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
L’Anse aux Meadows is where the world came full circle, an event 100,000 years in the making! When the super-continent Pangea broke up, people had the choice of going left or going right – they did not meet up until just over 1,000 years ago when the Norse crossed the Atlantic met Aboriginals in L’anse aux Meadows on the Great Northern Peninsula. It is a story that is completely untold and undersold as a reason to visit this community of 37, which is home to a World UNESCO site.
I love going to L’anse aux Meadows, to see the only authentic Viking site in North America, to enjoy the views of the islands, walking trails, visit Leif Erikson statue, dine at the Norseman Restaurant and of course, visit my favourite open air museum “Norstead Viking Village and Port of Trade”.
Norstead is just 2 KM from the UNESCO Viking Settlement and was established in 2000 as part of the millennial, celebrating 1000 years of the Vikings’ arrival to the New World. During it’s inaugural year it saw 28,000 visitors, making it a top destination for visitors.
At Norstead you get to join costumed interpreters in the dim light of a lit fire at the Viking-style Chieftain’s Hall and listen to mysterious Viking tales. One can step aboard the Snorri, the Viking replica ship that sail across the Atlantic, marking the journey of the Vikings from Iceland to Greenland to Northern Newfoundland. An active pottery studio, enables workers to shape clay into pottery the way the Vikings did. The workers also proudly spin sheep fleece into yarn using ancient drop spindle technology, dying the yarn bright purple, pink, or rusty yellow using local plants and berries and weave it into cloth at the loom. You can watch workers make nails and other items in the forge, throw axes at the woodpiles, play nine man mills and tour other buildings such as the Church and visit with the animals. You can also get your Runes told, by the Runes Teller, visit the marketplace and even conduct trade at the trading station if you bring something to exchange.
Truly this is a unique hands on experience that offers something for all ages! Even I enjoy being a Viking for a day 🙂
Live Rural NL –
Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)
Those who live on the Great Northern Peninsula appreciate the true beauty, the mystique and charm that comes with Northern living.
I’ve spent a lot of time travelling many countries of the world, mainly visits to capital cities. They have their exceptional offerings, but one can not compare the authenticity of culture and place. I remember saying, “I’ve been to Dublin three times to my Irish friends and they would say, you have never experienced Ireland”. So in 2010, I took them up on this comment and rented a car and drove 1,800 kilometres from Kinsale to the Giant’s Causeway and all places in between. I can now say, I’ve truly experienced Ireland from the farmhouse dinners to the rugged shorelines to the nightly sounds at multiple pubs.
Now, the same is true with Newfoundland & Labrador, if you come and visit the Capital and never make it up the Viking Trail on the Great Northern Peninsula’s tip, you are truly missing a rural gemstone that will provide lasting memories and conversation pieces for a lifetime.
The road to adventure awaits and it can only be found as you travel up the tip! It is the only place in the world, where the human race came full circle for the very first time, which was 100,000 years in the making (Read: Where the World Came Full Circle)
The Great Northern Peninsula is home to the only authenticated Norse site in North America at L’anse aux Meadows World UNESCO Heritage Site. Only a short distance away is the Snorri and a Viking Village and Port of Trade. Norstead gives everyone the opportunity to interact and live like a Viking! Sagas, Stories and Tales and more are part of the original experience.
Multiple cruise ship visits make L’Anse aux Meadows their port of call where they are greeted by a giant statue of Lief Erikson. Restaurants, craft shops, coffee shops, lounges, artisans, economuseums, walking trails, campgrounds to vacation rentals, and story boards make for unique experiences.
The fishing stages, vernacular architecture and sights and surroundings are unique in itself. If you are lucky you will see moose, caribou and other wildlife.
In Spring and Summer giant icebergs come to shore…only the biggest can be found the further North you go.
Lighthouses hunters (Cape Norman, Cape Bauld, Flower’s Island), bird and whale watches and those in search of rare plants will want to trek the Great Northern Peninsula. The Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve has 300 species of plants, thirty of which are rare and one unique to the region.
Images of wildlife and everyday living can be viewed at Town of Englee Municipal Building at their Mat Hooking Exhibition. Also in the building, is home to Glacier Glass, a glass art studio which has handcrafted items that are quintessentially rural.
Main Brook and Roddickton-Bide Arm is home to excellent fishing and hunting experiences and adventure tourism. While visiting these hubs one can visit St. Julien’s & Croque and see the French Cemeteries and Fishing Stages or explore the tapestry in Conche, which is home to the French Shore Interpretation Centre. There is also a French bread oven in Quirpon and Dark Tickle is home to the Granchain Exhibit.
We also have unique thrombolites at Flower’s Cove, or “living rocks” that are between 600 million to 1.2 billion years old.
A boardwalk will take you there, as will a boardwalk take you back to Deep Cove, which is a winter housing Historic Site. In winter the trails are a great place to leisurely ski or snowshoe.
Dr. Grenfell is a larger than life man and his work is reflective of the economy in Northern Newfoundland and Labrador today from the expanse of medical services, co-operatives, handicrafts and economic development – one will not want to miss the Grenfell experience at the Historic Properties. Fishing Point Provincial Park, Polar Bear Exhibit, Northern Discovery Boat Tours, The Great Viking Feast and the Legion Kitchen Parties are also for the to do list.
