There are so many cool, fun, and interesting Newfoundland facts and it’s easily one of my favourite destinations in Canada. After all, my father is from there, and so I spent almost every summer travelling from Alberta to Newfoundland to visit family. But excluding family, it still stands out as one of my favourite places in the country. The scenery is beautiful, there’s so much outdoor adventure, the people are truly the salt of the Earth, and it really feels like it has a unique culture compared to the rest of Canada, with delicious food, east coast music, and so much more.
Whether you fly to the island or take the ferry to Newfoundland, you will have a great time. The people are super friendly and it’s very easy to travel around. Just make sure you rent a car! You can explore the oldest English-founded city in North America, hike beautiful Gros Morne National Park, go on a whale-watching tour, and so much more.
However, aside from all the fun things to do in Newfoundland, there are lots of interesting Newfoundland facts as well, so I hope you learn a lot about this unique Atlantic Canada province below.
27 General Newfoundland & Labrador Facts
In an effort to make this guide about Newfoundland facts a little easier to read, we’ve separated it into a few different sections. To start, here are some general Newfoundland and Labrador facts.
- Newfoundland and Labrador is the easternmost province of Canada and sits in the northeastern corner of North America. In fact, it is also the most easterly point in all of North America. If you want to say you’ve been to the most easterly point in North America, visit Newfoundland’s Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site.
- Although the province is officially called Newfoundland and Labrador, many people call it Newfoundland. This is because 94% of the population lives on the island of Newfoundland, and the province was formerly known as just “Newfoundland” when it was a colony, dominion, and province, up until 2001 when 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. (Note: Although “Labrador” was officially added to the province’s name in 2001, it was a part of the province since 1949.)
- Newfoundland is the youngest province in Canada. Nunavut is the youngest territory.
- Newfoundland is part of Atlantic Canada, along with New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. However, Newfoundland is not considered a “Maritime Province” because its history and culture differ from the other three.
- Newfoundland is a big island surrounded by the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the North Atlantic Ocean, while Labrador is a part of the mainland bordering Quebec and the Labrador Sea. They are separated by the Strait of Belle Isle.
- At 405,212 square kilometres (156,500 square miles), Newfoundland and Labrador is the largest Atlantic province. However, it is the fourth smallest province in Canada.
- The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is nearly the same size as California and Paraguay and is actually bigger than most European countries.
- The island of Newfoundland is the fourth largest island in Canada and the largest island that is not in Canada’s north. It is also the 16th largest island in the world and is bigger than Ireland.
- Labrador takes up 71% of the province’s area but is home to only 6% of its population with 521,000 people.
- Newfoundland and Labrador have the second lowest population of any province, after Price Edward Island, but have more than 10 times the population of any of the territories (Nunavut, Yukon, or Northwest Territories).
- The capital of Newfoundland and Labrador is St. John’s (not to be confused with Saint John, New Brunswick). With a population of 112,000, it is the 19th largest city in Canada and is on the southeastern coast of Newfoundland.
- 40% of the province’s population lives in the greater St. John’s area (population 205,000), and half the province’s population lives on the Avalon Peninsula, which is where the capital is located. If you visit, read our guide to the best things to do in St. John’s.
- Killiniq Island, at the far northern tip of the Labrador, is shared by Newfoundland and Nunavut.
- 9% of people in Newfoundland are indigenous or Métis, more than any province in Atlantic Canada, and 3rd highest of any province in Canada, after Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
- 97% of people in Newfoundland speak English, making it Canada’s most linguistically homogenous province.
- Newfoundland and Labrador’s coastline is 17,542 km (10,900 miles) long in total, more than twice the total width of Canada. There are approximately 7000 smaller islands in Newfoundland and Labrador.
- France is not far from Newfoundland. This is because Saint Pierre and Miquelon, a couple of islands that sit only 19 kilometres (12 miles) off the coast of Newfoundland are technically part of France. They are a vestige of what was once New France. If you want to visit the islands, you can take a ferry or fly there. Please note that you will need a passport as you will no longer be in Canada.
