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North America > Canada > Atlantic Canada > Newfoundland and Labrador > Eastern Newfoundland > St. John's

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.

With just above 200,000 citizens, the metropolitan area is the second largest in Atlantic Canada, behind Halifax.

Understand[edit]

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]

You can reach downtown by public bus No. 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]

St John's is the easternmost point on Trans-Canada Highway 1, the main road across Newfoundland. If you splash loudly into the Atlantic Ocean, you'll know you've gone past the city.

Traffic arriving from out-of-province normally crosses by ferry from North Sydney (Nova Scotia) to either Port-aux-Basques or Argentia, then follows TCH 1 east to town. (It's also possible to cross from Labrador via a ferry at Blanc-Sablon Québec, but the Trans-Labrador Highway to Quebec Route 389 in Labrador City-Fermont is no easy journey.)

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 from Marine Atlantic. 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]

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 [1].

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[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. Signal Hill, St. John's on Wikipedia Signal Hill (Q245680) on Wikidata
  • 2 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. The Battery, St. John's on Wikipedia The Battery (Q7715814) on Wikidata
  • 3 Bowring Park, 305 Waterford Bridge Rd, +1 709 364-1531, toll-free: +1 709 576-8073, e-mail: . A beautiful 20-ha (50-acre) park with duck ponds, bridges, walking trails, tennis courts, playground equipment, an outdoor pool and many monuments. Bowring Park (St. John's) on Wikipedia Bowring Park (Q15204038) on Wikidata
  • 4 Memorial University's Botanical Garden, 306 Mt Scio Rd (On the campus of the Memorial University of Newfoundland.), +1 709 864-8590. M-F 9AM-4PM. Memorial University of Newfoundland Botanical Garden on Wikipedia Memorial University of Newfoundland Botanical Garden (Q6815551) on Wikidata
  • 5 Fort Amherst, Fort Amherst Rd. 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. Fort Amherst, St. John's on Wikipedia Fort Amherst (Q4274293) on Wikidata
  • 6 The Rooms (The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery), 9 Bonaventure Ave, +1 709 757-8090. M Tu, Th-Sa 10AM-5PM; W 10AM-9PM. 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 W 7-9PM.
  • 7 Colonial Building, Military Rd & Bannerman Rd. The Colonial Building is a neoclassical building constructed of white limestone brought from Cork, Ireland. Opened in the 1850s, it was the seat of Newfoundland's legislature until 1959.
  • 8 Commissariat House, Provincial Historic Site, 11 Kings Bridge Rd, +1 709 729-6730. The commissariat procured supplies for the local military in 19th century. The first commissariat had a house built to provide a residence as well as a staffed public office. The rooms on display are furnished with many antiques circa 1830. A narrated guided tour is provided. Price also includes admission to Newman Wine Vaults.
  • 9 Supreme Court, 309 Duckworth St, +1 709 729-1137, toll-free: +1 709 729-6623. The Court House, built in 1901, is a Victorian-era building built of local granite and sandstone. The building extends between Duckworth and Water streets, and has an interesting façade on each of the two streets.
  • 10 Government House, Military Road (between Bannerman Rd & Kings Bridge Rd), +1 709 729-2669, e-mail: . Government House contains the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, and is situated within a park with flower beds.and blossoming trees. As well as visiting the gardens, the public may go within the main entrance of Government House to sign a guest book and pick up a free postcard. (The main entrance of the building is at the rear on its north side; bypass the side entrance on its west side.) Free.
  • 11 Railway Coastal Museum, 495 Water St (south of downtown), +1 709 724-5929. 10AM-5PM, closed M & Tu from Oct to mid-June. The museum has various exhibits about rail and coastal shipping located in the original 1903 Riverhead Railway Station. The museum contains dioramas of passenger car interiors built into the dismantled passenger car bodies. Outside, south across the street from the museum, a locomotive and two carriages are on display in a small park. Behind the museum at its NE corner, the shop building of the Newfoundland Railway still stands without any tracks; although closed to the public, the shop front can be viewed from a public area.
  • 12 Eastern Edge Art Gallery, 72 Harbour Dr, +1 709 739-1882. Tu-Sa noon-5PM, closed Su-M. Contemporary art from Canada and the province.
  • 13 Suncor Energy Fluvarium, 5 Nagles Pl, +1 709 754-3474. Scientific exhibits explaining water in relation to rivers, watersheds and ecosystems.
  • 14 George Street (between Adelaide St & Water St). This narrow street lined with colourful buildings is the core of St. John's busy nightlife.
  • 15 Newman Wine Vaults, 436 Water St, +1 709 729-2627. Open in the summer months. Historic wine vaults, constructed in the late 18th century to age port wine, occupy one of St. John's oldest buildings. Port wine was imported from England, aged in the cellars, and often exported back to England because the sea voyage and Saint John's cool temperature were good for the wine. The front of the building was modernized in the early 20th century; however, the interior is well preserved in its original state. A free sample of port is offered to adult visitors. Price also includes admission to Commissariat House..
  • 16 Terry Fox Mile 0 Site, 1 Water St (behind the St. John's Port Authority building). A small park containing a bronze sculpture of Terry Fox dipping his foot in the water at the site where in 1980 he began his Marathon of Hope to raise money and awareness for cancer research.
  • 17 The Johnson GeoCentre, 175 Signal Hill Rd, +1 709 737-7880, toll-free: +1-866-868-7625, e-mail: .
  • Historic St. John's Harbour.

