The Best Cultural Experiences in Newfoundland
The Best Cultural Experiences in Newfoundland

Explore the rich cultural experiences of Newfoundland while sailing, from the traditional outport communities to the ancient Viking settlements, and discover why this island is a hidden gem for those seeking unique adventures.

The Best Cultural Experiences in Newfoundland

Newfoundland, an island off the east coast of Canada, is a hidden gem for those seeking unique cultural experiences while sailing. With its rugged coastline, picturesque fishing villages, and rich history, Newfoundland offers a wealth of opportunities for sailors to immerse themselves in the local culture. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best cultural experiences you can enjoy while sailing in Newfoundland.

Table of Contents

The History of Newfoundland

Before diving into the cultural experiences that await you in Newfoundland, it’s essential to understand the island’s rich history. Newfoundland is the easternmost province of Canada and has a unique cultural heritage that has been shaped by its indigenous peoples, European settlers, and maritime traditions.

The island was first inhabited by the Maritime Archaic people around 9,000 years ago, followed by the Dorset and Beothuk cultures. The first European contact with Newfoundland occurred in 1497 when explorer John Cabot landed on its shores. Over the centuries, the island became a hub for European fishermen, particularly from England, Ireland, and France, who established settlements along the coast.

Newfoundland’s strategic location in the North Atlantic made it an essential base for naval and military operations during both World War I and World War II. The island’s rich history is evident in its many historic sites, museums, and cultural attractions that you can explore while sailing in Newfoundland.

St. John’s: The Capital City

St. John’s, the capital city of Newfoundland and Labrador, is a must-visit destination for anyone sailing in the region. With its colorful row houses, vibrant arts scene, and lively pubs, St. John’s offers a unique blend of old-world charm and modern amenities.

Signal Hill National Historic Site

One of the most iconic landmarks in St. John’s is Signal Hill, a hilltop fortification that overlooks the city and the harbor. The site played a crucial role in the city’s military history and was the location of the final battle of the Seven Years’ War in North America. Today, visitors can explore the historic fortifications, enjoy panoramic views of the city and harbor, and learn about the site’s history at the Signal Hill Visitor Centre.

The Rooms

The Rooms is Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest cultural facility, housing the provincial archives, art gallery, and museum. This modern building offers stunning views of St. John’s and the harbor and is a must-visit for anyone interested in learning about the province’s history, art, and culture. The museum’s exhibits cover a wide range of topics, from the island’s indigenous peoples to its role in World War I and II.

George Street

No visit to St. John’s would be complete without a night out on George Street, the city’s famous entertainment district. With its lively pubs, bars, and restaurants, George Street is the perfect place to experience Newfoundland’s vibrant music scene and enjoy a pint of local beer.

The Outports: A Glimpse into Traditional Newfoundland Life

While St. John’s offers a taste of urban life in Newfoundland, the island’s true charm lies in its outports – the small, isolated fishing villages that dot the coastline. These communities offer a glimpse into traditional Newfoundland life and are a must-visit for anyone seeking an authentic cultural experience.

Fogo Island

Fogo Island, located off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, is a prime example of an outport community. With its rugged landscape, traditional fishing stages, and friendly locals, Fogo Island offers a unique cultural experience for sailors. Be sure to visit the Fogo Island Inn, a world-renowned luxury hotel that showcases the island’s traditional architecture and craftsmanship.


Twillingate, known as the “Iceberg Capital of the World,” is another picturesque outport community worth visiting. Located on the northeast coast of Newfoundland, Twillingate is famous for its stunning coastal scenery, historic lighthouse, and abundant wildlife, including whales, seabirds, and, of course, icebergs. The town also hosts the annual Fish, Fun, and Folk Festival, a celebration of Newfoundland’s fishing heritage and culture.

The Viking Trail: A Journey Back in Time

For those interested in history, the Viking Trail offers a unique opportunity to explore Newfoundland’s ancient past. This scenic coastal route stretches from the island’s west coast to the northern tip, passing through Gros Morne National Park and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of L’Anse aux Meadows.

Gros Morne National Park

Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-visit destination for anyone sailing in Newfoundland. The park’s dramatic landscape, which includes towering cliffs, fjords, and glacial valleys, offers a stunning backdrop for hiking, wildlife watching, and photography. The park is also home to the Tablelands, a unique geological formation that provides a rare glimpse into the Earth’s mantle.

L’Anse aux Meadows

L’Anse aux Meadows, located at the northern tip of Newfoundland, is the only confirmed Norse settlement in North America. This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the Vikings who settled here over 1,000 years ago. Visitors can explore the reconstructed sod buildings, view artifacts from the original settlement, and learn about the site’s history at the interpretive center.

The Music and Dance of Newfoundland

Newfoundland’s rich cultural heritage is perhaps best expressed through its music and dance. The island’s traditional music is heavily influenced by its Irish, English, and French roots and features instruments such as the fiddle, accordion, and bodhrán. Newfoundland is also home to a unique style of step dancing, which is characterized by its fast, intricate footwork.

Live Music Venues

To experience Newfoundland’s vibrant music scene, be sure to visit one of the island’s many live music venues. In St. John’s, popular spots include O’Reilly’s Irish Newfoundland Pub, The Ship Pub, and The Black Sheep. In the outports, you’ll often find live music at local community centers and pubs.

Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival

The annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, held in St. John’s, is a celebration of the province’s rich musical heritage. The festival features performances by local and international artists, as well as workshops, storytelling sessions, and traditional dance demonstrations.

Newfoundland Cuisine: A Taste of the Sea

Newfoundland’s cuisine is heavily influenced by its maritime heritage, with seafood playing a starring role in many dishes. Some must-try local specialties include:

  • Fish and chips: A classic Newfoundland dish, featuring fresh cod fried in a crispy batter and served with fries.
  • Jiggs dinner: A traditional Sunday meal consisting of salted beef, cabbage, turnip, carrots, and potatoes, all boiled together and served with a side of pease pudding.
  • Cod tongues: A local delicacy, these small pieces of cod are fried in a crispy batter and served with scrunchions (fried pork fat).
  • Toutons: A popular breakfast dish, toutons are fried bread dough served with molasses or syrup.

Festivals and Events: Celebrating Newfoundland’s Culture

Newfoundland is home to a wide variety of festivals and events that celebrate the island’s unique culture and heritage. Some highlights include:

  • The Royal St. John’s Regatta: Held in August, this historic rowing race is the oldest continuous sporting event in North America.
  • The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival: A celebration of the province’s rich musical heritage, held in St. John’s each summer.
  • The Fish, Fun, and Folk Festival: Held in Twillingate, this annual event celebrates Newfoundland’s fishing heritage and culture.
  • The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival: A showcase of films by women from around the world, held each October in St. John’s.


Newfoundland offers a wealth of cultural experiences for sailors seeking to immerse themselves in the island’s unique heritage. From the historic sites and vibrant arts scene of St. John’s to the traditional outport communities and ancient Viking settlements, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So set sail for Newfoundland and discover the rich history, music, and cuisine that make this island a truly unforgettable destination.