The Iceberg Festival in June and Mussel Festival in August also draw lots of attention and provide fun for the whole family. Let’s not forget the times to be had at the Conche Garden Party and Goose Cove Garden Party.
Wherever the road takes you on the Great Northern Peninsula, the experience will be unforgettable – as the people, culture and place are just that.
Live Rural NL –
Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)
There is still time this summer to visit the Norstead Viking Village & Port of Trade at L’anse aux Meadows, our premier attraction. This social enterprise was opened in 2000 as part of the Viking 1,000 celebration and continues to provide the best in travel experiences 15 years later.
I’ve visited this site on many occasions with friends from Switzerland, Germany and other parts of Canada, but yesterday’s tour was truly the highlight made possible by the incredible, knowledgeable and talented staff.
The entrance had clearly marked the site as pet friendly, which is a plus for those travelling with their favourite hairy companion. The gift shop has locally produced pottery on-site, handmade viking ships and swords, nine-man mills viking games and a host of runic stones, jewelry and other items of interest. I purchased a lovely handcrafted jug with viking markings. Just spectacular!
Walking the wooden boardwalk there was a view of an iceberg off in the distance, former fishing boats that are remnants of what was an abundant inshore cod fishery before the 1992 moratorium. Viking dwellings, could be seen off into the distance. Gardens and livestock are part of the viking way of life. It was nice to see the sheep getting feed and the chickens.
The Chieftain told us incredible narratives at the boathouse and answered many questions as the 54 foot replica of Leif Erikson’s Snorri was in the backdrop. The wonderful thing about this open air museum is that it enables one to truly experience by touching tools and items on site and interacting with the characters in authentic attire. The character will read your runic stones or teach you how to play the viking games.
At the main hall, the women are busy working on the loom, using their needle, whorl and spindles, as well as dying fabrics and preparing the meals. They shared so many stories about viking living and were so in character asking, “what ship I had sailed in on?” and “Did I bring anything for trade?” They were also quite eager to share their talents and showing off their wares. Sitting in the Chieftains chair with the sword and horn was a big highlight. On Wednesday nights there is Viking storytelling of the sagas with local Mike Sexton. It comes highly recommended.
A walk further down the road was a visit to the church and forge. The blacksmith was busy with his fire and making tools and jewelry. He took lots of time to engage visitors in conversation, while multi-tasking and completing his current task. He was quite proud of all the tools he had made for the village and took pride in his work. An incredible talent. I thank him immensely for sharing a piece with me, which I look forward to sharing in a future post.
Upon leaving the forge, two vikings were outside and putting on a great show throwing axes and firing their bow and arrow.
I tried my best with a few attempts at axe throwing, but will need a lot more practice. It is likely best to keep my day job.
The kids certainly love this interaction and ability to test their own skills. Even the big kids enjoy this stuff :). Norstead has experienced much growth and the skies the limit for its future, with the potential to host Viking Weddings, establish the World Championship of Nine-Man Mill with giant game boards on the lawn, Skyping with a Viking, weaving or potting classes and spending the night on site in hut or tent. In the next 15 years, Norstead will continue to shine as our premier tourist attraction!
If you have not been, its a must. If you’ve been, it’s likely time to return! This is our gem and we are truly fortunate to have such a spectacular attraction on the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula. Thank you to the Board, management and staff for the incredible tourism experience. More at www.norstead.com.
Live Rural NL –Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA The Straits-White Bay North @MitchelmoreMHA
L’Anse Aux Meadows is home to a World UNESCO Heritage Site – as the Vikings came more than 1,000 years ago to a place they called “Vinland“. To celebrate the new millennium and 1,000 years of history a non-profit entity of Norstead was established. It is near the UNESCO site further on Route 436, a sign will guide you down a short gravel road to a Viking Village and Port of Trade. I travel there several times throughout the summer, it should also be on your list.
Norstead has a really cool landscape as it is nestled in its own little part of the cove. The ocean and islands are forever in the backdrop, making for a photographer’s paradise.
My European friends are posing by a symbolic rock that has an image of the viking ship. The long sod covered building in the background is home to the Snorri. The boat house boasts a life-size replica and was actively sailed from Scandinavia, Greenland, Markland and finally Vinland. During the summer season you would be greeted by the colourful Lambi, all too willing to explain the ship and viking life.
The Viking church and forge are part of the Village. During summer one will find the Blacksmith hammer out some nails, a sword, helmet or other necessary item to survive in rural Newfoundland & Labrador in the year 1,000.
I would make a pretty serious blacksmith’s assistant. I am not sure I have the look of the Vikings though with all that British and Irish Ancestry.
The Vikings and the animals that spend late-Spring until early Fall have all gone. The site is quiet during the winter. I would imagine the Vikings 1,000 years ago found the weather on the Great Northern Peninsula extremely harsh.
As we walk away, we know there is a valuable experience waiting for the everyday visitor. Be sure to visit Norstead on your next time on the Viking Trail Highway, Route 430.
Experience the Great Northern Peninsula –Christopher C. Mitchelmore, MHA The Straits-White Bay North