At the very end of Route 436 lies L’Anse aux Meadows, 48 kilometers from St. Anthony and as far as you can drive up the Northern Peninsula. It was here that the Vikings came ashore more than 1,000 years ago—the first Europeans to step foot in North America. Two Viking attractions make the drive worthwhile, but there’s also a fine restaurant and lots of wild and rugged scenery.
L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site
Costumed interpreters reenact the roles and work of the Norse captain, his wife, and four crew members.Long before archaeologists arrived, Newfoundlanders were aware of the odd-shaped sod-covered ridges across the coastal plain at L’Anse aux Meadows. George Decker, a local fisherman, led Norwegian scholar-explorer Helge Ingstad and his wife, archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad, to the area in the 1960s. The subsequent digs uncovered eight complexes of rudimentary houses, workshops with fireplaces, and a trove of artifacts, which verified the Norse presence. National recognition and site protection followed, leading to the creation of the L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site in 1977 and to UNESCO designating it a World Heritage Site the following year.
A Visitor Reception Centre (Rte. 436, 709/623-2608; June and Sept.-early Oct. daily 9am-5pm, July-Aug. daily 9am-6pm; adult $12, senior $10, child $6) has been developed above the site. Here, you can admire excavated artifacts, view site models, and take in an audiovisual presentation. A gravel path and boardwalk lead across the grassy plain to the site of the settlement, where panels describe the original uses of buildings now marked by depressions in the grass-covered field. Just beyond is a settlement of re-created buildings overlooking Epaves Bay. Costumed interpreters reenact the roles and work of the Norse captain, his wife, and four crew members.
Just beyond the turnoff to L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site is Norstead (Rte. 436, 709/623-2828; mid-June-mid-Sept. daily 9am-6pm; adult $10, senior $8, child $6.50), the re-creation of a Viking port of trade. Aside from the Viking theme, it has little resemblance to how the Vikings of L’Anse aux Meadows lived, but it is still well worth visiting. Right on the water, you can see a full-size replica of a Viking ship, listen to stories in the dimly lit Chieftains Hall, watch a blacksmith at work, and sample bread as it comes from the oven in the dining hall. The costumed interpreters bring this place to life, and you can easily spend an hour or more listening and watching them at work and play.
Food near L’Anse aux Meadows
Amazingly, at the end of the road is one of the finest dining rooms in all of Newfoundland, the Norseman Restaurant (709/623-2766 or 877/623-2018; late May-late Sept. daily noon-9pm; $19-36). Admittedly, the ocean views add to the appeal, but the food is fresh and creative, the service professional, and the setting casual yet refined. Starters include a smooth shellfish-less seafood chowder, smoked char, and lots of salads. Ordering lobster takes a little more effort than usual—you’ll be invited to wander across the road with your waitress to pick one from an ocean pond. Other entrées include cod baked in a mustard and garlic crust and grilled Labrador caribou brushed with a red-wine glaze. Still hungry? It’s hard to go past a slice of freshly baked pie filled with local berries.
The Dark Tickle Company (75 Main St., Griquet, 709/623-2354; June-Sept. daily 9am-6pm, Oct.-May Mon.-Fri. 9am-5pm) uses locally harvested berries to create a delicious array of jams, preserves, sauces, and even chocolates and wines. You can watch the various processes in creating the finished product, but you’ll also want to sample and purchase them from the attached store.
Accommodations and Camping
The village of L’Anse aux Meadows comprises just a smattering of homes on the headland. For overnight accommodations, there are a few choices back toward St. Anthony, all more enjoyable than staying in one of St. Anthony’s nondescript motels.
The closest accommodations are in Hay Cove, a cluster of houses two kilometers before the end of the road. Stay in one of five comfortable guest rooms at Jenny’s Runestone House (709/623-2811 or 877/865-3958, April-Oct.; $90-150 s or d) and enjoy oceans views and a hot breakfast each morning. Also in Hay Cove, Viking Village Bed and Breakfast (709/623-2238 or 877/858-2238, $65 s, $88 d) has five en suite guest rooms, ocean views, a TV room, and laundry facilities.
The units at Southwest Pond Cabins (Rte. 436, Griquet, 709/623-2140 or 800/515-2261, May-Oct.; $109 s or d) overlook a small lake nine kilometers from L’Anse aux Meadows. Each of 10 spacious wooden cabins has a kitchen, separate bedrooms, satellite TV, and a bathroom. Other amenities include a playground, barbecues, and a grocery store.
At the top of the list for originality is Quirpon Lighthouse Inn (Quirpon Island, 709/634-2285 or 877/254-6586, May-Oct., $275-27325 s, $375-425 d), a converted light-keeper’s residence and modern addition that house a total of 11 guest rooms, each with an en suite bath. Rates include all meals and boat transfers (45 minutes) from Quirpon. To get to Quirpon, turn off Route 436, six kilometers beyond Griquet. Watch icebergs float by and whales frolic in the surrounding waters, or join a Zodiac tour searching out whales and icebergs ($50 extra per person).
One of the few commercial campgrounds this far north is Viking RV Park (Rte. 436, Quirpon, 709/623-2425; June-Sept.), where tent campers pay $18 and RVs wanting hookups are charged $28 per night.
It’s 40 kilometers (40 minutes) north from St. Anthony to L’Anse aux Meadows via Route 430 and Route 436. From the ferry terminal in Port-aux-Basques, it’s 700 kilometers (10 hours) north to L’Anse aux Meadows via Route 1, 430, and 436.
Excerpted from the Eighth Edition of Moon Atlantic Canada.