From picture-perfect fishing villages painted in vibrant colours, to ancient icebergs silhouetted against the deep blue of the Atlantic, Newfoundland and Labrador is a riot of colour and natural beauty. Not to mention a photographer’s dream. Here, you can awaken your sense of adventure every day by sea kayaking amongst whales and icebergs, zip lining over Humber Valley, or whitewater rafting down the Exploits River. And at night, enjoy some foot-stomping jigs and reels on a jam-packed dance floor. Or just kick back over a tall pint and an even taller story, and a sampling of traditional fare that includes locally-grown produce and fresh from the sea delicacies. Whatever you choose, Newfoundland and Labrador promises an unforgettable experience for any traveller. Finding your way there? There are many friendly, experienced tour operators offering a variety of vacation packages, outdoor adventures, and cultural experiences to help make your Newfoundland and Labrador journey truly unforgettable. Check out the following: Maxxim Vacations http://www.maxximvacations.com; Vision Atlantic http://visionatlanticvacations.com; Linkum Tours http://www.linkumtours.com
There are few words to describe the flotilla of 10,000-year-old ice monoliths you’ll find cruising past Newfoundland and Labrador’s coastline. But speechless is probably one of them. In spring and early summer, massive chunks of ice calve from their glacial homes in the Arctic and meander down an ancient path called Iceberg Alley: an area stretching from Labrador to the northeast corner of Newfoundland. Throughout, bays and inlets are dotted with the flawless white, bird’s egg blue, milky turquoise, and limpid cobalt sculptures, offering one of the best ice shows in the world. Watch them glint in the sunshine or silhouetted against verdant hills while sampling genuine Iceberg Water or locally produced Iceberg Vodka, gin, rum or beer. There are plenty of boat tours to choose from. Or, you can grab a quiet spot overlooking the ocean and watch it all unfold from shore.
Cod tongues used to be for those who couldn’t afford anything better, but now they’re a highly-prized delicacy offered in the finest restaurants – guaranteed to give culinary explorers a notch in their belt. Besides a host of traditional dishes that appeal to a somewhat adventurous palette, you’ll also find some of Canada’s freshest cod, shrimp, scallops, mussels, lobster, and crab served up daily. And quite possibly, the best fish and chips (fee ‘n chee to locals) this side of the Atlantic. Not seafood inclined? Try a home-cooked Jiggs’ Dinner made with locally grown root vegetables and salt beef, followed by a slice of 16th century Figgy Duff pudding. Or sample duck, moose and caribou served with a blueberry or partridgeberry reduction. Many of the dishes here use local wild berries – all of which are naturally delicious and packed with antioxidants. Which is why you should never skip the bakeapple cheesecake (you are on vacation, after all). Whatever you fancy, you’ll soon be hooked on Newfoundland and Labrador cuisine – both traditional and nouveau.
With 29,000 kilometres of coastline and more than 200 hiking and walking trails, Newfoundland and Labrador is the perfect place to stretch your legs. And rejuvenate mind, body and soul. Historic footpaths connect abandoned fishing communities through scenic inlets, coves and bays, while precipitous clifftops provide views of crashing waves and breaching whales below. Enjoy a picnic lunch on a secluded, unspoiled beach, or take a break with a hot cup of tea in a local café. And whether setting off for a gentle afternoon stroll amid fields of wild flowers or challenging yourself to a multi-day trek, Newfoundland and Labrador’s trails provide the perfect tonic to the routine of every day life. And plenty of room to breathe. Hike through fjords or from village to village. Glimpse moose, watch a wave-driven geyser or climb to the summit of 8,060-metre Gros Morne Mountain before sipping a well-earned pint. For the really adventurous, get way off the beaten path in Labrador’s spectacular Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve.
With one seabird for each person in Canada, you may want to wear a hat or carry an umbrella when exploring North America’s Seabird Capital. But you can leave your binoculars at home. One of the most accessible seabird colonies in the world is Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve. Here’s you’ll find seabirds in droves, high above and all around. Whether your preference lies in gannets or guillemots, petrels or puffins, Newfoundland’s 35 million seabirds attract discerning birders from all over the world each year. Try your viewing on foot from breathtaking coastal hiking trails, on-board a sightseeing boat, or for the more energetic, get up close and personal from your own sea kayak. If it takes more than just seabirds to turn your ornithological crank, Newfoundland also abounds in falcons, ospreys, hawks and boasts one of North America’s largest populations of bald eagles as well as thousands of visiting European feathered friends.
