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15 Things to Do in St. John's, Newfoundland

Nestled on the eastern tip of Canada, St. John's, Newfoundland is a city steeped in history and natural beauty. Known for its vibrant houses, rugged coastline, and friendly locals, St. John's offers a unique blend of urban and outdoor adventures. Whether you're a history buff, nature enthusiast, or simply looking to soak up some local culture, this picturesque city has something for everyone. The city's rich maritime heritage and lively arts scene make it a captivating destination for travelers. From the bustling streets of downtown to the serene trails along the coast, St. John's is a place where memories are made and adventures await.

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01 Explore Signal Hill National Historic Site

Sunny day overlooking the ocean from Cabot Tower on Signal Hill

Signal Hill towers over St. John's, offering panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and a glimpse into Canada's maritime history. Walk the trails, visit the historic Cabot Tower, and watch ships entering the harbor below. It's a perfect spot for history enthusiasts and photographers alike. The site is also where Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901, making it a landmark of technological innovation. Throughout the summer, visitors can enjoy military demonstrations and reenactments that bring the hill's storied past to life.

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02 Wander through The Rooms

The Rooms is Newfoundland and Labrador's largest public cultural space, and it's where history, heritage, and artistic expression come together. Explore the art gallery, museum, and archives that showcase the province's natural and cultural history in a state-of-the-art facility overlooking the city. The architecture of The Rooms itself is a modern marvel designed to reflect the fishing rooms where families once processed their catch. Inside, the extensive collection includes artifacts from the region's Indigenous peoples, early European settlers, and contemporary artists.

 

03 Stroll down Jellybean Row

Street of colorful row houses in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Cavan-Images / Shutterstock

Take a leisurely stroll down the iconic Jellybean Row, famous for its colorful row houses. These brightly painted homes are a delightful sight and provide a perfect backdrop for a memorable photo. The area also offers a variety of local shops and eateries to explore. The tradition of painting houses in bright colors dates back to the 1970s and serves to brighten up the cityscape during foggy and overcast days. Jellybean Row has become a symbol of the city's vibrant spirit and resilience.

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04 Visit Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site

Cape Spear Lighthouse Photo by Ryan Card on Unsplash

As the easternmost point in North America, Cape Spear is home to the oldest surviving lighthouse in Newfoundland and Labrador. Experience the rugged coastline, learn about the life of a 19th-century lightkeeper, and keep an eye out for whales and icebergs off the coast. The lighthouse has been restored to its 1836 appearance and offers a rare look into the lives of lightkeepers and their families. The surrounding area is also part of the East Coast Trail, providing hikers with stunning ocean vistas.

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05 Enjoy the East Coast Trail

North Head Trail Signal Hill Photo by Pei Yu on Unsplash

For outdoor enthusiasts, the East Coast Trail presents over 300 kilometers of scenic coastal hiking. Discover sea stacks, deep fjords, and ecological reserves as you trek through this breathtaking wilderness. Each path offers a unique adventure, from easy strolls to challenging hikes. The trail winds through a variety of landscapes, including lush forests, pebbled beaches, and dramatic cliff tops. Along the way, hikers can spot an array of wildlife, from moose to marine birds and even whales breaching offshore.

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06 Take in the view at Quidi Vidi Village

Quidi Vidi Village Near St. John's

Quidi Vidi is a charming fishing village within St. John's that feels like a step back in time. Visit the Quidi Vidi Brewery for a taste of local craft beer, enjoy the serene atmosphere, and take in the stunning views of the rugged cliffs and Atlantic waters. The village is also known for its artist studios and the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation, where visitors can watch artisans at work and purchase unique handcrafted goods. The small harbor, known as "The Gut," is a picturesque spot for photographers and painters.

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07 Attend the Royal St. John's Regatta

running of the Royal St. John’s Regatta. The oldest regatta in North America ggw / Shutterstock

If you're visiting in August, don't miss the Royal St. John's Regatta, North America's oldest annual sporting event. Held on Quidi Vidi Lake, it combines competitive rowing races with a lively community festival, offering fun for the whole family. The event dates back to 1816 and has become a civic holiday in St. John's, with thousands of spectators cheering on the crews. Beyond the races, the lakeside is filled with food vendors, games, and entertainment, making it a highlight of the summer.

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08 Shop and dine on Water Street

People on the street, outdoor pedestrian mall, Water Street stbar1964 / Shutterstock

Water Street is the oldest street in North America and the heart of St. John's shopping and dining scene. Browse through unique boutiques, art galleries, and specialty shops, then stop for a meal at one of the many restaurants offering local cuisine. The street is a blend of old and new, with historic buildings housing modern businesses. On a sunny day, the patios of Water Street come alive with locals and visitors alike enjoying the harborfront atmosphere.

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09 Learn at the Johnson GEO CENTRE

The Johnson GEO CENTRE is a geological interpretation center built into the rock of Signal Hill. It offers interactive exhibits on earth sciences, the oil and gas industry, space exploration, and the history of the Titanic. The centre's location, embedded within ancient rock formations, provides a unique underground experience. Visitors can also learn about the geological forces that shaped Newfoundland's dramatic landscapes and the rich resources found beneath the surface.

 

10 Relax in Bannerman Park

Bannerman Park is a Victorian-style urban oasis in the heart of St. John's. It's the perfect place to relax, have a picnic, or take part in recreational activities. During the summer, the park often hosts concerts and community events. The park features a looped walking trail, a swimming pool, and a playground, making it a favorite spot for families. Its lush greenery and seasonal flower gardens offer a peaceful retreat from the bustling city.

 

11 Experience the Spirit of Newfoundland

Spirit of Newfoundland offers a unique dining and entertainment experience. Enjoy a locally inspired meal while being serenaded by professional musicians performing Newfoundland-themed music in a historic venue. The company is housed in a former Masonic Temple, adding an air of grandeur to the evening. The performances often include a comedic twist, ensuring a night full of laughter and song.

 

12 Admire the Art at the Leyton Gallery of Fine Art

The Leyton Gallery of Fine Art features contemporary works by local and international artists. It's a must-visit for art lovers looking to explore the vibrant art scene of St. John's and perhaps find a special piece to take home. The gallery is known for its welcoming atmosphere and for supporting emerging talent alongside established artists. Regular exhibitions and artist talks provide insight into the creative process and the stories behind the artwork.

 

13 Go bird watching at Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve

Family watching northern gannets at Cape St. Mary's Ecological Bird Sanctuary in Newfoundland, Canada

A bit of a drive from St. John's, Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve is one of the best seabird watching spots in the world. Witness thousands of birds, such as gannets and puffins, in their natural habitat on the towering cliffs. The reserve's interpretive center offers guided tours and educational displays to enhance the bird-watching experience. The dramatic landscape and the cacophony of sounds from the nesting colonies create an unforgettable natural spectacle.

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14 Attend a performance at the LSPU Hall

The LSPU Hall is the home of the Resource Centre for the Arts. Catch a play, dance performance, or comedy show at this intimate venue and experience the thriving local arts scene. The hall is a cornerstone of the cultural community in St. John's, providing a platform for both established and up-and-coming performers. Its cozy setting allows for an immersive and personal experience with the arts.

 

15 Visit the Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

The Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John's, Newfoundland

The Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is an architectural masterpiece and a National Historic Site of Canada. Tour this stunning example of neoclassical architecture, with its impressive stained glass windows and rich history. The cathedral's grandeur is a testament to the faith and determination of the early settlers of Newfoundland. Visitors can attend mass, enjoy the peaceful ambiance, or simply marvel at the intricate details of the interior design and craftsmanship.

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