Newfoundland is one of my favourite places in all of Canada. There’s something about the friendly people, the landscapes, the food, the music, and the overall culture that just makes me want to go back each and every year. By far, it’s the most unique province in Canada, with its own very distinct personality. It was our first stop on our 150-day road trip back in 2017, and from day one, locals kept asking us what we were doing (they saw us with cameras) and then proceeding to invite us to their home for dinner. That’s just the kind of place it is.
If you’re flying into Newfoundland, there’s a good chance that you’ll be flying into St. John’s, the capital city of Newfoundland. St. John’s is an incredibly vibrant town, steeped in history and full of things to do. You could easily spend a week in this area and not run out of activities. From learning about the history of the oldest English-founded city in all of North America to whale watching and lively parties, St. John’s is an incredible place to visit.
Things To Do In St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
When you visit Newfoundland, you simply cannot miss St John’s Canada. It’s the liveliest city in the province and where most of the population lives. It’s also home to the biggest airport, making it much easier to visit than other parts of the province. If you do make it here, here are ten things you shouldn’t’ miss.
Walking Tour of Downtown St. John’s
Whether you find an organized walking tour or just do one by yourself, an afternoon stroll around downtown St. John’s is an absolute must do. From colourful homes to historic churches, the downtown core is small and easily walkable. First, there’s Water Street, which is over 400 years old, making it one of the oldest in North America. In fact, it’s still a meeting place for sailors from all over the world as it’s where the transatlantic cruise ships dock. Then there’s Military Road, with nice views and the incredible Basilica of St. John the Baptist (1842-92). You’ll also want to find Church Street and get into the little neighborhoods to see the photo-famous colourful row-houses, which were painted that way so that it would be easier for sailors coming home at night to find their home! Visit a few of the restaurants, bakeries, and souvenir shops to complete your tour.
Visit Signal Hill National Historic Site
Did you know that St. John’s is the oldest English-founded city in all of North America. Well, Signal Hill Newfoundland is the place that protected it from intruders. Here you’ll get to see sweeping views of the coastline and the city, as well as the many canons that stood guard. But here’s another incredible fact; this is where Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901. Take a moment to go inside Cabot Tower and walk the trails that lead to the historic fortifications at Queen’s Battery Barracks. Each season brings different delights. In the spring you might see icebergs, and in the summer, you might see whales!
Party on George Street Newfoundland
If you want to say you’ve partied on the most famous street in all of Newfoundland, George Street is where you’ll want to go. This historic street is full of bars, pubs, nightclubs, and restaurants, all catering to different people and is definitely one of the best St Johns activities. It’s also closed to traffic during the evenings, making it a great place for pedestrians. Whether you’re looking for old-fashioned Newfoundland music complete with fiddles or new-age pop, there’s a place for you. If you’re looking to experience a true taste of Newfoundland, I’d recommend going to O’Reilly’s to see if they have traditional live music on the go. If not, other places likely will. Check around and ask who’s playing. When a good “Newfy” group gets up on stage, it’s an incredibly fun time. If you happen to be here in the summertime, expect mega crowds because this is one of the most fun things to do in St John’s. Bonus: You might even see famous people poking around. When we were in The Duke of Duckworth, we saw Newfoundland’s Allan Doyle walk in.
Get Screeched In
If it’s your first time to Newfoundland, you’re probably going to hear about a tradition called “Getting Screeched In”. This refers to a ceremony to make you an honorary Newfoundlander. It’s a fun thing to do in St. John’s and consists of kissing a codfish, reciting a Newfoundland phrase, and drinking a shot of Screech whiskey. Sometime’s there a little food as well, but those are three basic things that will always be there. There are a variety of ways to get screeched in, with the two most popular options being in a bar on George Street or on one of the many boat tours. Either way is fun. We’ve actually done it more than once. We really liked the atmosphere at a small pub called Christian’s, which is right on George Street. However, we also saw people doing it on the O’Brien’s boat tour and it looked like a lot of fun as well.
Get Out on a Boat
For an island entrenched in marine history, you cannot leave the province without getting on some sort of boat and going out to explore the Atlantic ocean. In the summer, you’ll be able to witness Humpback Whales and Puffins, and in the spring, you’ll be able to see icebergs! It’s also a great way to see the coastline and how rugged the island is. Either way, visiting an island province without spending time on the water participating in one of the most popular NEwfound activities would be pure blasphemy.
Get a Traditional Food Experience
On our last trip to St. John’s, we got to do something really unique; a traditional food experience. Thanks to Lori and her company Cod Sounds, you can learn how to forage for food and cook using traditional methods from ages gone by. Due to weather, we couldn’t experience the full splendor of the foraging tour that Lori has created but we did learn about the cooking process of wild foods such as moose, lobster, cod cheeks, mackerel, and homemade bread and jam. She even made us rhubarb tea, which was surprisingly good. I mean, really good! I know for sure that when we’re back in St. John’s, we’re doing the full tour!
Take a Historical Walking Tour
For a city with so much history, it makes sense to go on a walking tour with someone who knows it all. The most famous historical walking tour is hosted by Michael Boyle. His enthusiasm for telling the stories of Newfoundland really brings his tours to life. You’ll visit historical buildings, landmarks, and get a taste for the literary culture and folklore of Newfoundland.
Visit The Rooms
It might sound like a hotel, but it’s definitely not. The Rooms houses the Provincial Museum, the Provincial Archives, and the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador, making it one of the top St John’s attractions. This is the place to go for a deep introduction to the local culture and history. It also has an observation deck with beautiful views of the entire harbour.
The Johnson GEO Centre
Beautifully designed to incorporate the surrounding terrain, the Johnson GEO Centre takes visitors beneath Signal Hill and into the 550-million-year-old rock bed. Interactive exhibits describe the earth’s geological makeup, cultural history, and Newfoundland life. Young or old, this is a really cool place to visit.
Stroll Through Quidi Vidi
Last but not least, the little seaside fishing community of Quidi Vidi is a worthy stop. Located on the north side of Signal Hill, it’s home to the now-restored Quidi Vidi Battery, which overlooks the inlet, as well as the popular Quidi Vidi Brewery, which makes Iceberg Beer! It’s simply a small scenic place that attracts photographers from all over. It’s also home to quite possibly the oldest house in British Canada, which was built in 1740 and lives inside the fort.
Where is St John’s Newfoundland
St. John’s is located on the eastern tip of Newfoundland. It’s the last city in Canada before hitting the Atlantic ocean. In fact, many planes going to Ireland, for example, stop here to make sure everything is in order before crossing the Atlantic. If you’re wondering how to get to St John’s Newfoundland, we have you covered. There are basically three ways. You can fly, you can drive, or you can get there by boat. If you drive from outside of Newfoundland, you’ll have to take a 6-hour ferry, which will bring you to the Western point of NFLD. From there, it’s about a 6-8 hour drive to St. John’s, which is on the opposite side of the island.
Best Time to Visit Newfoundland
Places to Visit in Newfoundland
What To Do In St John’s Newfoundland
As you can see, there’s no shortage of things to do in St John’s NL and our list of things to do in St John’s Canada certainly isn’t exhaustive. However, if you only have a few days, this list will give you a very good taste of Canada’s most Eastern city.
There are so many things to do in Newfoundland. From witnessing the rugged landscapes of Bonavista to walking on the Earth’s mantle in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland is a spectacular destination to explore.