Labrador is 'The Big Land'--the mainland portion of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Despite occupying an area larger than the island of Newfoundland itself, Labrador has a population of just under 30,000. The region covers the eastern coast of mainland Canada from the Strait of Belle Isle to the southeast, to the eastern half of the Labrador Peninsula that lies by Ungava Bay in the north, as well as a portion of interior land to the west. It shares a border with the northern portion of the province of Quebec, although the border itself is still a contentious issue between Newfoundland & Labrador and Quebec.
Within Labrador, one can hardly speak of cities in the usual sense. Here's a list of the important communities, historically and presently:
Labrador is home to the largest herds of Caribou in the world, and is teeming with the kind of abundant wildlife often associated with the northern portion of Canada. Home to a typically diverse population of Euro-Canadians and Natives (Inuit, Innu, Metis), Labrador is a site of first contact between peoples--it is often considered to be Markland, one of the locations visited by Leif Ericson in the 11th Century. Despite its rich history and resources, the region and the people of Labrador are not wealthy. The region has been historically isolated, with roads such as the Trans-Labrador Highway being recent projects. In many ways, the relationship between Labrador and its historical 'parent,' Newfoundland, has been a microcosm of the relationship between the province of Newfoundland & Labrador and the government of Canada--Labrador often feels ignored and exploited by the island government in Newfoundland. Nonetheless, like Newfoundland, Labrador is culturally rich and is an interesting destination for tourists that is off-the-beaten path.
A note of caution: While often interesting to visit, many Labrador Native communities do not encourage tourist 'invasions'. Respect the wishes of the local culture as you would in any other place.
It is worth noting that the languages of Native peoples are still widely spoken as first languages for much of the Native population. English is the main language of most people, and even if not, majority of the people can speak it to some degree.
From the south travel to Labrador is by ferry from Newfoundland to Blanc Sablon Quebec. It is then approx 5 kilometres east to the Labrador border. Apparently the ferry may not be running during the winter, depending on conditions in the Belle Isle strait.
Labrador City: tours of massive iron mines can be taken on Sundays and Tuesdays, they must be booked in advance with the Labrador West tourist office.
Churchill: Only one thing to do here; take a tour of one of the largest dams in Canada. Info and reservations can be obtained by calling a tourist liason in Churchill at 709 925 3335.
Happy Valley/Goose Bay: Muskrat falls just outside of town on the Trans Labrador Highway is impressive and a must see. The goose bay airport houses a NATO training base where German airmen can be seen practicing air manuevers in fighter jets. Northwest river a town to the north, houses a population of Inuit as well as a mueseum that chronicles the aboriginal history in the area.
Southern Labrador: There exists one of North America's oldest burial sites. Red Bay is a village at an old Basque whaling station. The paved road ends here. The scenery along this road is beautiful yet harsh enough to remind the traveller that those who live here are toughened by the elements that shape their existence every day. The coastline is beautiful with distant mountains and a pseudo tundra as the backdrop.
Labrador City: McDonalds, Marybrown's(fried chicken), an assortment of family owned restaurants ranging in basic fast food fare to family style hotel/restaurants.
Churchill: Well stocked market and the Midway Restaurant serving decent breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as fastfood fare.
Happy Valley/Goose Bay: KFC, BurgerKing, A&W, MaryBrown's, Pizza Delight, as well as a surprisingly wide selection of bars grills and family owned stands. There is a co-op market as well as a second supermarket offering surprsingly fresh produce, great cuts of meat, and standard pre-prepared food. These two markets are as good as any supermarket found in the more "civilized" southern Canada.
Towns other than these have less options, usually consisting of a few bars and cornerstores and maybe a bakery.
Roadhouses are the most common, don't expect to be treated to winetasting with a pianist playing classical music in the background. You will find a stunning array of hard liquors, molson or Labatt beer, and plenty of country music at these bars.
There is a lot of very hungry bugs (mosquitoes and black flies) during spring and summer. Bring bug spray with lots of DEED.
Bring a full gas can if the distances may be too great for your car (lower kmpg/mpg, small tank) and refuel every time you have an opportunity; although unlikely, it may happen that gas station in the next community is closed and you would need to proceed to the next one (safe places on the Trans-Labrador Highway with multiple gas stations are Blanc Sablon, Port Hope Simpson, Goose Bay and Labrador City/Wabush). Bring a basic first aid kit as the nearest clinic can be hundreds km/miles away. Bring duct tape for repairs on loose parts, bumpers, etc.
When driving in spring (during thaw and post-thaw reconstructions), on local roads or in a lower-riding car, marine epoxy and cork plugs may come handy as you may experience punctures in gas tank, fuel lines or oil pan from rocks; also bring at least two full-size spares, you may easily tear your tires apart if they are not reinforced. During summer, all major highways are in a good shape and can be easily driven on with some extra caution. During winter, it is very challenging because you may get stuck for days due to snowdrifts and there is very little traffic to help you. Bring extra can of gas (or two), heater, food, sleeping bag, lots of clothing and a sat phone — free rental offered by the provincial government in most communities but you should reserve it in advance, they may run out of stock. Note that any assistance will likely be very expensive, to the point that it may be way cheaper to abandon your car than to tow it back.
Road conditions vary from sections of good paved roads (around main towns) to gravel roads where highway speeds are possible (main highways in summer), to washboarded/rocky roads that can literally shake a car apart or send it into a ditch (during thaw and on local roads). Always drive at a safe speed, there is no need to drive at the speeds that the locals do (up to 110 km/70 mph on gravel, up to 160 km/100 mph on paving), it is always better to make it late than not at all but obviously watch out for people who do drive fast. Also watch out for moose, caribou and porcupine as they all obviously can disable your cars in varying ways; because of them, prefer not to drive after dusk.
Always turn your lights on and overtake only when the driver in front of you signalizes that it is safe or pulls over. Beware that dust clouds can easily hide other cars and you may see their lights too late (both in front of you and opposing). When passing opposing traffic, stay as much to the right as possible but still keep safe distance from the ditch, and on narrower or more rocky roads also slow down or even stop to prevent your and the other driver's windscreens from being broken. Some locals also turn their wipers on but it is uncertain if that helps. You may also want to clean your car's air filter from time to time because there will be a lot of dust accumulated, increasing fuel consumption noticeably.
If you have a rented car, be aware that eventhough many rental companies state that you can drive their car anywhere in Canada, the Collision Damage Waiver and roadside assistance are most likely void on unpaved roads and even on paving, any assistance in remote areas is problematic and can take a lot of time (also some paved parts are separated from all major communities with gravel parts and therefore your assistance may be void there as well). You are on your own.
If you drive trans-Labrador, note that the worst section (bad surface, narrow windy road, dangerous railroad crossings) is actually Route 389 in Quebec between km 482 and Fermont (km 562). The locals call this stretch “The Trail”.