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6 July 2022

A Landsby Spotlight On St. John’s

Photo by Barrett & MacKay

Colourful in both architecture and personality, the historic capital city of St. John’s is a worthy destination any time of the year. If you find yourself flying to Newfoundland, there’s a good chance you’ll start your exploration of the province in its capital city. But even if you take the ferry or fly into a different town, we highly recommend allowing at least a few days to hang out in lively St. John’s — or longer if time allows.

Browse through our Newfoundland Experiences to find one that’s right for you or reach out and let us create a custom itinerary.

Where is St. John’s?

Sometimes mistaken for Saint John, the city of a similar name in New Brunswick, St. John’s is the capital of (and largest city in) Newfoundland and Labrador. It is located in a sheltered harbour on the Atlantic Ocean, on the southeast corner of the island. The 500-year-old city is perhaps best recognized for its clapboard row houses painted in bright hues (referred to as Jelly Bean Row even though they are scattered on multiple streets throughout the downtown) and it is known for its friendly residents and warm hospitality.

Being an island, Newfoundland can be reached by boat or air. Direct flights into St. John’s are available from multiple Canadian cities; from Toronto, for example, the flight time is three hours, from Calgary, it is five and a half.

Year round ferry service is available between North Sydney in Nova Scotia and Port aux Basques in southwestern Newfoundland (about 900 km from the capital). In the summer, an additional ferry travels three times per week between North Sydney and Argentia, which is just 130 km from St. John’s.

Photo by Scott McClellan/ Destination St. John’s

What’s there to do in St. John’s?

St. John’s is set on rocky hills that overlook the water and much of life here is tied to the sea. The city itself extends from its historic urban core to more suburban and industrial areas further out. Visitors come for the food, the arts and culture, the spectacular scenery and the unique vibe of the city.

Related: Things to do on a Family Vacation in Newfoundland 

Signal Hill. Photo c/o Destination St. John’s

Take in the history & culture of St. John’s

Some of the top attractions in the city are related to its history. There is the Signal Hill National Historic Site which was the site of the first transatlantic radio transmission; the Johnson GEO Centre, a cool science centre that showcases the ancient geology of the area; and Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America and the location of the oldest lighthouse in the province (read more about this historic area of Newfoundland in the Landsby Journal).

St. John’s is also an art and culture hub in Newfoundland. Visit the many artist studios in Quidi Vidi and stop in at the Rooms, the province’s largest public cultural space.

St. John's Newfoundland

The Battery viewed from the water. Photo c/o Destination St. John’s

Getting out in nature

In the late spring, the most popular event in St. John’s is watching the icebergs and whales as they pass by the coast. There are many whale- and iceberg-watching trips available from St. John’s or head out on the water to do some fishing, if that’s more in line with your interests. Birdwatching tours are also popular in the region, especially those that take you out to see Atlantic Puffins.

Related: Ultimate Guide to Whale Watching in Canada

On land, there are tons of neighbourhoods to explore (be sure to spend some time in Quidi Vidi) and lots of nearby hiking options.

No matter the season, eating, drinking and chatting with the locals is always a fun way to spend time in St. John’s. There are plenty of pubs and restaurants to try throughout the city.

Photo c/o Destination St. John’s

Our 2022 Summer Spotlight series has short introductions to Canada’s 14 capital cities (10 provincial, 3 territorial and 1 national) and was created to inspire us Canadians to explore more of our own country. For more details on each province or territory, visit our Experiences page or search our Journal by location. Better yet, reach out to us! We’d love to tell you more about these great places and create travel itineraries for you to explore them. 

Category: Newfoundland