Last updated on October 24th, 2022
Driving the Irish Loop is one of the best ways to experience Newfoundland’s natural beauty and was a highlight of my trip to the St.John’s area. With picturesque landscapes, frequent wildlife spottings, and plenty to see and do along the Irish Loop, this is the one experience you will want to include in your Newfoundland itinerary.
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What is the Irish Loop?
The Irish Loop is a scenic drive that loops along the southeast portion of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland. Along this road trip from St.John’s are many small quiet towns and beautiful nature along the rugged coastline.
Why is it Called the Irish Loop?
This stretch of road gets its name as the Irish Loop from its historical ties to Ireland, dating back at least 400 years. Many Newfoundlanders are of Irish descent, and Newfoundland is known to be the most Irish place outside of Ireland. From music to food and culture, there is more than a little piece of Ireland in the southeastern portion of the Avalon Peninsula, so it is very fitting that the road passing through this area be called the Irish Loop.
Where Does the Irish Loop Start and End?
The Irish Loop starts at the southern end of St.John’s on Route 2 before heading down Route 10 into the heart of Irish Newfoundland all the way down along the coast before looping around Route 90 and ending back at the origin point.
The most iconic part of the Irish Loop is Route 10 between Goulds and St. Vincent’s-St. Stephen’s-Peter’s River.
Irish Loop Newfoundland Distance: 312 km start to end
How Long Does it Take to Drive the Irish Loop in Newfoundland?
To drive the whole Irish Loop non-stop would take a little over 4 hours, but I would highly recommend you spend at least a full day making stops along the way and exploring. While the drive itself is scenic, your experience of the Irish Loop will be even better when you take your time to stop and see the small towns, go for hikes, and dine on seafood.
If you don’t want to drive the whole loop in one day, break it up into multiple day trips from St.John’s or stay at places along the Irish Loop. The most breathtaking section of the route is up to Ferryland.
What Communities are Part of the Irish Loop?
Here is a list of Irish Loop Newfoundland towns:
- Bay Bulls
- Witless Bay
- Tors Cove
- Shore’s Cove
- Cape Broyle
- Portugal Cove South
- Biscay Bay
- Shoal Point
- Daniel’s Point
- Saint Vincent’s-St. Stephen’s-Peter’s River
- Peter’s River
- Saint Stephens
- Middle Gut
- The Flats
- Saint Vincent’s
- Point La Haye
- Saint Mary’s
- Cootes Pond
- Saint Joseph’s
- New Bridge
- Forest Field
- Saint Catherine’s
These are the towns and communities directly on the Irish Loop, with more communities just a short detour off the route.
Things to See Along the Irish Loop, Newfoundland
With so many communities and a whole coastline of rugged nature along the Irish Loop, it can be overwhelming to choose where to stop along the way. Here are some of the best places to stop along the Irish Loop:
Search for Puffins, Whales, and Icebergs
The eastern shores of Newfoundland are some of the best places to search for puffins, whales, and icebergs. Each year, puffins nest on the rocky island outside of Witless Bay, whales come into and near the harbours to feed, and icebergs float across the ocean from Greenland.
There are two options to see these amazing sights for yourself: you can take a scenic cruise from Bay Bulls or search for wildlife from the shore in Witless Bay. Whether you look for wildlife and icebergs from the shoreline or by boat, you will not want to skip visiting this area of the Irish Loop.
The best time of year to see puffins, whales, and icebergs along Newfoundland’s coast is the month of July, although the iceberg season runs from April to July, and puffin and whale season is May-October. I chose to take the scenic cruise in September and saw puffins and bald eagles; the tour the day before was lucky to see dolphins.
East Coast Trail Hikes
Admire Newfoundland’s stunning scenery from the East Coast Trail. This long-distance trail runs over 300 km along the Atlantic coastline of Newfoundland, broken into 25 smaller sections while passing through over 30 communities. Hike any part of the trail, and the views are sure to impress. While beautiful at any time of year, the best time of year to hike the East Coast Trail is in the fall.
La Manche Suspension Bridge
La Manche Suspension Bridge Trail is a 1.2km scenic path through the forest with ocean views and chances for wildlife spotting and is one of the best hikes along the East Coast Trail. The hike ends at the suspension bridge or can be continued to the La Manche Village ruins. During my East Coast Trail hike, I visited La Manche to the suspension bridge. To learn more about my tips and experience, read my guide on hiking La Manche Suspension Bridge.
Berry Head Arch
Berry Head Arch, also known as the Berry Arch, is a beautiful natural archway along the coast of Port Kirwan, NL. This 17.4km moderately challenging hike takes approximately 6 hours to complete. Berry Arch is located halfway through the journey from either trailhead. If you plan to do this hike, start early to do other activities after, or plan to spend the entire day here before heading back to St. John’s.
Explore Tiny Towns along the Atlantic Coast
With over 30 communities along the Irish Loop, it’s not surprising that you will want to stop to explore at least one of them during your road trip. Choose to explore the prettiest towns on the Irish Loop, including Petty Harbour, Witless Bay, Brigus South, Ferryland, and Trepassey. During my road trip, I explored Ferryland, so more information is available below.
