Visit Newfoundland Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador is the easternmost province in Canada, and lies at the eastern edge of North America, encompassing the island of Newfoundland, with the mainland Labrador to the northwest. Sharing the same latitude as Paris, France, it is the closest point in Canada to Britain, with only a five-hour flight to arrive in the capital city of St. John’s. St. John’s lies on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, and is relatively small with a population of less than two hundred thousand, which is just over half of the population of the entire province. Once a part of the United Kingdom, Newfoundland became part of the Canadian Confederation in 1949, its name amended to Newfoundland and Labrador more recently in 2001. The landscape ranges from the lush vegetation of the interior Boreal Forest, to the rocky rugged coast, Arctic tundra and mountains in the north of Labrador. Gros Morne National Park, on the western coast of Newfoundland, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to the northern tip of the Appalachian Trail as well as the Long Range Mountains. A well-known destination for geological enthusiasts and scientists, it is home to some of the worlds’ oldest fossils and rock formations.
Things to do
Much of the tourist culture revolves around wilderness activities such as rock hunting, wildlife and bird watching, whale and iceberg watching, and winter activities such as skiing, snowmobiling and snowboarding. The rich musical culture is celebrated with the world-renowned Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, which draws both local and international acts to St. John’s every August for a weekend of great music. The Folk Arts Society hosts events year-round at local venues, promoting the unique heritage and culture of the province, featuring dancing, folk art, and plenty of musical performances which include open jam sessions anyone can take part in. In fact, Newfoundlanders have festivals to celebrate just about anything and everything: blueberries, fish, the accordion, a muddy hole, music, film, theater and crafts. No matter what your interest, it is easy to discover something uniquely entertaining and decidedly ‘Newfoundland’ to captivate all ages.
The Atlantic Ocean seaway is a natural wonder, and home to more than twenty species of whale. Besides whale watching, there are migratory seabirds and of course the majestic icebergs, which drift south in the early fall. In fact, if one is lucky, it may be possible to catch all three phenomena in one day – certainly not to be expected, but some say it is possible!
Signal Hill Historic Park is a must-see if you are in St. John’s: the world’s first transatlantic message was received here in 1901, and the Johnson Geo Centre located inside the park, features a fascinating exhibit on the Titanic, which sank off the coast of Newfoundland in 1912.
Gros Morne National Park, located on the west coast of Newfoundland, is a UNESCO National Heritage Site. The northernmost tip of the Appalachian Trail, it rambles south from here, running parallel to the eastern shore of the United States and ending in the state of Georgia. The vast wilderness of the park features epic scenery, wildlife, towering cliffs and a freshwater glacial fjord, several quaint fishing villages and a seemingly endless array of indigenous flora and fauna. Hosting over two hundred species of birds, it is a prime destination for birders during spring and fall migration.
Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve is located at the southern tip of the Avalon Peninsula, and is home to some of the world’s oldest discovered Precambrian fossils (565 million years), as well as being quite famous for the scores of shipwrecks that have occurred off its point.
Your trip to Newfoundland and Labrador will probably be one of the most relaxed vacations you will have, as you leave behind the urban jungles in favor of the wild, rugged wilderness. Prepare to experience natural wonders at every turn, and make sure you bring good hiking attire, as you will want to explore every rocky promontory, working up an appetite for the abundant seafood and the lively pub culture that awaits you at the end of the day.
When you visit Newfoundland and Labrador, don’t expect a bustling metropolis with all the modern conveniences – of course there are plenty of luxurious hotels and places to be pampered, but you won’t find them in the way you might expect. Prepare to soak up the local culture, and make sure you listen carefully, as the local dialect is thick with colloquialisms and its own particular accent. The fishing culture is strong here, and the folks live simple lives, working hard by day and enjoying music, song and stories with family and strangers alike, by night. The culture is immediately embracing, and you’ll find hospitality here like none other, as the Newfoundlanders will strive to absorb you into their fold!
During your stay in St. John’s, here are a few ‘must-see’ activities:
- The Rooms: The Rooms is a collection of exhibits that are illustrative of all of Newfoundland’s rich history from its roots in the fishing culture to its rich artistic heritage. Located in the heart of St. John’s, it features panoramic views of the city and surrounding waters from an altitude high above its colorfully painted houses. Come for the view, and take in an art exhibit, musical performance or just explore the regions’ historic past.
- George Street: A two block long stretch with nothing but pubs and restaurants, it is closed to traffic in the evenings to allow for easy strolling between venues. Housing several twenty four hour restaurants, it is common to see the street full of people until well into the wee hours, despite the lack of alcohol after 03h. Annual celebrations include The George Street Festival in early August, Canada Day celebrations (on and around July 1st), and a Mardi Gras which takes place on October 31st. It’s a party every night of the year, with the city’s most popular live music venues, great food and good times.
- Codroy Valley: Located in the Western region of Newfoundland, the Codroy Valley is comprised of fifteen communities, its lush green meadowlands sheltered by the Long Range Mountains. Dramatic cliffs overlook vast green wetlands, and it is designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA), making it a popular destination for birdwatchers looking to catch a glimpse of the migrating sea birds, songbirds and raptors that pass through in the spring and fall.
- Three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: At Gros Morne National Park, see the breathtaking fjords, birds and Tablelands. L’Anse aux Meadows is a Viking archeological site which features the earliest known European settlement in the new world. Explore Red Bay’s fascinating history of large-scale whale oil production.
- St. Pierre et Miquelon: Of course, you are in Canada … but why not visit France since you are so close! The neighboring islands of St. Pierre et Miquelon are less than an hour away by ferry, and from May through October one can enjoy several festivals featuring music, lobster and seafood, boat races and much more.