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Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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Did You Know … ?

  • North America’s oldest European settlement was located in Newfoundland’s L’Anse aux Meadows
  • The province, harboring more English dialects than England does, has its own dictionary.
  • Newfoundland’s Cape Spear is the easternmost point in North America.
  • Labrador has the world’s largest free-roaming caribou population (more than 500,000).
  • The Labrador retriever and the Newfoundland dog were developed in the province.

Frontierland, in Canada’s East

Canada’s easternmost province, Newfoundland and Labrador, is accessible by air, like any destination on North America’s Atlantic coast. But other similarities with the continent’s East Coast are hard to come by.

The province — about the size of California but home to only half a million people — is part island (Newfoundland) and part mainland (Labrador). The island accommodates almost the entire population but on 28% of the province’s land. Labrador, with the remaining 72%, has only 30,000 residents.

Both parts are characterized by jagged shorelines of capes, coves and fjords. Inland, the landscape is one of hills, plateaus and mountains, plus hundreds of rivers and lakes, and an extensive cover of forest. Newfoundland and Labrador claims record-sized herds of caribou and moose, plus the world’s largest population of humpback whales (10,000). It also attracts 35 million seabirds yearly, including the much-loved puffins. Other “critters” compel attention just as surely, in this case, the monster chunks of ice that float down from Greenland.

Put simply, nature’s grandeur here is in the jaw-dropping category. And, it is the more adventurous travelers who take steps to see it.Visitors can travel by air, road or ferry in Labrador, but much of Labrador’s largely empty space cannot be readily seen without a guide and some planning. Travel is easier on Newfoundland, where there are more towns, roads and ferries. Nevertheless, the island is the venturesome traveler’s favorite,  with its own long list of options for camping, climbing, fishing, hiking, kayaking and mountain sports.

The province attracted European fishermen by 1500 but was colonized slowly. From that heritage, the shores are now dotted with lighthouses (while commercial fishing is limited as a conservation measure). Most residents are descendants of English, Irish and Scottish settlers and the majority live in towns or fishing villages that hug the coasts. A minority of citizens are aboriginals.

It may be relatively isolated and the site of serious winters, but Newfoundland and Labrador has culture. Annual events include regattas, folk festivals, food events, theater festivals and winter carnivals — which add to the reasons for a visit to one of North America’s last frontiers.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Sign on with an outfitter for a sea kayak journey along some part of the province’s nearly 18,000 miles of coastline. Observe the seabirds and marine mammals — even icebergs — up close; camp in hidden inlets.
  • Schedule a hiking trip to the remote Torngat Mountains National Park at the northern tip of Labrador. You must have permission to visit and you must travel with an approved guide. There are no campgrounds, no roads and no signs. Alternatively, come to the park aboard an expeditionary ship, which will ferry passengers ashore for their adventures.
  • Sample local foods, which include caribou, moose, salmon, snow crab and lots of cod. Try the cod with brewis, which is hard bread cooked in pork fat along with the cod.
  • Ski, snowboard or ride a dogsled at Marble Mountain on the west coast of Newfoundland. Another option at the resort is cat skiing, i.e., riding a snowcat to out-of-the-way areas in order to ski or snowboard on untracked snow.
  • Come to Goose Bay in March for the winter festival, SnoBreak. The event includes opportunities to participate in several winter sports, including snowmobiling, the most popular outdoor activity for winter visitors to Labrador.
  • Explore the northern shore of Newfoundland by following the 45-mile Beothuk Trail, named for an extinct aboriginal group. Look for icebergs and shipwrecks. Or, if you have more time, follow the nearby 246-mile Dorset Trail, named for Dorset Eskimos who quarried soapstone here 1,500 years ago.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Devote serious time to wildlife viewing, beginning with the whales for which the province is noted. Also, on land, the province claims the world’s highest concentration of moose, plus great caribou herds and an abundance of black bears.
  • Celebrate native traditions at the Miawpukek powwow in July. See native dancing, singing and drumming, and buy Miawpukek arts and crafts.
  • If it is birdlife you fancy, provincial reserves give access to huge numbers of seabirds, including bald eagles, gannets, falcons, hawks, puffins and osprey.
  • Time a visit to see the Northern Lights. That is not overly difficult: Labrador sees the lights 240 nights a year.
  • Head to L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site in the far north of Newfoundland, and walk on the turf once occupied 1,000 years ago by the Vikings (for a very short time).
  • Fish for salmon. The province claims 200 Atlantic salmon rivers. Angle for Arctic char, brook trout and lake trout, northern pike and whitefish, as well.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Visit Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, North America’s largest Atlantic puffin sanctuary.
  • Watch icebergs as they move south from Greenland in so-called “iceberg alley” along the eastern coastline of Newfoundland and Labrador. True, this is not fast-paced entertainment (it’s glacial), but it is surprisingly compelling.
  • Shop for jewelry crafted from labradorite and pewter, or carvings shaped from antlers and soapstone.
  • Take a coastal drive to enjoy the scenery, and drop in at the fishing villages and historic towns found in the shoreline bays, coves and fjords.
  • Buy tickets for shows at the Stephenville Summer Theatre Festival on the west coast of Newfoundland. The fest typically features popular musicals and drama.
  • Visit the Signal Hill National Historic Site in St. John’s, and time that visit to see the seasonal renditions of 19th century military drills by the Signal Hill Tattoo.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism at www.newfoundlandlabrador.com