- Despite its small size, Newfoundland used to be home to one of the world’s busiest airports. Back in the day, most airplanes couldn’t make a transatlantic flight from New York to London without refuelling and since Newfoundland was the closest slice of North America to Europe, this is where the planes would stop. Gander International Airport (YQX) 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 1950s.
- However, something else happened that really put Gander on the map. Both the town and airport rose to prominence once again during 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 cancelled, those already in transit were forced to land in Canada—and for many of those flights, Gander International Airport was the best place to go, due both to the 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 the small, 9,000-person town with just 500 hotel rooms. Those passengers ended up spending four days in Gander, and the uncommonly beautiful welcome that the locals gave the “Plane People” and the heartwarming stories that unfolded became the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical “Come From Away.” If you can’t make it to the most successful Canadian broadway play in history, you can also read the book “The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland”, which is also a phenomenal account of Gander’s unique role during this awful time. This has to be one of the coolest Newfoundland facts out there.
- 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 30-minute time zones, so yes, if you visit, you will be living 30 minutes ahead of Atlantic time and 90 minutes ahead of eastern time. Much of Labrador stays with Atlantic time, though.
- People from Newfoundland are called Newfoundlanders and people from Labrador can also be called Labradorians. The indigenous people prefer their own names, such as Innu or Inuit.
- Today, the province is home to Inuit and Innu peoples in the far north and on the east coast of Labrador, and Mi’kmaq on the island of Newfoundland.
- Newfoundlanders are also colloquially called “Newfies” in the province and across Canada, but (depending on context) the term can be considered derogatory. Their accent is also sometimes called “Newfinese”. Many of them have a great sense of humour.
- The local accent/dialect, referred to as Newfoundland English, is totally unique in Canada and varies considerably from the English spoken in other provinces. It also varies a lot within the province and has a lot of influence from British English, Scottish, and Irish. There are also unique dialects of French and Irish in Newfoundland.
- On the flag of Newfoundland, the blue triangles on the left symbolize the waters in and surrounding the province, red symbolize the people’s efforts, and yellow their confidence. Overall, it is meant to slightly resemble England’s Union Jack, but the design also matches Beothuk and Innu pendant patterns. Learn more about the flag and more in our article about the flags of Canada.
- The official motto of Newfoundland and Labrador is Quaerite Prime Regnum Dei, which is Latin for “Seek ye first the kingdom of God. The Newfoundland dog and Newfoundland pony are symbols of the province.
31 Interesting Facts about Newfoundland’s History
Next, let’s dig into some Newfoundland facts about history, which dates back thousands of years.
- 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. My dad was born in 1947 and therefore was born as a “British” person. However, he did not get citizenship.
- Evidence of human inhabitation in what is now Newfoundland goes back around 9000 years.
- Around 2500 years ago, the Dorset culture reached northern Labrador, followed later by the Innut and Inuit.
- Around the year 0, the Beothuks migrated from Labrador to Newfoundland Island. However, they went extinct after Europeans arrived with both disease and war.
- Back in 1497, John Cabot became the first European to land in North America during the age of exploration. It’s uncertain where he landed, but many believe it was in Newfoundland. However, as you’ll see below, a different kind of European arrived here much earlier.
- In the 1500s, the Mi’kmaq arrived in Newfoundland.
- While John Cabot’s landing in 1497 is generally thought to be the first European encounter with the North American continent, it was actually Leif Eriksson and the Vikings that reached this area long before him. L’Anse aux Meadows, located at the northern tip of the island, was the location of a Viking colony that is believed to be around 1,000 years old. This spot is so important that it was named a Canadian UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. You can get there via the Viking Trail.
- L’Anse aux Meadows is the oldest European settlement in the Americas.
