Fun Facts About Newfoundland and Labrador: Learn More About the Easternmost Province of Canada!

What’s remarkable about Newfoundland & Labrador is that the province has more fun facts attached to it than you could imagine. This list below represents just a fraction, but we’d urge you to visit and to recognize that, in this land of storytellers, you’ll leave with a fun fact from almost every interaction you have, be that a museum or a local cafe.

Gros Morne National Park
Bri taking in the majesty of Gros Morne National Park. Photo Credit: Christopher Mitchell

Newfoundland & Labrador is a special province, there’s no doubt about it. Bri and I had the sincere pleasure of spending a month in this stunning part of the country as Writers-in-Residence, and it was, without question one of the greatest months of our lives.

What’s magical about this province is that it really is like nowhere else. That applies geographically, politically, socially, and by just about any other standard. It is a place that takes time to truly understand, but when things finally click, you realize you’ve happened upon a destination that will forever stay in your heart.

I dove deep on my thoughts on Newfoundland & Labrador when working through what I’d learned over that month, and this article will be a touch lighter and more quick hitting, but hopefully no less fascinating.

Let’s get to it, shall we? Newfoundland & Labrador is oh so full of surprises.

Here Are Some of Our Favourite Newfoundland and Labrador Fun Facts!

If there was one thing that I left this province feeling, it was that more people need to recognize the unique, wondrous nature of this destination, and this felt like an awfully fun way to do it.

It’s Home to the Most Easterly Point in North America

Cape Spear Lighthouse, Newfoundland and Labrador
Bri and I at Cape Spear Lighthouse. Photo Credit: Christopher Mitchell

Cape Spear is a headland located on the Avalon Peninsula right near St. John’s. This location marks the point where the North Atlantic meets the eastern coast of North America, and it’s regarded as the easternmost point in North America.

To add to that, The Cape Spear Lighthouse, built in 1836, is one of the oldest surviving lighthouses in Newfoundland and Labrador. As you might imagine, it served as a vital navigational aid for ships traveling along this often treacherous coastline. Today, the lighthouse is a national historic site and you can visit it rather easily.

It’s also just absolutely beautiful, and an easy way to set eyes on a variety of seabirds, including gulls, puffins, and cormorants. Whales can also be spotted off the coast during certain times of the year!

Gander International Airport Was Once One of the World’s Busiest Airports

Gander International Airport (located in Gander, of course), was indeed one of the busiest airports in the world during the mid-20th century. It played a crucial role in the early days of transatlantic aviation, particularly during World War II, and the early years of commercial transatlantic flights.

During the war, Gander became an important stopover point for transatlantic flights due to its strategic location. It served as a refuelling and maintenance stop for military aircraft flying between North America and Europe. After the war, as commercial air travel expanded, Gander continued to be a key stop for transatlantic flights, especially for airlines flying between North America and Europe.

Naturally, as aircraft became more advanced, and could fly longer distances without needing to refuel, the airport’s use declined. It’s not the world’s busiest airport anymore, of course, but it is still an important hub for transatlantic flights.

You might recognize Gander as the setting of the hit musical Come From Away (which is absolutely incredible, by the way). That musical follows the town of Gander playing host to about 7000 passengers during the week following the September 11th attacks, and how then community opened its arms to these stranded travellers.

It’s One of the Largest Islands in the World

Great Caribou Island, Labrador
Great Caribou Island, Labrador. Photo Credit: Christopher Mitchell

At 108,860 square kilometres, Newfoundland and Labrador is the 16th largest island on the planet. It’s important to remember that this province is an island (at least the part of the province not connected to Quebec), because islands function differently. They’re used to needing to understand their flora and fauna for survival, and are often battling more intense weather, and, honestly, relying on community a little more.

You might be thinking to yourself that 16th isn’t that impressive. Well, continue to ponder that while you also take note of that fact that this island is bigger than Cuba, Iceland, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Tasmania…and the list goes on and on.

