Newfoundland and Labrador is full of intriguing tales and inspirational locations. Here are a few story ideas you might find interesting:
The sixteenth-century Basque whaling complex at Red Bay in southeastern Labrador is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It joins the geological wonders of Gros Morne National Park and the 11th-century Viking village at L’Anse aux Meadows in being awarded this prestigious designation.
28 Feb 2013
In the 1950s, Canada’s Department of Transport commissioned a modernist makeover for a tiny international air hub in Newfoundland, a design that has proven as timeless as it was trendsetting.
28 Feb 2013
With a booming economy and tourism numbers rising, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has announced some major infrastructure projects. Nowhere is the growth more visible than in the capital, St. John’s, where hotel development is expected to expand with 700 new hotel rooms to be added. In addition, a ten-year $167 million capital improvement program for the St. John’s International Airport is underway, and the St. John’s Convention Centre will double in size by 2016.
Hundreds of miles of refurbished coastal hiking trails between fishing villages recreate the traditional means of locomotion in olden days. Baggage transfers arranged. See whales, icebergs, and seabirds. Meet the descendants of the Irish who settled here and retain a strong brogue, a quick wit and a talent for lively music. Or, take a guided hike in Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famed for its fjords, scenery and, well, trails. Let the experts take you to the best locations – and get you back again.
Gros Morne National Park inspires all who visit, but artists are particularly drawn here. Gros Morne Theatre Festival by Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador features local plays, stories and music performed by a professional troupe. Gros Morne Summer Music is a classical festival featuring top international musicians. The literary-oriented annual Writers at Woody Point allows festival-goers to chat with authors in an informal setting.
Battle Harbour, on the coast of Labrador has been bypassed by modern times, and many of its rustic charms and buildings remain exactly as they were originally conceived. A visit here is like stepping inside a time machine. Bed down without electricity and experience what true quiet is like. It was from here that Commodore Peary telegraphed to the world that he had reached the North Pole.
Before he founded a colony in the Chesapeake Bay area, Lord Baltimore tried his luck at Ferryland in Newfoundland. It didn't work out for him, but those who came after prospered. Contemporary colonies were established in Cupids – actually the first English colony in Canada – and at Placentia, where the French ruled for a century. There are archaeological digs at the Colony of Avalon in Ferryland and an ongoing program of archaeological survey and excavation in Cupids conducted by the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation, and there is Castle Hill National Historic Site at Placentia. All three are on the Avalon Peninsula and can be explored during a short break.
The eastern edge of North America – Newfoundland and Labrador – has hosted a bevy of pioneering aviators over the years, like Alcock and Brown who made the first successful Atlantic air crossing, and Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly the Atlantic solo. The airfield from which she took off remains as green and inviting today as it was then. Lindbergh, the Pan-American Clippers, and Ferry Command all left their mark here in aviation history. Discover the stories at the North Atlantic Aviation Museum in Gander, and then explore the sites where it all happened.
The Johnson Geo Centre in St. John's was built in a lake – after it was drained, of course – so its walls could tell part of the rocky story of this planet, using the ample geology of Newfoundland and Labrador as illustration. The No. 2 mine on Bell Island, just a few miles and a short ferry ride away, shows the practical application of geological knowledge to mining iron ore. These mines operated for 70 years, and Bell Island's wharves were targets for German U-boats in World War II. They make a complementary duo that is just right for a short visit.
More than 50 navigation lights dot the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, but only two offer accommodation in traditional lightkeepers' quarters. Cape Anguille Lighthouse Inn is in southwestern Newfoundland and offers guests no TV, no telephone and no smoking. Just quiet, nearby golf, birdwatching, and many other treats. Quirpon (pronounced car-poon) Lighthouse Inn has the longest iceberg and whale-watching season on the Island of Newfoundland. It's located on an island near where the Vikings established the first European settlement in North America 1,000 years ago. Visit Linkum Tours for more details on these award-winning Lighthouse Inns.
Off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador is where the confluence of the frigid Labrador Current and the warm Gulf Stream, over a shallow continental shelf, creates an oceanic nursery where marine life explodes with productivity all along the food chain. For more than five centuries this productivity has sustained the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador, from the early days of the European migratory fishery to today. Catching fish is still a mainstay, but marine nature viewing on a grand scale – thousands of humpback and minke whales, millions of seabirds and 5,000-year-old icebergs – combine for a unique triple treat that attracts nature enthusiasts from around the world.
Geologists discovered a thing or two about continental drift in Newfoundland and Labrador. In Gros Morne National Park, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are rare rocks that were forced from deep in the earth by unimaginable tectonic forces. These Tablelands, as they're called, resemble buttes from the American badlands, and are just one geological attraction in the park. Fjords are another. Carved by glaciers, these freshwater lakes with high, steep sides are reminiscent of those found in Norway. Of course, in both areas glaciers carved the landscape. And in Newfoundland and Labrador, what's known as a lake elsewhere is here referred to as a pond, a relatively small body of water. Not many people would call Western Brook Pond a pond, because it's a huge, spectacular fjord. You can take a boardwalk to the pond and catch a boat tour with Bon Tours where you can look up, look way up – more than 2,000 feet – to the top.
