Hopedale, Newfoundland and Labrador: The Place of Whales
In the north of Labrador, part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, lies a small, sleepy town called Hopedale.
Originally called Arvertok (Inuktitut for “the place of whales”), Hopedale was given its name by missionaries from Germany who arrived there in 1782. The land settled by those Moravian missionaries has not changed much in the intervening years, retaining much of its old-fashioned charm.
Preserving history, one old building at a time
The town is home to some of the oldest buildings in Canada, including the Hopedale Mission — Canada’s oldest wood-frame building east of Quebec. It was named a national historic site in 1970. At the Hopedale Mission Complex and Interpretation Center, you can see many of the artifacts that have survived from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The town was also home to Hopedale Air Station, a radar station used by the US Air Force from 1953 to 1968 and then abandoned.
What is the Nunatsiavut Assembly?
Nunatsiavut, which means “our beautiful land” in Inuktitut , is an autonomous area belonging to the Inuit people; Hopedale is the capital of the Nunatsiavut government. The Nunatsiavut Assembly is composed of at least sixteen members. The assembly building was built using local, iridescent labradorite stone tiles ; legend has it that the dazzling Northern Lights were once captured in the rocks of the coast of Labrador, giving them their unique coloring.
Having fun in Hopedale, Newfoundland
As well as visiting the Moravian Mission Complex, you can hike to the old radar station to take in the remarkable view, buy hand-sewn gifts, or meet local carvers. In the spring you can check out the Ethel Pijogge Memorial Heritage Festival, or if you’re visiting in July, you can enjoy the annual Rhubarb Festival. For accommodation, try somewhere rustic and affordable like the Amaguk Inn.
What’s the weather like?
The region has a cold climate, with an average annual temperature of 28°F (temperatures fluctuate between 51°F in August and 3°F in January). With an average annual rainfall of 32 inches, be sure to remember your umbrella.
Hopedale is a very small town, with a population of only 583. As one might expect from its history, 93% of the town’s residents are Inuit, 5% are European, and 2% are Punjabi.
How do you get there?
Access can be tricky. There are no roads connecting the town with the rest of Newfoundland and Labrador, so you’ll have to take a plane to Hopedale Airport, possibly using Goose Bay Airport as a transfer point for a connecting flight. There’s also a ferry connecting Hopedale with five other Nunatsiavut communities. The few roads in town are paved with gravel, and local transportation consists mostly of cars, trucks, and ATVs. In the winter, you’ll probably also see a few snowmobiles.
Getting away from it all
Whether you’re interested in Inuit history or just looking for a place to escape the hectic pace of modern life, Hopedale, Newfoundland has plenty to offer. It might take some effort to get there, but it’s well worth it!