Newfoundland and Labrador — Attractions
Newfoundland and Labrador is well known as a province of extremes. Its unsurpassed natural beauty—ranging from sheltered coves and sandy beaches to mighty snowcapped mountains, fjords, and vast areas of millennia-old metamorphic rock—will dazzle any visitor. The province is home to a wide array of national parks, historic sites, whaling grounds, and fishing communities. Most of the province’s attractions are outdoor related but there’s also plenty to see inside its museums, lighthouses, and military encampments.
Torngat Mountains National Park
None of Atlantic Canada’s parks are larger, more isolated or starkly breathtaking than the newest of Newfoundland and Labrador’s national parks. Situated on the Labrador Pensinula’s northeasternmost tip and extending 125 miles north of the nearest town, the park and mountain range were named after an Inuktitut term translating to ‘place of spirits.’ All visitors must register at the Saglek Fjord base camp at the southernmost point before continuing to hike through the pristine wilderness, catch Arctic char in the river, or scale Canada’s highest peaks east of the Rockies. Visitors can also tour the area by air, boat, or accompanied by trained Inuit guides.
Address: Torngat Mountains National Park, P.O. Box 471, Nain, NL A0P 1L0
Gros Morne National Park
Eastern North America’s tallest waterfall, the ironically named Pissing Mare Falls, flows into the freshwater fjord of Western Brook Pond. However, these are just two of the many wonders along the west coast of the island of Newfoundland. The namesake and centerpiece of Atlantic Canada’s second biggest national park is Newfoundland’s second highest mountain and just one of the Long Range Mountains dominating the park’s landscape. Locals call the twisted trees along the coast ‘tuckamores,’ while the desert-like Tablelands lie between Woody Point and Trout River. The best way to explore is by boat through the fjords or on scenic hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulty throughout the park.
Address: Gros Morne National Park, P.O. Box 130, Rocky Harbour, NL A0K 4N0
Terra Nova National Park
The boreal forests along Bonavista Bay’s inlets are the dominant landscapes in Newfoundland’s first national park, which stretches along the island’s rugged east coast between Glovertown and Port Blandford. Remnants of historic sawmills and the Appalachian Mountains are scattered across Canada’s easternmost national park, whose main Salton’s Brook visitor center includes a touch tank among its fascinating marine exhibits. Salton’s Brook is also the starting point for the Coastal Connections boat tour through Newman Sound, home to the area’s biggest campground which features a children’s nature house, a campfire circle, and an August heritage folk festival. The park’s other major campsite, Malady Head, provides a more remote atmosphere closer to the wilderness. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and camping are the park’s main winter activities.
Address: Terra Nova National Park, General Delivery, Glovertown, NL A0G 2L0
L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site
Almost 500 years before Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World, Newfoundland’s northernmost tip became home to North America’s first confirmed European settlement. In 1960, archaeologists unearthed proof of a Viking colony established at L’Anse aux Meadows. This camp was a departure point for voyages to Vinland, the name Eric the Red used to describe lands further south along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Why the original settlement was abandoned remains a mystery, however, archaeologists have been able to reconstruct three Norse structures and on display are authentic Norse items like sewing supplies, a stone oil lamp, and blacksmith tools.
Address: Northern Newfoundland
Signal Hill National Historic Site
Signal Hill was already an important military vantage and observation point for St. John’s long before Guglielmo Marconi chose Cabot Tower as the historic reception point for the first transatlantic wireless transmission. Named for the flag signals that flashed on the hill announcing ship arrivals, Signal Hill’s visitor center offers both self-guided tours and a short film about the region’s history, including several battles between French and British troops. Visitors can admire the view from Cabot Tower’s summit or hike along the North Head Trail to the Narrows at St. John’s harbor and the city’s oldest neighborhood, the Battery. In summer, visitors can also enjoy entertaining Signal Hill Tattoo performances reenacting military drills circa 1795.
Address: Signal Hill National Historic Site, P.O. Box 1268, St. John’s, NL A1C 5M9
Cape Spear Lighthouse
Cape Spear is home to both Newfoundland’s oldest surviving lighthouse and North America’s easternmost tip of land. The lighthouse has been painstakingly restored to not only resemble its original 1830’s appearance, but also accurately depict the life of a mid-19th century lightkeeping family. It is a perfect place to watch seabirds, whales, and icebergs or to see the sun rise or set before anyone else on the continent. A gift shop, guided tours, and a visitor center with historic lighthouse exhibits are also part of the site. One of Cape Spear’s longer hiking trails leads to scenic Maddox Cove nearby.
Address: Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site, P.O. Box 1268, St. John’s, NL A1C 5M9
No city in Canada receives more snow per year than Corner Brook and no Atlantic Canadian ski resort rivals the size of nearby Marble Mountain, said to contain Canada’s finest skiing east of the Rockies. With a resort at the summit of its main peak, Mount Musgrave, the 5,446-foot-long Governor’s Express is Atlantic Canada’s only high-speed quad lift with detachable chairs. Marble Mountain hosted the alpine events of the 1999 Canada Winter Games and continues to host the Corner Brook Winter Carnival every February. Hiking and zip lining across Steady Brook Falls are the mountain’s main summer activities.
Address: Marble Mountain Development Corporation, P.O. Box 947, Corner Brook, NL A2H 6J2
Red Bay National Historic Site
Easily reachable by ferry or car along the Labrador Coastal Drive, Labrador’s isolated southern coast was once a significant whaling station for 16th century Basque fishermen from southern France and northern Spain. Although the Basque long abandoned Red Bay’s sheltered harbor, 140 fallen men still lie beneath their historic burial ground. Remnants of whale-oil-rendering ovens, exported throughout Europe, remain on nearby Saddle Island, accessible only by boat. This carefully reconstructed fishing village’s interpretation center features an authentic 16th century Basque whaling vessel and a long chalupa that fishermen used to hook their gigantic catches.
Address: Parks Canada, Red Bay National Historic Site, P.O. Box 103, Red Bay NL A0K 4K0