5 Things To Do in and around St. John’s
Travel Specialist Renée, spent a long weekend in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Here are her top 5 things to do in and around this charming province…
O me, O my, I heard me old one cry,
O me, O my, I think I’m gonna die;
O me, O my, I heard me old one say,
I wish I had never taken this excursion around the bay.
As our mini-bus weaved down the tree lined road that hugged the craggy coastline of eastern Newfoundland, our group couldn’t resist another round of one of the folk songs that our hosts had heartily shared with us on our long weekend getaway. It was mid-June and we’d taken Westjet’s newly launched direct flight to St John’s from London Gatwick. Just a five hour flight time from the UK, we’d left Gatwick at 9.50am and arrived in Canada’s most easterly province just before lunchtime.
Home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the gathering place for the world’s largest population of humpbacks and the end point of the famed Iceberg Alley, the scenery was never going to be anything short of spectacular. Newfoundland was every bit as beautiful as the many pictures I’d browsed – miles upon miles of rocky coastline, a dense blanket of black spruce and balsam fir providing the base for plentiful forests, Scandinavian-style wooden houses punctuating the quaint villages that were home to the province’s sparse population of just over half-a-million people (the region is only a little smaller than England).
We had come to Newfoundland for just a few days – arriving Thursday lunchtime and leaving in the late evening on the Sunday. How we were to experience this vast province in this short time seemed impossible but as we discovered, it was the perfect long weekend getaway. Here are some of my recommendations for exploring St John’s and its surrounds.
1. Visit the Quidi Vidi Plantation & Quidi Vidi Brewery – situated around the foot of the Quidi Vidi harbour, this village is on the outskirts of St John’s and is a mere 10 minute drive from the city centre. Once famous for being a fishing village, it’s now a must do for visitors to the region due to the micro-brewery and plantation, which showcases the works of a small number of artisans who handcraft everything from jewellery to pottery. The Quidi Vidi brewery is known for its Iceberg beer, famous for its distinctive blue bottle as well as its main ingredient of water from 10,000 year old icebergs.
2. Enjoy world class cuisine – meal times proved a real focal point of our time in Newfoundland, and the plentiful fresh seafood and wild game proved that a trip here is a culinary delight. Whether you’re stopping off for a lunch of fish and chips at the rustic Chafes Landing (note: ‘fish’ always means cod on any menu in Newfoundland, any other type of fish will be specified) or indulging in a world-class gourmet dining experience like that offered by Portobello’s in St John’s. Don’t be afraid to try the cod tongues – they’re delicious!
3. Visit North America’s most easterly point – located just a twenty minute drive from the city of St Johns, the road leading to Cape Spear – where you’ll find Northern America’s oldest surviving lighthouse – is jaw dropping stuff. This famed tourist spot is also part of the East Coast Trail.
4. Go whale watching – it really isn’t an option not to go in search of cetaceans when visiting the province. Home to 22 species of whale, including the aforementioned humpbacks, in the summer months it’s possible to spot these magnificent creatures breaching from the shore. For optimum sightings, head out on one of the many boat trips. Our trip with Gatherall’s included some rousing Newfoundland folk singing, an abundance of puffins (around 260,000 pairs!) and some pretty knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides.
5. Get to know the locals – Newfoundland has a rich history of aboriginal culture and European settlers. Stories of famous English and Irish fisherman shape the culture of this province known for its maritime history. But it’s the modern day people of this region that really made this trip special. Genuine, friendly and welcoming, the locals are keen to recount the region’s fascinating history, sing you a folk song or explain the meanings behind one of their many unique sayings. It really is no wonder Newfoundland and Labrador has been voted as having one of the ‘Top 10 Friendliest Cultures in the World’!
Exploring all that Newfoundland and Labrador has to offer is undoubtedly a 7-14 day holiday, but if you don’t have that to spare, then don’t let it put you off. Quicker and easier to get to than ever before, it’s certainly feasible to immerse yourself in a handful of the province’s highlights in a shorter trip.
Take a browse through one of the independent itineraries that we have put together, or contact our Canada Travel Specialists who will be happy to help create a more bespoke holiday to reflect your individual requirements.