We were in our twenties the last time we camped at Terra Nova National Park. Carl and I had just started dating and were with our university friends for the May 24thlong weekend. Newfoundlanders are determined to camp on this weekend. Wild fluctuations in day-time and night-time temperatures at that time of year mean it is a shock-and-awe tenting experience. We slept in a pup tent, drank copious amounts of adult beverages and, in general, just celebrated being alive and finished with another term of post-secondary education. We therefore honestly couldn’t remember much about the park. Our interests in those days did not extend to hiking, assessing facilities and wondering about interpretive programs. We have always camped in Gros Morne when we are in Newfoundland because of proximity to Carl’s Mom. How would Terra Nova measure up to Gros Morne we wondered?
The first thing we had to do is decide which campground to inhabit. There are two main ones. We needed electricity and wanted to be handy to some good hiking trails so we chose Newman Sound Campground. Carl and I had a little bit of an argument as to whether this was the campground we all took residence in during that wild weekend so long ago. Carl thought it was. I reminded him there was only one in our group who had a car. Our friend Obes owned an ancient, tank-like Volvo with no brakes. Every time we had to make a daily beer run, he took a couple of guys with him in case he went into the ditch. They had to make several passes at the Traytown turn-off from the highway before he could get the Volvo slowed enough to manage the turn. I recalled that we camped as close as we could to Traytown to minimize the danger. You can’t beat the safety logic of 19-year-olds. That meant we would have been in the Malady Head Campground. Yes, that is the name of a real place. One thing you get used to in Newfoundland is colourful and strangely appropriate place names. The Malady Head campground is close to Traytown and Glovertown while the Newman Sound Campground is more centred in the Park, sheltered in the Newman Sound Inlet.
The Newman Sound Campground was beautifully laid out with easy access to everything you might need. It is remarkable how they manage to fit so many campers into the Campground without it seeming crowded or intrusive. In our Newman Sound Campground, there were raised gardens, bird houses and evidence of the craft-fruit of other facilitated children’s programs around the campground. There are child activity centres in the campground areas in which many interesting programs take place during the day. Terra Nova is also trying to develop a dark sky sanctuary, which I did not know until I saw the bat exhibit at the children’s resource centre. The park is a great example of “if you build it they will come with kids.” It was lovely to see and hear so many children and families camping together. This has not always been our experience in National Parks. The Park seems to have purposely arranged playgrounds, activity centres and trails such that mixed aged groups can all find something to do together. The shower areas and comfort centres were clean and well kept. There are laundry facilities and even a general store. The campground dumping station was positively industrial in scale – 4 well-spaced receiving stations. Our only disappointment was that fire pits are only found in communal areas. This is to mitigate risk of forest fire. Central Newfoundland can get quite dry in the summer time.
As with many National Parks, there are a number of different eco-systems to explore: boreal forest, seashore, ghost remnants of a ship building village, woodlands, ponds, bogs and more. Hiking, kayaking, boat tours, canoeing and swimming are all possible in this Park.
Terra Nova has some informative, well-staffed and interesting interpretive centres at Sandy Pond including a Marine Exhibit and a very interesting self-directed audio tour around a very old ship-building site.
My mother-in-law is a Newfoundland West-Coaster and is therefore very attached to Gros Morne National Park. When Carl and I returned from our Terra Nova excursion she asked me in a tone weighted with expectation of the correct answer, “So, did it measure up to Gros Morne?” I replied that Terra Nova exceeded our expectations and was astonishingly beautiful in its own way.
How to Get There:
Presuming you have found your way to Newfoundland either by air or by ferry, you will need to take the Trans Canada Highway. If you took the ferry which lands at Port Aux Basque your ferry ride will be about 6 hours. You will need to travel east for about 8 hours. Gas stations are not plentiful so fill up when you can. If you took the ferry to Argentia your ferry ride will be about 13 hours, but your land trip to Terra Nova will be between 2-3 hours. Both ferries will require reservations. Make them well ahead of time. It is a sad sight to see tourists languishing on the edges of the ferry terminal parking lots while they wait for space on the ferry.
Visitor Centre (Salton’s Brook): 709-533-2942