If you are planning to travel to the Avalon and Eastern areas of Newfoundland during the months of May, June, July, August or September you will undoubtedly be faced with the question of what to expect in the way of weather and attractions during these different time periods. CapeRace, in the spirit of our "Eco-Culture Experience" travel concept, will attempt to provide some guidance and insight when planning a trip to Newfoundland. First, it's important to understand the comment often heard here, "There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes". This rings true on several fronts as travelers appreciate different aspects of nature, culture, and the overall environment in different ways. Some visitors have never seen fog. Photographers love it, pilots hate it, and it's always welcomed by those that come from humid 40 degree climates. A day of crashing waves and extreme wind concluded with local music in an ageless warm pub is high on the list for some, but not all. Some might prefer eating a gourmet lunch on the rocks outside of a lighthouse during clear days with 25 degree temperatures followed by a hike and blueberry picking. Newfoundland weather delivers on both of these types of experiences, however, these days arrive in an unpredictable manner causing huge headaches for those that try to plan for the experience they believe they want. The key word is "believe". The culture of Newfoundland has always been linked to the sea and the island's unpredictable climate. Wearing the right clothes allows you to become a candidate for new weather-influenced experiences.
While the weather debate will always rage, the best chances of weather that includes sunshine, warm days and limited precipitation range from the third week of June to the first week of September. Note the word "chances". Mid-May to the end of June can be cool, 14-22C (60-74F) a little wet, but the icebergs and whales have arrived and the summer tourists have not. July and August will see temperatures range from 18-25 C (64-77F) with sunshine and some precipitation. The whales and birds are peaking mid-July but are still around well into August. September delivers surprising pleasant conditions—while cooler, there is lots of sunshine and great opportunities for those seeking peaceful solitude when they hike. It is a quiet month from a tourist/visitor viewpoint, however, all summer-season sites are open and the music still plays on in concert halls, pubs and the streets. It is important to note that you can't go to the bank with the above guidelines. Open up the spontaneity box by preparing for weather-related influences. A combination of the right clothes, a "take-what-you-get" attitude, along with a loosely established itinerary is the best way to approach the weather debate.
The second element to consider is attractions. Music festivals, small town fairs and nature often play a role in the decision on when to travel. Of the 500,000 people who travel to Newfoundland every year, most indicate they come to Newfoundland for the wildlife and seascapes. Exit surveys indicate that an interesting change occurs after a short stay with visitors citing their best memories are of the people. Cultural events and small-town fairs are a good way to integrate with the local communities and can be used as daily destinations. Birds, whales and icebergs have defined arrival and departure dates, but there has been considerable variation in these dates in the past few years. Icebergs arrive in April-May. Seeing one or two icebergs is often enough for most, and placing too much emphasis on seeing more will impact the odds of enjoying other aspects of the nature scene. Whales arrive mid-June and head home in late August. As with icebergs, seeing one or two can sometimes be enough. Birds arrive mid-May and depart in September. The arts community in Newfoundland is strong year round. The ongoing music scene is sophisticated and diverse and most cultural tourism attractions have been funded to remain open for the May 24th weekend and remain open through to the end of the Thanksgiving weekend in October. Most important, and not to be overlooked, everyday living in Newfoundland presents itself as a cultural activity for outsiders. Partaking in year-round routine activities that bring you closer to the locals can be a more interesting cultural exchange compared to attending general activities designed for tourists. That being said, CapeRace tries not to distinguish between the two as often there is a reason why a destination or activity is popular. We recommend those activities that are of high value with respect to nature or culture and those that support the well-being of the local community without disrupting the sense of place.
So when should we go?
It will rain and the temperatures will fluctuate regardless of when you come to Newfoundland—but it never rains in the pubs. Birds and whales can arrive late to the party and leave early, icebergs can be no-shows and planned cultural events peak in the summer and fall months-- but the attractions found in the streets still carry on year round. The answer to the question of when to go lies in your ability to be spontaneous and to remain comfortable in an unplanned and unstructured travel mode. A Newfoundland vacation should unfold on the ground, not during extensive planning on the Internet. Weather, mood, unexpected invitations from strangers along with the driving requirement will all impact your decisions after you arrive, so it is best to immerse yourself in both the natural and cultural setting as it is served up in the present. CapeRace suggests that you do not make the weather, cultural events or nature sites mutually exclusive priorities and that you do not plan an itinerary around weather patterns or cultural events but plan for them. This will lower your expectations and open yourself up to those memory-maker spontaneous events. An often-seen tag line suggesting you "Experience the Unexpected" can only materialize if you have random discretionary time. The tightly-wound intense travelers tend to miss a significant part of the true Newfoundland experience as they rush from place to place ticking items off a list. Don't underestimate this common trap. It happens to the best of us. Arrive, absorb and experience whatever comes your way during your trip and remember that there is no such things as bad weather, just bad clothes. Ken, CapeRace Cultural Adventures