Those who have never been to the very tip — St. Anthony and the L’Anse aux Meadows area — are often surprised at how much there is to see and do.
In recent years, the Northern Peninsula has seen an increase in tourist activity, including more cruise ships and tour buses.
The manager of Norstead Inc., also known as the Viking Village, Deneka Burden, says there are kinds of visitors — locals, people from outside the province and country, people who come by sea and by land.
In 2015, Norstead welcomed 8,000 people to the site. In 2016, that number jumped to almost 11,000.
“Last year was the best we’ve ever had since our grand opening in 2000,” said Burden.
Many people come to L’Anse aux Meadows for the Parks Canada Viking Settlement, the area where the seafaring Scandinavians initially made their home. It depicts what Viking life would have been like when they first arrived.
But Norstead, a not-for-profit organization, is a manmade site that gives people the opportunity to see Viking life in action. There are interpreters, costumed characters and activities, as well as four buildings that resemble what would have existed if the Vikings had lived an extended time in L’Anse aux Meadows.
“We are a living history site,” Burden explained.
Some of the attractions include the boat shed, which houses Snorri — a Viking ship that was sailed from Greenland to Newfoundland in 1998 as part of the Viking 1,000-year celebration to signify Leif Ericsson’s arrival. It took 87 days to make the journey, and has been a major attraction since.
Other buildings include the Chieftain’s Hall, the church and the blacksmith’s workshop. All are open to the public during summer season, from June to late September.
“Visitors usually stay two hours,” Burden said. “Some stay for the day.”
Last year, Norstead started a storytelling program held in the evenings. As people from the area are natural storytellers, it made sense for area residents to take part in a program that showcases that talent.
The program often attracts tourists, but livyers enjoy it as well.
Visitors to Norstead can also learn weaving on a loom, nail binding (one-needle knitting), baking bread — Viking-style, dying and spinning wool, among other things.
One of the attractions younger children enjoy is the trade shop.
“With the trade shop, the kids know in advance they can trade,” Burden explained. “We have little things to trade here. And we take anything for trade from kids, of course — pencils, honey, sugar, candies. Of course, Vikings didn’t know what those things were, so the kids get to explain exactly what a candy is.”
Axe-throwing, pottery making and the Viking game Kubb are also offered.
There is so much to do, Burden was surprised herself when she was asked to list all the activities.
She has been there for 16 years, since the site opened, taking over as manager in 2016. She’s excited to be in that role for Canada 150 celebrations this year.
“Last year was my first year as manager, and I’m enjoying it to the fullest,” she said. “But, of course, I still do my interpretation. My costume is hanging in the office. Anytime I need it, it’s just right there.”
There are plans in the works for the site in conjunction with Canada, including new costumes being made locally.
Last year, Norstead hosted its first Viking Festival, which was a major success. There was an epic battle, games and prizes.
There are plans for further expansion, too, like a children’s education component for students and a pottery evening.
“I love what I do,” Burden said. “To me it’s not just a job. I have a passion for the site. I love meeting new people and giving them the history of the Viking.”
She can be found at different events each year throughout Canada that help promote the Norstead experience. This might explain why there are already many tour buses booked for 2017, and a record 14 cruise ships are expected to dock.
Things will only keep growing from here, Burden said.