There is regular international jet service into St John's and Corner Brook. (Note that Corner Brook is served at Deer Lake, about 30 minutes drive north of town.)
There IS air service into St Anthony. This is normally via Dash 8 turbo props out of St John's. Service is basically twice daily, so expect a stopover and transfer. The Dash 8 is laid out with two (small) seats down one side and a single on the other. No overhead storage and its pretty noisy. If you like aircraft, the trip is low enough that you can usually see the ground. If not, at least its a short flight (about an hour).
Remember how far north Newfoundland is - and how much further still for St Anthony! If its 30 C in Toronto and New York, its going to be 20 C and fog in St John's and only 10 C in St Anthony (if its not a snowstorm). Make sure you have a jacket with you! Another word to wise for American / international travelers. Canada (as of fall 2001) has only ONE major air carrier. Air Canada is infamous for delays and lost luggage. Travel with at least a 'basic kit' of personal items with your hand luggage!
When you get into St Anthony, be warned that the airport is no place close to the town itself - at least a 45 minute drive. There is a local van/taxi service ( 'Danny's taxi' that will pick up after each set of arrival/departures. This may mean another hour's wait. (Make sure you bring a book with you.) There is car rental service available out of St Anthony, I believe Budget Rentals. Be warned that normally they only have about a dozen vehicles on hand, and the office is NOT at the airport. If you intend on renting a car, it is essential that you book all that ahead of time.
Experience in the past has shown that it can be cheaper to book your air travel from the St Anthony end. Contact the VTTA (address on first page). The main air carrier (now only) is Air Canada - working regionally with Air Nova.
Only a few notes here, plus a few sources. Obviously if you are driving, you likely need to travel through New Brunswick, and certainly need to drive through Nova Scotia. (In theory you can travel along the North Shore of Quebec, but the roads are only passable in the winter time!)
Generally, the provincial tourism boards are falling over themselves to get you to stop and spend time in their areas. Generally information and maps are FREE. Watch especially for the government run 'official travel centres', usually just inside of boarder lines and in major cities. Tons of information and good help.
For anyone who is going near Fredericton, I would highly recommend making a stop at Kings Landing. This is an 1800's living history site that has a beautiful setting and quite good staff. Of special interest is the working water powered grist and saw mills (vertical drag saw). Its right on the main trans-canada highway about 30 minutes west of Fredericton.
Odds are good if you are driving you will be just cutting across the top edge of the province. There are a couple of historic sites down the peninsula in the southern corner, but it is well off the main trip route (figure a half day drive down, half day back).
Now, Cape Breton IS part of Nova Scotia, but it operates a separate office. Reasonable, since it has a Celtic culture all its own. The island is built like an 'O', with a main road up each side. The west side has better road surfaces, but also features a serious mountain climb and descent on the north end . A real grind for overloaded and/or older vehicles. The eastern side is rougher and very winding. Although it is a shorter distance, it will end up taking the same time. (You win a few - you loose a few.) We often go north on the west (not as sharp a grade up) and south on the east.
Fortress Louisburg NHS is simply the biggest and best historic site in Eastern Canada, and one of the top in all of North America. This city sized complex was abandoned in the 1750's, and was never occupied again after. As each structure is excavated, it is restored in painstaking detail. No serious re-enactor should miss the chance to spend a day there. Louisburg is about 45 minutes drive from the ferry docks at North Sydney, to the SE along highway 22.
If you are driving, all trips start with the ocean going ferry. The departure, regardless of destination, is North Sydney, Nova Scotia (Cape Breton Island). This is at the far end of the island, and across the bay from the city of Sydney proper.
These are BIG ships, with two vehicle decks (one for cars, one for trucks) plus four passenger decks. I've made the crossing eight times, and never had a rough trip. (Mind you, the weather can change in an instant - and I like contour flying in helicopters.) On late crossings, there are both bunk room berths and individual cabins available for an extra fee. There are a couple of snack bars plus a cafeteria - the food is uniformly over priced and poor quality. Bring some food with you, there are lots of tables around. There are also a couple of bars, but they tend to be open over short stretches. Remember that once you park your vehicle, you can't return to it over the duration of the crossing. If you are intending to spend any time on the open decks, be sure to bring a wind proof coat and hat with you.
