at the edge of earth

September 1, 2017

at the edge of earth

If you’ve ever contemplated the anatomy of an iceberg, admired a tickle, or scoffed a Jigg’s dinner, you’re one of the handful of Australians who have tiptoed to the ‘edge of the earth’ – the far reaches of Atlantic Canada, that is.

Dramatically carved by the North Atlantic Ocean, Newfoundland is the most easterly province, closer to Germany than the Canadian Rockies, and nearer to Greenland than Niagara Falls.

Newfoundland and Labrador is ruggedly beautiful and remote – a place where, at face value, time has stood still, yet surprisingly is where North America ultimately began. L’Anse aux Meadows at the northern tip of the island, is where the Vikings first set foot on the continent, and now history buffs and wildlife enthusiasts can meander along the seaside Viking Trail or the Labrador Coastal Drive through UNESCO world heritage sites and former whaling stations, devouring the history, artefacts and fantastic seafood chowder – if the distracting scenery leaves you enough time.

Gros Morne

The WORLD can’t weigh you down when you’re standing ON TOP of it.”

There’s a saying in Newfoundland, “The world can’t weigh you down when you’re standing on top of it,” and a visit to this surreal landscape of steep fjords, ‘crinkle-cut’ coastlines and undeniable wilderness cannot help but elevate and inspire. Iceberg Alley, the most exhilarating of all, is a coastal thoroughfare from Labrador in the north to the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland’s south, where each year from spring to late summer, enormous bergs, broken off from the Arctic, float down the coastline, drifting in close to tiny ports and coves, and dwarfing the town-scapes.

Lodging across the province ranges from modest seaside B&Bs, to the ultra-chic architectural masterpiece of Fogo Island Inn, and in between are ‘Canadian Signature Experiences’ – once in a lifetime gems designated by the Canadian Tourism Commission that will leave you breathless. At Quirpon Island (pron. kar-poon) for example, visitors stay in a working lightkeeper’s island station in Iceberg Alley, and spot for whales, ‘bergs and birdlife along quiet, windswept trails, by zodiac, or perched high in a glass-wrapped clapboard shack with a beverage in hand.

Newfoundlanders are known as Canada’s friendliest, happiest and most hospitable people – a title undisputed by those who passed through Gander on that fateful day, 11 September, 2001. The tiny community is the centre of 9/11’s most heart-warming story of human spirit and hospitality, when they played host to thousands of stranded passengers while USA Airspace was closed.

Brigus White House, Avalon. Photo by Canadian Tourism Commission.

At the convergence of Irish, Scottish, English, French and indigenous cultures, Newfoundland is a feel-good place, where having a good time comes easy – too easy, perhaps. There are more pubs per capita here than anywhere in Canada, yet moose and caribou outnumber human residents, so you’ll only share your brews and panoramic views with a few.

Any visitor is sure to find themselves drawn in to a lively ‘Kitchen Party’, where infectious fiddling, a simple meal of cod and potatoes, and dancing is the order of the evening. Or there is the newcomer’s rite of passage of being ‘screeched in’, which involves dropping to one knee, kissing a cod, swearing an oath of allegiance, and sinking a shot of screech (local rum).

And if the entertainment isn’t enough to raise a smile, the creative village names and dialect just might. Delightful quirks of speech are everywhere, and ‘Come From Aways’ (visitors) can’t resist stopping in on Heart’s Desire, Leading Tickles and Middlefart, or when someone delivers with a large smile, “Long may your jib draw”, it is most certainly a hearty, good wish for the future.

As locals like to say, it’s ‘not a bad bit nice’ – simply meaning, Newfoundland is beautiful in every way.

Small Group Journeys is a collection of bespoke worldwide adventures, cruises and tours designed and escorted by Jacinta Blundell. Follow Jacinta in Profile each month as she takes you beyond the tourist trail.
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