10 Unforgettable Things To Do in Terra Nova National Park

We spent 5 weeks traveling around Newfoundland and completely fell in love with the province!

From its spectacular wildlife to stunning scenery, you truly can’t venture anywhere on this island without being left in awe.

In our 2 weeks camping in Terra Nova National Park we were able to discover exactly what makes this park so special.

If you plan to visit Terra Nova National Park, you won’t want to miss these incredible things to do!

About Terra Nova National Park

Hikers and their brown dog standing on an overlook above thick green boreal forests and blue waters

Terra Nova National Park is one of two Canadian National Parks on the island province of Newfoundland.

The first National Park established in Newfoundland, Terra Nova is quite understated when compared to the dramatic landscapes you will find in Gros Morne National Park on the western coast.

Rather than bald top mountains and epic fjords, in Terra Nova, there is an overwhelming sense of calm in the thick boreal forests where ponds, rivers, and lakes carve through the landscape and escape out to sea.

Peace and tranquility are the hallmarks of Terra Nova National Park, making it the perfect spot to connect with nature, enjoy the dazzling night sky, and return to basics for a while.

And for those who enjoy traveling with their adventure pups, one of the best things about Terra Nova National Park is the amount of dog-friendly trails it has!

As with most places in Newfoundland, the best time to visit the park is between July and September.

10 Things To Do In Terra Nova National Park

A female hiker in white with black binoculars around her neck looking up from a moss-covered forest in Terra Nova National Park
Hiking through a moss-covered forest in Terra Nova National Park

With plenty of opportunities to camp and explore where land meets the sea, it is common to find the park’s campgrounds filled with locals for a vacation in the woods.

Here is a rundown of all the great things that await you on a visit to Terra Nova National Park:

1. Experience the Visitor Center Touch Tank

White bones of a large whale vertebrae inside the Terra Nova National Park Visitor Centre
Whale vertebrae on display in Terra Nova’s Visitor Center

When we arrived at the Terra Nova National Park Visitor Center we were absolutely blown away.

A newly updated facility, this was one of the nicest Visitor’s Centers we have seen during our travels around North America.

One of the best parts of the Terra Nova Visitor Center is the touch tank. With water pumped directly from the ocean water outside, you can dip your hands into the freezing cold waters and experience the local marine life.

A man in a blue hat sticking his hand into the water of a marine life touch tank

In the interactive exhibit, you can see and feel starfish, crabs, interesting species of fish, and more!

The chance to learn about the park and experience its wildlife up close, makes this the perfect first stop on your trip to the park.

2. Camping at Newman Sound or Malady Head Campground

As we mentioned, camping is one of the most popular things to do at Terra Nova National Park.

And it is easy to see why – the camping facilities are incredible!

Malady Head Campground sits in the northern section of the park and is farther from some of the park’s main attractions.

  • 99 sites
  • oTENTik: 10 sites (with wood stove, without electricity)
  • Unserviced: 89 sites

This is a more remote feeling campground with close proximity to the Malady Head Trail.

We opted to stay at Newman Sound Campground to enjoy campsites with electric hookups during some atypically warm Newfoundland weather.

A large fifth wheel camping in the grass next to a group of trees at Newman Sound Campground in Terra Nova National Park

Newman Sound is the largest of the 2 Terra Nova National Park campgrounds and is nestled directly in the heart of the park which was super convenient for exploring!

  • 265 sites
  • oTENTik: 20 sites (10 with electricity and 10 without electricity)
  • 3-way service (electricity, water and sewer): 40 sites
  • Electricity only: 162 sites
  • Unserviced: 65 sites
  • Some sites can accommodate RVs up to any length

Whether you want to escape or be in the heart of the park, you can find peace and quiet camping among the trees. Camping is truly the best way to experience Terra Nova National Park!

3. Watch the sunset at Mill Cove Lookout

A bright orange sunset sky over sprawling blue waters and forested lands in Terra Nova National Park

Not far from the Visitor Center, a short hike leads you out of the forest and up to the top of a hill where you can sit on a rocky bald and take in panoramic views of the park and the water below.

This is the perfect spot to enjoy a picturesque sunset as the sky fades from blue into a pink-orange glow.

4. Climb the Ochre Hill Fire Tower

The Ochre Hill Fire Tower is a popular lookout in Terra Nova National Park.

With a convenient parking area at the foot of the tower, a short walk on the Ochre Hill Lookout leads you to two different options to enjoy the views from this scenic spot.

If you aren’t afraid of heights, climb the sets of metal stairs (yes, you can see through them) to the platform at the top of the fire tower. Once at the top, the views (or was it the fear) will take your breath away!

If climbing rickety metal stairs isn’t for you, opt for the more accessible platform just next to the fire tower to enjoy the same stunning views of the park, without the dose of adrenaline.

A small wooden viewing platform on a large rocky section among thick green trees
The alternate viewing platform at Ochre Hill

For a longer hike with stunning views of the fire tower check out Ochre Hill Trail. Beginning at the Ochre Hill Trailhead near Newman Sound Campground, this moderate loop trail winds through forests and meadows before reaching the Ochre Hill Lookout.

Allow approximately 1-2 hours for the hike, including time to soak in the panoramic views from the lookout.

