Setting Sail with Marine Atlantic – and your RV

Alyssa and Zach are fulltime RVers and digital nomads who have been travelling in their 40-foot RV since 2021. Since then, they’ve visited over 25 US States, 4 Canadian provinces, and over 30 National Parks. Last summer, they spent five weeks exploring Newfoundland and Labrador with their dog, Azalea, in tow. They’ve documented their stories and travels in their blog,

We might be a bit biased, but RVing is the most magnificent way to experience the magic of Newfoundland and Labrador. This past summer, we hit open waters with Marine Atlantic to experience the raw, untouched beauty of Newfoundland and Labrador in our RV with our dog, Azalea, in tow.

Coast of Newfoundland

When we arrived at the terminal, we lined up at what looks like a toll booth to check in. You’ll provide your confirmation number and the Marine Atlantic team will make sure you’re given the correct cards and tickets. During the check-in process, employees will tell you how to prepare your RV for your crossing. If you’re travelling with a pet, make sure you have a physical copy of your itinerary on hand! Staff on board the vessel may need this to ensure that your pet is where they are supposed to be for the duration of the crossing. You may get chosen for a random security check while checking-in – we know because we did! The security check was a quick process where two kind employees looked around our RV and truck and sent us on our way after about 10 minutes.

Following the check-in, we had some free time to explore the terminal buildings and the port towns! While waiting in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, we had some time to walk around the town, where you can dine at nearby restaurants or enjoy a seaside ice cream while you wait for your voyage – we enjoyed the latter! The boarding process typically begins 60-90 minutes before your scheduled departure time, so be mindful of your time and your proximity to the terminal. If you decide to leave the terminal after checking in, make sure you have your ticket and ID on hand! You’ll need this to leave and re-enter the terminals.

Marine Atlantic Ferry

Marine Atlantic ferries were unlike any ferries that we’ve been on before. Their vessels are like cruise ships that link passengers and transport trucks between Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia – it’s equal parts tourism and supply chain! As your departure time comes closer, the terminal starts to buzz with activity. Machines move large trailers onto the ship with amazing ease and accuracy, while buses, cars, and RVs start boarding. Our RV was right at home on the ferry, where it was securely nestled between other RVs, vehicles, and transport trucks making their way to the island. Once you’ve parked your vehicle and made sure it’s ready for travel, grab everything you’ll need for the duration of the crossing and head to the upper decks! After you’ve left the vehicle decks, you won’t be able to return until you disembark so make sure you have all your essentials on hand!

As those crazy millennial dog parents, we reserved a pet-friendly cabin and were able to spend our crossings with Azelia by our side. We booked this cabin 7.5 months in advance to make sure we had one secured! You’ll find plenty to do during your crossing. Some vessels are fitted with game rooms and movie theatres while some have live entertainment during the summer months! You’ll also be able to grab a quick meal or enjoy a sit-down dinner while on board.

We left Nova Scotia and crossed to Port aux Basques on the evening of July 1st, with Canada Day fireworks to send us on our journey! Often called the “edge of North America,” Newfoundland and Labrador is the first province to see sunrise each day! While they may be some of the earliest rises on the continent, the province is known for having foggy conditions. Arriving in the province on July 2nd, we were greeted by a few days of rain and clouds but enjoyed spectacular weather for the rest of the trip.

Travelling during the summer months also meant that we had a different ferry route option for our departure. Marine Atlantic offers their Argentia route during the summer months, which provides easy access in and out of the province from the east coast of the island. We travelled back to Nova Scotia through Argentia so we wouldn’t have to backtrack across the island to leave.

Travelling soon and need the quick version? Here is our list of important notes for your upcoming crossing:

  • Have your ID, room key card, and ticket on you at all times! If you’re travelling with a pet, make sure you have a printout of your itinerary as well.
  • Remember the number of the deck you parked your vehicle on!
  • Prepare a bag with essential items like medication, clothes, toiletries, electronics, and chargers for the crossings and remember to take it with you from your vehicle.
  • Check ship dining hours to prepare accordingly.
  • If you have a pet-friendly cabin, you are not allowed to leave your pet unattended. Plan accordingly if you want to move about the ship or grab a meal – your pet is only permitted in your designated cabin and on the outside decks.

The adventure begins the moment you step on the ferry.

The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are kind, welcoming, and resilient. Each town felt like visiting a long-lost relative and we learned so much about the unique heritage and history of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We can’t wait to travel back to Newfoundland and Labrador in the future to experience more of this charming province.

A couple sitting by the coast of Newfoundland