10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in St. John's, Newfoundland
The capital of Newfoundland occupies a spectacular site on one of the finest natural harbors in the world. Entered through "the Narrows", a 200-meter-wide passage flanked by cliffs, the harbor widens out into a protected basin.
The city is undisputedly the oldest "European" town in North America, and from about 1500, the harbor was used as a base by fishing vessels from various countries. Today, square, flat-roofed wooden houses painted in different colors are typical of St. John's. Many date back to Victorian times; sadly however, because of the fires that engulfed the town in the 18th and 19th century, few have survived.
See also: Where to Stay in St. John's
1 Signal Hill National Historic Site
Signal Hill National Historic Site sits on a rocky hill at the harbor mouth and provides fantastic views over the Atlantic Ocean. This is where Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901. The lonely-looking Cabot Tower, built to mark the 400th anniversary of John Cabot's Voyage, is the most prominent landmark and houses exhibits about Marconi. Windswept trails lead to historic fortifications at the Queen's Battery Barracks.
Address: 230 Signal Hill Rd, St. John's
Accommodation: Where to Stay in St. John's
2 Quidi Vidi
Quidi Vidi, a delightful little fishing community, forms part of St. John's and sits on the north side of Signal Hill. The now-restored Quidi Vidi Battery overlooks the inlet and dates to the French occupation of St. John's. After British regained control in 1780, they strengthened the battery and used it as a garrison until withdrawing from Newfoundland in 1870. Possibly the oldest house in British Canada, built in 1740, survives within the fort. A narrow channel links the inlet with Quidi Vidi Lake, where the oldest sporting event in North America, the annual St. John's Regatta, is held.
3 Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site
Dramatic cliffs and two lighthouses mark Cape Spear as the most easterly point in North America, located just southeast of St. John's. People like to watch the sunrise from the cliffs here. But at other times of the day, the national historic site and its trails are favorite lookout points for sighting icebergs and whales.
Address: Blackhead Rd, Blackhead, NL
4 The Rooms
The Provincial Museum, the Provincial Archives, and the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador are grouped together as The Rooms. Exhibits introduce local culture and history. This cultural hub is situated on a ridge above the city, and has an observation deck with views over the entire harbor.
Address: 9 Bonaventure Ave, St. John's, NL
5 Johnson GEO Centre
The Johnson GEO Centre in St. John's is uniquely designed to incorporate the surrounding terrain. The center 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.
Address: 175 Signal Hill Rd, St .John's
6 Water Street
For more than 400 years Water Street, one of the oldest streets in North America, was the commercial center of St. John's. It is still the meeting place for sailors from all over the world and close to where transatlantic cruise ships dock. The historic district has a modern mix of souvenir shops, bakeries, and restaurants that please visitors.
7 Basilica of St. John the Baptist
On Military Road, with a fine view over the Narrows, stands Newfoundland's architecturally most important building, the Basilica of St John the Baptist (1842-92). Built in the form of a Latin cross and graced by slender twin towers 46 meters high, the Basilica is noted for some fine statues and its beautiful ornate gold leaf ceiling. The statue of Our Lady of Fatima in one of the transepts was a gift from Portuguese sailors who were fortunate enough to survive being shipwrecked on the Banks. The basilica is now a National Historic Site.
Address: 200 Military Rd, St. John's
8 Editor's Pick East Coast Trail
The East Coast Trail is a 540-kilometer-long hiking trail that runs along the East Coast of Newfoundland. The developed portion starts north of St. John's at Cape St. Francis and runs south to Cappahayden. There are a number of different access points that allow you to hike individual sections of the trail. This is a great way to see some of the wildlife (whales and puffins), rugged landscape, and beautiful scenery of the Avalon Peninsula.
9 George Street
With its many restaurants and patios, George Street is a popular city center rendezvous in St. John's. In the evenings, George Street is closed to traffic making it a pleasant and lively area to walk around. Entertainment options include catching some live East Coast music, usually featuring fiddle, guitar, and ocean-inspired lyrics. There are 24-hour restaurants nearby.
10 Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
Dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the Anglican cathedral on Church Hill (a short distance south of the Catholic basilica) is a National Historic Site and the oldest Anglican Church in Canada. Architect George Gilbert Scott designed the 1847 cathedral, and it ranks among the finest examples of pure neo-Gothic architecture in North America. It also has fine interior furnishings.
After suffering serious damage in two major 19th-century fires, the cathedral was not fully restored until 1905. During summer afternoons, a tearoom serves refreshments and desserts. Haunted walking tours begin from the cathedral gates.
Address: 16 Church Hill, St., John's
Where to Stay in St. John's for Sightseeing
We recommend these convenient downtown hotels near top sights like Signal Hill and the George Street Entertainment District:
- Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland: four-star hotel, near Signal Hill, harbor views, indoor pool and hot tub, fitness center.
- JAG: mid-range boutique hotel, classic rock theme, contemporary decor, turndown service.
- Courtyard by Marriott St. John's Newfoundland: affordable rates, central location, overlooks harbour, complimentary valet parking.
- Quality Hotel Harbourview: budget-friendly harborside hotel, great location, free underground parking.