Surprisingly, one of the questions I'm asked most often in regard to Newfoundland is "Why?" followed by, "Where is it anyway?"
First off, Newfoundland is Canada's easternmost province in the Atlantic region. If you could see far enough, standing on its east coast, you'd be looking directly at Ireland. Of course, it's over 2,000 miles away, so unless you're superhuman, that's not going to happen. Many Newfoundlanders are of Irish descent, and if you speak with a Newfoundlander, particularly in and around the area called the Irish Loop, you might swear that you are talking to someone who just arrived from the Emerald Isle, only to have them tell you their ancestors arrived 400 years ago.
Now that you know where it is, here's why you should go.
If you go during the summer months, you'll have the chance to see up to 22 species of whales, including the world's largest population of humpbacks. In St. Anthony on the Great Northern Peninsula, it's common to go on a whale watching trip and have the boat literally surrounded by the creatures.
Following a route known as "Iceberg Alley," a multitude of sparkling white and blue icebergs float from the glaciers of Greenland to the waters off Newfoundland's east and northern coasts. They typically arrive in May and stick around through mid-July, but can sometimes be seen as late as August or early September.
You don't have to travel all the way to Norway to see a breathtaking fjord, because Gros Morne National Park on the west coast, has some of its own. The park is renowned for its gorgeous freshwater fjords, striking cliffs and magnificent shorelines. Take the Western Brook Pond tour to see a landlocked fjord, as well as cascading waterfalls, wildlife and more.
If you like puffins, you'll be in heaven here, especially in Elliston, the best spot for close encounters with these adorable birds close up. In fact, it offers one of the closest land views of puffins on the entire continent. Between May and September, the colorful auks occupy a section of land at the end of a rocky outcrop. Take the less than five-minute walk down a narrow, well-worn path that will bring you to what is known to locals as the “Puffin Site.” In 1987, a census estimated there were 2500 pairs of puffins here, but in recent years the number has increased dramatically.
One of the most common sayings in Newfoundland is "Mind the moose." And that's because they're everywhere. Pay close attention to roadsides when you're driving and you're likely to spot more than a few.
While St. John's is arguably the oldest city in North America, existing on maps as early as 1519, Newfoundland's history goes back much farther than that. Follow the Viking Trail to L’Anse Aux Meadows, and you can see the archaeological remains of a Norse encampment that dates back over 1,000 years - it's the only authenticated Viking site on the continent. Costumed interpreters are at the site in recreated dwellings to provide a fascinating glimpse of the Vikings time in the province.
Whether it’s at an ad-hoc kitchen party, a festival or a pub, music is the heartbeat of Newfoundland. In the capital city of St. John's, you can enjoy famously outstanding local live music along George Street, which boasts the most bars and pubs per square foot of any street in North America. O'Reilly's is a fantastic place to go with live Irish music every night of the week. At some places, you might even have the opportunity to grab an ugly stick and join in the fun.
If you're up on the Great Northern Peninsula around St. Anthony or L'anse aux Meadows, don't miss Skippers Hot Lounge, they do a really fun Screech-In if you want to become an official Newfoundlander too.
The Food and Drink
I've had some many exceptional meals here, including lobster, mussels, halibut and more. If you're a seafood lover you'll especially enjoy the cuisine, but if you aren't, don't worry, there's plenty of your favorites to be found here too. If you're a fan of Guinness, while it's readily available throughout the province, be sure to try the St. John's stout, made by Yellow Belly Brewery. Don't tell my Irish friends, but it's actually slightly better. Something I never thought I'd ever say.
While the scenery, wildlife, music, food and history are out of this world, what makes it truly one of the best places on Earth, is the people. Newfoundlanders are some of the kindest, most welcoming people I've ever met.
If you're ready to go, check out these great places to stay in my recent article on Trips To Discover: 7 Best Places to Stay in Newfoundland.