As summer approached the Vineyard last year, I decided on a brief escape to another less touristy island. I wanted a little time in a quieter place to be ready for the Vineyard’s summer onslaught. Newfoundland, Canada was the island I chose.

I selected it for a variety of reasons. I knew that June, July and August were iceberg season and July and August is a popular whale-watching time. So I arranged to visit western Newfoundland in late June. Whales would be breaching (and they were) and icebergs and growlers (grand piano-sized icebergs) and bergy bits (dropoffs from big icebergs) would be floating offshore. There would also be sunlight until 9 at night.

Two of Canada’s 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites — Gros Morne National Park and l’Anse aux Meadows — are in western Newfoundland. At Gros Morne, the mountains are 20 times older than the Rockies.

Socks drying on the line, it's Newfoundland time. — Phyllis Meras

As for l’Anse aux Meadows, it is the oldest European settlement in the new world, established by the Vikings in the 11th century. On the Vineyard on a Chilmark slope overlooking Quitsa Pond, there is a large series of stones placed on edge with a bigger flat stone on top. This is known as the Quitsa Cromlec, according to the late historian Gale Huntington. Some say that it marks the grave of a Viking who landed here centuries ago. I thought I might find out at l’Anse aux Meadow whether that Chilmark cromlech could really be genuine.

So off I went. I had a chilly, but fascinating time. This year marks the 250th anniversary of Capt. James Cook’s surveying western Newfoundland’s Bay of Islands. There are special exhibits about him in Corner Brook that overlooks the Bay of Islands, and in Gros Morne National Park. The Tall Ships that were recently in Boston harbor will be in Corner Brook July 29 and 30 and in Gros Morne July 31 and August 1.

As well as surveying, Cook was searching for codfish, and for centuries after that codfishing provided the livelihood for many Newfoundlanders. It was not until the mid-1960s when codfish began to be scarce and limits were put on the size of catches, that the commercial drying and salting of cod came to an end in the province.

In Vineyard waters, too, codfish were once plentiful. Bartholomew Gosnold’s journal keeper, Gabriel Archer, remarked on the codfish the expedition seen in Island waters in 1602.

The Tall Ships are only an incidental attraction at the 696-square-mile Gros Morne National Park. Here, in this northernmost section of the Appalachians, is a stretch of brown weathered volcanic rock that is 500 million years old, I learned. But there are also fjords, lakes, bays, beaches, sand dunes, forests of juniper and larch and black spruce, fishing villages, camp sites, pastures where sheep graze, hiking trails edged with wildflowers, tasty cloudberries, partridge berries and giant blueberries. There are trailside pitcher plants that eat insects. Arctic hares, caribou, moose and ptarmigan are frequently sighted. In summer, geologists give guided tours of the park. Admittedly, I shivered on the one that I took, but that was in June. I would have done better (but might have missed the really big icebergs) if I had waited until July to go.

Cromlech in Chilmark, perhaps a sign that Vikings visited the Vineyard.

To reach Newfoundland’s other UNESCO World Heritage site, l’Anse aux Meadows, you follow the coast for about four and a half hours. The highway passes through seafront villages with brightly-painted waterfront houses. With the tourist season about to begin when I was there, entrepreneurial housewives were hanging out just-knitted socks on their clotheslines to sell to passing motorists. Since limited codfishing is now allowed, modest waterfront cafes had codfish chowder and codfish with brewes (a kind of softened hardtack), codfish tongues and codfish cakes on their menus and cloud berry pie for dessert.

L’Anse aux Meadows, now verified as the first landing place of the Vikings in North America, was not discovered until 1960 by a Norwegian lawyer, writer and explorer named Helge Ingstadt.

On a visit to the area then, he met a local inhabitant who told him of artifacts he had seen that might suggest that l’Anse aux Meadows had been an early Norse settlement.. Items included part of a soapstone spindle and a bronze ring. Further investigations unearthed ancient hearths and turf walls. Ingstadt’s wife, an archeologist, was convinced of their Norse origin. In the 1970s, more archaeological remains were uncovered and by 1978, enough had been found for UNESCO to agree that a 1000 A.D. Viking settlement had been found —and to honor it with a World Heritage Site title.

I saw both what remains of the original settlement and reconstructed sod-covered buildings. There people dressed as Vikings were at work cooking over an open fire, making cloth, repairing tools and fashioning articles from wood. It is believed that the settlers at l’Anse aux Meadows came from Iceland and made this spot on the Newfoundland coast their winter home. If pressed, the Norse actors will recount tales of their crossing of the Atlantic. They will talk of the animals they brought with them, and of designing their transatlantic boats. But, sadly, they had no insights into our Quitsa Cromlech.

A little more than a mile away is what today’s Newfies (Newfoundlanders) think the original settlement must have been like. It is known that the Vikings brought animals with them, so there are farm animals. There’s a sod-covered boat-building shed and gift items for tourists. In the distance, the Atlantic thuds, and there in Iceberg Alley soaring icebergs and smaller growlers and bergie bits were passing by.

Tour boat captains from the island of Quipon happily take wide-eyed visitors like me out to see these towering guests that have floated to Newfoundland waters from Greenland and to offer us a taste of truly fresh ice water. How late in the season the icebergs float by depends, of course, on the weather.

But even when there are no icebergs, (and there were plenty of them when I was there), the humpback and minke whales that I saw are almost always sighted, along with playful dolphins and gannets diving for fish into the cold green sea. Although I flew both to and from Newfoundland, I was tempted to leave from Port aux Bassques on a six-hour ferry that goes to North Sydney, Nova Scotia. I could then have explored that quieter spot too before heading back to the Vineyard’s summer bustle. But in Newfoundland, I had at least two weeks of seeing a wild, untrammeled land, whales and icebergs, geological wonders and Viking artifacts.