What to Expect on Your First Visit to Newfoundland

January 16, 2020   11 Comments »

I arrived at baggage claim at St. John’s airport; it was my first time to visit Newfoundland. I saw Caroline and a short, stout man smiling at me and I sighed in relief. It’s always great when a plan comes together with your flights on time and you meet up with your travel companions as planned. That rarely seems to happen to me, but on this day…it did.

I had finally made it to Newfoundland, and I was excited to explore this remote Canadian province that I had heard so much about. I was exploring it mainly by foot along the beautiful East Coast hiking trail with Great Canadian Trails. Even though hiking can be quite solitary, this hiking experience brought me into contact with many locals – starting with Jamie.

Our driver, Jamie, got us all settled in his van as the sun was starting to go down on this long travel day. I found myself concentrating really hard on what Jamie was saying; I knew he was speaking English, but thanks to his accent my brain couldn’t recognize it as English! He finished every sentence with “right?” and I found myself engaged in the conversation agreeing with him naturally whether I understood or not! As we started into town, he asked if we wanted to go see Signal Hill. The sun was going down and he said it was the best views of the city…right?

Signal Hill Newfoundland

We looked at each other and shrugged, “sure,” we agreed. This simple ‘yes’ kicked off a plethora of history and geological information shared by Jamie. In fact, he took us up to the top of Signal Hill, showed us other parts of town, pointed out historic buildings and places of interest before dropping us at our B&B. Normally drivers will simply take you from the airport to your hotel, but Jamie was much more than a taxi driver, he was a local guide who was enthusiastic about ensuring new visitors to Newfoundland had a wonderful time.

His over-the-top friendliness and quirky accent were my first exposure to Newfoundland, and it was a great indication of what was to come.

Expect a Unique Newfoundland Hospitality

You’d think a historically isolated culture that lives out on the edge of North America tested with some of the harshest weather on earth would be rather salty in nature. Strangely Newfoundlanders are the exact opposite of that – they are warm, fun loving and surprisingly welcoming. I think the best way to describe a Newfoundlander – is charming.

visit newfoundland people

When my flight home was canceled, even the Air Canada gate agent was ridiculously nice to every person who came and asked him the same questions about the canceled flight; and in some instances, yelled at him. I watched and thought…this man is a saint.

If you are someone who travels for cultural experiences, put Newfoundland on your list to meet some of the nicest people in the world.

Expect to say Newfoundland Incorrectly

If you are going to travel to Newfoundland, then you better know how to say it correctly! The first day I was in St. Johns, I went to the experts to find out the right way to say Newfoundland!

How to say Newfoundland

Expect to Be Confused By the Newfoundland Accent

After you’ve mastered how to say Newfoundland, the next thing you’ll need to get a grip on is the Newfoundland accent.

There are more varieties of English spoken in Newfoundland and Labrador than anywhere else in the world. Dating back four centuries, the accents are rooted in western England and southern Ireland. There are also French and Indigenous influences that have helped shape our colorful language.


Listening to people speak was one of my favorite things to do as a first-time visitor to Newfoundland. The accent has been described as ‘slippery’. I’m not sure if they meant it this way, but if I concentrate really hard, I can get some of it, but as soon as I lose concentration, it all slips right past me!

I’d often hear
Which means,
“How’s it going?” or “What’s happening?”
This frequently gets further truncated to just, “You at?” or even “Yat?”

If you want to hear it yourself – just check out this video by fellow travel blogger and friend Cailin O’Neil

Expect to be called a CFA

Vist newfoundland for the first time

You can’t begin to really know a culture in only six days, and I’m certainly no expert on Newfoundlanders, but there are things that grabbed me and stood out about the culture immediately. One of the first things I noticed was the use of the word ‘away’.

They use it as if it were some magical far off mythical place – like Oz. It made the whole place seem that much more romanticized as if their whole world was mystical.
“When I was away” – meaning when I was outside of Newfoundland
“When people come from away…” – visitors who have come to Newfoundland from somewhere else.
“I came back from away…” – a Newfoundlander lived outside of the province for a while and came back home.

My humorous B&B host told me that they just shorten it to CFA (come from away) or CBFA (come back from away).