- In 1583, the British landed at Saint John’s and claimed the island for England.
- The name Newfoundland was first used by King Henry VII, to describe the land found by John Cabot as “New Found Launde.” Labrador is named after the Portuguese explorer João Fernandes Lavrador, who sailed the coast in 1498-99.
- They built several settlements, and Newfoundland became an official British colonial province in 1623. Thousands of fishermen arrived in the following decades, finding the best fishing waters in the North Atlantic, especially for cod.
- In the late 1600s and early 1700s, France also made attempts to colonize the island. In 1713, France ceded its claims to Britain, but French fishermen were allowed to continue fishing on the west coast.
- The colony gained the right to responsible (self) government in 1855.
- When given a chance to join the Confederation of Canada in 1869 and again in 1885, Newfoundland passed.
- In 1881, construction began on the Newfoundland Railway. Known as the Newfoundland Railway, it was once the longest narrow-gauge railway system in North America. However, it was closed in 1988.
- In 1901, the first Transatlantic signal was sent from Signal Hill in Saint John’s to the United Kingdom. The hill is the site of Cabot Tower, built in 1898 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of John Cabot.
- In 1907, Newfoundland acquired dominion status, essentially becoming an independent country, at the same time as New Zealand. It included Labrador.
- The first non-stop Transatlantic flight was from Newfoundland to Ireland in 1919.
- The Memorial University of Newfoundland, now the largest university in Atlantic Canada, was founded in 1925.
- The Great Depression had a profound impact on Newfoundland, with a major drop in demand for fish. The government went bankrupt and was forced to return to being a dependent territory of the UK in 1934.
- Newfoundland became a major American military base during WWII, bringing prosperity.
- 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.
- Commercial whaling came to an end in Newfoundland in 1972 after worldwide bans.
- In 1979, a major oil reserve called Hibernia was discovered off the coast of Newfoundland.
- In the early 1990s, the cod industry collapsed due to overfishing, causing record unemployment and population decrease in Newfoundland.
- From 2004 to 2005, municipal councils across Newfoundland took down their Canadian flags in protest of the fact that most oil money from the province went to the federal government. In the end, they won, and 100% of the money stays in the province now.
- In 2005, the autonomous region of Nunatsiavut was created for the Inuit people in northern Labrador.
- Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy is based on offshore oil, mining, tourism, and the fishing industry. More people work in the fishing industry in Newfoundland than in any other province of Canada.
- Newfoundland and Labrador have the 2nd highest GDP per capita of any province, after Alberta, and similar to that of Saskatchewan. The three territories actually have the highest.
- From 2008 on, Newfoundland was no longer a recipient of equalization payments in Canada.
- Fort McMurray, Alberta is sometimes called “the 2nd biggest city in Newfoundland” because so many Newfoundlanders go there to work in the oil industry. This is where I was born.
25 Fun Travel Facts about Newfoundland
While all the Newfoundland facts in this article will help enrich a trip to the Atlantic province, these facts about Newfoundland below are especially tied to travel and tourism.
- Newfoundland has some of the oldest rocks in the world, and many geologists go to Gros Morne National Park to study plate tectonics. In fact, one of our favourite things to do in Newfoundland is to go hiking in the Tablelands, a unique hike that allows you to walk on the Earth’s Mantle.
- Labrador and its mountains are part of the Canadian Shield.
- The province’s name is correctly pronounced “New-fund-land”, with no pause between the first two syllables.
- Newfoundland is nicknamed “The Rock” while Labrador is nicknamed “The Big Land”. Local license plates used to say “Canada’s Happy Province” and we can agree, it is a happy place.
- Newfoundland has a lot of slang words. Examples of Newfoundland slang include Whaddya at? (How are you?), Yes b’y (to show agreement), Who knit ya? (who raised you?), and ‘Oh me nerves’.
- 95% of North American puffins live in Newfoundland and Labrador, and it is the official bird of the province. One of the best ways to see them is by taking a boat tour from Bay Bulls near St. John’s.
