St. John’s, Newfoundland is the capital of Newfoundland & Labrador. It is a fairly small city, but doesn’t lack for charm or attractions. It is also one of the oldest city in North America and features the oldest street, Water Street. The people are extremely friendly and greet visitors by asking “are you from away?” The city is known for its Irish roots and the people see Ireland in the green, rocky landscape. Celtic Music, traditional and modern, is everywhere. Another interesting feature of the city are the old houses along the shore, which are as colourful as the people
Things to do in St. John’s
The Rooms (Museum of Newfoundland & Labrador)
This is the official museum of Newfoundland. The name is from the buildings fishermen use when tallying and cleaning their catch at the end the day. These “Rooms” were places of socialization and storytelling, making it the perfect name for the museum. The Rooms has permanent exhibits about the province’s history, and special temporary exhibits about the culture and heritage of the city. An art gallery featuring Newfoundland talent and archives also are held within this museum.
Signal Hill & Marconi Tower
Signal Hill is the site of the Marconi tower, from where the first telegraph signal in North America was sent. The tower is in excellent condition, and visitors can walk around inside of it. Long before the first telegraph was sent, this site was used to look out for invaders and send signals of danger to the area. This history and its significance is why it is a national historic site. This site is just outside of St John’s and part of any tour of the area.
Cape spear is the most eastern point of North America. The cape features boardwalks that take visitors safely around the shoreline (do not go too near the shores, as it is very dangerous), a lighthouse and a memorial in honour of the men and women who died on the sea – especially those who served their country in the navy during the two world wars. The scenery is striking: rough and rocky. Bring your camera, you’ll want to capture the images. This site is just outside of St John’s and is a stop on most tours routes.
These two activities are extremely popular. There is an area just outside of Newfoundland called Iceberg alley. This area of the ocean is so named because of the ‘migration’ of icebergs into and out of the area each year. They are only around for a short time, so if this is a priority of your trip make sure you book your trip accordingly. The trips are contingent upon good weather, and if the sea is too rough the boat will not sail
The area around Newfoundland is connected by a series of scenic drives. There are six such trails which you can drive yourself, or hire a driver from a tour company to take you. Each drive highlights the history and heritage of the area, form the earliest settlements to modern day. The most popular of these tours is the Irish Loop. This is a tour of the green hilly landscape that immigrants named because it reminded them of their Irish homeland. Archeological sites and more await you on this trail.
Basilica of St. John The Baptist
You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the amazing architecture of this old and majestic church. Anyone with an interested in heritage buildings or architecture will marvel at this basilica and its stunning features. The stained glass windows are especially striking, and cast an ethereal light into the navel.
Whale watching is another marine activity that is very popular with tourists. Whale species are often seen swimming offshore. Book a tour operator to take you out to the ocean to watch these magnificent water mammals. As with iceberg tours, the trip will be cancelled if the sea is too rough or dangerous.
Johnson Geo Centre
This is the premier science centre of the Maritimes. Its focus is the unique landscape and geological formation of Newfoundland (colloquially referred to as “The Rock”) and Labrador. Visitors can explore the natural history of our planet and discover how the earth’s earliest history shaped the Earth’s early and current landforms. A great place for families with curious children and adults with an interested in science.
Quidi Vidi Village
A tiny village outside St Johns, Quidi Vidi is quaint and peaceful. The town is situated on a peaceful lake. If you have time, the trail around the lake is pretty and calm, a perfect way to relax. The village is often part of tours of St John’s area. The lake marks the starting point of the annual St. John’s sailing Regatta.
George Street is famous for its pubs. The Street is entirely pubs, and some of the most historic and famous ones are here. You could pub-crawl all night down the row, or try a different pub each night you are in town. (Just remember to drink responsible and call a cab to get to your accommodations!)
Getting to and around
St John’s has its own international airport within the city and only 10 minutes away from central St John’s. There are ferries to and from Mainland Canada. Including the drive to the ferry station, it takes about 12 hours. This can be a rough ride, depending on the sea, so most visitors prefer to fly. It’s faster and more comfortable. Within the city there is public transit available. The downtown core and seaside areas are perfect for walking. Car rentals are available, but driving in the city can be daunting for those unfamiliar with it. The streets are narrow and often extremely steep. The drivers themselves are also unpredictable, which makes driving less than appealing for outsiders. While in Newfoundland, you should definitely take a taxi. The drivers are an attraction themselves, friendly, chatty and honest. You may not understand the heavy Newfoundland brogue, but you’ll be entertained! Taxi prices are reasonable, too. There are many attractions around Newfoundland, and the best way to see them is to book a tour. There are dozens of independent tour operators who will take you to the key sites and explain the history and stories behind them.