A fire tower sitting at the top of a hill out in the distance beyond a large forest of dense green trees
View of the fire tower from the Ochre Hill Lookout Trail

5. See the Beaver Dams along Southwest Arm Trail

Two mountains beyond blue waters and forests of deep green trees

If we are being honest, by the time we reached Terra Nova National Park we were really hoping to see some moose.

The official symbol of Newfoundland, the province is apparently home to the highest concentration of moose anywhere on the continent.

Yet somehow despite hiking at all times of day all over Newfoundland, we had yet to see one.

A large beaver dam in the waters of the Southwest Arm in Terra Nova National Park
A Large beaver dam along the Southwest Arm trail

Hiking along the Southwest Arm Trail, we struck out yet again.

It is a beautiful hike across a suspension bridge and through the forest along the waters of the brook. The scenery is pristine and untouched, and we did see a few beavers making their way in and out of their impressive dam.

6. Relax at the beach and stroll around Sandy Pond

A male hiker looking over a boardwalk bridge crossing a marshy area on the trail around Sandy Pond in Terra Nova National Park

Sandy Pond is a popular picnic and swimming spot in Terra Nova National Park.

A trail around the pond will lead you through boreal forest, bogs, and over bridges and boardwalks.

We hiked around just before sunset (headnet recommended for the summer months) and hoped to see some wildlife, but were happy to soak in the calm waters in a setting we couldn’t believe we had all to ourselves.

7. Explore on the water

Miles of green forest leading to bright blue waters with layers of mountains in the distance

Although Terra Nova National Park is full of great hikes and private spots to enjoy nature, one of the best things to do in the park is to get in the water!

Rent a kayak or bring your own and explore sheltered coves, hidden bays, and secluded beaches along Terra Nova’s coastline. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as seals, seabirds, and maybe even a passing whale.

Great paddling spots in the park include:

  • Sandy Pond
  • Inner & Outer Newman Sound
  • Southwest Arm

8. Take A Guided Tour

It is easy to experience more of the park and spot additional wildlife with a guided tour starting right at the Terra Nova National Park’s visitor center or in the nearby town of Happy Adventure!

Happy Adventure Tours offers a variety of excursions at Terra Nova National Park including:

  • Inshore Tour: Leaves from the park, exploring the coastline, and venturing to Minchins Cove
  • Sunset Tour: A sunset cruise on Newman sound
  • Offshore Tour: See the puffin colony on Little Denier,  the resettled Community of Smokey Hole, the tight passageway of Scott’s tickle, and a sea cave locally named “the Dungeon”.
  • Guided kayak tours

9. Discover where land and sea meet on the Terra Nova Coastal Trail

A long bridge crossing over water and toward a thick boreal forest on the Terra Nova Coastal Trail

The Coastal Trail is the most popular trail in Terra Nova National Park.

Bridging the visitor center and the Newman Sound Campground, this hike takes you along the Newman Sound, following the shoreline.

Along the way, you will pass the intertidal zone, dense forest, and Pissamere Falls in surroundings full of diverse wildlife (highly recommend bringing some binoculars along!)

A fairly easy hike that will take you 1-2 hours to complete this roughly 3-mile trail.

10. Epic Adventure on the Sea to Summit Outport Trail

This is the longest trail in Terra Nova National Park and makes for quite the adventure!

Starting at the Newman Sound Campground, this trail stretches along the coast and is typically completed with the addition of hiking Mt. Stamford, covering roughly 21 miles.

We opted to skip this trail during our visit due to time constraints and feeling like we could get similar views from other hikes in the park. If you are looking for a longer adventure in the park or a trail where you can also do some backcountry camping, this could be a great choice!

For a shorter, unique adventure, you can also schedule a water taxi to hike 2.5 miles (4km) to Mt. Stamford from the wharf at Minchin Cove.

A woman and her dog sitting on a bald rock

Terra Nova Points of Interest Map

Below you will find the sights we mentioned in our list above on a convenient and easy-to-use map! This can help you plan your time and where you want to stay during your visit to Terra Nova National Park.

You can view all of the top trails and their directions on AllTrails (a list of Terra Nova’s trails is linked there, this is our go-to hiking app!)

Terra Nova National Park is just one of many unforgettable things to do and see in Newfoundland. A great next stop on your journey around the province would be Bonavista and of course, Elliston to see the puffins! From there you can carry on to St. John’s and even venture down to complete the Irish Loop scenic drive!

Important Tips For Your Trip To Newfoundland

  • Be prepared for pricier food in remote towns (especially produce)
  • Newfoundland Time is 90 minutes ahead of EST (its own time zone)
  • July is typically the driest month and the best weather
  • Be mindful of wildlife if driving at dawn or dusk
  • The island is large, give yourself time to explore
  • Don’t forget your passport! (And rabies certificate if traveling with your pets). Check out these border-crossing tips!

Terra Nova National Park Packing List

Here are a few things we would not have wanted to visit Terra Nova without:

  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray & Headnet
  • Waterproof hiking shoes
  • Binoculars & camera (telephoto lens for wildlife)
  • Packable rain gear
  • Backpacks & water bottles or water bladders
  • Camping gear

More Resources To Plan Your Perfect Trip To Newfoundland:

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