As Newfoundland’s capital city and one of the oldest in North America, St. John’s is brimming with history and culture. From the colourful jellybean homes to striking views of the harbour, St. John’s boasts plenty of unique sights and attractions for every type of traveler.
This Newfoundland capital is located on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean on the East Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s a vibrant cultural, historic and economic hub of Newfoundland and Labrador and offers a perfect combination of big city infrastructure and a small-town feel.
St. John’s was the last stop on our recent Newfoundland road trip, a destination that surprised us with its charm and stunning landscapes.
Best Time to Visit St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
The summer months of July and August are the most popular time to visit St. John’s, but we prefer the shoulder season.
June is lovely when temperatures start to warm and icebergs are still floating in the distance. Similarly, September is mild and an ideal time to join in on the beloved Newfoundland pastime of berry picking.
How to Get to St John’s, Newfoundland
St John’s is located on the Avalon Peninsula in Eastern Newfoundland. Since Newfoundland is an island, there are two ways to get there: fly or take the ferry from Nova Scotia.
There are daily flights into St. John’s International Airport from a number of destinations in Canada including Toronto, Halifax, and Montreal. In the summer, the airport also receives flights from New York, the Caribbean, London, and Dublin.
There are two Marine Atlantic ferries connecting Newfoundland with Nova Scotia. The shorter year-round ferry (7 hrs) sails into Port aux Basques, which is on the west coast of Newfoundland. From Port aux Basques, the drive to St. John’s takes about 9-10 hours.
During the summer months, you can take the longer ferry (16 hrs) into Argentia. This cuts down the drive to St John’s to just 1.5 hours.
How to Get Around St John’s, NL
Downtown St. John’s is easily walkable as long as you’re prepared for lots of hills! But if you want to explore beyond the city centre, you’ll need a vehicle. You can also consider public transit through Metrobus but most routes stop running fairly early.
FAQs About St. John’s, Canada
Is St John’s worth visiting?
Absolutely! St. John’s, Newfoundland is a colourful city with a deep-rooted history. It has a vibrant art and music scene and preserves a unique culture that’s distinctly Newfoundland.
What is St John’s known for?
St. John’s is known for being the easternmost city in all of North America. It’s famed for its colourful jellybean houses, coastal landscape, and undeniable Eastern hospitality.
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Things to Do in St Johns, Newfoundland
From bar-hopping on George Street to hiking up Signal Hill, there are lots of fun things to do in St John’s. Here is our list of top things to do in St John’s, Newfoundland!
Walk Around Downtown St. John’s
Take a stroll around Water Street and pop into the many shops and restaurants that dot the downtown. You’ll see St. John’s Harbour in the background, where transatlantic cruise ships dock among small fishing boats and shipping vessels.
Stop into the Railway Coastal Museum or National War Memorial in Harbourside Park before grabbing a pint of a local beer at a neaby brewery. There’s always live music on the go and a fish and chip shop on every corner.
Our favourite was Bannerman Brewing Co, a craft brewery and kitchen with great beers and a fantastic fusion menu offering Asian-inspired dishes in a trendy setting.
Not a big drinker? Pop into the Mad Catter Cafe. Have a cup of tea, try the traditional Newfoundland touton treat with a twist, and enjoy some time with their cute residents, cats and kittens from St. John’s Humane Service’s Animal Care and Adoption Centre.
Bannerman Park is another popular destination in the city. An urban park with a playground, a public swimming pool, and lots of green space is locals favourite!
See Jellybean Row on Duckworth Street
The colourful houses in St John’s are one of the most unique sights in Newfoundland. You’ll find every colour of the rainbow lining the streets in downtown St John’s. They stand out in the fog and can add a pop of colour to an otherwise grey day.
There are many colourful jellybean row houses scattered around St. John’s, but we found Duckworth Street to be the most colourful!
Bar Hop on George Street
Home to the iconic George Street Festival, George Street is St. John’s hub of bars and restaurants. This city is famous for having the most bars per capita out of any Canadian city and George Street is the epicentre of fun. The street is only two blocks long but there’s never a shortage of live music and great beverages here. George Street is the destination for nightlife and entertainment in St John’s, Newfoundland.
