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Where to find the real Newfoundland and Labrador

Change Islands, NL

Where to find the real Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador has soul. A place shaped by the Atlantic Ocean, by tradition, and by hardship, it's also a land of sweeping natural beauty, rugged cliffs, jewel-colored saltbox houses, and remote, tight-knit fishing communities. Newfoundlanders themselves are resilient, ever optimistic, and always ready for a good laugh and lively party -- with fiddling and dancing, of course. With their lilting accents, you'll find these to be some of the most generous hosts and big-hearted folks you'll ever meet.


It's a place that moves you, and one that you won't likely forget any time soon. Here's how to experience the real Newfoundland and Labrador.

Rent a house in a far-flung community

Here's an authentic Newfoundland moment: sitting on the deck of a 100-year-old historic house on the Bonavista PeninsulaExternal Link Title, taking in the salty sea breeze that sways the tall grass and pink clover, and sipping a tumbler of local ScreechExternal Link Title on the rocks -- the rocks being 10,000-year-old iceberg rocks the host left in the ice box. CapeRace AdventuresExternal Link Title can arrange for you to stay in a small-town private home, places like Heart's DelightExternal Link Title and the Avalon PeninsulaExternal Link Title. You get the keys, the dates, and directions (there are often no addresses), and the rest is up to you. The best part? A neighbor stops by to connect you with anything you fancy -- a boat ride with a seasoned fisherman, a community feast, wild strawberry picking... who knows where it might lead.

Sample a cellar dinner

A great way to meet the locals is a community cellar supper, and "come-from-aways" or CFAs (that means travellers like you) are always welcome. Ask around to find out where the next one is happening or check the local newspaper. A cellar supper usually includes a downhome "Jiggs Dinner" of root vegetables, cabbage, and salt beef, or perhaps cod tongues. These generally take place in community centers and church hallsExternal Link Title and you can expect simple, but hearty and tasty fare. Be sure to pick up some bakeapple or partridge berry preserves as a souvenir if anyone's selling homespun goods. Try a little local lingoExternal Link Title, too; as in, "How ya gettin' on?"

Go squid jiggin’

In maritime Newfoundland, it's all about the sea. If the time is right in summer, watch the "capelin rolling"External Link Title spectacle on the beach. Gather up a bucket of the spawning smelt-like fish and roast 'em over a campfire for dinner. Or hire a guide to take you out squid jiggin'External Link Title (catching squid), boatingExternal Link Title, or anglingExternal Link Titleand see first-hand how it's done.

Join a kitchen party

A "scuff" is a dance at someone's house or barn, and a "kitchen partyExternal Link Titleis an impromptu house party with live music. It's true, St. John's has some of the most raucous nightlife and best musical entertainment around, based in and around George StreetExternal Link Title. But a gathering of friends in someone's kitchen, usually with fiddles, accordions, mandolins, foot-stomping and heart-wrenching Celtic and folk music, jigs and reels, and a makeshift "ugly stick" to keep the beat... well, that takes the cake. Everyone plays, so prepare to pick up a spoon and get tapping. After the party's over, head to DUSK UltraloungeExternal Link Title for a night cap to end the evening on an even higher note.

Get outdoors

You'll think you've landed in Ireland when you see the emerald cliffs of the Avalon Peninsula's Cape St. Mary'sExternal Link Title, a cacophony of squawking, swirling gannets, murres, and dive-bombing puffins. It doesn't really matter where, just get outsideExternal Link Title. Wander through wild irises and black spruce draped in Old Man's Beard on the mist-shrouded Skerwink TrailExternal Link Title near Trinity. Eventually you'll reach the cliffs, revealing towering, obelisk-shaped Ice Age rock "stacks" jutting up out of the ocean. Not surprisingly, Travel + Leisure named this a top 35 North America/Europe walkExternal Link Title.


Other not-to-miss favorites: the Tolkien-esque Torngat MountainsExternal Link Title and grand-scale Gros Morne National ParkExternal Link Title. But even heading up to Signal Hill National Historic SiteExternal Link Title in St. John's, North America's oldest city, to see the historic battle site, the spot of the first transatlantic wireless signal, and the ships glide in and out of port, is an adventure.

Lighthouse picnic

Look out for spouting whales, turquoise-tinged icebergs, and "bergy bits" while on a lighthouse picnic up on a grassy knoll somewhere. FerrylandExternal Link Title puts all these icons together for you in superb, everything-from-scratch style on a luncheon to remember. You'll set up next to an 1870 hilltop lighthouse with a plaid blanket, fresh-squeezed lemonade in Mason jars, chutney-glazed ham, Brie, thin-sliced Granny Smith apples on homemade molasses bread, greens with edible flowers, and peach shortcake. It really is magical.


Once you've visited "the Rock" -- unfiltered and unpretentious -- you'll likely be back. And there'll be plenty more to see and do. See you at the kitchen party!