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St. John's

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For other places with the same name, see Saint John (disambiguation).
Cabot Tower on Signal Hill

St. John's is the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. It is the oldest city in North America and is located on the Avalon Peninsula in the southeast corner of the island of Newfoundland. The city is the easternmost point on the Trans-Canada Highway, a network of roads leading more than 8000 km westward to Victoria, British Columbia.


John Cabot was believed to have sailed into the harbour on June 24, 1494 - the feast day of John the Baptist, for whom St. John's Harbour is named. The first year-round settlement was not long after 1630, although a seasonal fishery operated in the region long before then. Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed the area as England's first overseas colony on 5 August 1583 under Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth I. Fishermen from England's West Country controlled most of Newfoundland's east coast by 1620. Fortifications were installed from 1670 onward to defend the city, against the Dutch and then against the French - both of whom had briefly captured the town at one time or another.

When Newfoundland became a self-governing dominion within the British Empire in 1907 (a status similar to that of New Zealand), St. John's was its national capital. Confederation with the Dominion of Canada in 1949 demoted the city to provincial capital status; by then, Newfoundland had fought in two world wars.

With a location 2100 km (1339 miles) northeast of Toronto, St. John's is closer to Dublin than Vancouver. It is the most easternly urban settlement in North America and is 3½ hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. Vancouver on the west coast of Canada is 8 hours behind GMT.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

St. John's International Airport (IATA: YYT) is located 10 km (6 mi) from the downtown section of St. John's. Flights arrive from major centres like Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, the Caribbean,London-Heathrow and Dublin from June to October by Westjet. The airport is served by Air Canada, WestJet, Porter and United Airlines.

You can reach downtown by public bus Nr. 14 on weekdays only, buses leave roughly hourly from 6:45am to 7:15pm to the campus of Memorial University, where connections to various downtown buses are available.

By car[edit]

If you wish to drive to Newfoundland, you will have to take a ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, or fly and rent a car. Once you arrive at either ferry terminal (see below), follow the Trans-Canada highway east, and it will bring you directly to the city of St. John’s.

By boat[edit]

The island portion of the province is accessible by several ferries leaving North Sydney, Nova Scotia. From there, you can take a 5 to 6 hour ferry ride to Port-aux-Basques, at the southwest corner of Newfoundland, and drive 905 km across the island to St. John’s, near its eastern tip.

From mid-June through September, you can take a 14-17 hour ferry ride from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Argentia, Newfoundland, which is 131 km from St. John’s. Ferry schedules and reservation information are available on the Marine Atlantic website [1]. You should make a reservation well in advance, especially if you want a cabin on an overnight crossing. Marine Atlantic ferries offer a wide variety of on board accommodations and features, including deluxe cabins, dormitory sleepers, full meal and beverage service, live entertainment, movies, and children's activity programs.

By bus[edit]

You can take DRL Coachlines from Port-Aux-Basques to St. John’s (although that’s a long bus ride, typically 12 hours if on schedule), or New Hook Bus Lines (+1 709 426-4876) from Argentia to St. John’s (much easier to handle: 1-2 hours).

Get around[edit]

By bus[edit]

St. John's public transit system, Metrobus, serves nearly all of St. John's, the neighbourhoods of Shea Heights, Kilbride and the Goulds, and the neighbouring city of Mount Pearl. The fare is $2.50 per ride (adults and seniors, Jan 2017), and not per distance, making it a very cheap, affordable way of getting around town. A ten-ride pass is $22.50 for adults, $18.00 for seniors. Most, if not all, of the bus drivers are kind and courteous and are willing to give directions. Travellers can check routes and even the current position of any bus on the Metrobus online [2].

By car[edit]

St. John's is a driver-friendly city, although the road layout is haphazard and a map or GPS is de rigueur for visitors. Except for the Downtown centre, parking is almost always abundant and traffic jams are non-existent. The downtown area contains many one-way streets so it is important to watch for signs.

St. John's International Airport has the following car rental agencies: Hertz, Avis, Thrifty, Budget, and National. In the city you can also find Enterprise, Discount, and Rent-A-Wreck. Book rental cars early for travel during the peak summer months. Executive Car Service is also available for chauffeured car rentals and tours from several providers such as Black Car Service, Corporate Concierge and Jimmy's Sedan Service.

By foot[edit]

The Downtown core can be easily explored by foot. Take a stroll up Water Street, stop for a drink or take in some live music at a wide range of drinking establishments, a wide range of restaurants, and distinctive shopping.

George Street, just above Water at the west end of the downtown core, near City Hall and the Convention Centre, is a concentration of nightclubs, taverns, restaurants that is typically busy any night of the week, with bar patrons spilling onto many patios and onto the street. Adjacent streets such as Duckworth Street also have interesting shopping and restaurants, and there are a number of (liquor-licensed) billiards halls.

By bicycle[edit]

Be warned, St. John's rivals San Francisco with its notorious sloping hills. Unless you're in the mood to challenge gravity, renting a bicycle is probably not the best idea.

