In 1960 on the far northern tip of Newfoundland, a local named George Decker took Helge Ingstad, a Norwegian writer and explorer, to a group of grassed-over bumps and ridges beside Epaves Bay; the place was L’Anse aux Meadows and the bumps turned out to contain the remnants of the only Norse village ever to have been discovered in North America. Ingstad dug up the foundations of eight turf and timber buildings and a ragbag of archeological finds, including a bronze cloak pin (which provided the crucial carbon dating for the site), a stone anvil, nails, pieces of bog iron, an oil lamp and a small spindle whorl. The Norwegian concluded that the remains were left behind by a group of about a hundred Viking sailors, carpenters and blacksmiths who probably remained at the site for just one or maybe two years, using it as a base for further explorations.
Begin at the visitor centre, where the Norse artefacts appear alongside exhibitions on the background to the site as well as Viking life and culture. From here it’s a few minutes’ walk to the cluster of gentle mounds that make up what’s left of the original village, and another short stroll to a group of full-scale replicas centred around a longhouse – costumed role-playing interpreters enhance the experience with demonstrations of traditional activities such as cooking, weaving and boat building.
Just 2km from the original Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows, Norstead is an impressive replica of a Norse port replete with full-scale Viking ships, a touristy but extremely entertaining glimpse into Viking life a thousand years ago. Costumed interpreters lead hands-on activities, tell stories in the chieftain’s hall and demonstrate ancient crafts like spinning and pot making.