Imagine, L’anse aux Meadows, Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, Canada is the land of first contact in North America by Europeans. Home of the only authentic Norse site in North America, where the Vikings came over 1,000 years ago and worthy of World UNESCO Heritage status.
A population of just a couple dozen residents today, this tiny community is truly Where the World Came Full Circle. It is the place where humanity met for the very first time, an event more than 100,000 years in the making. When the continents broke apart, people went left and people went right. Europeans reached Iceland and then Greenland and finally settled at L’Anse aux Meadows. It was there they met those who went right, our indigenous population of Newfoundland and Labrador. We have documentation of 5,000 years of their presence, only to connect for the first time 1,000 years ago with those who went left. This is the much bigger story of this ancient and meaningful place that must be told.
L’Anse Aux Meadows UNESCO Site
Annually 30,000 people flock to L’Anse aux Meadows from May-September. The Parks Canada experience is truly something that should be on your bucket list. The interpretation centre offers guided tours in French and English, a film in the theatre, artifacts and storyboards are on display, there are walking trails, get up close and personal to where the ancient mounds were and lets not forget the art and encounters with Vikings along the way. Also, the very talented local, Loretta Decker, has handmade Viking troll dolls available at the Heritage Shoppe. If you have time, take in an evening of Stories and Sagas.
Norstead Viking Village & Port of Trade
This social enterprise is the ultimate hands on experience of how to live like a Viking. A fascinating open air museum, boasting the Snorri replica that sailed from Iceland to Greenland to L’Anse aux Meadows in the year 2,000 in the boathouse.
The local re-enactors can read you fortune using ruin stones, cook up a meal by the fire, make nails at the forge, teach you axe throwing for entertainment and skill, play nine man mill, or show you how to weave or knit with one needle. They have animals, a potter’s studio, gift shop and more onsite. Visitation increased by more than 2,000 additional people last year, which is no surprise to me given their exceptional public offering.
Norsemen Restaurant & Gaia Art Gallery
Fine dining with lots of local offerings and fresh ingredients at the Norsemen. It is one of the many exceptional restaurants along Route 436. An offering of musical entertainment during dinner meals and a perfect view if you are lucky during lunch. I recommend a martini with local berries and iceberg ice to start.
I enjoy the Art Gallery, lots of handmade and local products, especially the carvings. Exhibition space and direct sales for our artists is complimentary, providing another unique experience when visiting the Great Northern Peninsula.
There are five additional food offerings on/along Route 436 that come highly recommended:
- The Daily Catch, St. Lunaire-Griquet – profiled in the Globe & Mail for exceptional seafood offerings
- Café Nymphe, St. Lunaire-Griquet – located at Dark Tickle Company, a wildberry economusee that has an exceptionally sampling of teas, berry drinks and more
- Snow’s Take-Out, St. Lunaire-Griquet – home to Herb’s famous chicken. For the traveler interest in something fast and to take-a-way.
- Northern Delight Restaurant, Gunner’s Cove – a large family restaurant, with broad menu offering. They celebrate their Viking burgers, seafood and entertainment – don’t miss Mummer’s Night!
- Burnt Cape Café, Raleigh – a local flavouring of moose burgers, sandwiches and also gourmet experience, with Chef seafood specialties.
Skipper Hot’s Lounge in Straitsview is also a must if you want to experience the music at our local watering hole. The Skipper Hot’s band is performing Thursday-Sunday throughout the summer. They do Screech-ins and host kitchen parties and special events.
Along Route 436/37 there is ample choice for accommodations that include Provincial and Private RV parks (including tent sites), Raleigh Historical offers bunkhouses to live like a fisherman, there are cabins, cottages, chalets, b&bs, motels and a short drive to St. Anthony, there are additional accommodations including hotels.
The Viking Shop
Norman Young has been carving whale bones for many years. I highly recommend visiting his Viking Shop. As well, Taylor’s Crafts in Raleigh, has 4th generation carvers. Their soapstone products are phenomenal. Viking art can be found at Thorr’s Studio, Hay Cove. For a great souvenir shop on route to L’Anse aux Meadows, drop into the Hut in Noddy Bay! There is also Labradorite jewelry and youth entrepreneurs selling jams, pies and crafts.
From fish markets, retail, boat tours, ecological reserves, icebergs, cruise ship visits, outdoor art and more. One can see fishers at the wharves, eat locally grown mussels and interact and embrace community en route to L’Anse aux Meadows! Plan your 2017 visit today and you too can say you were where the World Came Full Circle!
