Embark on a satisfying circumnavigation of Newfoundland aboard National Geographic Explorer and sail into Eastern Canada's breathtaking natural beauty. Discover the astonishing Viking past at L’Anse aux Meadows, the only widely accepted site of trans-Atlantic Viking establishment and very early Norse exploration. See WWII harbor defenses and visit the only North American island that remains under French control, an outpost of its era as a colonial superpower. Your journey of pure discovery ventures to the legendary islands of Cape Breton, St. Pierre, and the Îles de la Madeleine. Discover sweeping dunes, wind-and wave-carved cliffs, and sandstone hills in a wild land.
Discover charming coastal villages and small islands, including the historic French settlements at St. Pierre et Miquelon
Explore two UNESCO sites: Gros Morne National Park and the 11th-century Viking site at L’Anse aux Meadows
Hike along the dunes and sandstone cliffs of Iles de la Madeleine and discover the Acadian culture
Experience the bounty of the region in its famous cuisine including Cape Breton mussels, fresh seafood, and much more
Flexibility is a hallmark of Lindblad-National Geographic expeditions, so our day-to-day itinerary may change as we choose to take advantage of a sighting of a pod of whales or photographers decide to linger on shore through the golden hour of light. There will be ample opportunity to get out and hike and Zodiac cruise. Meet welcoming people and learn about their unique history and contemporary character. Each day you may choose to explore with a different naturalist or historian for varying viewpoints and personalities. Plus, get top shots with the help of a National Geographic photographer.
Fogo Island Inn is located off the coast of Newfoundland at the furthest eastern reach of Canada. Experience the inn and its soulful surroundings over the course of several days—savor superb meals featuring local ingredients, call in on the island’s artist-in-residence program, take in the untamed wilderness on a berry-picking excursion, and get acquainted with the infectious hospitality of this remote outport community.
After a couple of days of strong winds and unsettled weather, the clouds parted and we were treated to stunning views of ocean swells battering the rusty red cliffs of the Newfoundland coastline. Seabirds, fin whales, and white-beaked dolphins swam around the ship as we made our final approach into St. John’s.
National Geographic Explorer
was eagerly waiting to visit L’Anse aux Meadows and meet a part of the fascinating history of Newfoundland or, more properly, Vinland, as the first Norsemen on the island called it. In the early morning, guests and naturalists disembarked and headed to the Norstead Viking Village and the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On the way, we briefly stopped at a statue of Leif Ericson (one of six in the world), who is often called the discoverer of Vinland. We then moved onto the village, a wonderful recreation of a Norse settlement with an impressive life-size replica of a Viking ship. With the aid of very knowledgeable local guides, our guests and staff learned many details of the local history, excavations, and natural history. At the UNESCO World Heritage Site, we visited the museum and then the original excavation locality, where multiple Viking objects, rooms with walls made of peat, forges, and more were discovered.
Guests enjoyed the exact reconstruction of this scientifically verified Viking settlement, the first and only in America. Some local villagers, dressed as Vikings, showed the type of life they had 1,000 years ago—a hard life, for sure. At lunch, we ate local fish, scallops, and a special delicacy—cod tongue! What a great historical and gastronomical experience.
Our day began with a Zodiac landing at the community of Woody Point, where we were greeted by locals and brought to visit the nearby discovery center. There, we learned about the amazing geology of Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The special feature of this park is the tablelands, where a piece of Earth’s mantle has been thrust upward and now appears at the surface. The tablelands are comprised of two main rock types: peridotite, a dark green rock that weathers to a rusty brown; and serpentinite, a metamorphosed version of peridotite with a distinctive scaly pattern. Very few plants grow on these nutrient-poor rocks, but one that does is the pitcher plant.
The pitcher plant is Newfoundland’s provincial flower and it is carnivorous! Insects and other small invertebrates are attracted to the pools formed in the plant’s “pitchers.” The bugs fall in and become part of a “bug stew” that provides nutrients to the plant as well as certain types of midges whose larvae form in the pitchers.
In the afternoon, we visited Norris Point, the site of the Bonne Bay Marine Centre. The center has many tanks filled with local marine species, which gave our guests a window into life beneath the surface of the sea. From lobsters and cod to coralline algae, the biodiversity found beneath the waves was amazing!
