Newfoundland Island is the largest province of Newfoundland & Labrador, and the fourth biggest island in Canada, covering 42,031 square miles. It’s renowned for stunning scenery, including large mountains, dense forests, and untouched charm.
Given its sheer size, this could make for the road trip of a lifetime, and it makes sense to question if driving there is a viable option.
From mainland Canada, or anywhere else, there aren’t any land connections to Newfoundland Island, and the only way to drive to the island is to take a car ferry from the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia, which runs to the Newfoundland port of Aux Basques all year round, and also Argentia during the Summer months.
Newfoundland Island is the largest section of Newfoundland & Labrador province. The province connects to Quebec, which connects with the rest of mainland Canada.
In contrast to Newfoundland & Labrador, which has land connections, the section of Newfoundland Island is separated by water, and therefore you can’t drive there directly and will need to take a car ferry to arrive on the island.
Taking a car ferry
To reach Newfoundland Island via car, you’re going to need to take a car ferry. The Marine Atlantic operates all ferry services, running from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada.
The most frequently used ferry route runs from North Sydney to Aux Basques. Ferries depart two times every day, running continuously throughout the year. The travel distance is 112 miles, and depending on sea conditions, it has a travel time of between 6-8 hours.
Including additional charges, rates are as follows:
- Passengers: adults 13-64 years, $43.78, and children 5-12 years, $20.34. Children under 5 travel free
- Autos, pickups up to 20 ft, $114.19
- Motorcycles, $85.03
If you’re planning to travel to the island during the warmer months, there’s a Summer service available that runs between the months of July-September, from North Sydney to Argentia. This service has a longer travel distance of 317 miles and a duration of 15 hours. It sails three times weekly.
Rates for this service are as follows:
- Passengers: adults 13-64 years, $116.27, and children 5-12 years, $56.39. Children under 5 travel free
- Autos, pickups up to 20 ft, $234.19
- Motorcycles, $116.90
For further info and advanced booking visit the Marine Atlantic website.
Traveling from Newfoundland Island to Newfoundland & Labrador
If you want to take your car from the island of Newfoundland over to Quebec, then drive and cross the land border separating Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador, this is entirely possible!
To do this, you’ll need to drive to the northern side of the island, where you’ll be able to dock a ferry from St. Barbe, Newfoundland, to Blanc Sablon, Quebec, with a distance of 22 miles and a travel time of 1 hour and 45 minutes.
The ferry is usually active twice daily. Remember, when taking this route, there’s a switch between time zones between the two provinces, Newfoundland Time (NT), and Atlantic Time (AT).
Rates are as follows:
- Adults $11.75, children 5-12 $9.50, and children under 5 travel free.
- For a vehicle up to 20 ft long, and a driver, the price is $35.25
- Motorcycle and driver $18.00
For ferry schedules and reservations, visit here
Once you arrive in Blanc Sablon, you’ll need to drive across the border between Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador province.
Is it worth driving to Newfoundland?
Driving to Newfoundland is a big decision to make! Let’s run over the basics for a better perspective of what it entails.
The best time to visit the island is during the peak season of early July to the middle of August, as the weather is great and it’s also the most lively period. It’s best to consider Winter trips carefully, as some businesses will shut down, and the roads can be cold and icy.
Driving on the island is straightforward, as Route 1/The Trans Canada Highway serves as the backbone, connecting to all major cities and towns. When you arrive, you’ll dock and start driving at the west point of Channel-Port aux Basques, and from here, Route 1 runs 560 miles (902 km) to the East point of St. John’s.
To put things into perspective, if you were to drive the entire route in one take, it would take roughly 9 hours and 20 minutes.
As can be expected, if you’re planning a road trip, this will involve turning off Route 1 and potentially driving for hours to reach destinations, which may require an overnight stay. Therefore, depending on how many places you want to visit, driving through Newfoundland Island could easily require a few weeks to complete.
Take your time
If you want to see the majority of the island, then you’ll need at least ten days to have a comfortable trip, and if you don’t have time to spare, it’s probably not worth rushing through things.
Also, if you’re easily bored, or don’t like driving long distances, then this trip might not be for you, as you’ll encounter long stretches of road without stopping points or tourist attractions.
Additional driving info
When driving in Newfoundland, it’s important to stick to the given rules. If you’re caught breaking them, harsh penalties will be enforced.
- To drive on the island, you’ll need to be aged 17+, hold a valid driver’s license, liability insurance, and your vehicle registration document.
- Speed limits include: 62 mph (100 km/h) on the 4-lane highways or the 2-lane parts of Route 1. On Route 3, the limit is 55 mph (90km/h). For towns and cities, the limit is 31 mph (50 km/h).
- If caught using a mobile phone while driving, you’ll be charged a steep fine, potentially in excess of $300.
- There are roughly 130,000 moose roaming the island, so keep an eye out to avoid collisions with them!
- Mobile network coverage is weak on the majority of the island, and some visitors use a satellite phone for better connection.
- The larger cities and towns will have filling stations, but long stretches of the road won’t have them, such as the 4.5-hour drive between Rocky Harbour and St. Anthony, so research your route beforehand and plan your rest stops accordingly.
Where to drive to on the island
There are many locations to explore and things to do on the island, so take a look at a map for guidance.
To give some perspective, however, the West Coast and the Northern Peninsula are renowned for stunning scenery and scenic spots.
For instance, the Gros Morne National Park on the west coast is home to over 60 miles of winding hiking trails that showcase volcanic seacoast, dense forestry, and a 10-mile pond gorge. You’ll find towns spread throughout, such as Woody Point, rich in culture and a great place to stop off for a break.
If you’re looking for a more upbeat stop-off point, this might include the Capitol and the biggest city in Newfoundland, St Johns, which is located at the eastern tip of the Avalon Peninsula. Here you’ll find e-bike rentals, a walking tour, a lighthouse site, a brewery, a public beach, active nightlife, and many things to try out and do.
To access Newfoundland via car, you’re going to need to take a car ferry from Nova Scotia, Canada, which runs to the Newfoundland Ports of Aux Basques. From there, you have many options for where to drive to.
Yet, to comfortably see what this tranquil, serene island has to offer will take a minimum of 10 days and much preparation, which includes factoring in the sheer amount of time you’ll be driving between destinations. This is a road trip you’ll want to remember and something that shouldn’t be rushed.