By taxi[edit]

St. John's issues over 300 taxi licences, and many of the cab drivers are quite knowledgeable and eager to help visitors find out about local attractions. If you want to see something but aren't sure what or where, ask a cabbie for a tour of the city or Cape Spear, the easternmost point in Canada.

See and do[edit]

  • 1 Signal Hill. Majestically overlooking the city and designated as a National Historic Site. The hill was the last stand of the French army in North America during the Seven Years War. Cabot Tower, built in 1897, stand as the top today. The first wireless transatlantic message was received there in 1901.
  • The Battery. Small village on the edge of the downtown where small houses are framed by the sheer cliffs. The village was once part of the British Defence for the St. John's Harbour. A trail leads from the end of the Battery around the cliffs and up to Signal Hill.
  • 2 Cape Spear National Historic Site. Great lighthouse and most easterly point in North America. A 15-km drive from St. John's.
  • Historic St. John's Harbour
  • Iceberg Quest Ocean Tours - Enjoy St. John's from the water. See whales, seabirds and icebergs. Departures 9:30am/1pm/4pm/7pm from Pier 7 on St. John's Harbour
  • Bowring Park - a beautiful 20-ha (50-acre) park with duck ponds, bridges, walking trails, tennis courts, playground equipment, an outdoor pool and many monuments.
  • The Grand Concourse - walking trails in St. John's
  • Memorial University's Botanical Garden
  • The St. John's Haunted Hike - tour historic St. John's while being regaled with stories of the spooky & strange. The tour begins and ends at the Anglican Cathedral
  • Salmonier Nature Park - a 3-km nature trail winds through a mixture of wood and wetlands. View animals in their (enclosed) natural habitats. The trail takes apx. 1 hour to walk. 65 km from St. John's.
  • Fort Amherst - a lighthouse and World War II military fortification. Located across "The Narrows" on the opposite side of the harbour from Signal Hill. Offers unique views of the city and Cape Spear.
  • St. John's old downtown churches - the Anglican Cathedral, St. Thomas Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Basilica (designated a minor Basilica by the Pope), St. Andrews Presbyterian, and the Gower Street United Church.
  • The Rooms - the major cultural centre at Fort Townsend for Newfoundland & Labrador. The building has become one of prominence (and controversy) rivalling that of the Basilica. The Rooms contain the Newfoundland Museum, Provincial Archives, and Art Gallery. From the upper floor you can get an unrivalled view of the area. For the cheap, there is free admission on Wed 7-9PM.
  • The Johnson GeoCentre - Newfoundland Geo-Science Centre on Signal Hill
  • The Art Gallery of Newfoundland & Labrador
  • The Fluvarium - a partially underground aquatic centre
  • LSPU Hall: The Resource Centre For The Arts - art gallery and theatre
  • George Street - the core of St. John's busy nightlife
  • The Newfoundland Science Centre
  • The Newman Wine Vaults - historic wine vaults constructed in the late 18th century; one of St. John's oldest buildings
  • The Provincial Museum of Newfoundland & Labrador
  • The Quidi Vidi Brewing Company - tour the brewery and sample speciality beers
  • The St. John's Arts & Culture Centre - art gallery & theatre
  • East Coast Trail - a cliff side trail along the coast north of Signal Hill.


St. John's has two modern shopping centres. The Avalon Mall, the largest shopping centre in Newfoundland, has 140 stores and is on Kenmount Road. The Village Shopping Centre is in the West End on Topsail Road. St. John's also has several big box centres; Stavanger Drive in the east end; Kelsey Drive (off Kenmount Road); and Pearlgate located in the suburb of Mount Pearl.

Downtown St. John's boasts a wide array of shops and boutiques, most notably Water Street. Everything from unique souvenirs to designer clothing.

Quebec and Newfoundland are the only provinces in Canada where cold beer can be purchased in convenience stores.


  • Sobey's8 Merrymeeting Road +1 709 726-2242. MO-SA 8AM-10PM; SU 10AM-6PM. Groceries
  • Dominion260 Blackmarsh Road +1 709 579-0133. MO-SU 12am-12am. Groceries. (This chain is known as "Loblaws" elsewhere in Canada, as the "Dominion" name belonged to "Métro" in Toronto.)


  • Living Planet T-Shirts197 Water Street +1 709 754-9300. Locally designed and printed t-shirts.
  • Byron's For Men.
  • Couture Studio174 Water Street +1 709 739-8868. Designer Asian clothing.
  • Twisted Sisters Boutik175 Water Street. Locally made clothing and accessories by Canadian designers.


  • The Travel Bug - travel accessories
  • Attica - upscale furniture store
  • Hempware - Newfoundland's only hemp product specialty store
  • The Dog House - très chic pet boutique
  • The Downhomer Shoppe - local souvenirs and literature.
  • Home - on Water Street
  • Bowring's - a Newfoundland institution, and the home-base of a now-national chain, Bowring's of Newfoundland. Housewares and décor.



  • 1 Bagel Café246 Duckworth St +1 709 739-4470. One of the best breakfasts available in St. John's.


Newfoundlanders will tell you that you can't leave St. John's without having fish and chips at either Ches's or the Big R (known to locals as "the Big Arse"). Local favourite dishes include "chips, dressing and gravy" (french fries and stuffing covered in thick gravy), "fish-and-brewis" (a sort of hard bread), and "cod cheeks" (the cheeks of cod fish, really).

