Even if you did nothing else but stay there, you’d have a delightfully serendipitous time in far-flung Newfoundland and Labrador. That’s because, in addition to its raw natural beauty shaped by the sea and remote outport communities, it’s a welcoming place with loads of character and a distinctive culture that charms visitors, known as “come from aways.” So pick one of these magical places to stay, immerse yourself in the colourful fabric of life on “The Rock,” and get ready for an original experience you won’t forget any time soon.
Cozy into a writer’s cottage on Viking land
Wavey’s House is a quintessential Newfoundland saltbox home sitting amid the waving grass along the seaside. Though it may look typical of the area, this particular home was renovated by E. Annie Proulx, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Shipping News. It’s located near L’Anse Aux Meadows, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Historic Site on the Great Northern Peninsula, the only Norse and earliest European settlement in the Americas. Now, it's a famed 11th century Viking archeological site. Right on the cove, two-bedroom Wavey’s is the perfect spot to soak up the ambiance — and the views of passing icebergs and whales from the patio.
Journey to wild Fogo Island
It’s not an exaggeration to call far-east Fogo Island Inn a “hotel at the end of the Earth.” But it’s much more than that. First of all, it’s a locavore-grounded cultural movement — a community revitalization project supporting creatives of all types in their work. Second, it’s an architectural stunner, a study in angles perched on the wind-battered shore of Joe Batt’s Arm. And finally, it’s a 29-room contemporary inn and public space with designer dining nooks juxtaposing the thrashing Atlantic Ocean and plush amenities, like rooftop wood-fired hot tubs. Four contemporary artist studios sit scattered across the volcanic rock like jewels, waiting to be discovered. Not surprisingly, the place remains the toast of the world, a Condé Nast Traveller “adventure masterpiece.”
Whale watch from an island lighthouse
Spotting spouting whales and 10,000-year-old icebergs from your room is a thrill. It’s even more magical when you’re staying in a historic lighthouse on a nearly deserted isle. Quirpon Island looks onto “Iceberg Alley” on Newfoundland’s northern tip and its white-and-red 1922 lighthouse keeps watch over 22 species that swim in the waters, including the world’s largest population of humpbacks and also minke, the smallest baleen whale. Stay a night or three at 10-room heritage Quirpon Lighthouse Inn at the base of the still-active beacon, then hike the cliffs and explore by kayak, boat, or guided Zodiac or kayak tour. The Northern Lights often make appearances here, too.
Meet the neighbours and stay next door
The people — resilient, funny, down-to-earth — are what make a trip to Newfoundland. CapeRace Adventures provides the introduction to finding these new friends. This team gives you the keys to private residential (and historic) homes and the dates you’re staying there, but the rest is up to you. You tell your host what interests you — squid jiggin’ (aka fishing), a classic kitchen party, whale watching, a root cellar dinner — and local folk then knock on the door and make it happen. CapeRace owns adorable houses around the province on the windswept Bonavista Peninsula, on the Avalon Peninsula, in St. John’s, and in obscure hamlets like Heart’s Delight. If you want local colour, this is it.
Hike and taste craft brew in a pretty port village
Rural Port Rexton on the island’s east coast looks like a postcard with its quaint cove and jelly bean coloured houses. It’s also near pretty Trinity and the Skerwink Trail, a Travel + Leisure top 35 walks in North America, which weaves past cliffs plunging to the sea and rock stacks that jut up out of the water. Even better, a trendy craft brewer has set up shop here. Fans drive from all over to sample seasonal and experimental beers at Port Rexton Brewing Co., most available only at the onsite taproom — try the Sweater Weather pale ale and the American-style Mr. Wheaty Pants. Get a room with a view at cheery Fishers Loft B&B, and be sure to make time for reading on the deck near the kitchen garden and savouring the delicious homespun fare that’s artfully presented.
Join researchers and Inuit in a remote base camp
If roughing it sounds alluring, and you want an authentic, extraordinary experience, embark on the long journey to the far off the grid Torngat Mountains Base Camp and Research Station on Saglek Fjord and Labrador’s untamed coast. Open July and August, it’s a solar-powered tent camp and lab outside untouched Torngat Mountains National Park, a dramatic, epic, and roadless wilderness of unusual, ancient geology that few will ever see. Just 12 guests stay at a time with scientific researchers, and meet Nunatsiavut and Nunavik elders and youth. Go on tough hiking and scouting expeditions via the crew’s Zodiacs as well as helicopters rides with a skilled Inuit polar bear guard keeping watch. Torngat is Inuktitut for “place of the spirits” — and those who venture here say it’s pure magic.
Make like a monk in St. John’s
Lively port town and capital city St. John’s is North America’s oldest easterly city. With rows of Easter egg-hued saltbox houses lining the hilly streets, it is a fun, cheeky, and salt-of-the-earth kind of place. You’ll want to go out on the town for live music and carousing on rowdy George Street. Then unwind in downtown’s Monastery Spa and Suites, a former sanctuary for Irish Christian brothers as the name suggests, dating back to 1931. Enjoy the serene vibe, modern design, and artsy stained glass windows, then try a reflexology session or another indulgent wellness treatment. Book a spacious suite with a Jacuzzi tub and king-size bed. Another top choice is Leaside Manor, a handsome 1920s merchant family’s home. Today, it’s a modern Arts and Crafts-style den with a fireplace, hardwood floors, and lots of eclectic touches like zebra prints, romantic canopy beds, and exotic travel souvenirs. Colourful and airy, the rooms are named after local favourites.
Bed down in an old church
Tiny Cupids, a one-hour drive from St. John’s, was Canada’s first English colony in 1610. Stay in Cupid’s Haven B&B set in the restored St. Augustine’s church made comfy with homespun quilts and floral curtains. If you can, regardless of your marital status, reserve the honeymoon suite with its Jacuzzi soaker tub, antique red velvet lounger, and vaulted ceilings, then savour a home-cooked meal in the tea room. If the church is full, stay at Skipper’s Bend with a harbour view and tasty eats; namely, bacon-infused coleslaw, fresh seafood, and Screech-marinated steaks (that’s locally distilled rum, a specialty here).
While you’re there, be sure to sample the best of the burgeoning craft beer scene and take in the top sights. But really, just being in this beautiful, soulful place, and meeting the folks who call it home, will make a lasting impression.
Find the local gems at the Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism website.