Five Reasons to Visit Newfoundland

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Karl-Heinz Raach / Laif

Natural selection
Remoteness and scenery are potent tourist lures

Newfoundland might fly under the radar — bar a starring role in the celluloid version of Annie E. Proulx's Shipping News — but Canada's easternmost province is astonishingly photogenic. Its blend of rugged landscapes (icebergs, mountains, forests, fjords, beaches and coastal trails) make it a playground for nature fiends. You don't have to be Grizzly Adams to enjoy a break there though: culture and revelry are on hand at the convivial capital, St. John's. Need more enticements? Here are five.

1. Witless Bay Ecological Reserve
About 40 minutes south of St. John's, the small fishing community of Bay Bulls is the departure point for puffin-and whale-watching cruises through this reserve. It's home to a half-million-strong Atlantic-puffin colony that is North America's largest. A 90-minute catamaran trip with marine-tour operator Gatherall's,, will whisk you out to Gull Island, which teems with birdlife during the April to August breeding season. From July, humpback whales begin to arrive: keep your eyes peeled.

2. Leaside Manor Apartments
This 88-year-old property,, lies a 20-minute stroll from downtown St. John's and is a charming cocoon — think pretty gardens, wooden beams and walnut paneling. The 10 suites, more boudoir than businesslike, feature canopied beds, ornate fireplaces, and jacuzzis and double tubs in which to soak away the jet lag. Lip-smacking communal breakfasts are a house tradition. Get to know your fellow guests over eggs benedict, pancakes and croissants with partridgeberry jam before heading out for a day's sightseeing.

3. George Street
St. John's boasts a grand total of 71 pubs. Many of these are Irish (around 40% of Newfoundlanders are of Celtic descent), feature live music and are squashed into George Street — the city's pedestrianized nightlife strip. After a evening on the tiles in O'Reillys,, downing screech (the local rum) and dancing jigs, you'll feel half-Newfoundlander yourself. Want to make friends? Break into a ballad or sea shanty, which the locals love to do.

4. Gros Morne National Park
Located on the province's west coast, this wonderland of forest and fjords,, is home to moose, caribou, whales, eagles and black bears. Spend a morning hiking around the Tablelands, a slice of ancient ocean floor forced up when the continents of Africa and North America collided several million years ago. Then take a boat trip down Western Brook Pond in the isolated northern reaches of the park. Don't be fooled by the word pond: Western Brook is 10 miles (16 km) long. The journey through the jagged cliffs and cascading waterfalls will leave you feeling as though you've tumbled into The Lost World. Cabin and cottage accommodation is available in the park.

5. The Old Loft
This homely, unpretentious and very affordable eatery,, is housed in a restored "net loft" — a building used by fishermen to store goods and repair their nets. Tucked away in Woody Point, one of the sleepy coastal communities within Gros Morne National Park, it's a place to scoff your way through some of the tastiest seafood in the province — from capelin to cod chowder, buttery mussels, scallops and more. While you wait for your meal to arrive, you can mosey around the downstairs craft shop and stock up on quality souvenirs.