Camping in Gros Morne

Jenny and I planned to camp in Gros Morne for about a week. The forecast before we left said mostly sunshine, but by the time we got there, it had changed to nothing but rain. We spent one night in Gros Morne sleeping in the rain and took one picture the next day while we were leaving. We eventually camped for three nights at Terra Nova National Park near the east coast of Newfoundland.

The linked-photos make it look better than it was. The Gray Jays eating trail mix from our hands was the highlight.

Now I’m going to talk about the things that sucked…

1) The weather. I know people from St. John’s who have lived their whole lives in Newfoundland and have never gone to Gros Morne. And now I know why. It takes more than 8 hours to drive across the island to get to Gros Morne, and when you get there, it’s likely to be raining the whole time. Gros Morne may be a beautiful, magnificent place, but if it’s raining, you can’t do anything. Everything there is to see, everything there is to do, is outdoors, and it’s no fun doing any of it in the rain. The time and money and effort spent on getting to Gros Morne isn’t worth it if rains while you’re there. The weather forecast for Newfoundland is always a bit iffy, but the forecast for Gros Morne is worse. You simply cannot count on having good weather while you’re there. The size of Gros Morne does’t help either. It’s huge. To get from one camping area to another takes at least 20 minutes, if not double that. After 8+ hours of driving across the island, having to spend so much time in the car once you get there is not relaxing — especially when it’s raining.

2) Friendly but misleading park attendants. The park attendant at the entrance to Gros Morne told us we could get firewood anywhere at the camp site — but when we got there, all we found was a big cage full of firewood, and it was locked, and there was no one around to open it for us. (It would have taken us 45 minutes to drive to one of the small villages in the park to buy some firewood. So we couldn’t cook anything the first night.) The park attendant also told us there were no problems with bears in the parks, and then she recommended a camp site she thought we would like. The first thing we saw at our camp site was a yellow sign warning us that a bear had been spotted in the area. Our first and only night in the park was spent wondering about that bear. At Terra Nova, I asked the park attendant about any good places to fish in the park, and she sent me to a place that was absolutely devoid of fish. As soon as I saw it, I knew there was no chance in hell I’d catch any fish there. She kept saying, “That’s where all the locals catch big trout.” I’m pretty sure all the locals were laughing at us. Jenny and I wasted $10 each on a park fishing licence.

3) Price-gouging at Gros Morne. Talk about wasting money. Everything at Gros Morne is over-priced. The absolute worst offender — the undisputed champion of world-class rip offs — is the Woody Point Motel Restaurant. At the end of our crappy, tired, miserable, rainy day, we thought we could at least get ourselves a good meal. The high prices on the menu gave us the impression they served quality food, so we were really looking forward to it. WOODY POINT RIP OFF ARTISTSJenny ordered pan-friend cod and I ordered the seafood platter which I was told consisted of 3 pieces of cod with shrimp and scallops. Both of our orders included a baked potato and vegetables. Well… when the food arrived, it was surreal. I looked at Jenny. She looked at me. Neither of us could speak. What we were served was incomprehensible — for the price we paid. My seafood “platter” was served on a small round plate — nothing remotely “platter” about it. It was a small plate. The “3 pieces of cod” was a single piece of cod cut into three. Collectively it was smaller than any single piece of cod sold with a fish & chips in St. John’s. It was a thin, small piece of fish, and I could tell it was the tail end of the fish. There were also 3 small scallops on the plate and 2 shrimps. Served with nothing, no sauce of any kind — and that was the entire platter of seafood. Lots of empty space on that plate. Jenny’s pan-friend cod was the same as mine except it wasn’t cut into three smaller pieces. The “baked poato” was never baked. It was clearly a microwaved potato, nice and rubbery. The serving of vegetables consisted of two tiny pieces of microwaved broccoli. A bag of Doritos with a can of Coke would have been a more satisfying meal. Two days on the road in the rain, with a rainy night in a tent to look forward to, this meal was supposed to be our treat, something to lift our spirits. I could have just taken my money out and burned it right there. You want to know what it feels like to be violated? Order the seafood platter at the Woody Point Motel Restaurant in Gros Morne. You’ll never forget it. (Maybe the motel’s regular chef was out of town that day. Maybe they really do specialize in seafood. But on that day they ripped us off big time. How I described it is exactly how it happened.)

So our vacation camping trip didn’t start off too well, and it didn’t get much better. We spent 90% of our time on the road. Jenny and I are able to enjoy each other’s company even when the crapola rain is falling down hard, so it wasn’t horrible. But it could have be much, much better with a bit of sunshine. We would have delayed the trip if the weather forecast had called for rain. But it didn’t. It called for sunshine. Watching it all turn to rain was a real bummer. We anticipated some rain, but waiting out a full 5 days of rain so maybe we could get some sunshine wasn’t worth it. The one good thing about being on the road was the Irving Big Stops on the side of the highways. The food there was always excellent. Same goes for The Glynmill Inn in Corner Brook where we spent one night hoping to wait out the bad weather.

Next year we’re going some place warm. Maybe Italy.

UPDATE (Nov. 01/10): We have since gone camping in Gros Morne again and it was a good time. We were there for 5 days. We had one day of rain but half decent weather the rest of the time. We hiked many of the trails — Green Gardens and Gros Morne Mountain were the highlights — but didn’t have enough time to see everything. It takes a solid two weeks of good weather to get the most from Gros Morne. Our only complaint was having to spend a lot of time in the car travelling from one trail to the next.

About Phillip

Phillip Cairns is a beekeeper in St. John's, Newfoundland, who writes about beekeeping at

3 Replies to “Camping in Gros Morne”

  1. Geez Phillip you live in NL…rain is a suprise? Sorry to hear your trip was unenjoyable…

    When i figure out how to do these picture thingys i will send some from our trip with the kids….it rained a bit…we stayed off the lakes for a day due to high winds….but that is all part of camping… we have gone and it has rained for most of the trip but soo…we put on the gear and away we go….as far as food…gouging tourists in the summer is a Maritime/Atlantic Canada ecomonmic strategy…

    I am the food guy for our trips and every year i have to make something “impressive” … this year it was doughnuts….on the last day i treated the crew to fresh made and deepfried cinnimon and sugar coated doughnuts….the dough needed two rises in a warm place….thus my ample thighs and a sleeping bag while i read and lounged provided that warm place…oh yeah your dreaming of doughnuts now….we only went in over three relativly short portages, none over 600 m..soo the weight for the stuff was not prohibitive..

    oh yeah and i took some pictures from the thunderbox…I think this has potential as a coffe table photo book…the views from thunderboxes throughout the park….

    our trip was great…hope you have a better trip next time…

  2. Very clever, sardonic piece of writing. Thoroughly enjoyed it. You could write an entertaining book about your collective travel experiences. (I liked the happy-face picture too.)

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