Churches[edit]

Do[edit]

  • Iceberg Quest Ocean Tours, Pier 6, 135 Harbour Dr, +1 709 722-1888, e-mail: . Departures at 9:30AM, 1PM, 4PM, and 7PM. Enjoy St. John's from the water. See whales, seabirds and icebergs.
  • 1 The Quidi Vidi Brewing Company, 35 Barrows Rd, +1 709 738-4040, e-mail: . Tour the brewery and sample specialty beers.
  • 2 LSPU Hall (Resource Centre for the Arts), 3 Victoria St, +1 709 753-4531, e-mail: . Performing arts theatre located in a brightly coloured wooden building.
  • 3 Arts and Culture Centre St. John's, 95 Allandale Rd, +1 709 729-3900. Performing arts theatre.
  • 4 Harbourside Park, Water St at Queens Cove (Opposite the National War Memorial.). The park hosts concerts, and features statues of a Newfoundland dog and a Labrador Retriever.
  • The Grand Concourse, 439 Allandale Rd, +1 709 737-1077, e-mail: . The Grand Concourse Authority oversees an extensive collection of walking trails in the city.
  • 5 Bannerman Park, Military Rd opposite Carew St. This urban park has large grassy areas and a few small flower beds. Near a small bandstand, there is a life-size statue of a girl sitting on a park bench tying her ice skates. A building shaped like a railway station has a BeaverTails stand and a WC.
  • 6 St. John's Haunted Hike, Church Hill (tour begins and ends at the Anglican Cathedral). Su-Th at 9:30PM in summer. Tour historic St. John's while being regaled with stories of the spooky & strange.
  • East Coast Trail. A cliff side trail along the coast north of Signal Hill. This trail system extends in segments to the north and south for dozens of kilometers.

Buy[edit]

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.

Unlike most provinces in Canada, cold beer can be purchased in convenience stores.

Groceries[edit]

  • 1 Sobey's, 8 Merrymeeting Road, +1 709 726-2242. M-Sa 8AM-10PM; Su 10AM-6PM. Sells groceries.
  • 2 Dominion, 260 Blackmarsh Road, +1 709 579-0133. M-Su noon-midnight. Sells groceries. This chain is known as "Loblaws" elsewhere in Canada.