This Province Has Their Own Time Zone

Newfoundland and Labrador has its own time zone and, as many of you will know, it happens to be different from the Atlantic Time Zone that’s followed by the rest of the Maritime provinces. Newfoundland Standard Time (NST) is UTC-3:30, making it half an hour ahead of Atlantic Standard Time (AST).

This time zone was established in the early 20th century when Newfoundland was a separate dominion. When Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, it chose to retain its own time zone. This decision was influenced by the province’s geographic location as well as its historical ties to the United Kingdom, which also has a time zone offset by a half-hour (GMT/UTC+0:30).

Honestly though, having come to understand the province’s people a little better, this totally makes sense to me. Newfoundlanders pride themselves on being a little different, and why not have a distinct timezone to denote to everyone that there’s also a distinct cultural identity?

It’s also worth noting that it is indeed the largest Atlantic province, so why not make their own rules, right?

*Please note that this article may contain affiliate links. Simply put, that means that we may get a small commission from some of our recommendations at absolutely zero extra cost to you.

This is a Land of Storytellers

Alan Doyle performing at Battle Harbour
The famous Alan Doyle performing for a small room at Battle Harbour. Photo Credit: Christopher Mitchell

Okay, kindly excuse the slightly more subjective submission here, but to me, this is an irrefutable fact.

While we were there, we attended two literary festivals, most notable Writers at Woody Point. Considering the population of the province, Newfoundland & Labrador hits well above its weight in terms of writers (Michael Crummey, Wayne Johnston, Kathleen Winter, and the list goes on and on). We had the supreme pleasure of meeting many of these writers, and I’m still pinching myself.

Once you spend time here, it’s not surprising at all. These are a land of people that put down their phones, look you in the eye, and converse. You sit at a table, and its as if everyone taps in to add their own weave to the conversational tapestry.

This, of course, extends to music as well. During our road tripping, we had traditional Newfoundland ballads on repeat, and you come to realize that this province is understood through its storytellers. To me, they operate not unlike a hiking guide would — they show you the landmarks and signage that you need to have context to understand what you’re experiencing.

When we were visiting Battle Harbour, we had the pleasure of meeting one Alan Doyle, and he played a show for a room of about twenty of us. That, my friends, was a life highlight.

One thing that’s incredible? Even the biggest storytellers here, be they writers or singers, all operate with supreme humility. You wouldn’t know that they’re household names.

When you’re travelling, look out for nights at local bars where folks are coming to take the stage. I remember one night we popped by Cafe Nymphe while we were on the Viking Trail, and listened to local folklore, and it was a memorable night indeed.

The First Non-Stop Transatlantic Flight Took Off From Newfoundland

On June 14-15, 1919, British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown completed the first non-stop transatlantic flight. They were flying from St. John’s to Clifden, Ireland, and doing it in a modified First World War Vickers Vimy bomber aircraft.

The flight, as you might expect, was a challenging and dangerous undertaking, as it was the first time anyone had attempted to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean. Despite that, Alcock and Brown completed their journey in just over 16 hours, landing in a bog near Clifden on the morning of June 15, 1919.

It’s hard to overstate what a huge achievement this was in aviation history. Basically, it demonstrated that exploring the world was about to get a lot more feasible!

By the way, if aviation history is your thing, then consider staying at the Edge of the Avalon Inn in Trepassey, not far from where Amelia Earhart was based when she became the first woman to cross the Atlantic in June 1928. Beyond the aviation history, it was a lovely place to stay, and the staff there are absolutely incredible.

You Can Take a Ferry to France!

Sunrise at Saint Pierre, Saint Pierre & Miquelon
Sunrise at Saint Pierre. Photo Credit: Christopher Mitchell

St. Pierre and Miquelon, which we also had the chance to visit by hopping over on a ferry, is the last remnant of France’s once-extensive North American possessions.