- There are three national parks in the province: two on Newfoundland Island (Gros Morne and Terra Nova) and one in Labrador (Torngat Mountains).
- Terra Nova National Park is the easternmost national park in Canada.
- Mount Caubvick in the Torngat Mountains is the highest point in Canada east of the Rockies, at 1652 metres (5420 feet).
- There is also one national park reserve in Newfoundland: Akami-Uapishkᵘ-KakKasuak-Mealy Mountains in Labrador. It protects an area similar in size to Lebanon and is co-managed by the Innu people.
- There are also 32 provincial parks in Newfoundland and Labrador.
- There are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Newfoundland and Labrador: Mistaken Point (which preserves Precambrian fossils), Gros Morne National Park (home to exposed mantle and much more), L’Anse aux Meadows (the Viking settlement), and Red Bay Basque Whaling Station (an underwater archaeological site in Labrador).
- Newfoundland is one of the best places to see icebergs in Canada. Around 400-800 of them make it as far south as St. John’s per year. Most come from Greenland and this area is known as Iceberg Alley. If you want to see them, May and June or usually the best months.
- The Titanic sank 600 kilometres (370 miles) southeast of Newfoundland when it hit one of those massive icebergs in 1912. However, many of the graves are found in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
- St. Johns in Newfoundland and Labrador outperform all other Canadian cities in terms of atmospheric records. It has acquired the moniker of “windiest city in Canada” due to its average yearly wind speed of over 21 km/hr (13 mph) and gusts of over 48 km/hr (30 mph) recorded on about 50 days of the year.
- If that wasn’t enough, St. John’s is also the foggiest city in Canada with about 121 foggy days per year. Don’t worry though. St. John’s is still a beautiful city to visit. Check out the video below to see all the things to do.
- The Royal St. John’s Regatta boat racing event is the oldest annual sporting race in North America.
- The St. John’s neighbourhood of Quidi Vidi inspired the Group of Seven.
- The Group of Seven, a group of famous Canadian painters based in Ontario, travelled to Newfoundland to paint its landscapes.
- Famous people from Newfoundland include model Shannon Tweed, actress Natasha Henstridge, wrestler Moondog King, TV personality and comedian Rick Mercer, politician Seamus O’Regan, and sports announcer Bob Cole.
- Music in Newfoundland is strongly influenced by Irish, English, and Scottish folk music, including sea shanties (songs sung by workers on ships).
- The most famous band from Newfoundland is the Great Big Sea. They played energetic/rock versions of traditional Newfoundland folk songs and sea shanties. However, there are so many great bands in Newfoundland. One of our favourite Newfoundland bands is the Irish Descendants and they can be seen performing in St. John’s on a weekly basis at O’Reilly’s Irish Newfoundland Pub.
- Speaking of O’Reilly’s, it’s one of the many pubs on George Street in St. John’s, which has more pubs per square mile than anywhere else in Canada.
- Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province not to have a team in the CHL (Canadian Hockey League). So while lots of people play hockey in Newfoundland, it’s not the best place to watch professional hockey.
- In 2006, a curling team from Newfoundland won the Olympic gold, the first from the province to win an Olympic medal.
Plan a Trip to Newfoundland
Hopefully, by now, we’ve inspired you to visit the incredible province of Newfoundland & Labrador. We’ve explored this destination many times over the years and have developed a number of popular guides and videos to help you plan a trip to Newfoundland. So, if you’re eager to move on from learning about Newfoundland facts and actually want to fly there and live it, here are some guides below.
Newfoundland Travel Guide: Our free guide will show you all the best things to do in Newfoundland, helping you figure out what you want to do.
You can also check out our Newfoundland playlist on Newfoundland to actually watch us explore this incredible Canadian destination.
If you loved our Newfoundland facts guide, you may also like our other fact guides about other Canadian destinations.