Reality check: Bike touring in Newfoundland isn't for the faint of heart. It's not that the hills here are necessarily brutally steep or long (though some are). It's the weather that can be downright demoralizing. Expect some blustery days, complete with blasts of wind and horizontal rains that can bring forward-pedaling to a standstill. The happiest bike tourists seem to be those who allow themselves frequent stays in motels or inns, where they can find hot showers and places to dry their gear.
Freewheeling Adventures (tel. 800/672-0775 or 902/857-3600; www.freewheeling.ca) operates van-supported bike tours that overnight in hotels and B&Bs along the way. Its Viking Tour of the northern coast of Newfoundland is a week of pure cycling pleasure (and tough riding -- one day involves 160km/100 miles of cycling!). It costs C$2,400 to C$2,700, depending on whether you use their guides or make up your own itinerary, plus a C$350 supplement if you travel solo (because you'll sleep alone in the inn rooms). There is also a new option for a 3-day extension of the tour into Labrador. Lodging is included in either plan, though the full plan includes all your meals, equipment rentals, van transfers, a bonus fjord boat trip, and a whale/iceberg-watching boat trip in the package. Needless to say, go for that one.
The same outfit offers a similar 8-day tour of the Avalon Peninsula (very near St. John's), as well, for C$2,500 to C$2,700, again depending on whether you self-cater or leave it all up to them.
Newfoundland-based Aspenwood Tours (tel. 709/673-4255) arranges shorter mountain-biking day trips in and around the central sections of Newfoundland for C$35 to C$50 per person -- the price depends mostly on whether you've brought your own bike to the island or not.
Except in the tropics, bird-watching doesn't get much better than it does in Newfoundland and Labrador -- this province is home to some of the most concentrated bird populations on the continent (and the world).
Eastern Newfoundland and the butterfly-shaped Avalon Peninsula are especially rich in bird life. About 40km (25 miles) south of St. John's, just offshore from Route 10, is Witless Bay Ecological Reserve (tel. 709/635-4520), a cluster of several islands hosting the largest colony of breeding puffins and kittiwakes in the western Atlantic. And down at the southwestern corner of the peninsula -- via Route 100, it's about 120 miles' driving from St. John's -- Cape St. Mary's and its ecological reserve feature a remarkable sea stack that's home to a big colony of northern gannets. See the "Avalon Peninsula" section in this chapter for more details on these parks.
In addition to its two national parks, Newfoundland also maintains a number of provincial parks, some with campsites. About a dozen more parks were privatized in 1997 and are now run as commercial enterprises, but many still have campgrounds as well. Parks and campgrounds (both public and private) are covered fully in the provincial travel guide.
Canoeing & Kayaking
Pristine rivers and lakes abound in both Newfoundland and Labrador, so it's relatively easy to plot out a great canoe trip -- with a little local assistance, that is. Potential journeys range from placid putters around a pond near St. John's to world-class descents of Labradoran rivers hundreds of miles long. Ask at the provincial tourist offices about canoeing brochures, guidebooks, and lists of accredited outfitters.
Newfoundland is also ideal for exploring by sea kayak. There's just one catch: The water's absolutely frigid. (There's a reason you see icebergs offshore. It's called the Labrador Current.) Kayaking here is a serious endeavor, and you need to be very well prepared in the event you tip over and end up in the icy drink. Caution: Use a guide.
The St. John's area alone features a ton of possible paddles, plus a handful of good outfitters who lead them. From a base camp about 90 minutes outside St. John's, for instance, Coastal Safari (tel. 877/888-3020 or 709/579-3977; www.coastalsafari.com) offers extended paddling tours from May through the end of August, including an eponymous 8-day "coastal safari" that epitomizes the word eco-adventure. The tour begins with a pickup from the St. John's airport and includes 5 days' paddling in and out of an Avalon Peninsula base camp, plus several overnights in the St. John's area and the scenic village of Harbour Mille. All kayaks, transport, food (and wine, if you wish), camping gear, and even snorkels are included in this package. You sleep in tents with comfortable support pads or bed-and-breakfast inns. Contact the company (or check its website) for current prices and tour schedules.
The area northeast of Terra Nova National Park, with its archipelago centering around St. Brendan's Island, is another great choice for a paddle. Two-hour guided sea kayak tours leave from the park's Marine Interpretation Centre to explore protected Newman's Cove.
Farther north on the island, Aspenwood Tours (tel. 709/673-4255; www.aspenwoodtours.com) in Springdale -- which I have already mentioned in "Bicycling," above -- does half- and full-day guided paddles and rentals.
Newfoundland and Labrador are legendary among serious anglers, especially those stalking the Atlantic salmon, which can weigh up to 40 pounds. Other prized species include landlocked salmon, lake trout, brook trout, and northern pike. More than 100 fishing-guide services on the island and mainland provide everything from simple advice to complete packages that include bush-plane transportation, lodging, and personal guides. To fish for salmon, nonprovincial residents must purchase a special license and be accompanied by a licensed guide (though you can fish some waters within a kilometer/half-mile of a provincial highway without a license; check with the province for specifics).
If you're truly serious about fishing, get your hands on the latest Newfoundland & Labrador Angler's Guide for updated regulations. It's available at most visitor centers or by calling the provincial tourist office at tel. 800/563-6353; it's also posted online, in PDF format, on the province's fisheries website at www.nfl.dfo-mpo.gc.ca.
Hiking & Walking
Newfoundland has hundreds of trails, some along spectacular coastlines leading to abandoned villages; but you'll have to work a little to find them, since tourism isn't fully developed here (thank goodness). The most obvious hiking trails tend to be centered around national parks and historic sites, where they're often fairly short -- good for a half-day's hike, rarely more. Some towns are finally realizing the recreational potential for their trails, and have begun locally publishing maps and brochures directing you to them. The Bonavista Peninsula and the Eastport Peninsula, both on Newfoundland's east coast, are two areas with world-class trails.
But the best-maintained trails are at Gros Morne National Park, with more than 95km (60 miles) of trails in all. There's also some serious off-track hiking on the dramatic Long Range for backpackers equipped to set out for a couple of days. Ask at the park's visitor center for more information on hiking in it.