The territory consists of several islands, but the primary ones are Saint Pierre and Miquelon. Saint Pierre is the more populated of the two, housing the capital, Saint-Pierre. Miquelon is larger, and made up of three land masses, Grand Miquelon, Langlade, and Le Cap, and is connected to Saint Pierre by an isthmus. It’s all beautiful!

So how did this all come to be?

Well, the islands were first settled by the French in the early 17th century and have remained under French control ever since, with the exception of a brief period of British occupation in the early 18th century.

St. Pierre and Miquelon are known for their unique blend of French and North American culture, and that’s something we certainly felt while visiting. Technically speaking, the residents of St. Pierre and Miquelon are French citizens and use the euro as their currency.

This is one of the most unique trips you can take when you’re exploring Canada, period!

95% of All North America’s Puffins Breed Around These Coasts

The Atlantic puffin is indeed the provincial bird, and it’s been that way since 1991. That’s no surprise considering the largest puffin colony in the western Atlantic (a cool 225,000 pairs) can be found at Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, located only 32 kilometres of so south of St. John’s.

They’re a little smaller than you might imagine, but immensely fun to just hang around, observe their playful behaviour, and play photographer for a little while.

The First European Settlement in North America? Yup, That’s Here Too!

L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland and Labrador
Bri exploring L’Anse aux Meadows. Photo Credit: Christopher Mitchell

Welcome to the only known site of a Norse or Viking settlement in North America (outside of Greenland), dating to around the year 1000 AD — L’Anse aux Meadows.

This place is so neat, and very photogenic. It’s also now officially a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and rightfully so.

Picture several Norse-style buildings, including dwellings, workshops, and a forge, as well as artifacts such as iron nails, woodworking tools, and a small stone lamp. Norse explorers were here, of that there’s no doubt, and they were potentially even led by the one and only Leif Erikson.

The main reason this site is so important is that it confirms that Norse explorers reached the continent about half a century before Christopher Columbus. We’ve got a full article on the L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site for those readers who want to dive a little deeper on it!

It’s a Province Rich in Unique Sayings (and Dialects)

One of the great treats of spending a month in this province was, in a sense, learning “the province’s language.” What’s worth noting is that some of the sayings and dialects are quite regional. Naturally, this is somewhat based on the geographical and cultural influences of the region. You’ll hear different phrases on The Irish Loop than you would in rural Labrador, for example.

Don’t be frustrated if you don’t understand everything at first, that’s all part of travel, and yearning to learn about and respect another culture.

By the end of our time there, I was saying “yes, b’y” (a gender neutral phrase that you’d use to agree with or emphasize what was just said) without even thinking about it.

You may be a “Come From Away” (someone who isn’t from Newfoundland), but as is custom, you’ll be welcomed into the fold in no time.

Accents, slang, and dialect vary from region to region, city to city, town to town — and that’s all part of the reason why it’s worth spending some significant time here exploring.

Newfoundland & Labrador is Home to Some of the Oldest Rocks on the Planet

This province is a geologist’s dream come true. That’s largely due to its 29,000 kilometres of diverse coastline.

We learned this lesson firsthand when we visited the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve UNESCO World Heritage Site, located on the southernmost tip of the Avalon Peninsula, and had a guided tour to walk across an ancient seafloor and take a peek at fossils that were 565 million years old!

I love that Newfoundland & Labrador recognized the importance of these rocks and geo-sites, and even coined the tagline that these sites have “been waiting to welcome visitors for millions of years.”

If geology is your forte, then check out Newfoundland & Labrador’s full list of sites here.

This Province Has a Lengthy Indigenous History to be Respected and Understood

Newfoundland and Labrador is home to three distinct Indigenous groups: the Inuit, Innu, and Mi’kmaq. The Inuit have lived in Labrador for centuries, while the Innu are based in Labrador, and the Mi’kmaq have lived throughout Newfoundland for generations.

Indigenous influence is visible throughout the entirety of this province. Activities like hunting, fishing, trapping, and foraging are still important for many Indigenous People and these skills have been passed down to much of the population.