  • Ches's Fish and Chips 4 locations: 9 Freshwater Rd., 655 Topsail Rd., 8 Highland Dr., 29-33 Commonwealth Ave.
  • The Big R: 2 locations: 69 Harvey Road (Downtown, 8AM-8PM), and 201 Blackmarsh Road (8AM-midnight)
  • 2 International Flavours4 Quidi Vidi Road. Pakistani cuisine.
  • 3 Leo's Fish and Chips27 Freshwater Rd.
  • Magic Wok. good traditional or Canadian-style Chinese food
  • The Rocket272 Water St. Coffee, baked goods, soups, sandwiches.
  • 4 Bamboo Garden252 Duckworth St +1 709 726-7802. Excellent service, great dim-sum style dumplings, noodle soups and crazy cheap!


  • 5 The Sprout364 Duckworth Street +1 709 579-5485. Vegetarian
  • Pi10 King's Rd +1 709 726-2000. gourmet pizza and pasta.
  • Fog CityKenmount Road (Avalon Mall),  +1 709 726-4949.
  • The Celtic Hearth Water Street, traditional Irish pub and restaurant. Open 24 hours.
  • 6 Pasta PlusChurchill Square +1 709 722-0942.
  • India Gate286 Duckworth Street +1 709 753-6006. The best Indian food (temporarily closed due to fire)
  • Zapata's10 Bates Hill +1 709 576-6399. Mexican food


  • Oppidan (Sheraton Hotel),  +1 709 726-4980.
  • Magnum & Stein's284 Duckworth Street.
  • Basho283 Duckworth Street. Japanese fusion, chic minimalist décor


George Street, in the heart of downtown, is a prime location for nightlife. Water Street, said to be the oldest street in North America, also contains several pubs, usually of a more relaxing atmosphere.





  • 1 Delta Hotel120 New Gower St. New Gower at Barter's Hill. Near George Street, Mile One Stadium and the St. John's Convention Center.
  • 2 Ryan Mansion21 Rennie's Mill Road +1 709 753-7926. An exceptional 5-star Bed and Breakfast located in a Heritage home in downtown St. John's. Marble en suite baths feature heated floors and therapeutic tubs for two. Extravagant suites are arranged over 6 rooms and offer the ultimate in guest accommodation including en suite baths featuring personal steam/shower rooms and century old tubs carved from granite! A collection of local, national, and international artworks, sculpture and artefacts are exhibited throughout the mansion, and a cosy library offers a selection of books & games.
  • 3 Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland115 Cavendish Square (near the business district),  +1 709 726-4980. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Offers 301 rooms with free wired and wireless internet use. Newly renovated lobby and lounge. Many rooms feature views of the harbour and downtown.

Stay safe[edit]

While St. John's is generally regarded as a safe city, recent increases in the crime rate have been reported. Panhandling is very common in downtown, however simply replying "no" or ignoring those individuals usually does the trick, while a few more may be more persistent. Very rarely will these people become violent, and are usually not a problem.

As in any other city of comparable size, use caution when travelling after dark. Common areas to avoid include Buckmaster Circle, Old and New Penneywell Road, areas immediately around Hamlyn Road, Livingstone Street, Water Street west (Springdale Street west to the beginning of Waterford Bridge Road including Victoria Park) after dark, and Shea Heights. Most of these places are not areas which tourists would normally be in, and shouldn't be a huge problem.

Caution should be used when on George Street, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. With excessive drinking and drug use, there is a high tendency for people to turn violent. However, it's unlikely that you'll fall victim to a violent assault if you keep out of trouble. Extreme caution is to be had at 24-hour restaurants and convenience stores across town, especially in the downtown area. Violent patrons from George Street often stagger into such restaurants after last call and can be violent, sometimes attacking unsuspecting individuals. As well, a recent rise in armed robberies in the metropolitan area have left 24-hour convenience an easy target for criminals.

However, with crime rates much lower than the national average, little is to fear about walking around St. John's at most times of day or night. With exercising some basic caution, there is no reason why your visit to the city can't be a safe one.

Go next[edit]

  • Dildo - quiet little fishing town is less than an hour's drive away - go whale watching or check out the archaeological remains of early Indian settlement
  • Middle Cove Beach - Closest beach to St. John's. Noted for annual caplin roll in late June.
  • Irish Loop - 7-8 hour scenic drive following the southern 'cape' shore (route 10) back to the Trans-Canada Highway.
  • Cape Spear - the most easterly point in North America, a 15 km drive from the city
  • Bell Island - catch the ferry from Portugal Cove and check out the local mining museum
  • Petty Harbour - picturesque fishing village and friendly, quiet retreat just minutes from the city - a must-see if visiting Cape Spear (take the left turn onto Maddox Cove Road when headed back.)
  • Bay Bulls - a small bay 32 km east on route 10 from St. John's, it's home to various boat tour companies offering whale, puffin, and iceberg watching
Routes through St. John's
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This city travel guide to St. John's is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.