After a surprisingly pleasant five-hour ferry ride from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, I arrived on the shores of Newfoundland. Labrador and Newfoundland is one of Canada’s four Atlantic provinces, and it drips with beauty largely thanks to its location on the Atlantic Ocean. This is an interesting place with an interesting history. Here are some facts about Newfoundland you might not know:
1. Newfoundland used to be an independent country.
In 1907, Newfoundland was given dominion status by the UK along with New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. It remained on an equal status until 1949, when it joined the Canadian confederation.
2. Almost everyone pronounces Newfoundland wrong.
On the ferry over, we were told by a native Newfie how to pronounce the word. You can know the correct pronunciation by following a simple rhyme: understand Newfoundland. The “land” part is pronounced like “land,” not “lund”.
3. It used to be the location of the world’s busiest airport.
Back in the day, most airplanes couldn’t make a transatlantic flight from New York to London without refueling. Newfoundland was the closest bit of North America to Europe, so it’s where most planes stopped. Gander International Airport is located almost exactly on the great circle route from New York to London, which is why it was the busiest in the world in the 1950’s. Its airport code, YQX, would make a great Scrabble word if they let you use airport codes.
Bonus fact: Gander International rose to prominence once again the week of September 11, 2001, when American air space closed in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Although flights across the world were canceled, those already in transit were forced to land in Canada—and for many of those flights, it meant landing at Gander International Airport, due to space constraints at other airports, as well as fuel concerns for transatlantic flights. All told, roughly 6,700 passengers and a total of 38 planes landed at Gander that day, far overwhelming the tourist capacity of a small, 9,000 person town with just 500 hotel rooms. Those passengers would spend four days in Gander, and the uncommonly beautiful welcome the “Plane People” were given is now the story of the hit Broadway musical “Come From Away.” The book “The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland” is also a phenomenal account of Gander’s unique role in the aftermath of September 11th.
4. It is officially called Newfoundland and Labrador.
Formerly known as just “Newfoundland” when it was a colony, dominion, and province, in 2001 they officially changed the name to Newfoundland and Labrador to reflect the larger chunk of land on the continental mainland. The Canadian constitution was amended to make this happen.
5. Newfoundland has its own time zone.
Being in your own time zone isn’t that big of a deal, but the time zone on the island is one of the rare time 30 minute time zones—yep, it’s not on the hour mark like most countries, instead if you visit Newfoundland you will be living 30 min ahead of Atlantic time and 90 minutes ahead of eastern time.
6. 94% of the population lives on the island of Newfoundland.
Even though Labrador has twice the area and is connected to the mainland, almost everyone lives on Newfoundland island. In fact, almost half the population of the entire province is in the capital, St. John’s.
7. The first known European presence in North America was here.
Yep, Christopher Columbus wasn’t the first European in North America (and did you know he likely landed in the Bahamas anyway!). The honor of the first known European presence in North America belongs to the Vikings. L’Anse aux Meadows, at the very northern tip of the island, was the location of a Viking colony that was discovered in 1960, and it’s believed that the settlement was founded around 1,000 years ago. This spot is so important that it was named a Canadian UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.
8. The only known case of Germans landing in North America during WWII was in Newfoundland.
On October 22, 1943, German submarine U-537 landed on Martin Bay in the north of Labrador and set up a remote weather station. After the war, this spot was completely forgotten and wasn’t visited again until 1981.
Recommended Resources And Readings:
Best Books About Newfoundland & Labrador:
- As Near to Heaven by Sea : A History of Newfoundland and Labrador: For the people who make this beautiful slice of coast home, Newfound is unique in all the world. This book offers a beautiful and well done historical accounting of the island.
- The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland: This is a beautiful and moving account of Gander’s unique role and uncommon hospitality in the events of September 11th, from a vantage you’ve never yet heard.
- A Short History of Newfoundland and Labrador: The Newfoundland Historical Society offers a thorough and complete account of the history that shaped this island’s culture and cuisine.
- The Farfarers: A New History of North America: Forget what we said about the Vikings landing first in Europe—this author tells a compelling history of the world placing the Albans—a race originating from the island now known as Britain—front and center.
Plan a Trip to Newfoundland:
Newfoundland Travel Guide: Our free guide covers everything you should know about booking travel to the Newfoundland—what you should do once you’re there, as well as where to stay and more.
Where to Stay in St. John’s: We’re partial to Sandman Signature St. John’s Hotel on a mid-range budget, the Luxus Boutique Hotel for a beautiful splurge, and M and D BnB offers a fantastic ratio of amenities-to-price for those on a budget.
Navigate the Island: Being an island, your best bet is to either rent a car for land excursions, or join one of the many a fantastic land and boat tours in the region.