One of the oldest communities in North America, Ferryland is known as the heart of Newfoundland’s Irish community. In this small town of fewer than 400 people, Irish music, culture, and traditions have fused with the Newfoundlanders to create a characterful feel. Hike the Ferryland Lighthouse, visit the archaeological museum, dine on seafood, or experience a summer festival.
The Ferryland Lighthouse is a 14 m tall lighthouse in the Avalon Peninsula. Built in 1870, this active red and white lighthouse is a recognizable symbol for this tiny town. Hike for 25 minutes to reach the lighthouse and set up a picnic.
Barren rock at the southern tip of the island, Mistaken Point, is 17km of rugged coastline and contains rare fossils dating back 500 + million years. Take a tour and learn Earth’s history through fossils at Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can walk on touch the thousands of rocks on the ground.
This stop is a detour off the main road by about 30 minutes but is one of the top-rated things to see along the Irish Loop. During my road trip, I ran out of daylight and couldn’t stop here, but I plan to return and check out Mistaken Point.
Saint Vincent’s Beach
One of the best things to do along the Irish Loop is whale watching from the beach at Saint Vincent’s Beach. St Vincent’s Beach is famous for its on-shore whale watching across its 5km stretch of cobblestone beach. You can see the whales without ever needing to board a boat.
Each year, whales travel into the bay to feed, typically between June and August, but there can be whale sightings at any time throughout the year. During my visit in September, while I didn’t see any whales, I did spot a seal swimming close to shore.
Places to Eat: Irish Loop Restaurants
An all-day road trip is going to make you hungry. If you don’t pack food, you will need to find places to eat along the route. Most of the Irish Loop restaurants are on the eastern coastline with limited opening hours, so keep that in mind when timing when to eat on your road trip. Here are a few suggestions for Irish Loop restaurants:
Irish Loop Coffee House
Overlooking Witless Bay, this small cafe is in a little oceanside cottage. Serving breakfast and lunch, the Irish Loop Coffee House offers all-day breakfast, sandwiches, light lunch fare, and homemade treats. Get a seat by the window for views of the bay below.
During my road trip, I stopped at Irish Loop Coffee House for a snack and had a delicious blueberry muffin. I don’t know what it is about the blueberries in Newfoundland, but I kept eating any blueberry dish I could find.
Bernard Kavanagh’s Million Dollar View Restaurant
Sitting at a cliff edge in Ferryland, Bernard Kavanagh’s Million Dollar View Restaurant isn’t exaggerating the scenic views this restaurant offers, especially if you sit outside at the picnic table. This oceanside restaurant serves seafood and pub-style food, including fish and chips, burgers, and clam chowder. During peak wildlife seasons, you can see whales swimming nearby or puffins swimming in the bay below.
While I wasn’t hungry when I passed by here, I did stop by for the lookout. The view from the cliffside is beautiful, so I can see why it’s called a million-dollar view.
The Celtic Knot Pub & Restaurant
Found in St. Mary’s, The Celtic Knot Pub & Restaurant is an Irish pub along the second half of the Irish Loop. Only open on weekends, they serve up seafood, burgers, and other pub foods at reasonable prices.
Places to Stay on the Irish Loop
If you decide one day isn’t enough or want to stay near the Irish Loop, there are cottages, campsites, hotels, and B&Bs along your driving route. Here are some options of where to stay on the Irish Loop, with one suggestion for each section of the loop (beginning, middle, and end):
Whale House Guest House – Boutique private suites in Witless Bay, NL
Edge of the Avalon Inn – An award-winning Inn and restaurant in Trepassey, NL
The Wilds Resort at Salmonier River – A tucked away resort and golf course in Holyrood, NL
What It’s Like: Driving the Irish Loop Newfoundland
When planning my trip to St.John’s, I knew I needed to rent a car and drive the Irish Loop. After getting up early to watch the sunrise at Cape Spear and then enjoying a filling breakfast in St.John’s, I hopped in my vehicle and headed towards the Irish Loop start point.
The single-lane road passes through forest, rides along the oceanfront, and drives through flatlands. With sweeping views of the rugged coastline, I was constantly pulling over to admire the view and take photos of the incredible landscapes. I saw puffins, seals, bald eagles, and million-dollar views.
With so many fun activities and beautiful places, we spent more time at each spot than planned and had to return to St.John’s in the dark. To drive the Irish Loop again, I would break it into smaller pieces and dive more into exploring each area of the coastline more in-depth, spending 2-4 days in the area.
I highly recommend driving the Irish Loop when visiting the St.John’s, Newfoundland area.
Tips for Driving the Irish Loop
- Start your day early if you aim to complete the Irish Loop road trip in a single day.
- There aren’t many gas stations or bathrooms along the way, so gas up your vehicle and use the restroom when you get the chance.
- Try to be back to St.John’s or your accommodations before dark/around dusk, as the roads along the Irish Loop have no streetlights, so it is dark at night.
- Driving the Irish Loop is best done on a sunny or cloudy day. Don’t drive the loop if the weather is storming during hurricane season, as winds are high along the Atlantic coast.
- Have fun and be flexible with your Irish Loop itinerary, as you might want to spend more or less time at sights along the way.
Irish Loop Map
Here is a map of the Irish Loop drive with all the stops listed in this guide:
I hope this information helps you plan your Irish Loop drive in Newfoundland.
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