Expect to be Screeched-In

That same B&B host was also the person who suggested that I go get ‘screeched-in’ at Christians Pub the first night I was there. If you fall in love with Newfoundland like I did, then you may want to become an honorary Newfoundlander and that means you must ‘screech-in’.

Screech is a colloquial term used to describe any cheap liquor in Newfoundland. It comes from the name of popular dark rum, Screech, that is often described as ‘dark and dirty’ rum. Screech was imported from Jamaica for over 200 years and it is now a part of Newfoundland culture.

Keith Vokey is a second generation resident screecher at Christian’s Pub on George Street, where he ‘performs’ about 50 Screech-ins a night!

Performed on CFA’s, it’s a fun sequence of eating a piece of steak (hot bologna), reciting an oath, kissing a codfish, and doing a shot of Screech rum. As you complete all of these tasks, Keith also fills your head with history of Newfoundland and the fishing culture that exists still in the province.

Yes, that’s right, you must kiss a fish.

“Is you a Newfoundlander?,” yells Keith. We were taught the proper response: “Indeed I is, me ol’ cock! And long may yer big jib draw!”
Translated, it means “Yes I am, my old friend, and may your sails always catch wind.”

Screeches are done at 5PM and 11:15 PM every night at Christian’s Pub. Be sure to call and make a reservation with Keith!

Expect a Lot of Color in St. John’s

I spent most of my first day in Newfoundland enjoying a perfect blue-sky day walking around the hilly city enjoying all of the colorful homes. Jelly Bean Row in St. John’s is iconic. I was surprised to find out that it’s not just one street – the brightly colored houses that look like jelly beans are all over downtown!

The theory is that the houses are brightly colored so that fisherman could find their way to St. John’s through the fog. However – it seems that it’s more likely that the houses were painted bright colors to revitalize downtown and bring some more life into a stagnating area. Whatever the reason – I loved it! ⠀

Expect a Party on George Street in St. John’s

If you want a drink in St. Johns, then head to George Street. The winters are long and dark in Newfoundland, and I’m assuming that’s why George Street exists! This is a 2 block area of downtown with only bars and restaurants (booze forward restaurants!). As I walked along the street if felt like a slice of New Orleans way up north. You could hear live music pouring from the pubs and everyone sort of spilled out on the street.

Expect An Incredible Coastline

Newfoundland has 10,900 miles of coastline. You’ll find high seacliffs, wildlife, hiking trails, and even icebergs along the coast! I spent most of my time hiking along the coast and each area was so different. My favorite spot by far was Berry Head. This incredible arch

And Finally, Expect to Have a Wonderful Time

It’s easy to fall in love with Newfoundland and it’s ultra friendly people, beautiful landscapes, and culture. Plus, where else can you kiss a fish?!

Other Important Things to Know Before You Visit Newfoundland

When Can You See Icebergs in Newfoundland’s Iceberg Alley?

Yes, that’s right, you can see icebergs floating along the coast of Newfoundland (aka Iceberg Alley). Those icebergs traveled for 2 to 3 years all the way from Greenland! It was one of these icebergs that in 1912 sank the Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland.

The icebergs come through Iceberg Alley from April to July. I was there in July, and I didn’t see any sadly. Each year is different, but May and June are best for likely best viewing.

When Can You See Whales in Newfoundland?

I may not have seen icebergs in July, but I did see plenty of whales while I was hiking along the coast! Humpbacks are the most plentiful because The world’s largest population of feeding humpback whales is found here. You’ll often spot humpbacks on the coast any time between May to September. You’ll also possibly see Minkes, Pilots, Fin, Sperm, and Orca whales.

How to Get to Newfoundland

By Air
You can fly into St. John’s International Airport. Most often you’ll stop first in Toronto.

By Newfoundland Ferry
There are two Newfoundland ferry routes. One goes from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Port Aux Basque, Newfoundland all year round and the other goes from North Sydney to Argentia, Newfoundland in June, July, August, and September.


Newfoundland Canada


I was a guest of Great Canadian Trails for my trip to Newfoundland, however all opinions expressed here are my own.

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