Newfoundland hangs off the northeast edge of North America, an island that can seem like a world of its own to outsiders.
I dropped into St. John's, the largest city and capital of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. My weekend visit went far too quickly, but I got a small taste and brief glimpse of what it means to be a Newfie.
The island has a population of just more than a half-million people, living together on a large, bitterly cold rock in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. The natives are descended from a centuries-long heritage of rough-and-tumble sailors and fishermen who landed upon the coasts of Newfoundland from Ireland and England.
The residents today still revel in their history, proud to be able to withstand the rough elements that persist nearly year-round and knowing they share a special bond that mainlanders will never be able to understand.
Yes, Newfies are tough. But that does not mean they are unfriendly. In fact, quite the opposite.
They openly welcome visitors to come give the island a try, and revel in sharing some of their admittedly quirky traditions and the unique features of the island.
About My Trip with GMC
The luxury truck was the perfect vehicle to zoom all around the island. It is spacious, fits up to five people -- with three in a roomy crew cab -- and has a large truck bed for hauling things like bikes, kayaks and camping equipment. GMC was showing off the 2019 model of its Sierra to highlight the features that make it a good fit for people who live or travel to rugged places like Newfoundland, which offers a slew of adventure opportunities.
Don't worry, my truck lovers, gearheads and auto aficionados, you can read more about what exactly the new GMC Sierra has to offer right here.
8 Things I Had Fun Doing on My Visit to Newfoundland
This is a welcoming ceremony to initiate visitors as honorary Newfoundlanders. So, there I was in the back yard of a the Mallard Cottage restaurant, which is an old wooden residential structure that is listed on the Canada registry of historic places, unsure exactly what this Screech-In ceremony held for me.
It's a boisterous little event, and I was joined by a dozen others who are asked to eat a salted capelin fish, a bit of Newfie steak (fried bologna) and kiss a big codfish before downing a shot of Screech, which is a Jamaican rum. The ceremony can only be officiated by a native and is not complete until we complete a recitation. Asked "Are ye a screecher?" Our response is "Deed I is, me ol' cock, and long may yer big jib draw!" This means "Yes, I am, my old friend, and may your sails always catch wind."
We stumble through our responses with varying degrees of success and are all welcomed as honorary Newfies for our visits. It's a truly fun way to kick off our trip and serves as prelude for a fine night of dining and drinking with new friends.
Passion was at play, obviously, when they named Heart's Desire, Heart's Delight, Heart's Content and Cupids. I stopped to snap a shot of the colorful fishing shacks near a bay in Heart's Delight.
Quidi Vidi is also home to Mallard Cottage, the historic wooden Irish-Newfoundland-style building that is an amazing restaurant that serves up regional cuisine. But my favorite reason to come here is Quidi Vidi Brewing Co., where you can sit back and enjoy the scenery while downing varieties such as Iceberg Beer.
You can expect to come face to face with thousands of Atlantic puffins, which are the island's mascot and have attained protected status, meaning there are numerous colonies that make their homes along the rocky coastline. Whales, dolphins and porpoises also ply the waters off Newfoundland. Minke, humpbacks, blues or orcas can be spotted. Sea kayaking and fishing excursions are also available.
Thanks for reading, and you can find a few more of the best things to do in Newfoundland in my video below.