Take The Ferry To Newfoundland

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Take The Ferry To Newfoundland Two Different Ways

We took the the ferry to Newfoundland and back with Marine Atlantic on our road trip to Eastern Canada. Getting to Newfoundland we did the shorter 6 hour ferry on MV Highlander. On the way back we booked the overnight ferry on MV Atlantic. We were on the only night ferry with a cabin available. And were definitely glad we booked our travel to Newfoundland this way.

The ferries were a great way to travel across to Newfoundland with our car and for several other transits on our trip. Advance reservations really were necessary when we travelled in the summer. Limited availability meant we ultimately planned our entire trip around ferry availability.

None of the ferries were luxurious ways to travel. But they were generally okay for the time we spent on board. We will definitely do the ferry routes again.

Lots Of Experience At Sea

We loved cruising in areas all around the world. We typically cruised with Oceania Cruises and enjoyed a luxury experience on our cruises. Our shortest cruise was 3 days cruising the Yangtze River in China with Viking Cruises. Caribbean cruises were generally 7 to 10 days. But our longest cruise was about 57 days as we travelled from Greece to Cape Town.

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Oceania Cruises Cabin
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Main Stairway – Oceania Cruises
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Pool Deck – Oceania Cruises

But not every cruising experience was a luxury trip. We took a ferry from Barcelona to the Civitavecchia port outside of Rome in Italy. It was a one night crossing in a pretty basic room. It saved us a long car or train trip. Or more expensive plane tickets.

When we visited British Columbia, we often took the ferry to the Sunshine Coast. Or took the longer ferry for visits to Vancouver Island.

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So when we planned our east coast trip, we wanted to take the ferry to Newfoundland. It was just one of many ferries we took on our travels around Eastern Canada.

Ferry Routes To Newfoundland

There were two different ferry routes for Newfoundland that travelled to and from North Sydney on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. The shorter ferry was about 6 hours to Port Aux Basque. The longer ferry went overnight for about 16 hours to Argentia outside of St John’s.

Ideally we wanted to arrive on one ferry, drive around the island and depart on the other ferry at the other end. If we could not book the long ferry, we needed to re-trace our route and return from where we landed on the short ferry. This added at least one driving day and one or more nights in a hotel.

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Photo Credit: Marine Atlantic (https://www.marineatlantic.ca)

Getting A Cabin On The Longer Ferry To Newfoundland

For the longer ferry route, we really wanted a cabin. There were a number of cabin classes from a basic bunkbed room to luxury suites. When we checked the original dates for our travels in Eastern Canada, there were no cabins available. We looked at all dates and finally found one date with a cabin for the long transit from Argentia to North Sydney. And then we re-planned our trip around this date and left Newfoundland on the longer ferry. Luckily we were able to book the shorter ferry to travel to Newfoundland for the date we wanted.

With only one cabin available on the longer route, we had no choice about the accommodations. The only cabin left was a basic two bunkbed room. This was bigger and more expensive than just the beds we needed. But it was less expensive than the deluxe room we preferred. We knew this was not the most luxurious accommodations. But it gave us some privacy. And we were not left exposed to maskless passengers for the long crossing.

At one point as we checked dates for the longer ferry to Newfoundland, we considered flying instead. But the cost for two people to fly was expensive. We then needed a car rental. And we feared we would probably see less of the island.

Pre-Boarding Processes

The reservation process for the ferry to Newfoundland was all done online. This included checking for and booking a cabin. A few days before our ferry trips, we received an online check-in questionnaire that covered a variety of Covid-19 issues. This was in addition to already having a Newfoundland Covid-19 authorization from the government to enter the province.

Even though we did the online ferry process, we still got a phone call that reminded us of the Covid-19 requirements and the need to do the ferry questionnaire in advance. We were surprised when we arrived to board our ferry that some cars ahead of ours still had not done the required paperwork.

We were told to be at the ferry dock at least 2 hours before sailing. When we showed up at 2 hours, we were amazed to be much later than many people. Of course, several cars showed up just before the ferry boarded. With all the extra processes, we did not risk missing the ferry.

When we arrived at the ferry dock, our questionnaire was checked. We were issued a boarding ticket that was used to get on the boat. And for the long ferry, a cardboard room key.

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When we landed in Newfoundland and again in Nova Scotia, the cars were lined up and went through a Covid-19 entry process. We were a bit surprised that these entry authorizations were not checked before we boarded the ferry. On both ferry crossings, we got off fairly quickly and our entry process was quick.