There are two options, depending on time of year and how much site seeing you want to do. Both ferries normally make two trips a day (there is an extra laid on this summer - and it makes the crossing in only three hours). In the summer months only, you can go to Argentia (for St John's). Its about a 14 hour trip, with an other hour or so drive to get to St John's. Most people do this as an overnight trip. (Note that I have never personally made this trip).
The main traffic into the province is into Port aux Basque, at the lower western edge. This trip takes between 5 - 6 hours, and runs year round. The two departures are normally about noon and around 11 pm. Most of the Newfoundlander's will take the late crossing, and grab some sleep stretched out on the seats or on the floor in a corner - to hit the road driving just about dawn. This works well off season, when there is always plenty of room. You can also rent an 'open berth', which is a large room full of bunk beds. For about $14 you get a bunk and a single blanket and pillow. The mid day crossing will put you down just before nightfall.
Another hint: Gas prices on 'the Rock' are going to jump at least another 5 - 10¢ per litre as soon as you get off the ferry - and likely another 5¢ by the time you get to St Anthony. Fill your tank before you get on the ferry. They will tell you not to - but everyone does it anyway. (Note that in spring of 2001 gas in North Sydney as at 75¢ - in Port aux Basque it was 89¢!)
The Following is a commentary on the NEW 'fast' ferry, the Max Mols, that was added to the service from Port aux Basques summer of 2000. It was provided by John Walsh - and I'd like to extend my thanks for his kind permission to include it here:
In mid-June 2000, I attempted to book passage on the M/V Smallwood for departure on July 5th from Sydney, NS to Argentia, NF. I had planned on taking the "long boat", and booking a cabin for the passage. Reservations informed me that All cabins were booked for that day, as well as for the month of July. So, if you are planning on taking the "slow boat" (Smallwood, Caribou, Freighter), make sure you've got your cabin/sleep bookings in order well ahead of time. It appeared (to me) that Marine Atlantic reservations was attempting to push travelers to book on the Max Mols, rather than the "slow boats".
The Max Mols is an all-aluminum jet-pump-propelled catamaran. The Year 2000 vessel is being leased from Mols-Linien, out of Denmark. The "Max" was formerly used on the Odden, DK to Arhus DK ferry run. The vessel was built in 1997(?) by Incat Industries, of Tasmania, Australia. The "Max" has a sister ship on Mols-Linien service, The "Mad Mols"; according to Mols-Linien's posting, the "Mad" holds the blue-ribbon record for fastest North Atlantic Europe-to US crossing time. (Anybody else notice the naming convention: Max-Mad, built in Australia? So, where are Tina Turner and Mel Gibson?)
The Max Mols makes two trips a day: Port-au-Basques (Departs 0700 and 1500) to North Sydney, NS (departs 1030 and 1830), and back. Transit time is just under 3 hours each way. At the end of the 6:30M departure from North Sydney, the "Max" remains berthed at Channel-Port aux Basques overnight, awaiting the 7AM departure. The "Max" has a nominal capacity of 200 cars, and 800 passengers. However, the vessel has severe vehicle height restrictions. The nominal maximum height for a vehicle to be moved anywhere within the vessel is 1.75 meters. Also, the "200 cars" figure is somewhat open to interpretation. The "200 car" figure was based on "European size cars", not "North American cars" Supposedly, the "North American" car capacity is 165 vehicles. For our trip, we were traveling with a Mercury Sable station wagon, with a rooftop cargo pod, bringing our total height to 2.1 meters. There is a lowest-level parking deck that can accommodate up to 4 busses, up to 3.0 meters in height, but that a very limited space. Marine Atlantic prefers that you bring a "normal" passenger car, without external (especially rooftop) loads, and they will park you in the forward car decks, where you make U-turns within the vessel to reach the upper parking levels. The U-turn process within the 26-meter wide vessel is about like what you might do in a indoor, multi-level parking garage.