Live Rural NL –
Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA for St. Barbe-L’Anse aux Meadows and Minister of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development
As the sun sets on the horizon, one has a feeling that a little piece of heaven exists on Change Islands, NL,
On Saturday, May 2nd I found that little piece of heaven as I took the afternoon ferry, the MV Earl W. Windsor from Farewell to Change Islands. The return fare with a vehicle is $7.15. No doubt this 30 minute direct run, which was slowed by heavy pack ice is heavily subsidized by the Province. If you have not yet been, you are missing out on one of rural Newfoundland & Labrador’s best kept secrets.
The 12 kilomentre jaunt into Town, with a population of 160 has incredible views. The southern part of the island is uninhabited, with trees, bogs and marsh dominating the landscape. Before reaching the second island, I pulled over to take photos of clothes hanging on the line. It made me think of Deborah Gordon and her clothesline calendars. I took several dozen photos before I even reached the bridge and was forced to pull over as the views at both sides of the Tickle would not let me go further.
I stood by the boats took some snaps, after looking around, I just couldn’t contain myself and jumped up and down with joy. This place was real, this place was what is rural Newfoundland & Labrador, as the fishery dominated the landscape – the boats, the wharves, nets and the fishing sheds. I knew at that moment, I was really going to like this place.
The Burgundy Squid and Craft Shop is currently closed, as it is still early for the season. The “For Sale” sign in the window presents a unique business opportunity for the right individual. Behind this dwelling is a Knitting Economuseum and views that will take you breath away.
After passing the Seven Oakes, I made my way to the North end of the island where I would take some photos of the lovely vernacular architecture, view the 120 year old St. Margaret’s Church, pass the “Pink” house, see the shed from Harry Hibbs’ squidjiggin’ ground* and make a trek up on Squidjiggers Trail.
*Editors Note: I’ve been informed Arthur Scammell had written the squid jigging grounds and was born on Change Islands. The school is named A.R. Scammell, so it may be named after him? I could only re-call Harry Hibbs version of what is Scammell’s song. Thank you “Proud to call it home” for your comment.
Squidjigger’s Trail was not possible for me to fully navigate, given rubber boots would have been better footwear than my mesh sneakers, but I did get to the top of the hill. It was quite the look out. You could see where the birds would drop sea urchins or crabs to expose the meat. The ice views and dwellings, while the wind gently blew was nothing but awe inspiring.
Change Islands does not only the mind good, but the body as well. The food that is served is nothing but the best of Newfoundland dishes. My supper included fish n’ brewis, with a helping of scrunchions (fried pork fat). To top it all off was homemade lemon meringue pie. One could not ask for a better tasting dish or better hospitality.
Dinner table conversation led to more adventure. Another walk around the island, but as the sun was about to set. Serenity, tranquility are words that come to mind. As that last ferry sailed away for the day, you know you were just that little bit removed from the rest of the world for the night.
I was only on Change Islands for a few hours, but there was a real sense of contentment here – that I felt at home!
Who wouldn’t want to wake up to views like this?
On Sunday morning, I had a meeting at 11:30 AM, so I made sure to get up early to trek the roads and places I had not been the day before.
Despite the morning rain it was quite a fruitful experience, from the homes in the NL Tourism Ads, Newfoundland Ponies, trails, wood piles, root cellars, encounters with locals and more postcard perfect views around every single corner – I certainly made the most of my time.
I met at the Town Hall with the Manolis L. Citizen’s Committee as they continue to raise concerns about the 600,000 litres of oil that must be removed from the 30 year old sunken vessel. Chronic leaks have been detrimental to bird and sea life. Further action must be taken, to prevent a catastrophic spill that would put at risk the environment and economy of the entire Notre Dame Bay Region.
I am very thankful to the hospitality exhibited from the residents of Change Islands. I feel now, I have friends on these islands that I look forward to continuing to have conversations and learn more about the storied past and the ever changing future of this dynamic island economy.
Time had passed very quickly, as I waited for the MV Earl W. Windsor to depart the harbour. The heavy pack ice was ever more present that day, requiring ice breaking assistance of the Canadian Coast Guard. It was smooth sailing as I made my way back to the busy city life. Reality was setting pretty quick – it would be another week before I would get back to the authenticity and beauty that is home.
The photos are wonderful, but the views and experiences are even more brilliant in person. Thank you all for making Change Islands the destination that is worthy of being known as a little piece of heaven here on earth. You too, can experience this magical place too!
Live Rural NL –
Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)