The Atlantic Ocean smashing into the side of the rugged coastline, two lighthouses steeped in history, and ruins of the Second World War fortifications make up Cape Spear National Historic Site of Canada. This was my second visit to Cape Spear in less than a year, and the landscape still doesn’t fail to take my breath away. Cape Spear sees hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, who come to stand on North America’s most eastern point, explore the lighthouses, and so much more. So we decided to put together a list of must-do activities while exploring the National Historic Site.
Watch The First Sunrise in North America
A really special thing about Newfoundland is it is the first province in North America to see the sunrise. Standing on the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula, you are the first person to see the sun rise that day anywhere in North America! Cape Spear, set on a rugged cliffside overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, is the perfect place to watch the sunrise. Get there 20 minutes before the sun is set to rise, grab a seat near the light house, and watch the sky become adorned with beautiful pinks and purples. If you have the time to fit it into your schedule, catching the first sunrise on the continent is an experience you will never forget.
Stand on the Easterly Most Point in North America
Walk the paved path that takes you to the Most Easterly Point in North America. You are standing on North America’s easternmost point of land, and the home to the oldest surviving lighthouse in Newfoundland and Labrador: Cape Spear.
Visit the Lighthouse
The stark white lighthouse that stands on the end of the Avalon Peninsula is a beacon of home, welcoming, and strength for those entering the area by land or sea. The structure at Cape Spear is made up of a stone tower that emerges from the centre of the residence that the keeper and his family historically lived in. This tower was in use until 1955 when a new stand-alone, automated tower was built just down the path.
Visitors can explore the original lighthouse and learn about the Cantwell family who, for generations, tended and cared for the lighthouse. Parks Canada has diligently restored the lighthouse to its 1839 appearance to allow visitors to take a step back in time and experience life as earlier generations of Cantwells would have.
Discover the World War Two Ruins of Fort Cape Spear
Cape Spear, like many places around the world, still bears the marks of the World Wars. Wander through the remnants of the gun battery built to defend the vital port of St. John’s from the threat of German U-boats during the Second World War. Fort Cape Spear’s concrete bunkers and gun barrels, ever pointing seaward, allow each visitor that explores this piece of history to take a step back in time, and get a glimpse of what this area would have looked like during the Second World War.
As you explore the empty bunkers and gun emplacements, imagine the soldiers that once stood here scanning the horizon for enemies in the same place that you can watch for seabirds, whales, ships, and possibly icebergs.
Watch for Whales
Over 22 species of whales migrate to the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador between May and September each year to find food. During the spring and summer months you have the opportunity to sit on the cliff’s edge and see the whales. If you’re lucky, you might even see a humpback breach clear out of the ocean!
Hike the East Coast Trail
There are several hiking trails you can venture out to from Cape Spear, all of which offer dramatic views at every twist and turn, and stunning panoramic scenery. One of the starting points for the East Coast Trail begins at Cape Spear. This renowned hiking trail follows the Avalon Peninsula’s rugged coastline for over 540 km. Make sure you wear appropriate hiking footwear, bring plenty of water, a camera, and a map of the trail system.