Book Travel Insurance: Although completely safe, Newfoundland is fairly remote and if you need medical care you’ll be glad for travel insurance—we recommend coverage through World Nomads.
20 thoughts on “8 Interesting Facts About Newfoundland”
i’m doing a project on john cabot and Newfoundland. thanks for the help!
“Did you know that Bill Cosby was stationed at the U.S. military base in Argentia, about 120 kilometres from St. John’s, N.L., as an American military corpsman in 1959?
Hi how is now found land
how is newfoundland climatewise. is memorial university a recognised one and the distance from ottawa to newfoundland.
The cajuns believe that crawdads came to be when the lobsters from Newfoundland swam south to Lousiana. Always found that funny.
YQX – wow, that would be a lethal scrabble word. I’m almost positive one of these 8 facts is going to come up at a round of pub trivia. Thanks for the info !! Take care, Phil
Very nice blog !!
Ah…Newfoundland. How I miss it. I spent 20 years of my childhood there. I now live in the United States. Hopefully, I’ll get back to God’s country soon.
Great post! Didn’t know a lot of those facts. Hope to see more posts like this in the future!
Ah, Newfoundland. So glad you made it over there. I will actually be flying into Gander airport for the first time this fall, which I think is way better than flying into St. John’s or Deer Lake, just because it’s a bit random. :)
Oh man, every time someone writes something about Newfoundland, I die a little with happiness. And yes, I can gladly assist in kissing the cod.
I love it there, did a bounch of touristy stuff for an AGM we had there in my “old life”. George Street is a blast, kiss the cod Gary, kiss the cod!!! I bet you could get Candace to assist, gladly ;).
I don’t know how the residents like it, but those 30 minute timezones seems like a pain to keep track of. They much like or they’d change it I suppose.
Well being an islander myself, you get used to the time difference and it is easier to deal with. It really only comes into play when travelling to the mainland or communicating with people not on the island. But if you Aretha communicating outside Newfoundland it really isn’t a pain, and it’s amusing that we have our own time zone. Feels special in a way :D
My mother Helen Fox’s first husband Walter Schoefer and his construction team built that airport used in the 50’s to refuel
And Walter Schoefer live there presently with his current wife Ida, in Newfoundland
During the Olympics NBC aired a piece about Ganders Airport on 9/11 as Mary mentioned. If the people near Ganders are half as wonderful as they were shown in that piece, they may just be the most wonderful people in the world.
I’ve been following your blog for a few months now. I meant to comment back when you announced your trip to Canada, but it slipped my mind.
I’m an Ottawa native, and while there’s not a *ton* to see here, I have some recommendations for restaurants and that kind of thing. Figure the museums, Parliament, et cetera are pretty obvious!
Brunch at the Manx pub on Elgin Sreet. Probably the best brunch in Ottawa, in a really cozy underground pub. Their dinners are also pretty amazing… not typical pub fare.
The Works, various locations. The one in Westboro is nice. Deluxe burgers in an insane variety of combinations. You can choose your meat (or portobello mushroom if you’re vegetarian) and the toppings are crazy. There’s one with peanut butter on it…
Similarly, Zazazas in Beechwood. Owned by the same guy as the Works, he’s trying out his idea with pizza. Really tiny little place at the moment, but amazing pizzas… we had one with egg and bacon on it, another with kraft dinner and hot dogs.
Roaring debate over here about where to get the best poutine in Ottawa.
Pub Italia in Little Italy is Ireland meets Italy and it’s a nice little place. Good beer selection.
This place is also interest, Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro, but it’s expensive!
Don’t know when exactly you’ll be here, but the Lac Leamy Sound of Light fireworks competition is going on until August 21. I took in the first night, awesome.
Anyways, hopefully you can check a few of those out! Unfortunately I’m headed out west in about a week to do my own travelling, so I won’t be around.
But if you have any questions, give me a shout!
Gander became a temporary home to MANY international flights bound for the US when domestic airspace was shut down on 9/11. The wonderful Newfie residents took such good care of all the stranded passengers for multiple days. Please let them know we Americans thank them.
You’ll have to tell me if you see the same people multiple times as you travel through Newfoundland. I remember driving that main highway and seeing the same people at several different places (some many miles apart) throughout the week…because there is really only one main road through the province :)
Seeing the flag reminds me of another thing…I have a small Newfie flag sticker on my car’s back window. I figured the car made it all the way out there, so I got it its own little badge of honor. A couple years later, we were driving through mid-Michigan and a woman honked to talk to us at a red light–turned out she was a Newfie living in Midland, Michigan, and got all excited when she spotted our sticker!
Still have the car…and the sticker…five years later :)
Super fun, love trivia. I don’t know much about Canada at all, so this was an educational post. Plan on doing any more of these?
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