Terra Nova's landscape is typical of the northeast coast of Newfoundland, with remnants of the Appalachian Mountains contributing to widely varied and rugged topography throughout the region. The park's seacoast consists of several rocky "fingers" jutting into Bonavista Bay along an area stretching from just north of Port Blandford to the vicinity of Glovertown. The coastline varies from cliffs and exposed headlands to sheltered inlets and coves, contributing to Newfoundland's prime recreational boating area.
Inland areas consist of rolling forested hills, exposed rock faces, and bogs, ponds and wetlands. Wildlife protected by the park range from small to large land mammals, migratory birds, and various marine life. Terra Nova also protects an area containing remnants of the Beothuk Nation, as well as many of the early pioneer European settlements in the region.
Terra Nova National Park was created in 1957 and was the first National Park in Newfoundland and Labrador. Terra Nova protects the Eastern Island Boreal Forest natural region. This region covers most of the island of Newfoundland, east of Deer Lake, and is characterized by black spruce trees with pockets of balsam fir, white pine, mountain ash, tamarack, maple and other deciduous tree species.
Terra Nova, like many parks, has challenges in preserving its ecological integrity. Firstly, one of the mechanisms to renew a boreal forest ecosystem is forest fire - something that hasn't happened in the region in many years. As a result, the forest of Terra Nova is not mixed. It is mostly old growth forest with trees of roughly the same age. Forest fire renews the forest and creates new habitat for many boreal creatures. Another challenge facing Terra Nova is introduced species. Newfoundland suffers from "the island effect". Islands can have very different ecosystems than their mainland counterparts. For example, the island of Newfoundland only has 14 native mammals while neighboring Nova Scotia has over 40. A native species is one that got to the island on its own by swimming, flying or walking over the ice. If you look at the mammals found here there are many more than 14. Many of our mammals, including moose, snowshow hare, red squirrels and mink, have been introduced through the island either on purpose or by accident. And these species are creating trouble for the forest. Snowshoe hare and moose in particular are having a detrimental effect on balsam fir stands in the park. The creatures browse new growth of balsam fir and many other tree species, which is preventing the trees from growing and maturing. The Park has exclosures set up so that visitors can see the effect that introduced species are having on the forest. The exclosures are areas that are fenced off so that moose and snowshoe hare can't get in. That way we can see what the forest would look like if those animals weren't there.
During the summer there are a number of interpretive programs offered at Terra Nova. Almost every night there is a show at the Evening Theatre about the themes of the Park. Previous shows include "Forest Feud" and "The Broad Cove Bachelor". Once a week there is also a campfire program at the campfire circle where you can listen to some sounds of Newfoundland while sipping hot chocolate. There are also a number of interpretive hikes that cover themes such as introduced species, forest fire, species at risk, and edible plants.
There are a number of activities for kids. There is a Nature House in Newman Sound Campground that offers daily programs. One of the more popular programs is the Junior Naturalist Program where children get stamps towards becoming a junior naturalist. There is also a Graduate Naturalist Program where older children get a workbook with lots of fun activities to complete.
Terra Nova also organizes and celebrates a number of special events. Some of the more popular include Canada Day (July 1), Kids day, Newfoundland and Labrador day, Take a Hike Day, Oceans Day (June 8), and the Heritage Folk Festival (August).