Visit Signal Hill National Historic Site
There are two national historic sites in the St. John’s area that represent the city’s significant cultural history. Signal Hill overlooks the harbour and tells an impressive story about the site of the first transatlantic wireless signal. Head inside the Cabot Tower, to learn all about this incredible discovery and to admire the views of St John’s harbour from above.
There are several hiking trails at Signal Hill National Historic Site, so if you have an afternoon to spare, you can take advantage of the trails and enjoy the views. The North Head Trail is the oldest and the most popular trail on Signal Hill. You can also take a tour of the historic Queen’s Battery Barracks and witness live reenactments of cannon and musket firings.
On the way back down from Signal Hill, pop into the Newfoundland Chocolate Company for a cup of tea or a latte and a sample of their artisan crafted chocolate.
Learn About Geology at the Johnson GEO Centre
The Johnson GEO Centre is another must-visit attraction in Newfoundland. It’s located near Signal Hill and makes for a perfect attraction to visit on the same day. Inside the Johnson GEO Centre, you’ll find a number of exhibits and an immersive theatre that’s fun for kids and adults alike.
Follow the exhibits to learn all about the interesting history of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, its people, as well as the past, present and future of our planet. The visit will help you understand how the geology of this unique place has shaped Newfoundland life.
Visit The Rooms
Perched high above the city, The Rooms is a museum and art gallery. There are rotating exhibits at The Rooms showcasing Newfoundland’s history and how it fits into the story of Canada.
You can listen to traditional Newfoundland music, inspect ancient fossils, or just visit the gift shop inside. The view of the city from the big glass windows can’t be missed!
See the Basilica of St. John the Baptist
Just down the street from The Rooms on Military Road, the Basilica of St. John the Baptist is an architecturally significant landmark in St. John’s. The Basilica was built in the 1800s in the shape of a Latin cross. Its ornate decor and stained glass windows give a unique glimpse into the religious roots of this centuries-old port town.
And if you’re a fan of old churches, there’s also the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Church Hill. It’s the oldest Anglican church in Canada and the starting point of the St. John’s Haunted Hike.
Explore St John’s Farmers Market
Finding fresh local produce can be a tall order in a province that sits on a giant rock. A visit to the St. John’s Farmers Market is the perfect place to try local goodies ranging from fresh produce to bakery goods. There are also a number of stalls selling arts and crafts and a few restaurants inside where you can grab a bite to eat. The market runs year-round on Saturdays and is chockfull of local vendors.
Enjoy MUN Botanical Garden
The Memorial University Flower Gardens are a lovely place to spend an afternoon walking the winding pathways and gardens. The flora highlights local plants mixed with some exotic greenery and flowers.
There are over 250 species of plants, 120 bird species and 26 butterfly species that call the gardens home. Visit in early July to see the sprawling rhododendrons.
Check out Quidi Vidi Neighbourhood
The charming fishing community surrounding Quidi Vidi Lake is straight out of a postcard. Colourful hillside houses, artisan studios, award-winning restaurants, and Quidi Vidi Brewery, a local favourite.
A stroll around the lake is a must when you visit Newfoundland! You can pop into Quidi Vidi Brewery for drinks and a meal or grab a few pints to go and a few bites from a number of food trucks around the lake. Be sure to try Quidi Vidi Brewing’s Iceberg lager made with iceberg water.
Visit Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site
Cape Spear is the most easterly point in all of North America and home to the oldest lighthouse in Canada. It’s known to be windy but can be an excellent place to spot whales and icebergs as they cruise past the cape.
You can also visit the World War II relic, Fort Cape Spear, or join a historic workshop at the Cape Spear Lighthouse. It’s a great place to learn more about Newfoundland history in near St John’s.
Drive the Irish Loop
The Irish Loop is one of the best day trips from St John’s. Hop onto Highway 10 from the south of St. John’s to drive the scenic Irish Loop. The whole route is just over 300 km (186 mi) and filled with great opportunities for wildlife viewing and iceberg chasing.
