Introduction to Newfoundland and Labrador

(continuer en français) – Last updated: August 26, 2022

Newfoundland and Labrador is the easternmost province in Canada. It consists of two distinct land masses separated by the Strait of Belle Isle. First, there is the island of Newfoundland with 92% of the population and only 27% of the land. The rest is in Labrador, taken from the territory of Quebec in 1927 by a unilateral decision of the King’s Privy Council.

It was not until 1949 that the previously British dominion decided to join Canada, after the third referendum on the subject.

With just over half a million inhabitants, the province represents barely 1% of the Canadian population. This percentage has been declining due to the lack of economic opportunities that are driving the younger generation to seek work further west.

L’Anse aux Meadows

It is in L’Anse aux Meadows that Europe and America met, around the year 1000. After overwintering for a few years, the travellers from Iceland stopped coming back. It was not until the 1960s that this first encounter was attested to with the discovery of a clothing pin. Since then, the base of the early Vikings has been reconstructed and can be visited like a jump back in time.

St. John’s

From the top of Signal Hill, it is easy to understand why the harbour of St. John’s quickly became a popular place for European fishermen to fish on the Grand Banks, as early as the 16th century. The English made it the capital of the colony of Newfoundland, gradually pushing out other nationalities. The city benefits from the exploitation of offshore oil and is home to 40% of the province’s population (more).

Petty Harbour

About 8 miles, 13 kilometres, from St. John’s, Petty Harbour is an old fishing harbour that has kept its character. The wooden wharves are typical of the old days. It was first occupied by French fishermen 500 years ago and the name “petty” comes from “petit”. The old fishing port is so typical that it has been used as a set in several films. Its main resource is the visit of day-trippers.


Cape Bonavista is often visited by whales. A lighthouse dating from 1843 watches over the coastline, which has been torn apart by the waves. The inner harbour of Bonavista has been frequented by European fishing fleets since the 16th century. From the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, Ryan’s Premises were a thriving business, where fishermen sold their fish in exchange for materials from the shop. This barter system was generally to the advantage of the merchant.

Gros Morne

Gros Morne National Park protects a portion of the Earth’s mantle that is exposed as a result of tectonic plate friction. A rare opportunity to learn more about the composition of the earth’s surface, the visitor centre has a very informative exhibit. There are also a number of hikes that take visitors through the desolate landscapes that have emerged from the depths. The site has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1987.

Labrador City

Labrador City was born from the mine, an iron mine whose large reserves have been identified in Labrador as well as other minerals. This revived the controversy over the attachment of this part of Quebec to Newfoundland in 1927. With only 8% of the province’s population but 73% of the land and many resources, the existence of a distinct flag is not accidental. Labrador City sees itself as the capital of a distinct territorial entity, while its industrial origins are still only too apparent (more).

Trans-Labrador Highway

Between Labrador City and Blanc Sablon, the Trans-Labrador Highway is over 680 miles, 1100 kilometres long. The route passes through sparsely populated wilderness areas where it takes several hours to get gas. Part of the adventure will disappear as the entire distance is paved. The aim is to open up the Labrador coast where small communities were only accessible by expensive coasters.

Red Bay

In the 1500s, Basque whalers from Spain and France established an important whaling base in Red Bay. The whalers had to operate on land to process whale oil for use in lamps in Europe. During this period an estimated 20,000 whales were killed, the bay is named after the blood that stained it.

Point Amour Lighthouse

Point Amour Lighthouse is the highest lighthouse on the Atlantic coast of Canada at 150 feet, 46 metres, above sea level. The lighthouse was built in 1850 to guide ships through the Strait of Belle Isle separating Labrador from Newfoundland. It can be visited in a state close to the time of its construction in 1850.

Battle Harbour

A small island off the coast of Labrador, Battle Harbour used to be the informal capital of this still unorganized territory. In the 1770s, fisheries were set up there, taking advantage of the proximity of abundant cod fishing grounds. The decline and subsequent moratorium on cod made Battle Harbour a ghost island. At the turn of the century, it was designated a historic site, with renovated houses receiving visitors for a few nights.

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  1. Thanks for this post! Hoping to explore all the eastern provinces of Canada once the border opens up again – I’ve always been fascinated with the rugged topography and stark beauty of these provinces. I’ll keep this post bookmarked!


    • There are many other attractive places for photo opportunities, I am sure you will get great photos there. For instance, an overnight stay in Battle Harbour allows the visitor to experience the history of the area in a different way.


  2. Great information and photos of Newfoundland. We’re hoping to go this August as long as the Maritimes stay open to the rest of the country. I’ve only been in winter and Richard’s never been. You’re post is getting us excited for our trip! Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand, distances are a limitation to accessing all parts of the province. The Trans-Labrador is bringing greater facility to the Labrador side now, perhaps one day there will be a tunnel between the two parts of the province.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing that information about Newfoundland and Labrador. I have been surprised to learn a lot about Newfoundland from watching This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Seems like a lot of great comedians come from there

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We visited Newfoundland for 10 days a few years ago and wished we could have stayed longer. We flew into St. Johns, drove towards Gros Morne National Park and flew out of Deer Lake. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to visit L’Anse aux Meadows or Labrador. I’d love to return someday and see more of this province.

    Liked by 2 people

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