A Mainlander's Travel Guide to
L'Anse aux Meadows & Newfoundland
This Guide was written in 2001, and so contains some information that users will find a bit dated. The pace in Northern Newfoundland is slow, so there is still value in the general information presented here.
The information here has been gathered from a variety of sources. Most importantly,
it is based on the many trips I have made out to the St Anthony / L'Anse aux
Meadows area from 1995 through 2001. The opinions expressed are my solely
Canada uses the International Metric system of measurements. In practical terms, you will find a mixture of units used, often based on the type of thing and the age of the individual. Younger Canadians grew up with metric. Those aged from about 30 - 45 are likely to use a combination of metric and British Imperial units. Those over 45 or from more remote areas are most likely to work in Imperial. For Newfoundland this means gas will be in litres, lumber by the foot, and distance by "She'd just be up that way a bit, Boyo..."
distances in kilometres - convert to miles by dividing by 1.6 temperature in Celsius - there is no simple way to convert this, but some important temperatures are: -20 C - 'damn cold' heavy winter gear -10 C - cold, definitely hats & mitts 0 C - freezing point 12 C - 'brisk' - you'll need a jacket 20 C - normal room temp 25 C - summer, time for shorts 30 C - hot, air conditioner time gas in litres - convert to US$ / gallon by multiplying by 2.5 convert Canadian dollars to US $what ever is the current bank rate (!)These last two are pretty rough - and based on the bank rates on January 1st, 2000. A good bit of advice on American money: Although many businesses will accept US currency, the exchange rate can be expected to vary a LOT. Some places may give you better than bank rate - but don't count on it. Typically, Canadian banks charge about 2% for the exchange of funds, plus there is the hassle of a special transaction to account for. Remember that there is a difference, sometimes as much as 4 - 5% between 'buying' and 'selling' rates! Your best and fairest exchange will always be through a personal visit to a bank. Do not expect anyone to accept your personal cheques - it can be extremely difficult to cash them here, with extra fees deducted for processing.
The simple truth for American visitors is to never forget you are entering
a foreign country. We may sound the same, but a lot of rules here are different.
The Newfoundland Government wants everyone to visit their province (and leave all that money behind!). They have declared 2000 to be the official 'Viking Millennium', celebrating 1000 years since the establishment of the Norse outpost at Vinland. The entire year's tourism promotion is built around this. (Watch for my smiling face - I'm the 'Viking Poster Boy' for the Newfoundland Department of Tourism.)
You will want to contact the Department of Tourism and get them to send you a free copy of the 'Official Highway Map' and the 'Newfoundland & Labrador Travel Guide'. This last is a 200 page soft cover book that lists accommodations, attractions, and activities for the province. It is divided by region, and each entry gives location, brief description, contact info and often rough prices. This guide is indispensable.
PO Box 8730
St John's NF
Another general information web site, for the West Coast Region, is at:
Since the final destination is L'Anse aux Meadows NHS, some local information will be useful. The area is promoted by the Viking Trail Tourism Association, with offices in St Anthony.
St Anthony NF
Note that the availability of this site is somewhat spotty.
click for a larger scale view
The easiest way to imagine Newfoundland is to hold your left hand in front of you, palm towards your body, fingers extended and held together, the thumb pointing straight up. Now make the whole thing 900 km from top to bottom, 1100 km from side to side, and stick it out in the Atlantic Ocean.
There are basically two cities in Newfoundland. St John's, the largest and the capital, is at the tip of your ring finger (SE corner). Corner Brook is about where the base of your thumb joins your wrist. (lower west coast). The other two points of interest are Port aux Basque (the ferry port) and St Anthony / L'Anse aux Meadows. On our hand model, Port aux Basque is the extreme bottom edge of your palm at the wrist (SW corner). St Anthony is at the very tip of your extended thumb.
Newfoundland has basically two highways. One runs up the entire west coast, from Port aux Basque, through Corner Brook, and up to St Anthony. The second runs east from Corner Brook, curving up and down to reach St John's. (More on that under 'travel'.)
The province in under 'Newfoundland Standard Time', which is three and a half hours behind Greenwich Mean. You will have to set your watch ahead by 30 minutes from Atlantic time (on the mainland) or one and half hours from Eastern Standard. (This is where the '30 minutes latter in Newfoundland' jokes come from.) Also remember that Newfoundland is considerably north, especially L'Anse aux Meadows - which effects the length of the days. On summer solstice, the sun rises about 4 am and doesn't set till about 11 pm.
Between the raw size of the province and its huge size - you can expect a lot of variations in temperature. Right off the top - its ALWAYS damp, and remember how that effects how you feel the air. A rain jacket is a must, and if you are going to do much hiking, waterproof boots are not a bad idea. In summer, the average daytime temperature at St John's will be around 22 C in St John's, closer to 18 for St Anthony. You can check out the local weather for the day at:
The simplest way to think of most of Newfoundland is : RURAL
Historically, the province was centred on the ocean, and in many ways this still has not changed. Both St John's and Corner Brook are modern cities - 'wide and wired'. Outside of them, however, people live in scattered villages facing the water, often well off the main road and with a whole lot of nothing in between.
A good example of this is cell phone service. When we traveled out in 1997, there was only cell phone service available in Corner Book (assume St John's too). Now there is service around St Anthony, but its a bit spotty. Out of range of the cities - nothing. Right off the top, throw out the 'big city hurry' and be ready to just go with the flow. Nothing is going to be fast, nothing is going to be close, no one is going to rush. Anything specialised will have to be ordered in for you - if you can get it all.
go on to getting to Newfoundland