Northern Peninsula

The Great Northern Peninsula on Newfoundland’s west coast is the ideal setting for both outdoor adventure and exploration of early North American history. A northern slice of the Appalachian Mountains traverses this windward coast, capped by UNESCO World Heritage sites at either end. In the south is Gros Morne National Park, renowned for its role in proving that continents move. At the northern end is L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, where Vikings established the first European settlement in North America five centuries before Columbus crossed the Atlantic. In between are 400 km (250 mi) of coastal plain between the mountains and the sea where successive cultures have made remarkably similar ecological adaptations for the past 5,000 years. Gros Morne National Park exerts a near-mystical pull with the power and beauty of its landscape. The northern protrusion of the Appalachian Mountains forms the park’s backbone, making it a hiker’s dream. More than 160 km (100 mi) of trails form scenic routes around low mountains, glacier carved fjords and the butte-like Tablelands. But it’s not all wild hinterland there’s also a summer theater festival, sand dunes that cover the stunted windward shore trees, and a few dedicated tourist establishments that bring civilization, and even golf, to the wilderness. North of the park, about halfway to L’Anse aux Meadows on the Viking Trail, as the scenic tour is named, the fishing town of Port au Choix proudly displays its heritage. Port au Choix National Historic Site tells the stories of the aboriginal Maritime Archaic Indians and Dorset Eskimos whose dependence on the sea and land for sustenance differs only in scale and technology from that of the Europeans who followed, and their descendants who remain today. Near the northern tip of Newfoundland is L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The only authentic Viking settlement in North America, this is where Leif Ericson founded Vinland around 1000 AD. Iceberg Alley carries 10,000-year-old icebergs south past Ericson’s settlement, and northbound humpback whales are found here into August. The best time to see the Great Northern Peninsula is July and August. Whenever you visit, however, you’re sure to meet some of the warmest, wittiest people in North America. Strangers have been welcome in Newfoundland since the early days when locals brought visitors in from the cold, warmed them by the fire, and charmingly interrogated them for news of events elsewhere. This chapter contains sections on exploring the region, sights to see, dining, lodging, camping, shopping, arts & entertainment, sports & outdoor activities, and essential travel information.

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