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The Short Ferry From Sydney To Port Aux Basque

On the way to Newfoundland, we travelled on the day ferry from Sydney to Port aux Basque. The ferry arrived after 7pm. So we planned a one night stay in Port Aux Basque and started our travels in Newfoundland the next day.

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The ferry ride was about 6 hours. There were no assigned seats but we found comfortable seats on an upper deck. Although we remained disturbed by how many people forgot they were sharing the space with others!!!

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There were capacity limits due to the Covid-19 pandemic so seats were blocked off and people were spread out. Until people moved where they wanted to. The ferry rules stated that masks were to be worn whenever you moved about the vessel. They could be removed when you were in your seat or in your cabin. But mask removal was not limited just to when people ate or drank. Even double vaccinated, we felt far more comfortable wearing our masks at all times.

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We spent most of this ferry ride working at our seats. By this time we were already far behind in picture editing and blog writing. As land approached, we packed our day bags and headed up on deck. We got a great first view of Newfoundland.

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On deck, we watched the ferry turn around and back to the ramp. Port Aux Basque was the first stop on a week exploring Newfoundland.

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The short ferry to Newfoundland was an easy ride and a great way to get onto the island.

The Overnight Ferry Back To North Sydney From Argentia

The return ferry trip left from Argentia about 90 minutes outside of St. John’s. This was a 16 hour ferry and after the first short ferry trip we were glad we had a cabin to escape to.

The pre-boarding and boarding process was similar to the shorter ferry. This time we got our cardboard key to our cabin. As soon as we parked on the ferry, we headed up to the 8th deck.

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We walked all the way forward until we found our cabin. We thought we were prepared but it really seemed smaller than we expected. This was not the cabin we ever booked when we cruised!

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While small, the cabin had enough room to sit and work. And the bathroom with shower was bigger than expected. The very narrow beds meant there was no snuggling room at all. But happily the mattress was less uncomfortable than it originally felt.

Our Overnight Experience

We settled our things into the cabin and then went on deck for the departure views. Once at sea, we grabbed our cooler bag and took it to the lounge area with tables. There was a limited menu onboard and the line ups were very long. So we were very glad we had dinner provisions packed in the cooler.

After we ate, we moved to the quiet Havana club with our computers and worked. Few people found this spot and it was ideal for an hour with a view out the window. And with no food allowed, those who entered had masks on.

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We managed to sleep ok. The sea was quiet and gently rocked the ferry. When we woke in the morning, it was wonderful to have a hot shower before we started our day. We made our breakfast up in the forward lounge and bought coffee from the snack bar.

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The overnight ferry to Newfoundland worked out well for us. But only because we had a cabin. Even our basic cabin was better than being in the open space. We can no longer really sleep in a chair! Or sprawled along a bench seat.

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Facilities On Board

We were used to the quite spacious and well equipped ferries on the west coast in the Vancouver area. The ferries for Newfoundland were smaller. And many of the areas were closed for Covid-19.

The seats were comfortable and had foot rests when we sat in the seating area. There were several lounges and quiet areas around the ship. When we travelled, the casino, games rooms, gift shop and some dining facilities were closed.

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Overall the ferry to Newfoundland had enough facilities for the length of time we were on the ferry and awake.

Views From The Deck

There were several different outdoor deck areas. On both ferry crossings we spent some time outside on the decks for fresh air while we checked out the sights.

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When we left Argentia after our stay in Newfoundland it was a beautiful sunny day. We stayed out on deck and watched the transit out of the harbour. We saw Husky Energy’s West White Rose Project with the ALE SK350 crane. Sometimes my Civil Engineering geek surfaces! With his zoom lens, David found gun bunkers in the hills that protected the harbour. We saw leaping fish but even a zoom lens did not capture the splashing sights.

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Upper Deck Argentia Views Husky Energys West White Rose Project with ALESK350 crane.jpg

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The skies remained clear as we left Newfoundland. But we never saw the French Island of Saint Pierre and Miquelon off of Newfoundland. One day we will go back and visit. But we caught a great sunset as our last view of Newfoundland.

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The outdoor decks were a great spot for views when we took the ferry to Newfoundland.

Would We Recommend Taking The Ferry To Newfoundland?

We were glad we took the ferry to Newfoundland and booked the short ferry one way and the long ferry the other way. It worked out well for our travels when we looked at various considerations.

1) Travel Time

The short ferry was relatively fast. If we just explored the north part of Newfoundland or were prepared to drive around the island twice, it was possible to use the short ferry to travel to and from the island.

