16 Strange Facts You Should Know About Newfoundland

Cape Spear Newfoundland Canada

The week I spent driving around the massive province Newfoundland & Labrador was full of amazing landscapes, fun stops and a lot of unexpected moments. I didn’t know a whole lot about this part of Canada before I left home though and some of the provincial quirks took me by surprise, in a good way. As a way of sharing with you what the Newfoundland experience is like, I thought I’d share a few strange facts about Newfoundland & Labrador that I think everyone should know.

Official name is Newfoundland & Labrador – While almost everyone just calls the province Newfoundland, that’s not entirely correct. The full name is Newfoundland & Labrador, changed in 2001 in order to recognize the enormous tract of land included within its borders. Still, only a small percentage of the province’s population lives there, making this one of the most sparsely populated regions on the continent.

It has its own time zone – I first noticed the strange time in Newfoundland while I was planning my trip. It took me a while to finally realize that no, Newfoundland & Labrador is not on Eastern Time Zone, in fact they have their own time zone. Yup, Newfoundland time is 30 min ahead of Atlantic time and 90 minutes ahead of Eastern time.

Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless message on Signal Hill on December 12, 1901 – Newfoundland is the Easternmost point of North America and because of that has played an important role in any number of industries from aviation to transatlantic communications. It’s thanks to this geographical quirk that Marconi chose the high peak in St. John’s as the location for the first wireless message sent across the ocean.

Only way to reach Newfoundland is by air or sea. It’s an island – Although Labrador is attached to the Canadian mainland, Newfoundland itself is an island, albeit a very large one. Because of that the only way to get there is by ferry or plane, with plane being my personal choice.

Newfoundland and Labrador Canada

Canine inspiration – Yes it’s true, two of the world’s most lovable dog breeds are named after both landmasses of the province: the enormous, bearlike Newfoundland or Newfie and the most popular dog breed in the world, the Labrador.

The accents between Waterford, Ireland and St. John’s, Newfoundland are nearly identical. – People from England and especially Ireland settled Newfoundland and due to the province’s long history of relative isolation, not only are the traditions of the home islands preserved, but so are the accents. More than once on my trip I was shocked that I wasn’t actually in Ireland, but instead in Canada – that’s how pronounced the accents can be.

Strange place names – With towns named Conception Bay, Heart’s Desire, Heart’s Content and yes, even Dildo, there seems to be a romantic side to Newfoundland I must have missed.

Independent country – Newfoundland was a longtime holdout to joining the Canadian Confederation; it wasn’t until 1949 when it finally joined the rest of the country. Until then it was an independent nation and even today the flags and colors of the country/province can be seen flying proudly almost anywhere you go.

UNESCO sites – I love UNESCO World Heritage Sites and it was with a bit of surprise that I discovered Newfoundland & Labrador is home to four recognized sites: Gros Morne National Park, L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, Red Bay National Historic Site and the recently added Mistaken Point.

You can travel to France without leaving the province. Sort of. – In what is a great example of how bizarre colonial politics were, there is a bit of France located in Newfoundland. Saint Pierre and Miquelon is a self-governing overseas collectivity of France, right off the coast of the province and the only remnant of the former New France still under French control.

You’re not saying it right – On my first night in St. John’s I was taken under the wing of a local and taught how to properly pronounce the name of the province. While it’s our natural inclination to say it quickly and for the “land” to sound like “lind” or “lund” that’s not at all correct. Instead there’s a slight guttural stop between “Newfound” and “land” with the later pronounced as you would if it were isolated. So, the proper way to say the name is “Newfound-land.”

Quidi Vidi St Johns Newfoundland

Everyone lives on Newfoundland – While the province encompasses both Newfoundland AND Labrador, a shocking 94% of the population lives on Newfoundland. Of those folks, another whopping 40% live in St. John’s, the capital city.

Oldest city in North America – Sorry Williamsburg, but John Cabot landed in Newfoundland way back in 1497 and St. John’s is the continent’s oldest city, first showing up on maps in the early 1500s.

Used to be home to world’s busiest airport – Oddly enough, the remote outpost city of Gander has played an incredibly important role in the history of aviation, including laying claim for a short while to the world’s busiest airport. Before the jet age, planes used Gander as an important refueling stop for European travel routes, making it well known amongst the wealthy elite of the 1940s and 50s.

