What’s there to do in St. John’s? As it turns out, there’s quite a bit! It’s all within walking or short driving distance, and there’s a little something for everyone, whether you’re looking for museums, hiking, or seeing the sites. Here are the best things to do in Newfoundland and Labrador’s capital city!
Photograph the Jellybean Row Houses
Fun fact: The Jellybean Row Houses are not in one row; they are bright, multi-colored homes all over St. John’s! The city has been a victim of several “Great Fires” over its nearly 600 years of European settlement, and after a particularly devastating fire in the 1890s, locals decided to rebuild their homes and use brightly-colored paint instead of merely raw wooden finishes.
Visit Quidi Vidi Village
As with many things to do in St. John’s, this village’s activities are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and we visited on a Tuesday! The village itself is very quaint and prettily situated on the water. They also have food trucks available for visitors as well as a few local restaurants.
Here is the description from the Destination St. John’s website: “This quaint fishing village located just in the east end of St. John’s will transport you to a different time. From the idyllic cottages dotting the roadside to the wharf lined with colourful fishing stages, Quidi Vidi, pronounced as Kitty Vitty or Quada Vida, depending on who you ask, offers a glimpse into the quintessential island outports of Newfoundland & Labrador.”
Keep reading: How to Surprise Someone with Travel
Explore the North Head Trail
Outdoor enthusiasts, get excited! This trail is one of the best in the province. Though it’s only a little over a mile long, you’ll climb over 860 steps to find yourself atop Signal Hill! The trail follows the coast for a ways and then heads upward, so wear good shoes and use the chain-link hand-hold to help you across the skinny, steep parts!
Also helpful: The Ultimate List of Hiking Tips
Walk Around the MUN Botanical Garden
This lovely botanical garden is a very popular spot in spring and summer. You’ll find lovely flowers, gorgeous greenery, and several miles of well-maintained trails here. My mom was particularly interested in the fact that the flowers that were blooming in St. John’s are the same ones that bloomed in her home state of Tennessee months ago!
More here: What to Know Before You Visit Canada
Visit St. John’s Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
Construction began on this beautiful church in 1843 and finished in 1850, and it’s in the Gothic Revival style, which I love. It’s survived relatively well throughout several “Great Fires” in St. John’s. Most notably, there is exactly one remaining original window with only minor damage from an 1890s fire.
We happened to stumble in here on a whim and talked with a couple of tour guides while they waited for a large group to show up. It ended up being one of the highlights of our trip! Find out more on their website.
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Try the Toutins
What’s a toutin? It’s a little bit like a yeasty, yet flat, English muffin. It’s typically served with syrup or molasses, and it’s a traditional Newfoundland food. The best place we found for these unique treats was Toutin Lane, right on the main street through downtown St. John’s. You can get the traditional kind, or you can get it with fillings like a sandwich! Choose from Nutella and banana, jam with cream cheese, bacon and egg, butter chicken, spinach and artichoke dip, or simply filled with cheeses.
More here: What to Eat in Canada
Take a Scenic Boat Tour
If you tour in the right season, you might see whales, icebergs, and puffins! But no matter when you go, you will most certainly see St. John’s dramatic, rugged coastline. On our tour, we saw some of the famous cliff-side Jellybean houses, Signal Hill, and Cape Spear as well. Just make sure you dress warmly—it’s much colder on the water than it is on land!
This is how you do it: How to Pack for Newfoundland in Summer
Feast on Cod
St. John’s is, at its heart, a fishing town. Famous for their fish and chips, cod is plentiful and available on just about any menu. You can’t leave St. John’s without trying some, either in a sandwich, encrusted and pan-fried, or as a fish-and-chip combination.
Keep eating: My Honest Thoughts on the Restaurants in St. John’s
Drive Out to Cape Spear Lighthouse
This is where North American’s day begins! Cape Spear is the farthest east point in the Americas, which means that it sees the first light of day, every day. Cape Spear has been protecting sailors for hundreds of years and is now a museum that you can visit. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll see a puffin or two!
For those who drive: Tips for Driving in Canada
Take in the View at Signal Hill
Whether you drive up or take the trail, you won’t regret the view at Signal Hill! Once used to signal ships coming into St. John’s Harbor, it is also the first place in North America to ever receive a wireless signal—in Morse code—from Europe! Here, you’ll find a battery with several canons, a tower (with gift shop inside), and some of the most breath-taking views of St. John’s you’ll ever have.
Need more Newfoundland inspiration? Find everything you need on my dedicated Canada Page!
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