The ferry took longer than flying. This was fine for our long visit to Newfoundland. But a ferry trip would not be as good for a short visit to the island.

2) Cost

The ferry to Newfoundland was reasonably priced when compared to flying and renting a car.

The longer ferry at Argentia was about 3 times the cost of the shorter ferry for 2 people. Even without the added expense of a cabin. If we travelled with a larger group, the costs would quickly add up. The additional cabin costs ranged from about $176 to $246.

But there was both time and cost to drive back through Newfoundland to Port Aux Basque from St John’s to take the short ferry. So we figured for two people, it was basically about cost neutral even with a cabin. And the ferry was still far cheaper than flying for multiple people.

3) Ferry Schedule And Accommodation Needs

The other thing we factored into our plans was the accommodations at either end. Depending on the schedule, additional hotel nights might be needed close to the ferry terminals. We left North Sydney mid-day so did not really need to stay there before we left. But we arrived in Port Aux Basque after 7 pm so we wanted a hotel relatively close to the ferry dock.

On the return trip, we left late in the afternoon so it was an easy drive from St John’s to neighbouring Argentia. And we arrived in North Sydney first thing in the morning and kept driving to Nova Scotia. So we did not need North Sydney accommodations for the return trip either. But other ferry schedules with very early departures or very late arrivals might add in hotel night stays close to the ferry terminals.

The Newfoundland Ferry Was Just One Of The Ferries We Took In Eastern Canada

We took several ferry rides on our road trip around Eastern Canada. The first ferry on our travels in Quebec took us across the St Lawrence River from Les Escoumins to Trois Pistoiles. Then we did the two Newfoundland ferries. For our stay on Prince Edward Island we took a ferry from Caribou in Nova Scotia to Woods Island on the PEI. We changed it up and left the island on the Confederation Bridge into New New Brunswick.

We booked advance reservations for all ferries since we found little availability on the ferry schedules. There were extra fees for the reservations. But the cost to make last minute changes if we missed a ferry made the fees worthwhile.

The processes for Covid-19 screening on the ferry varied by company. But they all at least paid lip service to Covid restrictions although mask adherence varied.

The Covid-19 processes and timing varied by province. But entry authorizations were only checked when you left the ferry. We were not sure what happened to people who did not do their provincial authorizations in advance. With the paperwork done and ready for review, entry was not a major challenge.

All ferries required being at the dock well in advance so that timing was planned into our travel days.

Overall, it was great to add the ferries into our road trip travel mix. The time onboard gave us a little time to relax. Often, the ferries were faster than other options. And while they added costs, the cost for other alternative travel plans made the cost less of a factor.

Take The Ferry To Newfoundland And Enjoy The Trip

It may not be luxury cruising but we were happy we took the car ferry to Newfoundland and back. It was a great way to start and end our travels in Newfoundland.

The busy summer ferry schedule meant we ultimately planned our trip dates to Newfoundland around ferry and cabin availability. This had a cascading effect on the rest of our travel plan. But without ferry reservations that worked for our visit, we would not have visited Newfoundland.

Did you take the ferry to Newfoundland? Would you recommend it?

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Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!

48 Comments

  1. Perfect timing for reading your blog as we will take the short ferry to NFL in a couple days. Good to know about the pre trip Covid phone call.

    • I am always happy when a blog post timing is helpful for coming travel. Enjoy your trip to Newfoundland. We have lots of posts coming up on Newfoundland … but we have so much content it is taking a while to process.

  2. I tried cruising on few occasions but not as grand as like what you did. It is always an awesome experience. It seems there are so much things to see and glad you enjoyed your trip. Let’s make travel even more enjoyable while we can.

  3. Interesting read. We are planning to visit Newfoundland next year after visiting some relatives in Quebec. I never thought about taking the ferry to Newfoundland, but now I will compare ferry prices with the flight fares. I would go for the cheaper bunk bed though….and I am looking forward to more Newfoundland posts!

    • I hope you do get to visit Newfoundland. More posts coming for your planning. A cheaper option is to take the shorter ferry both ways. But it does cost in other ways to do that.

  4. I have considered overnight ferries in the past to save time and money but have never actually booked one. This one actually looks very nice and having an actual bed to sleep in is priceless when you plan to explore the next day. I haven’t been on a ferry since COVID. I’m not sure how I would have responded to someone’s foot appearing between the seats, not well for sure!

  5. I love traveling by ferry as well, and your experience sounds fantastic. I love the views from the deck, and nothing better than seeing a great sunset as the last view. Also, the facilities on board looks fancy, and I’d opt for the bunk beds too.

  6. I’ve only ever been to Toronto in Canada, but I’d much prefer to visit Newfoundland and by ferry. You gave a detailed overview of your trip, and I appreciate the tips! I’m not sure when we’ll ever get to visit Canada again but I’m inspired to return!

  7. It’s good that you have tried a wide range of cruise experiences. It balances things out. We equally appreciate each one for its pros and cons. I hope I can do something similar in the years to come. I love how this panned out for you and that it worked out well in the end. The sunset was some nice treat for you there!

    • We were not sure about ferry travel with the pandemic still on. But mostly this trip worked out well and the alternative really were not workable. We would have hated to miss Newfoundland.

  8. I’m rather averse to cruises because of the environment but taking a ferry from Canada to Newfoundland is a whole different story – already because of the proximity. I did something similar a couple of years ago from Germany to Norway – just the right length of time on board for me 😉

    • It was great that there was a short and a long option to get to and from Newfoundland. And with a cabin the overnight worked out ok for us. And we were so glad we got to visit Newfoundland.

  9. Your comment about people forgetting others around had me cracking up when I saw your photo of someones feet! This was a very interesting read. I am used to the Ferry from Vancouver Island to Vancouver so this is very different. It is also good to know that the pre COVID checks were all done. This is sometimes something I worry about. I love that there were different areas that you could go outside and take photos! Thank you for your honest review. Very helpful!

    • I am happy you found this post on our experiences on taking the ferry to Newfoundland helpful. In these times, it is helpful to see what the travel may be like. We head for the west coast next week and will be taking BC Ferries. I hope those experiences are good ones.

  10. Newfoundland is sure beautiful! It’s good to know how the ferries work, and what to expect. Oceania Cruises ferry looks very nice. Your cabin also looks comfy. We used to be taking ferries regularly before the pandemic so it’s great to see that they are able to function again.

    • We too were happy that the ferry to Newfoundland was working. Even if the reduced capacity made scheduling a challenge. We would have hated to miss visiting Newfoundland if we didn’t have the ferry service.

  11. This is so exciting, I can’t wait to visit the newfoundland when we move over to NB. I think we’d opt for the shorter route then just do a round trip from there to make it easier for our selves and bit more cost friendly.

    • I am glad this was helpful for your coming move to NB. If you live in the maritimes you could do the trip more than one time and not try to cram all of Newfoundland into one fast trip like we did. But we know we want to go back and see more. And would do the ferry again.

  12. Wow taking a ferry in Newfoundland seems like a dream. The snow capped mountains are stunning. The pool deck looks spectacular and I would definitely love to take a similar kind of ferry someday. I have never taken a ferry overnight but I do want to try it. If the landscapes are so beautiful, then I think I will be okay staying at a cabin.

  13. i have had Newfoundland on my bucket list for some time! i’ll use this blog when I plan — lots of great into here, especially on the covid procedures. thanks!!

    • We loved our trip to Newfoundland and were glad the ferry was a good option to get there and back. Lots of Newfoundland posts coming up to fill in your planning! You will love it.

  14. Wow this trip looks amazing. The boat is absolutely stunning. I loved the grand foyer you walked into! I have never been to Newfoundland before, but if I ever plan a trip it is nice to know there is a ferry option!

  15. We have friends residing in Newfoundland and yes, they mentioned that they have to take the ferry and that the trips are a bit limited so travel planning is a must.

    Happy to know that health protocols are in place. I like the idea of getting a cabin for privacy and safety.

  16. i know a couple of my friends who have taken a ferry to the Newfoundland, and they have always come back raving about the experience. Now after reading your post I understand their love for the experience. Looks like there are so many things to see and glad you enjoyed your trip. I am not much of a cruising fan as I like more adventure stuff like hiking or biking. But this sure looks like a good experience.

  17. The ferry is so fancy! I have never been on one that was like a cruise ship. What a neat share. We have wanted to visit this part of the world. Saving for another time. Thank you 🙂

  18. It actually sounds like the perfect plan- to take the short 6 hour fast ferry on one side and then the overnight one on the way back. The views from the deck are absolutely gorgeous, Newfoundland looks lovely. I hope I can get there some day!

  19. I can see why you recommended the ferry to start and end your trip allows you to have your car, but also an exciting adventure to be on the boat and have those views. Such a different experience than flying. This is one of the few provinces I haven’t been to yet. One day I’ll get there and I might even consider the ferry.

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