Argentia, Newfoundland averages 206 days of fog per year – Because of its precarious position along the North Atlantic, Newfoundland experiences some extreme and chilly weather, including a lot of fog throughout the province.

Vikings lived there – Long before Columbus “discovered” the New World, Vikings had already settled Newfoundland around the year 1,000. Today the site is immortalized in L’Anse aux Meadows, a Viking colony discovered in the 1960s. And yet textbooks still haven’t been changed…

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

24 thoughts on “16 Strange Facts You Should Know About Newfoundland”

  1. Thank you for writing about my beautiful home province, and pointing out some important facts that often get missed! We don’t always get credit where credit is due, so thank you for not perpetuating that. I’m glad you enjoyed your stay here, and I hope you’ll come back and write about us again.

  2. Matt, A very nice refresher about our province. I certainly enjoyed reading your tips. We have a great Province and it’s great that you visited us to receive wonderful hospitality and to hear the accents of some Newfoundlanders and Labadorians. Keep on travelling.

  3. Beautiful Bonavista is where John Cabot first landed BTW check us out next time you visit. You’ll love it I’ll bet on it! Places to stay via #airbnb also.

  4. How to say it— a local told me to rhyme the name with “understand”.
    So understand Newfoundland.

  5. Hi Matt – thanks so much for sharing your experience. I just have a question – is the picture of the dogs correct? That looks like a Newfoundland dog and some kind of spanial, not a Lab. I believe Labrador retrievers are short-haired dogs.

    1. The picture is of two Newfoundland dogs. The black and white one is known as a Landseer (which was the original dog Nana from Peter Pan).

  6. The things you learned years ago that seemed so mundane because well, you lived there and you were a child. Then you read these facts as an adult and a tourist making the trek “back home” and think WOW! That’s where I am form! Thanks for the write up. ?

  7. I loved your posting! I myself went on a 2-week rodtrip to nfld last year in sept 2015 and loved it so much that I’m planning a return visit this coming June!!

  8. As per the two dogs pictures,they are both Newfoundland Dogs.The two toned dog is called a Landseer,but is a true Newfoundland.Labrador Dogs are short haired and come in black,golden,brown and white.Although the Labrador is a large dog it is nowhere the size of a Newfoundland.They are both very gentle breeds!

  9. Nice article. Gander airport was also vital during 9/11, with flights to the US landing there. The town opened itself to all those stranded there, taking people into their homes, temporarily increasing its population by 50%. Not many people nicer than Canadians.

  10. There’s one “fact” that is often disputed. The oldest city in North America is actually in Mexico. The Aztecs and Maya people founded many cities long before John Cabot showed up. I don’t know why this “fact” continues to hang on in many tourism brochures. I’m not dumping on the province, by the way; I’m from Central Newfoundland.

  11. The province actually has 2 time zones. The island is 30 minutes ahead of the rest of North America this is what’s known as Newfoundland time, Labrador is in the Atlantic time zone.

  12. Nice to see someone else “discovering” our beautiful province.
    I was reminded of the old tale or myth credited to the Beothuks, about meeting a one legged man with horns on his head,We were always told it was just a wild tale, then the Viking settlement was discovered and it all made complete sense.

  13. The other thing about Gander is that many planes were forced to land there on 9/11…so many that the population temporarily doubled. The people of the town and surrounding area took care of the stranded passengers like family.

  14. The first land location to hear the RMS Titanic’s distress call was Cape Race, NL which then relayed the message to ships in the area and the world.

  15. I suggest those interested in Newfoundland History read “Don’t Tell The Newfoundlanders” which tells the true history of Conferation, namely how Canada &’Great Britisn denied the citizens of the Island a voice in that decesion. They colluded in secret to force the marriage without even permitting its citizens to comment on its terms and conditions.

  16. Great article. 2 points if interesf though…

    It’s actually Newfoundland Labrador. (No & )

    And 2, more interesting, the Mayflower stopped here to resupply on its way to Plymouth Rock

  17. Although I live in the United States, and have never been to Canada, I am learning about it. These tips have helped me.

  18. Dennis John Mitchell

    Visited in 2016 for a month in a rv not near long enough to see the province. Great people.

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