Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

Can you staycation in N.L. without a car? It's possible

A car rental is always an option. But what if you don't drive? Are you out of luck? No, writes Monica Walsh.

Taxis, buses and ferries open up the province to those who don't drive, writes Monica Walsh

The provincial government lit up Cabot Tower in St. John's in June to kick off its Stay Home Year 2020 campaign. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

This year, it makes sense that many of us will be staying in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador during the summer months.

I love our summer and fall and I like to stay home anyway. I love to hit the road and explore.

But what about those of us who don't have a car? We've heard it said many times: to travel around the province, you need a car. To see the sights, you need a car.

Car rental is always an option. But what if you don't drive? Are you out of luck?

You're not!

I can drive, but I've never owned a car. So I've had to look into a lot of public transit options for my travels and I can tell you there are more ways to get around the province than people realize.

The truth is it's not always possible and there will be some places that aren't easily accessible. But there are many that are.

Below are some ideas. I say "some" ideas because this is just a snippet of the wonders that N.L. has to offer.

I hope that this piece will inspire you to investigate places you want to go and various ways to get there — this summer or next.   

The bus, for example

For starters, there is the DRL bus service. I've taken it many times, and when I settle into my window seat I'm happy. 

The DRL goes across the island once a day, from both directions — St. John's to Port aux Basques, Port aux Basques to St. John's, stopping at major points along the highway. 

I've heard people say they would like more stops. However, most of the locations where the bus stops have taxi services going to more remote locations. You might have to wait for a connecting ride, or even spend a night in order to co-ordinate, but maybe that's all part of your trip.

This is the sea arch attraction at Tickle Cove on the Bonavista Peninsula, now part of the Discovery UNESCO Geopark. (Shutterstock) has a great link on their website that provides information on transportation to various places on the island.

Google is your friend, and I suggest researching anywhere you may want to go well in advance. Get out your phone and start calling. Realize that this summer is an unusual one, and that information listed on websites may not be accurate for this unique time so be patient with those you speak with. 

These taxi/bus services are invaluable for people who need to travel the province for medical, work or other reasons. They also do parcel service if needed. They are friendly and helpful.

I've gotten shared taxi services to the Bonavista Peninsula from St. John's for years. I love it because often the taxi/bus will pick me up at my house — I love that convenience. 

The website I mentioned above lists three different transportation companies that travel to Bonavista and area. Services will drop you off at various locations along the way. Call them and ask about Trinity, for instance, or continue on to beautiful Bonavista. 

Clarenville is a good hub to meet up with various transports in the area and easily accessible through DRL.  

Moving west

I've always wanted to go to Harbour Breton, and I will get there soon. There's a regular taxi service that makes runs from Grand Falls to Harbour Breton Monday through Friday. Make your way to Grand Falls, and from there it's a beautiful drive down the Connaigre Peninsula to Harbour Breton and area. Again, you'll need to make reservations because of our situation this summer.  

With its white sandy beaches, crystal-clear water and exciting, easy trails, Burgeo is one of the most gorgeous spots on the island. There is a taxi service to Burgeo from Corner Brook. Also, there are a number of tour companies operating out of Port aux Basques and other areas on the west coast of the island. If it's within your budget, this is also an option.

Using Port aux Basques as a base, you can travel to many out-of-the-way places along the vast coastline. Both Port aux Basques and Corner Brook are lovely in their own right, are easily accessible by bus, and can serve as your base while you navigate the surrounding attractions. I could say the same for the greater St. John's area.

This is the Lomond campground in Gros Morne National Park. (Submitted by Leona Rockwood)

There is a taxi service from Corner Brook to the Northern Peninsula, another vast, wonderful place to visit. Travel through the majestic Gros Morne National Park — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — and make your way to St. Barbe (there is a shuttle taxi service from Corner Brook) where you can walk on the ferry that takes you to Blanc-Sablon, Que., and the Labrador Straits. 

There is a local taxi company in Blanc-Sablon, and you can also look up tour companies in that area for some ideas. 

By boat 

We have a number of exciting destinations accessible by ferries only. A short ferry ride will take you to Fogo Island or Change Islands.  

You can travel from Gander to the ferry terminal at Farewell via private taxi — it's about 90 minutes, and might be costly. The ferry takes foot passengers and the ride can be one of the most memorable parts of your trip.

It isn't necessarily the easiest to get to without a vehicle, but Fogo is an exotic place that welcomes visitors from all over the world so it's worth the effort.

There is also a shared taxi service from St. John's to the Burin Peninsula with stops along the way. On this taxi, you could get to Fortune and catch the ferry to St-Pierre. This may be a better plan for next summer with restriction-free travel.

Fogo Island is an exotic place that welcomes visitors from all over the world so it's worth the effort, writes Monica Walsh. (Submitted by David Hiscock)

None of this is particularly cheap. But then, travelling anywhere is going to cost you. Again, do your research — there are cheap options.

Often the cost of getting a taxi is comparable to the cost of owning and running a car. However, it is possible to get around this beautiful province without a car.

Some places will be much harder to access than others. If there is a place you really want to see, Google the town. See if there are any local taxi companies. Call ahead and ask about how people get there.

Physical distancing measures will be in place this summer, so please keep that in mind, especially when using shared transport.  

Local people know what's on the go and how to get there. In my experience, people give up too quickly because they've been told it's hard.

Research and an open mind are your friends. Happy travels!

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Monica Walsh is an actor, writer and theatre producer in St. John's who enjoys outdoor activities and the weekend.


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