After spending 5 weeks RVing all over Newfoundland, we ended our trip exploring all of the amazing sights the Avalon Peninsula has to offer along the Irish Loop.
Driving Newfoundland’s Irish Loop is a spectacular journey that takes you through stretches of untouched wilderness, to historic seaside settlements, up close to cliffside lighthouses, and puts you in the driver’s seat to witness whales, puffins, and other wildlife that call this special province home.
Whether you have 1 day or a weekend, you will want to add the Irish Loop to your Newfoundland Itinerary.
Here is everything we learned about what makes for an unforgettable journey around Newfoundland’s Irish loop:
About The Newfoundland Irish Loop
Newfoundland’s Irish Loop covers a large section of the Avalon Peninsula along Highway 10. It begins at Highway 10 out of St. John’s, and follows along down the eastern coastline of the Avalon Peninsula, eventually meeting up with Route 90 at St. Vincent’s and connecting with Trans-Canada Highway 1 before returning to St. John’s.
Distance: 312 km (or roughly 193 miles) one way when done in a large loop, starting and ending in St. John’s
Time To Drive: 3-4 hours (ideally more to really experience each stop). Give yourself a full day or make it a weekend getaway to more fully appreciate all of the unique sights and experiences along the Irish Loop.
Irish Loop General Route & Map
Some of the notable sights along the way:
- Witless Bay Ecological Reserve: A place to see thousands of humpback and minke whales feeding, millions of seabirds, and maybe even some ancient icebergs floating past
- Cappahayden: The end of the East Coast Trail that stretches (336 km or 208 miles) along the Avalon Peninsula, inspired by the Coastal Trails that once linked the historic seaside communities of Newfoundland
- Ferryland: One of the oldest European settlements in North America. Home to the Colony of Avalon, (founded in 1620) – now the site of an ongoing archaeological dig.
- Cape Race: One of the first observed points of land in the New World, and the location of a wireless station that received and transmitted distress signals from the Titanic in 1912.
- Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve: A UNESCO World Heritage Site showcasing rare fossils of the beginnings of deep-sea life from 575 million years ago
- Trespassey: The site where Amelia Earhart left from when becoming the first woman to fly the Atlantic as a passenger
- St. Vincent’s: A popular beachside community for whale watching
More on these and all the things you won’t want to miss along Newfoundland’s Irish Loop below!
10+ Irish Loop stops you won’t want to miss
Covering the entirety of Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, the Irish Loop passes through numerous destinations worth exploring.
This list serves as a great starting point for your driving journey, allowing you to then go as deep as you would like in each area, depending on what your itinerary and schedule allows!
St. John’s is the official beginning and ending point of the Irish Loop.
The largest and capital city of Newfoundland, St. John’s is a bustling and vibrant community complete with colorful row houses, jaw-dropping scenery along its coastal trails, and dining experiences that would make any foodie’s day.
With historic landmarks like Signal Hill, Cape Spear, and George Street, this is what many visitors will use as a home base for their visit to Newfoundland. You will want at least 1 day to explore St. John’s.
You can snag a puffin and whales sightseeing tour right from St. John’s:
Witless Bay Ecological Reserve
Roughly 30 minutes south of St. John’s, Bay Bulls and Witless Bay are popular destinations for getting off the rock and into the water to explore the four islands of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.
In the summer months, an abundance of food (Capelin) makes this one of the hot spots for humpback and minke whales to come and feed close to shore. The islands is also home to the largest puffin colony in North America, with 260,000 pairs coming to nest in late spring and summer.
Book an iconic tour of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve:
Just 10 minutes down the road from Witless Bay is the beautiful stop of Tors Cove where two pieces of the East Coast Trail Converge.
An easy hike out to Tinkers Point will afford you panoramic ocean views and a bright yellow bench to sit on and enjoy the scenery for a while. Be sure to bring your binoculars and your camera and keep an eye out for whale spouts!
La Manche Provincial Park
15 minutes further south from Tor Cove will get you to La Manche Provincial Park.
This is the perfect place to hike along some more stretches of rocky coastline, see a rushing waterfall, and walk across the wobbly suspension bridge.
Driving south from La Manche, you will reach the historic town of Ferryland in about 25 minutes.
Here you can see the archaeological dig at the Colony of Avalon National Historic Site (one of the oldest European settlements in North America) and hike (or pay for a ride) out to the iconic Ferryland Lighthouse.
During peak season, you can even enjoy a scrumptious picnic on the lighthouse grounds, through Lighthouse Picnics (be sure to reserve in advance)!
Note: Parking for the lighthouse is down a narrow, bumpy road. Be sure to take it slow and keep an eye out for oncoming traffic. DO NOT tow your RV down this road. We were the largest we would want to be with our long-bed dually truck.
Just 5 minutes down the road from Ferryland, keep your eyes peeled for Aquaforte, a harbor that resembles a Norweigan Fjord.
Chance Cove Provincial Park
About 35 more minutes south from Ferryland and you will reach Cappahayden (the start/end of the East Coast Trail) and have the chance to tour Chance Cove Provincial Park.
Entering the park you will have to travel roughly 4 miles (6 km) down a gravel road to reach access to the parking lot, picnic areas, and entrance to the beach and water. The journey is worth it though, offering a peaceful spot to watch the water and enjoy what feels like a hidden gem. We even saw a seal playing just off the shore!
While there are no “designated” campsites, camping is allowed in the parking area and it was full of RVs and campers when we arrived.
Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve
Heading southwest from Chance Cove Provincial Park, in about 20 minutes you will hit Portugal Cove South, which is home to the Edge of Avalon Interpretation Center, the visitor center for Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve.
Here you can learn about the geological significance of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and the fossils that have been found here. 20 minutes heading back south and east will get you to the site of these magnificent rocks that you will surely want to see for yourself!
Access to view the fossils up close is only available with a guided tour, typically offered May-early October.
- Email MistakenPointTour@gov.nl.ca for booking information. Advanced reservations are recommended! You can also visit their website here.
Note: Be sure to keep an eye out for the “miniature fishermen” along the way. You will know it when you see it, trust us!
While it might seem a bit out of the way, taking the extra 10 or 12 minutes to continue on past Mistaken Point to Cape Race and the Myrick Wireless Interpretation Centre is undoubtedly worth it!
The views from Cape Race will leave you speechless. We could have sat on the cliffs in the grass under the lighthouse’s shadow, watching the waves crash to shore for hours on end. It’s a place so quiet you feel as if you are at the end of the world, and where the whales are so close the sound of their spouts will make you jump.
After leaving Cape Race, you will make your way back to Route 10 and continue west. Just over an hour’s drive through mesmerizing coastal scenery, rolling green hills, and untouched land will lead you to St. Vincent’s.
This seaside community has a large stretch of cobblestone beach that is perfect and popular for whale watching from the end of June to mid-July.
This is the halfway point between Mistaken Point and the Salmonier Nature Park, and a great place to stop and stretch your legs for a while.
Salmonier Nature Park
Heading back north, an hour from St. Vincent’s you will reach the Salmonier Nature Park.
The park is a center for environmental education, wildlife rehabilitation, research, and environmental monitoring. Here you can get the chance to see some of the amazing wildlife that calls Newfoundland home while they are being rehabilitated or now call the park home.
The distance to walk the trails through the park exhibits is 3km (just under 2 miles) and can be completed in about 1 hour.
- Hours: Salmonier Nature Park is open from 11 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. daily
- Cost: FREE (donations accepted)
- Animals in the park include: Arctic Fox, Bald Eagle, Canada Geese, Caribou, Great Horned Owl, Lynx, Meadow Vole, Mink, Moose, Newfoundland Marten, Otter, Red Fox, Snowshoe Hare, Snowy Owl, Spruce Grouse, and Woodchuck (though they aren’t always easy to spot and many will be hiding)
Cape Shore Add Ons
Once you have hooked back up with Highway 1 and headed back to St. John’s you have officially completed the Irish Loop!
If you are like us though, you likely will not be able to get enough of the spellbinding Newfoundland scenery.
If you have the time, we highly recommend taking an additional day to explore Cape Shore and the sights below:
Cataracts Provincial Park
30 minutes west of where you visited the Salmonier Nature Park is an unassuming Provincial Park hidden just off the road. After crossing the bridge, you will see a sign signifying Cataracts Provincial Park.
Once you see the sign, do not continue down the dirt road, simply pull off and park in the small parking area and head onto the trail until you find the steps that will lead you to a gushing waterfall and views of the unique and historic bridge.
Castle Hill National Historic Site
An additional 40 minutes east from Cataracts Provincial Park you will reach the Castle Hill National Historic Site.
Here you can explore remnants of a stone fort towering over a picturesque seaside town that was once the site of a struggle for power between the French and British, both vying for a lucrative fishery located here.
Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve
After leading Placentia and the Castle Hill National Historic Site, drive 1 more hour south to reach Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve (just past St. Bride’s).
The most accessible seabird colony in North America, Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve is home to tens of thousands of migrating seabirds at any given time, precariously perched among the sea stacks over the glistening waters below.
This site is the third largest colony of Northern Gannets (and the most southern) with numbers estimated at around 30,000. In addition, you might see black-legged kittiwakes, common murres, thick-billed murres, razorbill, and black guillemot.
Check out Cape St. Mary’s Lighthouse, and walk along the dramatic cliffs to Bird Rock. You won’t need too much help navigating here, the sounds (and smells) of the seabirds will surely guide you! A majestic cacophony you won’t soon forget.
Irish Loop & Cape Shore Map
Use the map below to plan your stops while driving the Irish Loop and exploring Cape Shore!
Newfoundland’s Irish Loop Know Before You Go
Plan Your Adventure Driving Newfoundland’s Irish Loop
Renting A Car
If you flew into Newfoundland, but want to experience the Irish Loop consider a rental car:
Places To Stay On & Around The Irish Loop
Camping & RVing On The Avalon Peninsula
- Free camping along the Irish Loop (we saw people camped in St. Vincent’s and at Cape Race in parking lots and along roadsides)
- Chance Cove Provincial Park (southeast on the Irish Loop past Ferryland)
- Pippy Park Campground (In the center of St. John’s)
- Butter Pot Provincial Park Campground (north of the Salmonier Nature Park along the route back to St. John’s)
- La Manche Provincial Park Campground
What To Pack
- AllTrails App for hiking
- Headnet & Bugspray (Newfoundland can be very buggy!)
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, hat
- Motion sickness patch or Dramamine if you plan to take a boat tour for icebergs or whale watching
- Binoculars & Camera
- Canada Discovery Pass (If you plan to visit 2 or more Canada Parks locations, this pass is worth it)
More Resources For An Unforgettable Trip To Newfoundland: