The community was named L'Anse aux Meaduses (Jellyfish Bay) by French migratory fishermen and its spelling and meaning was later corrupted by the English. The area has also been inhabited by the Maritime Archaic Indians, Dorset Eskimo and Proto-Beothuk.
The area gained international attention in 1960 when Helge and Anne Ingstad excavated a Viking settlement here. L'Anse aux Meadows was declared a National Historic Park in 1968 and a World Heritage Site in 1978.
The first census was taken in 1874 and showed 57 settlers but after this, the population declined and by 1921 only 15 people remained. In 1924, a cod oil factory opened and a cannery in 1930 but both ventures failed. Tourism and fishing are now the economic main stays of the community.