Be sure to stop at Petty Harbour on the way down for another picturesque town similar to Quidi Vidi. After, follow the below recommended stops and highlights to make the most of this scenic road trip.
Go Puffin and Whale Watching in Witless Bay Ecological Reserve
Wildlife is a big part of St. John’s tourism and puffins and whale watching usually top every visitor’s bucket list. Over 90% of the puffins in North America breed in Newfoundland and puffin colonies are truly a sight to behold! The puffin breeding period lasts throughout the summer so you’ll have a chance to see them nesting on the rocks.
We spotted thousands of puffins and other sea birds during our whale watching boat tour with Gatheralls Puffin & Whale Watching. Their tours depart from Bay Bull’s and focus on the world renowned Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. The reserve is an excellent place to see Newfoundland wildlife in its natural habitat. It’s home to puffins, whales, icebergs, and spectacular coastal scenery and Gatherall’s entertaining guides make this one of the top things to do in St John’s.
Have a Picnic at the Ferryland Lighthouse
With St John’s being the oldest city founded by Europeans in North America, Ferryland is the site of the first settlement. The Ferryland Lighthouse is an icon of the area and an idyllic place to have a picnic. Ferryland Picnics pair beautiful scenery with fresh, locally made lunches prepared right in the 19th-century lighthouse.
Due to the renovations, the Ferryland Picnics weren’t on offer during our visit in June 2022, but their offering should be improved for next year and beyond.
Hike the East Coast Trail
Newfoundland is spoiled with pristine hiking trails all across the province. The East Coast Trail wraps around the Avalon Peninsula’s coastline and has several starting points around St. John’s.
The stretch from Petty Harbour to Witless Bay is a particularly popular route. This portion of the East Coast Trail is can be hiked over several days. The relatively undeveloped coast makes an incredible backdrop for an exciting East Coast hike.
Best Restaurants in St Johns
With over 100 restaurants, cafes and breweries, St John’s is the true culinary capital of Newfoundland and Labrador. There are plenty of options, ranging from cheap eats and quick bites to fantastic culinary experiences. Here are just a few of our favourites.
Bannerman Brewing is a fixture in St. John’s blossoming craft beer scene. It’s located near Bannerman Park, home to the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival. Stop by for a pint of pale ale and enjoy the communal feeling of their taproom and patio. Their menu features a great selection of Asian fusion dishes and a wide selection of craft beer.
If you’re in search of vegetarian/vegan options or just love fresh Chinese dishes, stop by Peaceful Loft on Duckworth St. They serve delicious homemade Chinese food in a warm, welcoming atmosphere.
This rustic award-winning restaurant is in the quaint community of Quidi Vidi Village. It’s famed for showcasing the best of St John’s food, marrying traditional Newfoundland cuisine with modern elegance.
Another internationally acclaimed St. John’s favourite, Raymonds is all about elevating Newfoundland dishes into a fine dining experience. Chef Jeremy Charles makes the most of locally foraged and harvested ingredients to craft impressive dishes that are equally tasty as they are beautiful.
Where to Stay in St. John’s
If you’re looking for a hotel in downtown, the Sheraton is a great choice. It’s close to all of St John’s downtown attractions and has nice views overlooking the harbour and city. Plus, it has an indoor pool, on-site restaurant, and fitness centre. Rooms start at CA $170 per night and can be booked here.
Pippy Park Campground
Pippy Park is a tent and RV campground that’s less than 10 minutes from downtown. There are over 200 sites open from May-October with easy access to golf courses, the MUN Botanical Garden, and Fluvarium. Tent sites start at CA $24 per night and serviced RV sites go for CA $45.
Inn by Mallard Cottage
If you’re craving a bit of cozy luxury, spend a night at the Inn by Mallard Cottage in Quidi Vidi. The fully renovated traditional Newfoundland houses feature 7 king suites stylishly decorated with relaxation in mind. Stay at the Inn for CA $332 per night here.
Have you been to St. John’s? What were your favourite things to do in St. John’s, Newfoundland?
Disclaimer: We traveled to St John’s in collaboration with Tourism Newfoundland and Labrador, but as always, all thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are our own