We’ve all been there. Visiting a new place, falling in love with the people, the views, the culture, and wanting to memorialize your trip with a physical item or share something tangible with a loved one who has never been. While I personally like to rely on my own photos, postcards, and the occasional sticker, there are some really cool souvenirs out there that aren’t your typical tacky plastic magnet, awkward figurine, or cheeky Christmas ornament (although buying something like that from every place you visit can become a super fun tradition!).
Being from Newfoundland, I think I’m pretty qualified to share the best of the best in local souvenirs that aren’t imported from overseas and that are representative of NL culture and tradition. But to each their own. You buy what grabs your attention. I’m just here to make some thoughtful suggestions:
Wool socks or mittens. Whether you buy them at a quaint local boutique like Nonia or purchase from someone’s Nan at a craft fair, you’ll be doing yourself and our community some good buy purchasing a pair of knitted socks or mittens in traditional Newfoundland patterns. They’re the warmest, coziest accessories you can find. I love mine that my Mom found at a local craft fair.
Something made with seal fur. Keychains, mittens, hats, slippers, boots, and jackets. No matter your price range, you can find a locally-made seal fur treasure. Most Newfoundlanders are supporters of the seal hunt, myself included. I won’t get political here, but please do your research around where you purchase these items. Talk to local vendors, shop around. The items are absolutely beautiful and a great representation of NL heritage.
A handmade quilt. Okay, I admit this one may be tough to fit in your suitcase, but if you’re road-tripping and maybe getting on the ferry in your car? You’ll make it work. Handmade quilts are deeply rooted in Newfoundland history and tradition. They were often made from scraps of old blankets and clothing in an effort to make the absolute most out of a family’s belongings and they were essential for cold, harsh winters. Nowadays, they are still useful for keeping warm but are seen as more of a skilled art. They are brightly coloured like our landscapes and row houses. They are intricately designed and made with lots of love. You’ll find handmade quilts in almost any outport craft shop or in gift shops around St. John’s and Corner Brook.
Yummy treats. There are so many infamous snacks and traditional treats in Newfoundland and Labrador. Some items you might want to grab include pineapple crush, Newfoundland Sayings bars from the Newfoundland Chocolate Company, tea buns and homemade jam from a local market, Five Brothers Cheese, or a gift pack from the Newfoundland Distillery Co.
A book. While NL may not be known as a literary hub, we have some fantastic authors, publishers, and books. Check out Boulder Books, Breakwater Books, and Flanker Press. Some of my favourites include Rock, Paper, Sex by Kerri Cull, Hikes of Newfoundland by Broadhurst, Fortin, Smyth, and Hollingshurst, and Haunted Stories by Dale Jarvis.
Souvenir Shops I Recommend
Posie Row & Co., Johnny Ruth, and the St. John’s Farmer’s Market are all places to get the items I’ve mentioned above as well as other charming, fun, and unique Newfoundland and Labrador finds. They are a collective of local artists and makers who deserve your love and attention. The Heritage Shop has two locations, one on Water Street and one on Duckworth, and the proceeds from these shops go to the Historic Sites Association of Newfoundland and Labrador to promote, preserve, and protect our heritage-based and historical sites.
While these are just some examples of local souvenirs that I love and think somewhat accomplish the impossible task of representing an entire province, population, culture, and history in one small, luggage-friendly item; there are common rules that you can apply when souvenir shopping anywhere in the world. First, look for items produced locally or purchase from locally-owned shops– avoid chain souvenir shops as much as you can because they’re not sustainable, they’re often not contributing to the economy or wellbeing of the community you’re visiting, and they often overcharge for dime-a-dozen items. Secondly, look for items or shops with a backstory. Maybe it represents the history of the place or references a funny anecdote from your trip, or maybe there’s a cause the brand supports or local ingredients are used that cannot be found anywhere else. Thirdly, think “will I use this?” “will my friend use this?” “will this end up in my junk drawer?” “will this get thrown away almost immediately?” Finally, look for items you haven’t seen before (unless you’re a collector) because the uniqueness of an item speaks volumes about the character of the place you’ve visited.
I hope you have a wonderful trip to Newfoundland and Labrador.