Newfoundland is an island of vast unpopulated wilderness, washed-out beauty, and austere. Yet in St John, its largest city and capital, you will find many homes colored like a tropical fruit, as well as a dim urban buzz and a bustling street life. For all that, the oldest city in North America does not simply contrast the region it dominates. St John’s exudes lust for life, stoicism, and wry wit, and to this end incorporates some of the best values of Newfoundland. It’s a place that some friends of mine who run a garbage bin rental company love to frequent for these exact reasons. Here are the top attractions in St John’s, Canada.
Signal Hill Historic Site
For the glorious view alone, the most famous landmark in the city is worth visiting, although there is much more to see. The Cabot Tower is a castle atop the hill, and was built to honor Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and the arrival of John Cabot in 1497. Soldiers dress as the nineteenth-century Royal Newfoundland Company in midsummer to fire cannons and perform a ‘tattoo’. The visitor center features interactive displays on the history of the site.
Only few museums offer visitors the opportunity to pursue ancient weaponry, hear avant-garde sculptures, and see a giant squid under one roof. But The Rooms offer all these and more, it is the all-in-one historical archives, art gallery, and museum of the province. The building itself is a massive glass-and-stone complex with impressive views over the city. The museum also has an excellent restaurant and an on-site café.
Away from town, over Signal Hill is the picturesque Quidi Vidi village. Check out the lakeside regatta museum and the 18th-century battery, but make Quidi Vidi Brewery your first stop, which whips up the most popular microbrews in Newfoundland. Located on the small wharf in an old fish-processing plant, it is a pretty place to quench your thirst. Nearby is one of North America’s oldest cottages, the Mallard Cottage. This restaurant serves comfort food of Newfoundland.
CA Pippy Park
The 13 sq.km feature-filled CA Pippy Park coats the northwestern edge of downtown. Recreational facilities in this park include a campground, a golf course, playgrounds, picnic areas, and walking trails. Memorial University, the only university in the province is here too. The botanical garden of the university is at Oxen Pond, at the western edge of the park. A nature reserve and cultivated areas fill the botanical landscape. These and the Long Pond marsh of the park give visitors a nice introduction to the animals, habitats, and flora of Newfoundland.