We recently took a trip to Newfoundland, a.k.a The Rock–specifically St. John’s where I absolutely fell in love with the place. St. John’s is charming, beautiful and intriguing with her tales of pirates, fires, salty sailors, wenches and wars. All things considered, many cities look like builder’s beige in comparison.
The city has a European look to it which makes sense seeing that Europeans have been landing on the shores for over 500 years resulting in a culture now that shows influences of both Indigenous and European peoples.
St. John’s is like a bowlful of skittles, a mulligatawny mixture of history and culture as colourful as the “jellybean” houses and buildings that cling to the hillsides of St. John’s harbour.
The Basilica, whose cornerstone was laid in 1841, dominates the skyline.
There’s a lot going on in this gorgeous little city — we went full bore the whole time we were there: shopping, eating, walking, drinking (lots of micro brews here) and taking in the sights. We also stopped by The Rooms, a huge museum/art gallery/archives perched on the top of the hill close to the enormous St. John’s Basilica to learn more about the history of Newfoundland and Labrador.
We hopped aboard a whale watching tour boat and saw scads of whales 5 minutes into our trip. Fins and humpbacks came within 20 metres of the boat. Photo below: Humpback whales and Cabot Tower on Signal Hill in the background
Signal Hill is probably the most famous landmark in St. John’s with the Cabot Tower at the top–the site of the first transatlantic signal received in 1901. I can’t believe people actually walk on these trails that wind up the sides of the hills. Good for them.
Across the harbour is Amherst Lighthouse. The lighthouse is picture perfect and the views are spectacular.
Cape Spear, further down the coast, is the site of Canada’s oldest and most easterly lighthouse. Great name, Cape Spear…it just sounds dangerous. You can tour the original lighthouse which has been authentically restored to how it was in the 1930s.
St. John’s has done a wonderful job of preserving their historical buildings. There are tons of them, check out this link for heritage sites and things to do in Newfoundland. If you’re in to architecture, this is definitely a city to explore.
Rent a car and go for a drive up and down the coast. You can do a one hour tour or a full day and everything in between. Along the way you’re going to have your breath taken away by rugged beauty. Quaint fishing villages, islands, little fish and chip restaurants; make sure your camera battery is fully charged.
Speaking of fish and chips, we had it every day. The Duke of Duckworth puts out some wicked fish and chips…
St. John’s is also home to some outstanding fine dining. We had a great meal at Aqua on Water Street where they served a succulent maple glazed salmon with chili mint butter and a very creative version of poutine complete with chorizo, asparagus, Canadian Gouda and seared lobster. Definitely not your average poutine.
We took a drive up the Killick Coast…
…through the towns of Torbay, Flatrock and Pouch Cove ending up at Portugal Cove for more fish and chips at By the Beach. Hey, we had to get it while the gettin’ was good!
The Irish Loop to the South, takes you to Bay Bulls, Witless Bay and Ferryland where there’s a huge archaeological dig going on right now. The pictures you can take here are screensavers just waiting to happen.
I’m envious; Newfoundland has the scenery, the history, the architectural wonders, but beyond all that they’ve got incredible people that make you feel welcome everywhere you go. Where else can you get called Lovey, Honey, and Me Darlin’ all in a half an hour while sipping on beer made with iceberg water and tucking into a plate of salt cod and toutons?
I hear The Rock calling my name.