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Top 10 Things to Do in St. John’s, Newfoundland

by Kat
Small houses on the cliffs in Quidi Vidi Village

Located on the island of Newfoundland in the Atlantic Ocean, the city of St. John’s is the most easterly city in Canada. It is known for its unique architecture, vibrant culture and friendly locals. The best time to visit is from mid-June to early September when temperatures usually range from 11C to 21 C.

1. Signal Hill

Overlooking St. John’s Harbour, Signal Hill offers a spectacular view of the downtown area and the ocean. It is also famous for being the site where in 1901, Gugliermo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal. Cabot Tower, a castle-like building which sits atop the hill, was built in 1897 to mark the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s voyage to St. John’s. Inside the tower, you can find a gift shop, historical exhibits, and an outdoor observation deck. There are also a few hiking trails nearby where you can get fantastic views of the ocean. As it can get extremely windy on Signal Hill, bring a jacket with you (even in summer) and avoid walking too near the edge of the cliffs.

Official site: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/nl/signalhill/index.aspx

Cabot Tower, Signal Hill

View of Downtown St. John's

Cliffs near Signal Hill

2. Cape Spear

With its rocky cliffs and fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean, this National Historic Site is an excellent place for watching the sunrise, hiking, and trying to spot whales or icebergs. Cape Spear also has two lighthouses and a World War II battery.

Official site: http://www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/nl/spear/index.aspx

Cape Spear, Newfoundland

Cape Spear's New Lighthouse

Cape Spear, Newfoundland

3. Fort Amherst

Fort Amherst is located at the entrance of St. John’s harbour. Here you can see a small lighthouse as well as the remains of cannons and fortifications built during World War II to defend against German U-Boats.

View of Fort Amherst from Signal Hill.

Fort Amherst Lighthouse

4. The Rooms

A short walk from the Basilica is one of the most unique buildings in the downtown area, The Rooms, which houses Newfoundland’s archives, museum and art gallery. It is a mix of traditional and modern architecture, with its design based on fishing rooms where families worked together in the past. It has big glass windows which provide a great view of the harbour.

Official site: https://www.therooms.ca/

5. Whale-watching

Due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, St. John’s is an excellent place to go whale-watching if you visit between May and September. There are three main whale watching companies in the St. John’s area – Iceberg Quest, Gatheralls’ and O’Brien’s. Boat tours with Iceberg Quest leave straight from St. John’s harbour, while you must drive about 40 minutes to Bay Bulls to go whale-watching with Gatheralls’ or O’Brien’s. On whale-watching tours, you can also see seabirds, caves and sometimes even icebergs.

Iceberg Quest: http://icebergquest.com/
O’Brien’s: http://www.obriensboattours.com/
Gatherall’s: http://gatheralls.com/

6. East Coast Trail and Grand Concourse

The East Coast Trail is a hiking trail system that connects more than 30 different communities in Newfoundland. From St. John’s, you can hike north or south, viewing spectacular scenery along the way! Within St. John’s, there is the Grand Concourse trail system, where you can go on walks around lakes or alongside rivers.

East Coast Trail: http://eastcoasttrail.ca
Grand Concourse: http://www.grandconcourse.ca/

View of Confederation Building from the Grand Concourse trail.

Quidi Vidi Lake, Newfoundland

Grand Concourse Trail, St. John's

East Coast Trail sign

View of cliffs and sea from Bell Island, Newfoundland

Bell Island cliff

7. Exploring Downtown

Downtown St. John’s has many unique boutiques, cafes, and art galleries, so it is worth it to spend a few hours exploring the area, especially Water Street. In the downtown area, you can admire the colourful “jellybean houses”- small rectangle-shaped houses painted in bright colours. At night, you can visit George Street, which is believed to have the most pubs and bars per square foot of any street in North America.

Jellybean Houses in Downtown St. John's

Colourful houses in St. John's

Colonial Building in St. John's

Colonial Building, the former home of the Newfoundland government.

Colourful building in St. John's

St. Patrick's Church in St.John's

St. Patrick’s Church.

8. Quidi Vidi Village

Quidi Vidi Village is a picturesque community with beautiful small houses set against the rocky cliffs. It is a must visit for any photographer! For those who are interested in beer tasting or a brewery tour, Quidi Vidi Brewery is the perfect place to visit. 8 different beers are brewed there, including the famous local Iceberg Beer.

