North America

Newfoundland and Labrador: Days dawn first

The Edge | Photo credit: Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism

Still relatively unknown as a tourism destination, Newfoundland and Labrador is a treasury of fascinating history, scenery, great seafood, ghostly “happenings”, traditional music and friendly people.

But this is where the North American day dawns first.

Newfoundland and Labrador is the easternmost province of Canada. Situated in the country’s Atlantic region, it incorporates the island of Newfoundland and mainland Labrador (located northwest of the island).

A former colony and dominion of the United Kingdom, Newfoundland and Labrador became the tenth province to enter the Canadian Confederation on March 31, 1949, as Newfoundland. On December 6, 2001, an amendment was made to the Constitution of Canada to change the province’s official name to Newfoundland and Labrador. In day-to-day conversation, however, Canadians generally still refer to the province itself as Newfoundland and to the region on the Canadian mainland as Labrador. Newfoundland and Labrador’s capital and largest city is St. John’s.

The name Newfoundland is derived from English as “New Found Land” (a translation from the Latin Terra Nova). The origin of Labrador is uncertain; it is credited to both João Fernandes Lavrador, a Portuguese explorer, and lavrador, a title meaning “landholder”.

Newfoundland and Labrador is known for its friendly people. Real and genuine, warm and welcoming, fun-loving and funny to the core, the people here are also known for their natural creativity, unique language, and knack for storytelling. Perhaps that’s why, according to MacLean’s magazine, Newfoundland and Labrador has one of the Top 10 Friendliest Cultures in the World.

You can expect to see (sea) scenery and that will take your breath away. The island of Newfoundland is outlined with a rugged coastline of steep cliffs and rocky beaches. The coast’s numerous bays and coves are dotted with small communities called “outports”, a few still only accessible by sea. For example, on the east side of the Avalon Peninsula, the East Coast Trail winds its way past beaches, cliffs, and seastacks, with vantage points to see whales, puffins, and bald eagles. All this within a few minutes’ drive of St. John’s … Whales and seabirds can be spotted from the shore or, for a more close-up look, numerous whale-watching boat tours are available.  During the summer, in the southern part of the Avalon Peninsula, it is common to see caribou from North America’s southern-most caribou herd wandering leisurely across the road.

Though Newfoundland and Labrador is larger than some countries, it certainly doesn’t feel crowded. And while you’ll find lots of friendly folks across the province, just over one-third, or 181,000 people, live in and around the capital city of St. John’s. To put things in perspective, Newfoundland and Labrador is a little smaller than California, slightly bigger than Japan, and twice the size of the entire United Kingdom. So it goes without saying, there’s plenty of breathing room.

Downtown St. John's | Photo credit: Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism

When it comes to landscape, Newfoundland and Labrador is as vast as it is varied. Here, you’ll find Arctic tundra, ancient mountain ranges, lush boreal forest, and rugged coastline that offer limitless opportunities for outdoor adventure in a pristine environment.

Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the best places to see and appreciate nature in all its glory. Dramatic coastlines, sweeping barrens, thick boreal forests, ancient rock formations, teeming seabird colonies, tiny alpine blossoms, and rich marine life are all part of the diverse natural heritage. From the island’s rugged south coast and maritime barrens, through the islands of Witless Bay and Baccalieu and the Tablelands of Gros Morne National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), to the Torngat Mountain ranges and the sub-Arctic tundra of northern Labrador, the natural, wild beauty of this place surrounds you at every turn – largely untouched and unspoiled.

The province is also home to three National Parks, 18 Wilderness and Ecological Reserves, and magnificent botanical gardens.

Much is made of the language(s) of the Province, which, no doubt, you will find intriguing and even mystical!. The unique culture of Newfoundland and Labrador is a product of an English, Irish, French, and Aboriginal heritage. French heritage is evident in areas of various settlements found primarily on the west coast of Newfoundland. In fact, French is still largely spoken along the Port-au-Port Peninsula. And, there are more varieties of English spoken in Newfoundland and Labrador than anywhere else in the world. Dating back four centuries, accents are flavoured by Western England and Southern Ireland. But it’s more than just accents: given the historical culture of the land, it’s no surprise that Newfoundland and Labrador has its very own dictionary and encyclopaedia!

And again, as a result of the cultural diversity and spirit of the peoples, if you listen carefully while you are ‘hear’, you can almost see the music it’s so lively and telling!

Newfoundland and Labrador has a folk musical heritage based on the Irish, English and Scottish traditions that reached to its shores centuries ago. Though similar in its Celtic influence to neighbouring Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador are more Irish than Scottish, and have more elements imported from English and French music than those provinces. Much of the region’s music focuses on the strong seafaring tradition in the area, and includes sea shanties and other sailing songs. Some modern traditional musicians include Great Big Sea, The Ennis Sisters, Shanneyganock, Sharecroppers, Ron Hynes and The Navigators.

Must See must Do

Avalon Region

As rugged as the rocks of its shores and as friendly as the pubs of St. John’s, the Avalon Peninsula is where North American begins. It’s a place where you can photograph herds of caribou, icebergs, seabird colonies and whales..

Being the first region of settlement, the Avalon is filled with tales of early adventurers who laid claim to this New World and the men from many nations who fished here. You can listen to the legends and lore from the folks that you’ll meet.

At Cape Spear you’ll find the most easterly point of land in North America along with a restored 160 year old lighthouse, the oldest in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In every harbour the boats of the inshore fishery float on bright blue waters. Along the Southern Shore and around Cape Race, the chills rise up from the sea to incredible heights. Inland, thousands of caribou roam the open grounds. In the Witless Bay Seabird Ecological Reserve, just south of St. John’s in St. Mary’s Bay and in Placentia Bay, huge whales feed just offshore and vast colonies of seabirds nest in the cliffs.

And typically, throughout the entire region you will find warm, fun loving people that have a high regard for hospitality and who will treat you with a friendliness and kindness that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are world renowned for.

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