The third installment of our Canada 150 series celebrates the colourful, the charming, the charismatic, the captivating, Newfoundland & Labrador!
2017 is our nation’s sesquicentennial, a great reason to travel in Canada. Visit our blog each month when we profile a Canadian province or territory, each very different, and all worth a visit.
Newfoundland and Labrador Facts:
Provincial food: Fish (cod) & chips
Provincial drink: Screech
Nickname: The Rock
Number of National Parks: 3
Famous Newfies: Cathy Jones, Mary Walsh, Shaun Majumder, Rick Mercer, Gordon Pinsent, Marty Murphy
Area: 108,860 km²
Soaring fjords and iridescent icebergs. Romantic harbours and rustic villages. Vibrant culture and Viking ruins. Friendly people and fetching coastlines.
You don’t need a multi-stop European holiday to enjoy them. They’re here, in our backyard. Our most easterly province teems with delightful surprises.
If you’re not familiar with the quirky Newfoundland tourism series, take a “Gander” here:
Interesting Facts About Newfoundland & Labrador
You’ll quickly discover Newfoundland & Labrador stands out from the rest of Canada. The reasons are geographic, cultural and political (and way more interesting than that sounds!)
Newfoundland is an island, where 94% of the area’s population resides. Labrador, the sparse, mainly tundra region, is attached to mainland Canada.
Magical Newfoundland & Labrador occupies its very own time zone. It’s a half hour ahead of EST, which adds to the land’s mystical aura.
Harry Potter fans might compare this “in-between” time zone with railway platform 9 ¾. Newfoundland evokes other literary imaginings. Its otherworldly flatlands and towering cliffs, rising from its characteristic fog, could be Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones backdrops.
Enchanting Newfoundland can feel like the edge of the Earth to visitors. North America’s most eastern point, Cape Spear, is located here. In fact, the Flat Earth Society cites Fogo Island (the largest offshore island from the main island) as one of the four corners of the world — a significant title for a seemingly small place.
Rising from the rugged landscape of Fogo is the futuristically eye-catching Fogo Island Inn.The once impoverished island is now a flourishing tourist attraction, cultural epicentre and home to this 5-star hotel. Newfoundland native Zita Cobb spent millions of her own tech-industry money to breathe cultural life into this fishing town. Today, it is among Newfoundland’s most sought after tourist destinations. Fogo Island hosts artists from around the world, thanks to a financial grant by Ms. Cobb.
The new kid on the Rock, er block, Newfoundland and Labrador joined Confederation on March 31, 1949. That’s right, it only officially became part of Canada that recently. However, the ancient land it occupies was home to various peoples for centuries. L’anse aux Meadows, at Newfoundland’s most northern tip, is a beautifully preserved archaeological site. It shows evidence of Viking inhabitants 500 years before Columbus reached North America. Although contested, some claim St. John’s to be North America’s oldest city. Newfoundland was England’s first North American colony, in 1583.
All these factors have nurtured the distinct Newfoundland culture that welcomes you today.
Newfies (the affectionate demonym of its inhabitants) are famous for their friendliness and hospitality. If you’re a local you’re treated like family, and if you’re a visitor (come-from-away, as the Newfies say) you’re treated as a friend.
While lots of us pretended we’re Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, many Newfoundlanders don’t need to. In fact, its Irish heritage is so rich, Newfoundland is the only province where March 17th is a public holiday.
No St. Paddy’s Day — or any trip to St. John’s for that matter, would be complete without a stop on George Street. Preferably when you’re thirsty. Boasting the most bars per square foot in North America, you can’t throw a pint glass (though we don’t recommend it) without hitting a pub. During busy times, George Street is pedestrians-only. Its Happy Hour specials, to compete with the bevy of bars, would make even a regular imbiber of Screech (Newfoundland’s signature spirit) head spin.
The Newfie culture is heavily influenced by its early settlers, mainly from Ireland and England. Scottish immigrants were smaller in numbers, but also made an impact Newfoundland’s culture. Perhaps St. Patrick did visit The Rock–like Ireland, Newfoundland has no snakes (or, crickets, porcupines, skunks, snakes or deer!)
The Newfoundland accent is distinct as the Newfoundland culture. While many think of the Canadian accent as more or less uniform, or our national identity homogenous, perhaps with the exception of Quebec, the accent here is distinct.
Wadda ya’at b’y?
Did we mention, you also don’t have to travel to Europe to hear a foreign language?
Joking aside, Newfie sayings can leave those who “come-from-away” scratching their heads. The most common greeting in Newfoundland, “wadda ya’at b’y?” shows the friendly familiarity Newfies are famous for, as well as the Irish influence over today’s Newfie accent.The dialect is so diverse, the Newfoundland accent varies from one community to the other.
As a traditionally seafaring people, the whimsical Newfie lexicon is swimming with nautical references. Here are some examples of its colourfully clever slang:
“Long may your big jib draw.”
Translation: May you have good fortune for a long time. (A jib is a sail, and a drawn jib is one full of wind.)
“Wait a fair wind, and you’ll get one”
Translation: Opportunity comes to those who are patient.
“Deef as a cod.”
Translation: When someone is ignoring you, you can say they’re a deaf as a cod, the staple fish of Newfoundland (although in actual fact, cods have ears.)
Shifting from Newfoundland culture to its role in popular culture, Newfoundland has received lots of international attention recently. Come From Away, the critically-acclaimed Broadway show, is based on the September 11th attacks. American commercial flights, carrying 6,600 passengers (60% of the local population!) were diverted to the tiny airport of Gander, Newfoundland. The Gander community welcomed strangers into their home for three days until the airspace reopened. Today, those stranded still visit their hosts who offered the ultimate acts of generousity and kindness. Audiences have loved the show because it has heart, highlighting the welcoming nature of the Newfies.
Newfoundland Points of Interest
Here are our top picks for a visit to the Rock!
1) Whale watching tour in Trinity Bay. You might also meet charming nautical critters, like puffins and seals.
2) Gros Morne Park. One of Canada’s best national parks. Pristine natural beauty showcasing the varied landscapes of Newfoundland.
3) Jellybean Row. The iconic painted rowhouses are a must-add to your Newfoundland photo album.
4) Signal Hill. A designated National Historic Site, step back into time, to 18th century battles and when the first-ever Transatlantic wireless signal was transmitted.
5) Kayak tour of majestic icebergs.
Newfoundland and Labrador weather
The summer months are the best time of year to visit Newfoundland. While June and September are usually temperate, July and August are the most agreeable months. Feel the warm air and ocean breeze as you roll up your pants and sleeves for a traditional clam dig, or lobster boil. An umbrella and Wellies are always recommended; while part of The Rock’s charm is the foggy weather, rain can hit at any time. Even if you visit during colder months, you’ll always have the warm Newfie hospitality.
Come experience Newfoundland’s friendly people and captivating scenery for yourself. Contact us today for our recommendations to this must-see province. It’s definitely one to scratch off your crab-bucket list!