There’s something about growing up in a place that ingrains it so deeply in your heart. That’s not to say that I was in love with the place my whole life–it was all I knew. Sure, I wanted to get away. But, getting away is what changes everything. You start to take some ownership and pride in it. The little things grow and become integral parts of the culture and mindset.
Anyway, Newfoundland is a special place. It’s not a Maritime province, and it’s not “Eastern Canada.” It’s the east coast, Atlantic Canada: a not-so-little Island with a less-than-sizable population. Why should you go there? Let’s mull it over.
Some reasons why you must visit Newfoundland
Whether you’re making your way through part of the eastern Avalon’s East Coast Trail, or navigating the epic Long Range Traverse in the west, you’re not going to have any trouble finding some solitude in the wild. The island is scattered with hiking trails for all levels, and the scenery is always changing things up. The Long Range Traverse is known across Canada for being tough–you have to pass a navigation test before you can even set out. Over the course of several days, you’ll pass gorges and ponds and see some of Gros Morne’s gems.
With a low population and a huge amount of wilderness, Newfoundland is a haven for those who treasure their time in the outdoors.
Pub culture, live music, or nightclubs? Why choose?
Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is probably George Street. The street has the most bars and pubs per square foot of any street in North America. For the most part, it’s quiet until around midnight, but then will be busy until around 3 am, or possibly until sunrise.
Although, the one thing you can count on in a small town is that the ratio of bars to people is probably above average. Even in a fairly small town, you’ll likely find a main pub that can get pretty lively on a Friday night (or during happy hour–which may or may not indicate the presence of specials, but can just refer to heading to the bar in the afternoon).
I don’t mean strictly the Newfoundland cuisine (which you should try while you’re there), but the food scene in general. The food in St. John’s is good. For a city of around 100,000 people, there seems to be a pretty high ratio of great restaurants. After living away for a few years, this is something I’ve really grown to miss. There are a bunch of international restaurants, an amazing vegetarian restaurant, and the number one restaurant in Canada. Looking for suggestions? Try here.
The Historical Sites
How far back are you looking to go? We’ve got American bases from World War II to the Cold War, French and English forts from the 17th and 18th centuries, a Viking settlement that’s the earliest known European settlement in the New World, along with fossils of the oldest creatures—in fact, the oldest complex life forms—found anywhere on Earth.
We’ve got a craggy coast that falls away abruptly into the crashing waves of the frigid North Atlantic, with plenty of seabirds and whale sightings to go along with it. But, you probably come for the icebergs.
These are more than massive blocks of ice, they are voyagers from the Arctic, making their way into our harbours and leaving lots of little bergy bits that we’ll later use in our rum and Pepsi (Newfoundland is one of those strange places where Pepsi outsells Coca Cola). If there’s one out there, you can bet that it’s being broadcast in every medium. Crowds hit the easiest access points, so if you’re willing to go for a hike, you just might catch one to yourself.
The Rural Towns
There’s nothing like small-town Newfoundland, where a population of over a thousand constitutes a fairly large community. As important as it is to visit St. John’s and explore our wilderness, you’ve got to see how the rural population lives. A large majority of the population lives along the coast (something like 98 per cent), and grew from a plentiful fishing industry. Today, there’s an aging population where everyone knows everyone and they all have this enormous pride for where they are from. It’s hard to generalize places like this, but here are a few with some memorable names.
The Unique Culture
We don’t say “eh,” but we’ll certainly call you “b’y” or “buddy” (or both at the same time–“Yes b’y, buddy.”). But, don’t get me wrong–that’s not everyone. Number one thing that’s said to me when I say I’m from Newfoundland: “But, you don’t really have an accent.” Not everyone does. Just like not every Canadian says “eh.”
That’s enough about accents.
There are a lot of traditions that are pure Newfoundland. They come from a past of being a British colony and Dominion that only joined Canada in 1949. Also, I’d venture a guess that about 99 per cent of people born in Newfoundland have Irish ancestry, something that is highly celebrated.
The mix of solitude and companionship
You can spend the afternoon in the middle of nowhere, and the evening at a club with music that deafens, a crowded bar, and patrons that exclude no one and just want to have a laugh. There may not be all that many of us, but we’ve got a pretty inclusive, community-focused way of life.
Do you get those feelings of pride about your home? What makes it special?