

MARINE ATLANTIC FERRY

If you are the adventurous type and want to bring your own car you can take the ferry from North Sydney to Channel-Port aux Basques. The car ferry accommodates both cars and commercial shipping so the docks are always a hive of commercial shipping activity. The ferry also has sleeping berths and quiet rooms with captains chairs that can be reserved in advance. There are two choices. You can either sail to from North Sydney to Channel-Port aux Basques (about 5 -6 hours), which is located on the west coast of the island, or you can sail to Argentia (about 16 hours) which is located on the east coast of the island near St. John's. I usually sail to Channel-Port aux Basques, cycle in the Gros Morne area and then drive across the province to St. John's; about 10 hours.

Marine Atlantic


AIR TRAVEL TO GROS MORNE

If you would rather fly to Gros Morne you will have to do so through a Canadian port of departure. That would either be Toronto or Halifax. Both have direct flights into Deer Lake. There are other options for flights that depart from smaller communities in Canada as well. Please check airlines for details. Three airlines service this airport; Air Canada, West Jet and Provincial Airlines. You will find car rental options at the terminal.

Deer Lake Airport
Air Canada
West Jet
Provincial Airlines


AIR TRAVEL TO ST. JOHN'S

St. John's International Airport has departing flights to and from 14 destinations in Canada, the US and Europe (on a seasonal basis). Those departing from Canada have several choices of departure locations including Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and Goose Bay. Those departing from the US have two choices; Newark and Orlando. Those departing from the Europe have a choice of Heathrow, Gatwick and Dublin. There are also a few departing locations in the Caribbean as well. Please check airport details for more information.

St. John's International Airport

What is the best time to go?

The typical season to cycle Newfoundland is from May to October. Temperatures in May, especially first thing in the morning, can be quite cool for cycling. The weather can change quite rapidly in this area, so please come prepared with a multitude of weather gear. You won't need a winter riding jacket in July and August, but you will need arm warmers and a wind proof rain jacket if the weather turns. The standard clothing options apply. Always dress in layers and always be prepared for just about anything. Also, it's always a good idea to have, at a minimum, a red flashing light on the back of your bike. Fog can roll in off the ocean at any time so play it safe and use lights to be seen.

For historical Gros Morne/Rocky Harbour weather click here

For historical St. John's weather click here

Other accommodations options?

There are many choices of accommodations for both Gros Morne National Park and the St. John's area. You will find small inns, B & B's, cabins/cottages, hotels and vacation homes. There is something for every budget and taste.

Accommodations for Gros Morne National Park click here

Accommodations for St. John's click here

Suggested gearing?

This question is dependent entirely upon the skill level of the cyclist. The hills in Gros Morne National Park and the coast of Newfoundland in St. John's can be quite big if you are not used to hilly terrain; they are also quite steep. I run a standard 53/39 crank with a 25/11 cassette in Southern Ontario, but when I go to the Newfoundland I put on a 28/12 climbing cassette. Most experienced cyclists will find this setup just fine. If you have doubts about your climbing ability, perhaps a compact crank might be better for you. If you are really new to the sport you might even use a triple crank and if that's the case, there won't be a hill around you won't be able to get up. So to answer that question is difficult without knowing the skill level of the cyclist. I've always been a big fan of the standard 53/39 crank and a 25/11 cassette for most regions but on the hills of Newfoundland I use a 53/39 crank and 28/12 cassette. If I can't climb it I'll have a new goal for next time and that's just fine with me.

What's a categorized climb?

A categorized climb is a rating combining both length of the hill and its average gradient. The easiest is a category 5 increasing in difficulty towards a category 1 and then the ultimate cruelty of an HC (hors categorie), meaning it's so hard it's outside of classification. Most professional races never include category 5 climbs in their race profile as they would be too easy to be of any concern. But Map My Ride includes them in their profile calculations so I have included them here. The highest category you will find in Cape Breton is a category 2. Mountains that fall into this category in this region will have you cycling uphill 3 - 5 km, with average gradients near 9%. You wont see the top of the hill and at times there will be switchbacks, especially on MacKenzie Mountain. If you have never climbed a Cat. 2 you are in for a treat. It does seem to go on forever. As always, what goes up must come down, and there in lies your reward. Careful on the descents, the corners are tighter than you think.

Am I fit enough?

Cycling in Newfoundland, especially the routes I have chosen, requires the ability to climb gradients of up to 13%. The routes out of St. John's, especially the route going up to Cape Spear will have long, sustained climbs with double digit gradients. The same can be said for the Marine Drive loop, but the climbs there are often shorter, but can be just as steep. As for Gros Morne, the road on the coast can be quite easy and flat, but when the road swings inland and the hills come hard and fast, you are in for some category 2 climbing. The same can be said of the Trout River route. If you start in Trout River, you have to climb, almost immediately, a category 3 to get out. So in short, if you are going to be cycling the routes listed on this site, you are going to have to bring your mountain goat legs with you.

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