Located off the easternmost point of North American is the island of Newfoundland. The fourth largest island in Canada, and the largest island in the Newfoundland and Labrador Province. It is the newest province to be added to Canada, and the site of one of the oldest Norse settlements. The island was first visited by Europeans in the 11th century when the famous viking explorer Leif Eriksson landed ashore. Later explorers include the Portuguese, Spanish, French, and the far sailing English fishing vessels. Other visitors to the island include the famous explorer John Cabot, who was working under orders from the English monarch King Henry VII in 1497, and in 1501 the Portuguese brothers Gaspar and Miguel Corte Real began mapping the coastline in hopes of finding a hidden Northwest Passage.

European Founding

With the landing of Captain John Cabot on Newfoundland's coast, England could declare the island a part of the British crown. In 1583, on August 5 Sir Humphrey Gilbert officially claimed the island, presenting it to Queen Elizabeth I of England and making it the oldest of the royal colonies in the British Empire. With the arrival of the Norse, the few indigenous people of the island vanished leaving behind little archeological evidence. The only conclusive evidence of contact between the old and new worlds is located at Cape Norman, on the northern tip of the island. The settlement located here, L'Anse aux Meadows dates back 1000 years and is a likely location for the Viking country of Vinland mentioned in the Viking Chronicles. By the time of the European settlers, the Beothuk were the island's indigenous people. Speaking a language of the same name, they were slowly replaced by the Europeans who consisted mainly of English, Irish, Scottish and even French. With the mix of different dialects, by the start of the nineteenth century the dialects were becoming, what was later termed, “island dialects”. The island dialects also reflected the island itself which included the Scottish name, “Island of the Cod” or the Irish “Island of the Fish.”


By Original version created by Kelisi at en.wikipedia, modified and converted by Telim tor [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons The island is ranked as the 16th largest in the world, and has an area of 108,860km². The largest city in Newfoundland is St.John's and the highest point is The Cabox. It has the distinction of being the fourth largest island in Canada, and contains the easternmost point in North America. The island is in the Atlantic Ocean, and is separated from the Labrador Peninsula and Cape Braxton Island by the Straight of Belle Island and Cabot Straight respectively. By blocking the Saint Lawrence River, the largest estuary in the world is created at the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Indigenous People

Archeological evidence has shown that over 4000 years ago an early Paleo-Eskimo people, or the Dorset, lived in Newfoundland before the arrival of the Norse. Very little is known about these nomadic people other than they followed the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia to reach the island. The Beothuk, who settled in Newfoundland from Labrador are now extinct, but their rich history and culture lives on in museums and in oral histories. In their language, Beothuk translates into “people” and is a part of the Algonquian language. Other tribes also settled in Newfoundland including the Mi'kmaq who have recorded conflict with the Beothuk people. After the Norse arrived in the 11th century, the island was next visited and settled by the Europeans who helped to bring about the demise of the Beothuk people. Intermarriage, conflict, and disease all helped to wipe out the island's indigenous people with the last full blooded tribal woman dying in 1829.

European Settlers

While the Norse Viking Leif Eriksson may receive credit for being one of the first Europeans in Newfoundland, some scholars disagree. There are old accounts in folklore that perhaps the Irish Saint Brendan, or even the Scottish Prince Madoc may have set foot first on the island, but there is not any historical evidence to verify these claims. Instead, researchers show that after the Vikings abandoned their settlements the island indigenous people inhabited the island alone for the next five hundred years. It was not until 1497, that the Italian explorer, John Cabot who was sailing for England was the next European to discover the island. After Captain Cabot came an influx of explorers looking for the fabled northwest passage, including the French, Spanish, and the Portuguese. After Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed the island for the British monarch Queen Elizabeth I, in 1583, that the English began trying to colonize the island for profit. In 1610, John Guy along with 39 passengers left England to establish a colony at Cuper's Cove. By 1620, the English fishermen were in control of the island's east coast while the French controlled the south coast. With the Treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, the French ceded control of the island to the British paving the way for eventual British settlements.

Points of Interest

Not only does Newfoundland have the most concentration of Dorset archeological sites, it is also the site of early European settlements. With the distinction of being one of the first places in the New World settled by Europeans, the island of Newfoundland is rich in historical sites.

  • L'anse aux Meadows is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site and is located at Cape Norman on the island's northernmost tip. It is the only known Viking settlement that exists outside of Greenland.
  • Terra Nova National Park was funded to preserve the natural beauty of the Bonavista Bay region.
  • Gros Morne National Park is another designated World Heritage site for its stunning beauty and complicated geography. It is also the largest park in Atlantic Canadian region.

Other great sites include the historic Tilting Harbor, which is located on Fogo Island and is recognized for it's Irish history. For great skiing the Marble Mountain Ski Resort is perfect, and great nightlife spots can be discovered on George Street in St. John's.

Modern Newfoundland's Anthem and Flag

The Europeans who settled on Newfoundland have built a rich history and heritage for themselves. Newfoundland and Labrador is the newest Canadian province, joining on March 31, 1949. The island began as a colony is 1825, before reaching it's current day states as a Canadian province. In 1902, the British colonial governor wrote the provincial national anthem,“Ode to Newfoundland”, and in 1980 the song was readopted making this province the only one in Canada to have it's own provincial anthem. The provincial flag, up until 1980, was the Union Jack flag which Newfoundland retained as their provincial flag even after the 1949 acceptance into the Canadian provinces. After 1980 though, the Union Jack was replaced with the current provincial flag of Newfoundland.

Islands | Travel | Canada

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