Clothing[edit]

Souvenirs[edit]

  • 5 The Travel Bug, 197 Water St, +1 709 738-8284. M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su noon-5PM. Travel accessories.
  • 6 Hempware, 98 Duckworth St, +1 709 738-4367. Newfoundland's only hemp product specialty store.
  • 7 The Downhome Shoppe, 303 Water St, +1 709 722-2970. Local souvenirs and literature.
  • 8 Bowring's, 56 Aberdeen Ave, +1 709 738-5599. Su-F 10AM-9PM, Sa 9AM-6PM. A Newfoundland institution and home base of the national chain, Bowring's of Newfoundland. Housewares and décor.

Eat[edit]

Breakfast[edit]

  • 1 Bagel Café, 246 Duckworth St, +1 709 739-4470. One of the best breakfasts available in St. John's.

Budget[edit]

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 Rd (Downtown, 8AM-8PM), and 201 Blackmarsh Rd (8AM-midnight)
  • 2 International Flavours, 4 Quidi Vidi Road, +1 709 738-4636. Pakistani cuisine.
  • 3 Leo's Fish and Chips, 27 Freshwater Rd, +1 709 726-2658.
  • 4 Magic Wok Eatery, 408 Water St, +1 709 753-6907, e-mail: . Tu-Th noon-11PM, F noon-midnight, Sa 4PM-midnight, Su 4PM-11PM. good traditional or Canadian-style Chinese food
  • 5 The Rocket (Rocket Bakery and Fresh Food), 272 Water St, +1 709-738-2011. 7:30AM–8PM. Coffee, baked goods, soups, sandwiches.
  • 6 Bamboo Garden, 252 Duckworth St, +1 709 726-7802. Excellent service, great dim-sum style dumplings, noodle soups and crazy cheap!

Mid-range[edit]

Splurge[edit]

Drink[edit]

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.

Sleep[edit]

Budget[edit]

Mid-range[edit]

Splurge[edit]

  • 17 Delta Hotel, 120 New Gower St. New Gower at Barter's Hill. Near George Street, Mile One Stadium and the St. John's Convention Center. For Tim Hortons fans: There is a footbridge behind hotel reception leading to a small Tim Hortons outlet open on weekdays only.
  • 18 Ryan Mansion, 21 Rennie's Mill Rd, +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.
  • 19 Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland, 115 Cavendish Sq (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.

Cope[edit]

Visitors should have clothing for highly variable weather in Saint John's. For example, the high for July 5, 2017 was 9 °C (48 °F) but was more than 20 °C (68 °F) on the next day.

Stay safe[edit]

While St. John's is generally regarded as a safe city, 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 after dark 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) 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 assault if you keep out of trouble. Take caution at 24-hour restaurants and convenience stores across town, especially in the downtown area. Patrons from George Street often stagger into such restaurants after last call and can be violent, sometimes attacking unsuspecting individuals. As well, a 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 some basic caution, there is no reason why your visit to the city can't be a safe one.

Nearby[edit]

Cape Spear[edit]

The most easterly point in North America, a 15 km (9.3 mi) drive from St. John's.

Petty Harbour[edit]

Petty Harbour, about 12 km (7.5 mi) south of town, is a picturesque fishing village and friendly, quiet retreat. From Blackhead Road (which leads from St. John's to Cape Spear), turn south onto Maddox Cove Road.

Holyrood[edit]

About 60 km (37 mi) west of the city on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Portugal Cove[edit]

A little under 30 km (19 mi) west of town on Route 40. A ferry runs from Portugal Cove west to Bell Island.

Torbay[edit]

Torbay, Logy Bay and Middle Bay are about 13 km (8.1 mi) north of the city, past the airport.

  • 8 Middle Cove Beach. The closest beach to St. John's. Noted for annual caplin roll in late June.

Go next[edit]

  • Bonavista and its famous lighthouse are 310 km (190 mi) further north
  • 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
  • Irish Loop - 7-8 hour scenic drive following the southern 'cape' shore (route 10) back to the Trans-Canada Highway. Bay Bulls, one of the closest points to town, is a a small bay 32 km (20 mi) east on route 10 which is home to various boat tour companies offering whale, puffin, and iceberg watching.
Routes through St. John's
GanderMount Pearl  W NL TCH sign.png E  ENDS



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.