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Geotourism Launches in Newfoundland

Eastern Newfoundland Geotourism MapGuide Rolls Out

The latest National Geographic Geotourism MapGuide project rolled out for eastern Newfoundland last week, providing both a living website and a print map. As typical for these projects, a lot of Newfoundlanders helped.

Summer festivals are one place to find Newfoundland's delicious but scarce mooseburgers. Photo: Jonathan Tourtellot
Summer festivals are one place to find Newfoundland’s delicious but elusive moose-burgers. Photo: Jonathan Tourtellot

This geotourism project is personal for me. When my wife and I first decided in 2005 to flee the steamy Washington DC summer and visit St. John’s and the Avalon Peninsula, I rapidly came to the conclusion that Newfoundland was a perfect geotourism destination—deep sense of place, with distinctive nature, culture, history, architecture, and plenty of local pride. Further explorations westward only confirmed our impressions.

Wide open scenery, wildlife ranging from gannets to moose, rugged coasts, tiny fishing harbors—these you might expect. Better yet, Newfoundlanders themselves show just as much character as “The Rock” they live on.

Gannet colony on Cape St. Mary's, Newfoundland. Photo: Jonathan Tourellot
Gannet rookery on Cape St. Mary’s, Newfoundland. Photo: Jonathan Tourellot

We found that theater, for instance, is woven into local culture. If you take in a play there, chances are it will not be some Broadway retread, but a drama based on this sprawling island’s own history and way of life. Music, too, crops up frequently, especially in St. John’s, contributing to feeling that you’re in some cold-latitude cousin to New Orleans.

So it was rewarding to see in 2010 that I was not alone in my assessment. The Avalon Peninsula scored first place on the  Destination Scorecard survey in National Geographic Traveler—best of 99 coastal destinations rated that year.

Not all is perfect, of course. St. John’s is spilling generic urban sprawl into neighboring parts of the peninsula, and backcountry restaurants—well, the cuisine is just starting to see needed improvement, although the local ingredients are great. Some people now fear that new oil wealth will introduce generic commercialization and erode Newfoundland’s distinctive character.

Historic houses at Trinity, Newfoundland. Photo: Jonathan Tourtellot
Historic houses at Trinity, Newfoundland. Photo: Jonathan Tourtellot

Maybe—but if anyone can resist that tendency, it will be Newfoundlanders. This is a place where visitors can have fun adventures among friendly, outgoing people with an acute sense of who they are.

After my first visit, numerous discussions and more visits over the years eventually led Newfoundlanders to team up with National Geographic Maps and Solimar International to create this year’s Geotourism MapGuide and website. Take a look.



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