After ticket check-in, vehicles are separated into a least two lanes: normal and oversize. The normal vehicles are loaded first, on entry lane "B". The normal height vehicles will be asked to follow the "park-ade" (parking arcade) ramps inside the nose of the vessel, eventually circling so that the first car in will be pointing back out of the ferry. Then a small number of normal height card (8-12) will be asked to pull up and park by backing under the park-ade structure. Finally, the overheight vehicles will be loaded on the main parking deck. I didn't see a bus loaded on my trips, but there were several pickup trucks with boats atop racks on board. I also saw motorcycles and a John Deere lawn tractor loaded. Passengers from the cars then make their way (usually) up to the second-level passenger deck.
The "Max" is too small to have individual cabins like the M/V Smallwood or Caribou. There is one 250-seat main seating area, with two smaller seating areas to the sides of the snack bar. An upper-level roof restaurant is available, but you had to buy dinner to enter it. Movies were shown to amuse the passengers on both rides: "Notting Hill" Northbound , and "Babe: Pig in the City", southbound.
Yes, it is fast. The Max Mols is a 91-meter twin of "The Cat", which has been in operation from Bar Harbor, Maine to Yarmouth, NS for well over a year. The cats were built based on a design from Incat Shipyards, Tasmania. They have 4 diesel engines, running 4 jet pumps, with a nominal cruising speed of 45 knots.
On our outbound trip to Newfoundland, passengers were quite talkative: That's were I picked up on some natives who had been on the inaugural trips in the last week in June, and some background on Incat industries construction techniques. Our outbound trip on the "Max" was followed by a chase plane of a Cessna 172, who did circles around us out of North Sydney Harbor, until the captain opened up the pump throttles, and the light plane turned back for its Nova Scotia home. We did see one bottlenose dolphin on the ride out.
If possible, arrive early. You may end up with a better selection of seating than we did. We ended up two rows from the rear of the main passenger section.
The only outside passenger viewing area is at the rear of the main passenger deck, and a couple of adjacent stairwells. The outside passenger deck is the only approved smoking area. The whole outside area gets WET, thanks to the high-speed salt spray.
If you are wondering why there is no outdoor forward-viewing area, just stick your face out into the slipstream. After you have had a good salt rinse, you'll understand why the viewing area faces rearward.
If you are going to be outside to a large portion of the trip (as I was), I recommend that you bring a rainsuit. Outdoor clothes will get coated with salt. Also, bring a supply of paper or cloth towels to swab down the outside seating. Also, you may want to consider ear stopples, the little yellow earplugs, to make the noise level (drone from the engines) more comfortable.
We were the unfortunate guinea pigs in a rough-water crossing from Port-aux-Basques to North Sydney on the afternoon of July 11th. Marine Atlantic had already canceled the 7AM departure from Port-aux-Basques, and we were booked on the 3PM passage. We did make the boat, but it was a rough ride. My wife estimates that three-fourths of the passengers were stricken with seasickness on the ride. The "Max's" catamaran hulls will pierce and straddle waves up to about 1.5 meters, but in seas higher than that, things become dicey. We were sailing into 10-12 foot seas, with the waves quartering from port bow. As seen by a passenger, the Max would roll right while pitching slightly nose-up, then, once past the crest of the wave, would pitch nose-down and roll left. It didn't bother me, but my wife, mother and daughter all had a rough time.
If you are looking for pictorials and layout on the Max Mols, you wood be better served by taking the "photo tour" of the Bar Harbour-to-Yarmouth "Cat", as they provide a good photographic overview.
If we had to do it again, I would take it again. My wife, however, would like some details on high seas (if any) that await us.
A weird wrinkle on your return trip is that there is some kind of agricultural quarantine of Newfoundland. You will be not allowed to bring any local produce or 'dirt' aboard the ferry bound for Nova Scotia. They will even hose down your vehicle if it has too much mud on it. Just so you know.
The rough cost for a single trip, Sydney to Port aux Basque, for a car with two passengers is about $100. Traveling at height of season, and with the surge of tourists expected this year - advanced booking for your trips are essential.