After a beautiful sunny and breezy day at Isles des Madelaine, celebrated at recap with nearly limitless local oysters on the half shell,
National Geographic Explorer
turned north, aiming for Connoiere Bay on the south coast of western Newfoundland. This departure from the ship’s original itinerary—made necessary by a shift to the north for right whale activity—prevented us from accessing our original destination of Havre St. Pierre, Labrador, in a timely manner.
Connoiere Bay is a new destination for our ship and was chosen by expedition leader Peter after examining satellite imagery and locating a place that indicated a safe, if uncharted, harbor in an area with little human habitation or activity. Thus,
truly lived up to her name.
The ship dropped anchor during breakfast, in thick fog, calm seas, and temperatures in the mid-fifties. After a quick reconnaissance on shore by our expedition leader, morning activities were planned and announced. First off, the ship were the hikers who were ferried by Zodiac to steep, gravel beaches from which they followed probable (judging from the scat) caribou trails through the boreal forest, on a spongy substrate consisting of a rich variety of peat, mosses, lichen, and heather. A variety of berry-bearing plants showed off their colorful fruit in shades of bright red, yellow, and blue. Abundant carnivorous pitcher plants were observed in addition to dogwood, juniper, and beech trees—all notably short, as is characteristic of trees at this northerly latitude and growing in these impoverished soils.
Once the hikers landed, the call went out from assistant expedition leader Johanna for the Zodiac cruisers to report to the mudroom for boarding. Unfortunately, the fog never lifted. As the Zodiacs departed, they soon lost sight of both the ship and the shore but, with the help of the drivers’ portable GPS devices, the shoreline soon emerged from the curtain of fog. Those on the Zodiacs then enjoyed a cruise along a beautiful shoreline of salmon-colored, coarse-grained granitic rocks, fractured into interesting patterns and punctuated with intervening fine quartz sand beaches. Our onboard geology specialists explained the igneous origins of granite deep within Earth’s crust, noting that it is only through extensive erosion that these rocks are now exposed at the surface for our observation. We also heard an account of the physicochemical origin of granitic magma’s extremely high viscosity, accounting for this magma type’s tendency to stall during ascent at mid-crustal depths where it then takes tens of thousands of years to cool and solidify completely.
Being that our next stop, Gros Morne National Park, is about 22 hours away, the ship picked up steam after lunch, rounded the southwest corner of Newfoundland, and set course to the north. Although the fog persisted, the seas were smooth for this transit and our afternoon hours were filled with presentations.
We first heard an extremely entertaining but thought-provoking, presentation by
Perspectives Guest Speaker Paul Greenberg
on “Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food.” The talk generated a lively Q-&-A session that blended imperceptibly into afternoon tea in the ship’s bistro. Late in the afternoon, Adrian, one of the ship's naturalists and an expert in ecological niches in a variety of geographic settings, shared “The Fortunate Island: Natural History of Newfoundland.” Before we knew it, it was time for recap and another sumptuous dinner was served.
National Geographic Explorer
arrived in Cap-aux-Meules harbor in the early morning. Some of our guests chose to go on a highlights bus tour that took them through a charming landscape with unique panoramic views. They visited a traditional smokehouse where three generations of the same family have maintained the practice of smoking fish. Afterward, they visited the Dune du Nord where they took a walk to appreciate the natural beauty of the red sandstone that dominates the landscape. A second group of guests opted to visit an orchard where the owner grows apples in bottles, and taste three of the four varieties of cider produced there. They later visited Le Site d’Autrefois, a model fishing village to learn about the history of fishing in the islands. Both groups met again at an old convent for lunch before returning to the ship. A third group of guests chose to go for a hike in the north of the islands. Everybody enjoyed the views of the lighthouse and the red sandstone that makes this landscape so unique. In the meantime, the underwater team went for a dive in the harbor. It was a challenging dive with very limited visibility but soon they encountered several young lobsters and crabs and captured exciting footage to share back on board. In the evening, we met in the lounge to share fresh, locally sourced oysters and had a fantastic time at recap with the expedition staff.