Small houses on the cliffs in Quidi Vidi Village

Quidi Vidi Gut in Newfoundland

Icebergs in Newfoundland

9. Johnson Geo Centre

The Geo Centre is located at the base of Signal Hill and features exhibits related to geology, space exploration, oil and gas exploration, and the Titanic Disaster. Most of the centre is underground, where you can see the 550-million-year-old natural rock formations of Signal Hill. There are some nice views of the city from the nearby trails as well.

Official site: https://www.geocentre.ca/

Outdoor view of Johnson Geo Centre

St. John's Mural

A mural near the Geo Centre.

10. Basilica

The Basilica of St. John the Baptist is a National Historic Site and is known for its beautiful statues and ornate gold ceiling.

Official site: http://www.thebasilica.ca

The Basilica church in St. John's

The Basilica church in St. John's

Additional Tips for Visiting St. John’s

-The best way to get around St. John’s is by renting a car. As Newfoundland is an island, there is a limited number of rental cars available, so reserve a car at least a few weeks before your trip.

-Due to its proximity to the sea, St. John’s is often very windy. Be careful when hiking on trails near the ocean.

-St. John’s is one of the rainiest cities in Canada, so it is a good idea to bring along a waterproof jacket. Locals don’t carry umbrellas as the wind renders them useless.

Top 10 Things to Do in St. John's, Newfoundland

Which attraction in St. John’s interests you the most? Have you ever visited St. John’s? TELL ME in the comments below.

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Gabby April 2, 2017 - 6:15 am

Your photos are so gorgeous! And I think I’d want to go whale watching most of all these things, how stunning would that be!

Kat April 4, 2017 - 12:29 am

Thank you, Gabby! I’m glad you like the photos! Yes, whale watching is a fun experience. On some tours you can see puffins too. 🙂

Phoebe April 2, 2017 - 12:32 pm

I’m really hoping to get to Canada soon and can’t wait to explore all it has to offer. Those icebergs look incredible, I’ve never seen anything like them!

Kat April 4, 2017 - 12:31 am

Canada definitely has many amazing sights, and each province is so unique! Icebergs are a very special sight – each one has a different shape. 🙂

Renee Hahnel April 2, 2017 - 5:56 pm

Great post! I had no idea the Newfoundland area was so gorgeous! Fort Amherst in particular looks absolutely stunning… and that place with icebergs looks insane!

Kat April 4, 2017 - 12:34 am

It was a wonderful experience seeing the icebergs so close to shore! 🙂

Chloe April 3, 2017 - 7:58 am

This is so cool, I didn’t know that Newfoundland existed until this post! The hills up high look so beautiful, you’ve captured the place so well. Are those actual icebergs in your photo?! I would love to visit here once I go to Canada.

Kat April 4, 2017 - 12:37 am

I am glad that you now know about Newfoundland thanks to my post! 🙂 Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know where it is haha.

Yes, those are real icebergs. That spring they floated close to shore!

Definitely visit Newfoundland when you go to Canada!

Alissa April 3, 2017 - 11:13 am

Thanks for sharing this guide! I’ve never been to St. Johns but it looks really beautiful. I would love to try one of those hikes! And I LOVE the jellybean houses – great name!! 🙂

Kat April 4, 2017 - 12:38 am

There are many amazing hiking routes, 😉 I love the jellybean houses too!

Lindz @ I've Been Bit! April 3, 2017 - 10:37 pm

My heart aches for St John’s! I loved exploring Newfoundland on my road trip – I was torn between what city I liked better, St John’s or Corner Brook. Your photos capture the essence of the city perfectly! 🙂

Kat April 4, 2017 - 12:39 am

I’m so glad you enjoyed visiting my hometown! 🙂

David McClane May 12, 2017 - 1:43 am

Wow, the buildings here are stunning! I love colourful wooden houses but that pink and white art deco one is my favourite! What a beautiful town!

Hannah September 2, 2017 - 4:31 am

I miss Newfoundland so much can’t wait till next summer!

Kat September 15, 2017 - 11:39 pm

I miss it too! Hope you have a great time there next summer! 🙂

Valma groves December 2, 2017 - 1:22 am


Maureen Hefferton December 30, 2017 - 6:59 am

Beautiful photos. I’ve been there many times but not recently, would love to go back someday. I’ve been to 9 of the 10 places on your list, missed St.Patrick’s church.

Lainy October 21, 2018 - 6:22 pm

I lived there when I was a young girl. It is a magical place for sure. The people there are so very freindly and would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it. I remember every Sunday we had lobsters for dinner fresh from the sea. The fishermen there are awesome! I plan on retiring there. Once that ocean air gets in your blood are hooked!

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