Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada’s most eastern province, has long danced to its own slow and lilting rhythm. Some 97% of its residents speak their own old-world language known as Newfoundland English. They also keep their own time zone (30 minutes ahead of the mainland). And as for that rhythm? Much of it is tinged with the fiddles, wooden flutes, banjos, Irish drums and accordions of Ireland, England and Scotland – part of a rich folk heritage that dates to the region’s immigrant population.
It’s easy to feel like you’ve left the rest of the world behind here, perhaps thanks to the island’s historic isolation, or perhaps because as its fishing villages grew into towns and cities, the locals had no intention of yielding their traditional ways and warm folksiness to modernity. This desire to preserve the unspoiled province extends beyond the cherished culture. The natural beauty of Newfoundland & Labrador is also well guarded – and rightly so, as it is among the most magnificent wilderness in North America.
From its remarkable history to its soaring and spectacular landscapes, this is a land like no other.
Witness a Maritime Culture Born from the Old World
The first Europeans to set foot on the island of Newfoundland were the Vikings. Leif Eriksson landed here at L’Anse aux Meadows around the year 1001, but their stay was short-lived. It was almost 500 years later, in 1497, that John Cabot received a charter from King Henry VII to “set up our banner on any new-found-land.” And so he did, at Cape Bonavista. Meanwhile, the Basque set up camps for fishing and the Portuguese arrived and claimed much of Labrador, after exploration by Joao Fernandes Lavrador. By 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed Newfoundland as England’s first possession in North America. As for the other European settlers, they gave in to the Crown.
It wasn’t long before settlers saw how thick the Atlantic waters were with cod and so fishing villages appeared all along the coast, many of which remain. The French returned to set up their own colonies and over the centuries fought the British for land and sea rights. As the island prospered, more immigrants arrived from Ireland and Scotland, infusing Newfoundland with their unique cultures. As for the French, they eventually acquired land on the island’s west coast, but gave it up in the early 20th century.
This brief bit of history goes to show precisely why there’s so much of the United Kingdom in Newfoundland & Labrador. Nations of the UK worked hard to establish themselves here and so the people of this remote province hold fast to ancestral traditions. For instance, relaxed and welcoming pubs are prominent fixtures, from the capital of St. Johns to the tiniest villages like Quidi Vidi. Locals, like generations before them, are obsessed with the weather and will gladly engage you in a discussion about the soft morning mist or the brilliant blue skies that cast the rugged terrain in a sharp light. And everywhere, you will experience the beauty of gentle rolling hills, sharply contoured mountains carved by glaciers and a deeply rooted connection to the sea.
Marvel at an Unspoiled Beauty, from Rocky Coasts to Soaring Peaks
You might suspect, upon witnessing it all for yourself, that this latter point is no small matter. The landscapes of Newfoundland & Labrador evoke a local nostalgia for the Old World. In Gros Morne National Park, the wide green plains rising up to rust-colored slopes may bring the Scottish Highlands to mind. In Witless Bay – the ecological reserve of four islands that is home to the largest Atlantic puffin colony in North America – the magnificent rocky headlands plummeting to roiling surf conjure images of the Emerald Isle. And tiny seaside fishing hamlets from Trinity to Bonavista, with their multi-colored huts and bobbing boats in snug harbors, may make you think that England has misplaced its Cornwall. You may not be surprised, then, that the Long Range Mountains that you’ll see here form part of a mountain range that was split millennia ago whose other half, like a long-separated twin, rises from Atlantic shores in Scotland.
But make no mistake: the beauty of Newfoundland & Labrador is singular and staggering. Deep-cut fjords wind their way inland through cliff-lined glacial valleys. Flat-topped and stalwart Tableland mountains, thousands of feet tall, afford stunning panoramas. Coastal lowlands are blanketed with boreal forest and fertile bog. And everywhere, generous amounts of pure, fresh air fill wide open spaces.
Such a quiet corner of the world steeped in authenticity is best explored in a small group, which is why Discovery Tours is so eager for you to join us. With so few of us traveling together, you can linger a while at a pretty cove, delve more deeply into the sights that interest you and take some time to chat with some of the most welcoming people you’re ever likely to meet.
Discover the rare beauty and rich culture of Canada’s easternmost province for yourself during our Newfoundland & Labrador tour!