In 1901, Gugliemo Marconi stood on Signal Hill and received the first-ever transatlantic wireless signal, making communications history. Signal Hill stretches up over St. John’s harbour like a gatekeeper, separating the city from the sea. And it’s just as strategic for visitors in search of panoramic views of the North Atlantic and Newfoundland’s capital as it was for the Dutch, the British, and the French who fought over it centuries ago. On top sits Cabot Tower, named in honour of Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto – or John Cabot as he was known to his English sponsors – the first European to set foot in Newfoundland after the Vikings. These days, you can catch re-enactments of the military drills of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Foot formed in 1795, or follow the North Head trail to the colourful Battery. During spring and early summer, it’s also a great spot to catch a glimpse of frolicking Humpback whales, and watch the sun set over one of North America’s oldest cities. And perhaps, its most inspiring.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. And Newfoundland’s Cape Race played a crucial role in the rescue of the survivors on that fateful night in 1912. Located just 350 miles from where the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, Cape Race was the first land station to receive the ship’s mayday communications. It sent and received almost 300 messages while helping organize the rescue of its survivors. You can visit Cape Race’s Myrick Wireless Interpretation Centre, a replica of the original Marconi Marine Radio Station first built in 1904, and learn about early telegraphy and the station’s role in the Titanic rescue. Then head to St John’s to view a collection of some of the finest Titanic artifacts around.
Between the abundant marine life, the clear waters, and 8,000 historic shipwrecks, there are few places better to dive in than the waters of Newfoundland and Labrador. In 1942, the SS Lord Strathcona was torpedoed by a U-Boat in Conception Bay. Today it sits in just 89-feet of cool, clear water within easy distance of the shore. It’s only one of five centuries’ worth of shipwrecks that litter Newfoundland’s rugged coastline, offering some of the continent’s best wreck diving. Add to the equation the abundant marine life created by the convergence of the cool waters of the Labrador Current and the warmth of the Gulf Stream, and you’ll see why this place is a North American diving paradise. But if you’d rather stay closer to the surface, there’s always snorkeling with giant humpback whales.
If you’ve never danced a jig at a festival dedicated to mussel beds, blueberries, salmon, or squid, you haven’t lived. At least according to local standards. And with so much history and culture to celebrate, you’ll have plenty of chances to bust out your dancing shoes. Though you’ll find events all year round, summer is a particularly lively season with music festivals, garden parties, theatre productions, and cultural celebrations happening in every corner of the province. Born in Ireland, Scotland, England and France but emphatically raised on Newfoundland and Labrador soil, the majority of local music is a foot-stomping, hand-clapping, whirling jig of fiddles, accordions and bodhran drums. But you’ll also find a thriving Indy music scene, with bands like Hey Rosetta! Touring the globe. Be sure to attend at least one of the many annual music festivals such as The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, L’Anse au Loup’s Bakeapple Folk Festival, or Fogo's Brimstone Head Folk Festival. Or simply follow the beat and shouts emanating from pubs and cafés, concert halls and kitchens and get caught up in a tidal wave of good old-fashioned Newfoundland and Labrador fun.
A thousand years ago, the Vikings set out to find a new world. With nothing but the sea and the stars to guide them, they made their way to L’Anse aux Meadows. Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only authenticated Viking site in North America. Though the Vikings have long since gone, each summer evening, you’ll find a troupe of modern-day interpreters holding court in replica sod-roofed huts overlooking the Atlantic. For more Viking life, check out the Great Viking Feast in St. Anthony. Here you can return to the days of horned-helmets and dine on cod cheeks, roasted capelin and moose stew, finished off with partridge berry flat bread and bakeapple sauce. Though the utensils may be primitive, the experience is one of the finest in the land.
Anyone who has ever gone whale watching knows that there is indeed a very special bond with these gentle and enormous creatures. And if it’s a close encounter with one of the largest mammals in the world you’re after, try paddling alongside a giant Humpback in a sea kayak. Newfoundland offers some of the best sea kayaking in North America, from exploring any of its 9,656 kilometres of bays, inlets, and fjords to circling towering icebergs. It’s also home to the world’s largest population of Humpback whales – one of 22 species of whales that includes minke, sperm, pothead, blue, and orca. Nothing beats encountering whales and dolphins from the front row seat a sea kayak offers. And though you might be apprehensive about such a vantage point, tours are led by expert guides whose desire for your satisfaction and enjoyment is surpassed only by their concerns for your safety.