St. John’s is a beautiful and vibrant city filled with great food and drink, the refreshing tang of the ocean, and brightly coloured homes lining the streets. In the last year I have had the opportunity to spend several days in St. John’s during both the summer and winter months, taking full advantage of everything the town has to offer – from the dramatic views you find at every turn to the fantastic drink and food. On my second visit, Chris joined me and I made it my mission to explore even more than I had previously – and return to show him all the best things to do in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Watch the Sunrise
Most people don’t take the opportunity while they travel to get up and watch the sunrise. One of the coolest things about being in Newfoundland is it is the first province in North America to watch the sunrise (& set).
Two of the best places to head for sunrise in St. John’s are Signal Hill National Historic Site and Cape Spear National Historic Site. Signal Hill offers a nice view of the Narrows, downtown St. John’s, and Cabot Tower itself as the sun rises. Once the sun comes up above the horizon, you can enjoy a great hike down the North Head Trail. Check out my early morning experience watching the Sunrise at Signal Hill.
The other awesome spot to check out sunrise is Cape Spear National Historic Site. Cape Spear is the most easterly point in North America, and is therefore the very first place the sun rises on the continent. Perched on a rugged cliff is the beautiful Cape Spear Lighthouse, the oldest surviving lighthouse in the province, and an iconic symbol of the province. If you are lucky, you will see a pod of whales to top off your already incredible experience at this National Historic site. Read about our experience watching the first sunrise of the New Year at Cape Spear.
Hike Signal Hill
Signal Hill is a symbol of military history and communications innovation that can be seen anywhere across St. John’s and as far away as Cape Spear. Perched atop of a hill at the harbour’s mouth, the views from Signal Hill are unlike any other. To add to the view, you can hike the North Head Trail down the rugged cliff, along the Narrows and into the Battery.
The North Head Trail is a 1.7 km trail that takes approximately 90 minutes to complete. Hiking along this train, you will climb and descend almost 500 feet. Make sure to check out more information on the trail and my hiking experience!
Take a Tour of Quidi Vidi Brewery & Village
The beautiful little fishing community of Quidi Vidi sits to the north of Signal Hill, and now forms part of the town of St. John’s. Today the community is also home to Newfoundland’s largest and very popular micro-brewery, The Quidi Vidi Brewing Company. The brewery runs tours from Monday to Saturday throughout the day, and allows you to taste their eight unique beers made with their distinctive ingredient – water harvested directly from the majestic icebergs that drift off that coast of Newfoundland!
Explore The Rooms
The Rooms is home to the provincial museum, the provincial archives, and the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador. These three facilities offer exhibits that give visitors an insight into the local history and culture. The Rooms sits on a ridge above the city making it visible from many places in St. John’s. Apart from touring through the exhibits The Rooms has a Cafe (The Rooms Cafe) where you can enjoy some delicious food and drink while overlooking the harbour.
Visit Johnson Geo Centre
The Johnson Geo Centre is a place for all ages to visit. Located on the side of Signal Hill, the science centre is uniquely designed to incorporate the surrounding terrain. The center takes visitors beneath Signal Hill and into the 550-million year old rock bed. Through a variety of interactive exhibits and guided tours you will learn about the history of both Newfoundland and our planet, the forces of nature that helped shape the land today, and the tragic story of the sinking of the Titanic.
Go Whale Watching
You are in for a treat when you head out on the open waters. With over 22 species of whales and the world’s largest population of humpbacks to be found off the coast, Newfoundland is one of the most spectacular places in the world for whale watching.. Watching these massive, majestic mammals breach and play as you follow them from your boat is an experience you will never forget.
There are a few ways you can go whale watching: take a large boat tour, or choose zodiacs, sea kayaking, or view the whales while hiking one of the many seaside trails along the coast. The best way to get up close with the whales is by taking zodiacs or sea kayaks.
Visit Cape Spear
Visit the oldest surviving lighthouse in the province and one of the iconic symbols of Newfoundland and Labrador. Cape Spear National Historic Site sits at the most easterly point in North America, and is the last piece of land before you hit Europe! Cape Spear is not just a lighthouse and home for the lighthouse keepers, but is also home to the remnants of the World War Two coastal defense battery – Fort Cape Spear. Canadian and American soldiers guarded this fort during the Second World War from possible attack of German U-boats.
This National Historic Site is a must-see while in St. John’s, as it only a quick 12km scenic drive outside of the downtown. Walk along North America’s edge, smell the salty air of the ocean, hear the sound of whales breaching, and most importantly don’t forget your camera!
For more info on what to do at Cape Spear check out: Top Things to Do At Cape Spear.
Visit George Street
One of the most talked about streets in Newfoundland – and well known across North America – is George Street. Located in the heart of historic downtown St. John’s, this street is home to the most bars and pubs per square foot than any other street in North America. Here you will find local favourites, such as fish and chips, cod tongue, and so much more! Try some of the local breweries including, our favourite, Quidi Vidi Brewery. Walk the street during the day, but make sure you come back at night and get the full St. John’s experience. Not just for the young, George Street has bars, clubs, and pubs for all ages, so there is something for you here! A visit to St. John’s would not be complete without a stop in on George Street.
Get “Screeched In”
Have you loved your trip to Newfoundland so much that you might just stay and become a Newfie? Well, if that’s not possible, you can become an honorary Newfoundlander for life by being screeched in! Screeching in CFAs (those who “Come From Away”) has been a long standing tradition on the island, and is the official way to become an honorary Newfoundlander. The ceremony consists of kissing a cod on the lips, taking a shot of Screech (Newfoundland Rum), but not before you hold your glass high and say “Long may your big jib draw”! Take your shot, and you are officially in! You are even provided with a certificate and welcomed into the Royal Order of Screechers.
There are many places you can get screeched in throughout Newfoundland. One of the main places in St. John’s is at the Spirit of Newfoundland’s The Screech Room (6 Cathedral Street, St. John’s). The Screech Room is open for daily Screech-Ins and hosts happy hours on Thursdays and Fridays from 4:30-6:30pm, and also has drop-in hours from 2:30pm – 4:00pm every day of the week. Make sure to share your screech in experiences with us!