The geologists also noticed that the trilobite fossils in Gros Morne were different from those in eastern Newfoundland. The Gros Morne fossils matched those found in the Appalachian Mountains, of which the hills in Gros Morne are a northerly extension. The fossils in eastern Newfoundland matched those found in southern Spain and Morocco, and the case for continental drift was proved.
With over 130 root cellars – small storage spaces skillfully built into the hillsides – Elliston has an unusual heritage. Important to many in rural Newfoundland, the root cellars kept vegetables cool, yet frost free and edible during the long winter months. Elliston is also a great place to observe a variety of seabirds, including the colourful puffin, which can be viewed at close range in its natural habitat. The puffin spends most of the year at sea, coming to shore to nest and raise its young. Some are terrific divers. Once called Bird Island Cove, Elliston is surrounded by numerous tiny islands, one of the best puffin colonies in Newfoundland.
On April 14, 2012, the world marked the 100th anniversary of the loss of RMS Titanic on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. On that fateful night, the supposedly unsinkable luxury liner struck an iceberg 375 miles south of Newfoundland, and sank, taking more than 1,500 people to a watery grave. Located on the eastern edge of North America, Newfoundland and Labrador is intimately familiar with both icebergs and shipwrecks, including the Titanic. How intimate? One of the local Titanic tour guides is related to a radio operator who worked at the Cape Race Marconi Station that night, and he has some inside information on what really happened. Then there’s the Ryan Mansion. The staircase at the luxury boutique hotel in St. John’s was built by the same Belfast artisans who created the ship’s grand staircase. A commemoration of the Titanic disaster includes an on-shore tour organized by Wildland Tours, which has further details at www.titaniccommemoration.com. And to see a cool video on “raising” the Titanic, go to www.expeditiontitanic.com.
Fogo Island is rapidly catching the eyes of travel writers and editors, so much that the New York Times has named it one of the top destinations for 2011. Not to be outdone, the Ottawa Citizen has also included it on its “must-see” list for the upcoming travel season. Two artists’ studios designed by a cutting-edge architect are complete, and four others are in the works. The idea behind the studios is to tell Fogo’s story through the eyes of top painters and photographers attracted here by these unique edge-of-the-sea working spaces. The island also features a theatre festival, a unique ocean-going rowing event, and a hot, new restaurant serving fresh, local fare. It’s also home to Irish descendants who – even after 250 years here – are quite possibly even more 'Irish' than their ancestors. Fogo Island boasts a ruggedly stunning landscape and, according to the Flat Earth Society, it's one of the Four Corners of the World. What a combo! Discover it at www.town-fogo.ca and www.artscorpfogoisland.ca.
Some people call it the Freedom Road, or the Trans-Labrador Highway or – parts of it, anyway – Labrador Coastal Drive or Labrador Frontier Circuit. Whatever the moniker, it’s an adventure not for the faint of heart or the low of ground clearance. It stretches more than 1,100 km across some of the last wild country in North America. Don’t expect cellphone coverage up here, folks, but do pick up a free satellite phone for the drive across. The road’s mainly gravel, and it doesn’t have any services outside the handful of towns it connects. Expect to do 70 – kilometres an hour, that is – for the best part of two days. And take someone with you, because it can get mighty lonely out there under the Labrador skies. It’ll also help to have someone along to share the experience, to explore a territory that is just opening up to the world after centuries of isolation. To reach the start line, take Quebec Route 389 to Labrador where you pick up Route 500 and go east to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The next day, go southeast on Route 510 all the way to Blanc Sablon and catch the ferry there to Newfoundland. The reverse works just fine, too. For more information, go to www.newfoundlandlabrador.com and under Places To Go look up Scenic Touring Routes and then Labrador.
In Newtonian physics, time is the fourth dimension, but in Newfoundland and Labrador, we’ve taken old Sir Isaac’s concept of movement through time and turned it into a party. It is, of course, called a time. Not time, or the time, but a time. There can be more than one time at any time, or even at the same time, but two times can’t occupy the same space at the same time. That’s because if two times merge, more space is needed, a soiree breaks out and the party lasts a long, long time, with dancers whirling without end, and someone over in the corner making time with a guest. Great concept that, making time. So, if you want to have a good time at a time, you’ve got to come to the right place. And you know where that is. Check out www.newfoundlandlabrador.com for the time nearest you. And speaking of time, our YouTube channel now features ‘Half Hour', a one-minute salute to our time zone: when you’re half an hour ahead, you never feel the need to catch up.