Witless Bay

Discover Witless Bay, Newfoundland Labrador: A Scenic Outport Community

Witless Bay is a picturesque town nestled on the Avalon Peninsula in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. This traditional Newfoundland outport community is situated on the Irish Loop, 35 km south of the provincial capital, St. John's. As per the Canada 2021 Census, the town boasts a population of 1640 and is closely connected to the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. Witless Bay also serves as the backdrop for Howard Norman's novel, "The Bird Artist."

The Origin of the Name: Witless Bay, Newfoundland Labrador

The name "Witless Bay" has an interesting history. One of the first European settlers in the area was Captain Whittle, who migrated with his family from Dorset, England, to Newfoundland. The area was initially named Whittle's Bay in their honor. However, after Captain Whittle's death, his widow and children returned to England, leaving Whittle's Bay or "Whittles-less" Bay, which eventually evolved into Witless Bay.

A Glimpse into the History of Witless Bay, Newfoundland Labrador

The history of Witless Bay dates back to 1675 when it had a mere population of 34. The 1700s saw the arrival of Irish fishing servants who soon outnumbered the English settlers. In 1755, despite the prohibition of Roman Catholicism in Newfoundland, priests disguised as fishermen catered to the spiritual needs of the community.

The first official census of Newfoundland in 1836 recorded a population of 542 in Witless Bay, with 540 identifying as Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholic Church opened its doors in 1845, followed by the Presentation Sisters opening a convent and a school for girls in 1860. By 1871, the population had grown to 928.

The 1960s witnessed the resettlement of people from Gallows Cove at the southern headland of Witless Bay to the community of Witless Bay. The town was officially incorporated in 1986, with Joan Marie Yard (1943-1999) serving as the first town Manager. By 2016, the population had reached 1619, marking a 38.7% increase from 2011 and making Witless Bay the fastest-growing town in the province.

Demographics of Witless Bay, Newfoundland Labrador

According to the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Witless Bay had a population of 1,640 residing in 611 of its 656 total private dwellings. This represented a 1.3% increase from its 2016 population of 1,619. With a land area of 17.61 km2 (6.80 sq mi), the town had a population density of 93.1/km2 (241.2/sq mi) in 2021.