Modern comforts are available, but it’s clear that many people are reconnecting with the land and water, and almost doubling down on that intimate connection. Think fresh foods and medicine derived from the land, and ancestral travel practices (snowshoeing, kayaking, canoeing).

The focus on oral storytelling is also a practice of Indigenous peoples here that has permeated the province.

The First Transatlantic Wireless Message Was Received at Signal Hill in St. John’s!

Signal Hill, St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador
Signal Hill National Historic Site, St. John’s. Photo Credit: Christopher Mitchell

On December 12, 1901, Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian inventor and electrical engineer, successfully received the first transatlantic wireless message at Signal Hill in St. John’s. Marconi had set up a receiving station at Signal Hill to attempt to receive signals transmitted from across the Atlantic Ocean.

The historic message was transmitted from Poldhu, Cornwall, in England, and consisted of the Morse code signal for the letter “S.” The transmission traveled over 3,400 kilometres across the Atlantic Ocean, and essentially demonstrated that long-distance wireless communication could work!

Definitely go on up to Signal Hill when you’re visiting St. John’s. The Historic Site is one element, but the view of St. John’s from there are also stunning.

The views of St. John's from Signal Hill
The views of St. John’s from Signal Hill. Photo Credit: Christopher Mitchell

If You’re Into Icebergs, You’re in Luck!

The province is located along a major iceberg migration route known as “Iceberg Alley.” Icebergs calve (basically split or shed) from glaciers in Greenland and travel south along the Labrador Current, bringing them close to the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Particularly in the spring and summer, these ancient ice giants, which are over 10,000 years old, can be seen from various locations along the northern and eastern coasts, particularly on clear, sunny days.

When we were road tripping around, we used www.icebergfinder.com so that we could make diversions from our regularly scheduled programming to set eyes on these beauties!

St. John’s is Canada’s Foggiest (and Windiest) Major City

St John’s averages about 125 foggy days per year, and an average wind speed a little under 25 kilometres per hour, but it’s all a part of life here. Part of what makes this province (and its people) so inspiring is that there are no excuses attached to the weather.

If it’s too foggy to do what was planned, then there’s going to be a plan B, and if the weather affects plan B, then there’s going to be a plan C (even if that’s playing music in a local kitchen until the weather improves, while half the room hopes it never does).

From a photographer’s perspective, the fog adds to the ambiance, and the shifting weather patterns often meant that we were getting what would be a week’s worth of photos in another destination (based on how many different weather patterns we were capturing) in a single day.

I share this fact to once again illustrate the perseverance of this province. Nothing gets them down for long, and the province even has a “How to Turn a Foggy Day Into Something Special” article on their site!

Newfoundland & Labrador is Utterly Remarkable

Christopher & Briana Mitchell on Battle Harbour, Labrador
Bri and I at Battle Harbour, Labrador. Photo Credit: Christopher Mitchell

I love this province with something deep inside me. Every time that I write about Newfoundland & Labrador, I’m brought back to the these moments that I cherish on such a human level.

The gratitude that I feel for the intense connection I have to this province won’t ever leave me, and I can only hope that an article like this reminds our readers that this province is ripe for exploration, and if you go there with your eyes and ears open, you’ll leave with a lot more than just new photos on your phone.

5 thoughts on “Fun Facts About Newfoundland and Labrador: Learn More About the Easternmost Province of Canada!

  1. Josee Richard says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences about NL. I will be going over there this May and cannot wait. I will be travelling in my van from the Rocky Mountains and do not have a set return date so that I give myself plenty of time to discover all the corners, nooks and crannies of the island. I am also planning to spend some time in St Pierre and Miquelon for a taste of France. By the way, a slight error in your article: St Pierre is the smallest of the 2 islands. Miquelon is the larger one, connected to Langdale by an isthmus. Just thought you would like to know…yes b’y!

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