11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador's varied landscape was shaped by the ice ages, leaving snaking fiords, sharp coastal cliffs, moorland, lakes, and gentle valleys. The island of Newfoundland is the most easterly part of Canada, while the vast region of Labrador is largely inaccessible. Rugged scenic beauty aside, it is the offshore "Grand Banks", some of the world's richest fishing grounds, that are the island's most famous legacy. Fog, which occurs all year round, characterizes the coastal climate.
About a fifth of the population lives in the St. John's commuter area, while the rest are in smaller cities and fishing villages along the coast. Originally people lived along the whole length of the twisting shoreline, but in the 1970s a resettlement campaign grouped people into small communities of one to two hundred. Newfoundland is unusual for Canada in having a very homogenous population: most "Newfies" are English-speaking and were born on the island.
1 Gros Morne National Park
Gros Morne National Park is undoubtedly one of the most impressive natural features in eastern Canada, a magnificent landscape of fjords and mountains, partly covered with dense forest. Unique wildlife and plant life has adapted to the cold conditions, which are found scarcely anywhere else so far south. This is one of Newfoundland's most popular attractions, with hiking trails and sightseeing boat excursions in Western Brook Pond. The park also offers rock-climbing, boating, swimming, camping, and fishing.
Within the national park, the Long Range Mountains are among the oldest mountains on earth and have been shaped by advancing ice and the forces of erosion. Gros Morne National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Gros Morne National Park
2 L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site
L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, a green plain with some moorland, lies at the northern tip of Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula. Here were discovered six houses made of grass sods, probably built by the Vikings around the year 1,000 and rediscovered in 1962. It is the oldest known European settlement in North America and, to date, is the only authentic trace of Viking settlement in the New World. It is probably the "Vinland" discovered by Leif Erikson. The historic site has a reconstructed long house, workshop, and stable where costumed interpreters demonstrate age-old tasks and answer questions. A second Viking attraction on the Great Northern Peninsula is Norstead, a living-history museum with a slightly livelier feel and more Viking-style buildings.
3 Signal Hill National Historic Site
Atop its namesake hill, Signal Hill National Historic Site overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, St. John's harbor, and the small historic downtown. In 1901, Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal here. The landmark Cabot Tower commemorates the 400th anniversary of John Cabot's voyage. Hiking trails lead to the fortifications at the Queen's Battery Barracks and along the perilous cliffs, including spectacular but difficult North Head Trail down to Battery Road.
4 Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site
Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site, 11 kilometers south of St. John's, is the most easterly point in North America, and has Newfoundland's oldest lighthouse. It is a popular, if chilly, spot to watch the sunrise as well as sight whales, seabirds, and icebergs. Dating from 1835, the light station was in operation until 1955 and is now an interesting museum. In addition, there are massive half-ruined gun emplacements from the Second World War, including the barrels of two guns each weighing 30 tons and having a range of 13 kilometers.
5 Bonavista Peninsula
The best-known peninsula in Newfoundland is Bonavista, where John Cabot is thought to have sighted the "New World" for the first time in 1497. At Cape Bonavista, stands a statue of Cabot, and visitors can watch for whales, puffins, and icebergs along the coast. The old lighthouse, a provincial historic site, dates from 1843 and was restored around 1870. Picturesque Trinity is an old fishing and trading town, where the historical character has been well preserved. Also a fishing town, Bonavista was first used by European fishing fleets back in the 16th century. Ryan Premises National Historic Site was opened in 1997. This was originally the headquarters for James Ryan Ltd, a company that began operations in 1869 trading salted fish.
This quaint Newfoundland village located on the Kittiwake coast is a true slice of rural life. Filled with interesting homes and friendly people, Twillingate was originally settled in 1738 and known as Toulinguet. Very near to Twillingate is the Long Point Lighthouse, built in 1889. It has a range of 22 nautical miles and is an excellent location to watch for whales and icebergs. Small museums and seafood restaurants give the community a folksy feel.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Twillingate
7 Castle Hill National Historic Site
Castle Hill National Historic Site is between Highway 100 and Placentia, where one of the two ferry routes to Nova Scotia begins and ends. It is the site of historic English and French fortifications, and an interpretive center. The French founded the colony of "Plaisance" in 1662 and built Fort Royal in 1693. But only 20 years later they handed over the strategic location to the British, who renamed it Castle Hill. There is a magnificent view over Placentia Bay.
8 Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve
There are major colonies of seabirds at Cape St. Mary's, including about 24,000 northern gannet. The birds are a spectacular sight, whether nesting on the rocks or dive-bombing the ocean for a meal. Other seabird species at the cliff-side reserve include black-legged kittiwake, common murre, razorbill, and great cormorant.
9 Terra Nova National Park
Terra Nova National Park is known for its fjords and quiet coastline. In spring, icebergs drift by, and in summer, kayakers and canoeists take to the waters, while families fill the park campgrounds. Winter offers cross-country skiing opportunities. Just north of the national park, Salvage is a small fishing community with the classic Newfoundland charm of waterfront fishing sheds, tilting wharves, and rocky headlands.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Terra Nova National Park
10 Red Bay National Historic Site
The icy-cold Labrador current flows through the 17 kilometer-wide Strait of Belle Isle, which separates Labrador from Newfoundland, and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Since the 16th century, southern Labrador had been the summer fishing grounds of fishermen and whalers arriving from Europe and Newfoundland. At Red Bay National Historic Site, the remains of Basque (Spanish) whaling boats have been recovered. An interpretive center pieces together the historical clues.
11 Fogo Island
Fogo Island is a holdout from the days of fishing outposts. The island culture and an old Irish dialect are distinct from that on the main island of Newfoundland. In recent years, the addition of an expansive artist retreat and luxury hotel have brought attention and visitors to this coastal island.
Accommodation: Where to Stay on Fogo Island