Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador is the eastern most province of Canada. The vast majority of the province's 510,000 residents live on the island of Newfoundland, while the isolated Labrador peninsula is home to approximately 27,000. The province's capital city, St. John's , is located at the eastern end of the Transcanadian Highway. The province boasts the lowest crime rate in Canada, and its residents have a long-established reputation for being hospitable.
Both island and mainland portions are accessible by air and by sea. A number of airports dot the province, though only a select few receive regular flights from outside of the province. The federally administered Marine Atlantic ferry service runs two terminals, providing year-round service out of Port-aux-Basque and seasonal service out of Argentia. There is also ferry service to the French islands of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon.
The Trans-Canada Highway is the island's main highway, extending East-West between St. John's and Port-aux-Basque. The vast majority of Newfoundland and Labrador communities are dispersed along the coast, however, often inside of harboured inlets and bays found of the island's many peninsulas. Most of these coastal communities are serviced by feeder highways, known locally as "access roads", that run between the TCH and the “tips” of the inhabited peninsulas. Others communities are only accessible via provincial airlines, private watercraft, or provincially-operated ferries — most notably those of Newfoundland's Southern Coast, the Labrador Straits, and the Nunatsiavut area. The province’s population is sparse and widely distributed making hitchhiking to offbeat destinations difficult, but by no means impossible.
Traveling via the TCH from St. John’s to Port-aux-Basque covers 900km and takes approximately ten to thirteen hours. This significant distance demands an early morning from the hitchhiker trying to make the late night ferry before nightfall. As the departure time approaches, it is common for ferry goers to stop at the highway’s many gas stations – asking for rides there is a relatively safe and effective option for nighttime travel.
Hitchhiking is technically illegal under section 128(3) of the province’s Highways Traffic Act. However, the statute appears to be unenforced given its lack of citations in the Canadian Legal Information Institute’s court proceeding archive.
Also, a few roadways around the St. John’s metro area, like the Pitt’s Memorial Highway, forbid any pedestrian and cyclist access.
Travelers can buy a ticket for a Marine Atlantic ferry online, by phone, or at a terminal. It is not uncommon during the peak travel season for the Port-aux-Basque ferry to sell out of tickets – even for (on the rare occasion) “walk-on” passengers. This can pose a problem while hitchhiking given its unpredictable nature. Calling ahead your reservation, even several hours before departure, will likely be enough to ensure your passage. Walk-on tickets cost approximately $30.
The Argentia ferry is located two hours from St. John’s. It is largely frequented by tourists and generally has fewer passengers, both factors decreasing the chances of finding a ride. Walk-on tickets cost approximately $110.
Hitchhikers traveling on the Marine Atlantic ferries should solicit rides from passengers prior to offloading. This is because walk-on passengers must board a pedestrian bus to the ferry terminal, all the while cars are exiting the ferry heading for the highway.
One way of getting out of St. John's is via Pitts Memorial Drive. It's located downtown towards the west end of Water Street. A small traffic island underneath a set of traffic lights is the best place to plant. It is important to have a “TCH” sign or to ask the driver if he or she is going as far as the TCH on-ramp, because Pitts Memorial is a busy commuter roadway unsuitable for hitchhiking. Avoid the once-suitable Kenmount Road area as recent urban expansion and increased traffic has made this route difficult for hitchhiking.