25 Best Things to Do in St. John’s, Newfoundland
Just about every visitor to Newfoundland and Labrador will spend some time in St. John’s, and they should. The most eastern city in North America has a lot to offer. It’s both urban and rural with hiking trails only minutes drive from downtown. There are intellectual cultural offerings next to the shenanigans of George Street. Some of the world’s finest dining and also some of the best greasy spoons. There’s something for everyone in St. John’s. So what do I think are the best things to do in and around St. John’s? Take it from a local.
The top of Signal Hill has one of the best views of St. John’s. It’s always windy but it’s worth a trip up to the spot where Marconi sent the first wireless signal. Stop at the visitor centre on the way up for gelato from the Newfoundland Chocolate Company Cafe.
Johnson Geo Centre
On your way back down from Signal Hill, keep going down…and down…at the Johnson Geo Centre where you can actually touch the rock that sits under Signal Hill. Most of the building is underground which is a perfect place to learn about our unique geography. Don’t miss the intro video hosted by Gordon Pinsent.
While it’s not right in St. John’s, visiting the most Eastern point in North America should be on your St. John’s bucket list. They’ve just finished some reno work on the walking paths so it’s better than ever. If you really want to be a rockstar, visit for sunrise so that you can be the first to greet a new day on this continent.
Housing the province’s art gallery, museum, and archives, The Rooms has the other best view of St. John’s from their 2nd floor bank of floor to ceiling windows. This is the best place to get a feel for Newfoundland history and culture all under one roof. The on-site cafe is also top-notch. Tip: admission is free between 6pm-9pm on the first Wednesday of every month.
Hike the East Coast Trail
One of the best things about St. John’s is that you’re never far from nature. The East Coast Trail is a series of 26 connected trails going all the way from Pouch Cove to Cappahayden. There are even a few trails that run along the water’s edge through the city. If you’ve never hiked through the woods with a simultaneous view of the ocean, I highly recommend it.
Brunch at Quidi Vidi
St. John’s has a bustling and somewhat unexpected food scene. Our small city is currently home to three of Canada’s top 100 restaurants. You should make it a point to get yourself to Mallard Cottage in Quidi Vidi for their weekend brunch. Not only do they serve up the most local of dishes in one of the province’s oldest wooden buildings, but they have an all you can eat cake table that needs to be seen to be believed.
Picnic in Bannerman Park
A St. John’s summer right of passage is the Bannerman Park picnic. Get some sandwiches and coffee from Rocket Bakery or a takeout pie from Venice Pizza and find a spot in the sun to lounge and people watch. Bonus points if you bring a hammock to string between the trees. You may even want to take a dip in the outdoor pool.
Sample Craft Beer
The craft beer scene in Newfoundland is a bit behind the rest of the country but we’re picking up steam fast. There are currently eight microbreweries brewing and over a dozen more in the works. In St. John’s you can get your beer right from the source at YellowBelly, Quidi Vidi Brewery, or Mill Street. You can also head up Torbay Rd on the weekend to pick up a supply of Port Rexton Brewery’s beer at their retail shop. If you’re looking for a bar with the best selection of local beer though, it’s not on George Street. It’s at Jack Axes.
St. John’s Beer Tours
If you want to learn more about the local beer scene and get to sample at least a dozen different brews with a fun crew, sign yourself up for a St. John’s Beer Tour. Want to know how we make beer from icebergs or why we have funny shaped bottles? Kayla, tour guide extraordinaire, will share all she knows…which is a lot. Perfect way to spend an afternoon in St. John’s.
Throw Axes at Jack Axes
Axe throwing is a sport (game? hobby? pastime?) that many people are surprised to find is not only real, but available outside of hipster enclaves like Austin, Portland, or Brooklyn. St. John’s has a local axe throwing joint, and they also serve great beer (just leave your pint in the bar before you throw). You don’t need to be Jason Momoa to have a good time either. They run a league but you can also just drop in and give it a try. Plaid shirt no required.
Every good party city has their main bar zone. New Orleans has Bourbon Street. Nashville has Broadway. St. John’s has George Street, a pedestrian street lined on both sides with nothing but pubs, nightclubs, and dives with live music every night of the week. If you want the insane George Street experience coming in late July for the George Street Festival where bands play on the outdoor stage every night and for one cover you wander from bar to bar with drink in hand. It’s madness.
Zipline over Petty Harbour
If you want to combine an adrenaline rush with scenic views, zip lining with North Atlantic Ziplines in Petty Harbour is the way to do it. Get harnessed up and fly from platform to platform on Canada’s longest zip line course. You can also get your learn on from the displays on each platform that describe the area you’re looking at. Fun and educational!
St. John’s Haunted Hike
Any city as old as St. John’s is bound to have a few ghost stories. The best way to hear some of the best ones is to sign up for the St. John’s Haunted Hike. You’ll be led around downtown with a spooky captivating guide who will take you to the exact chilling spots where the stories happened. Duck into back alleys and hidden squares while hearing about our supernatural past. Let me know after if the dueling ghosts of Military Road came out to say hi.
Catch a Trad Session
If you’ve ever been to Ireland then you know all about the session. Folks gather around at a pub with a pub and play tunes. It’s not a performance, they play for themselves and for the love of the tune. But that doesn’t mean you can’t hang around and enjoy their talent. Newfoundland is chock-a-block full of traditional musicians so there’s bound to be a session on the go somewhere. Erin’s Pub is one of the best places to check but ask around when you get in town to see if any more are on the go.
Go Whale Watching and Iceberg Hunting
St. John’s might not be the epicentre for whale watching and iceberg hunting in Newfoundland but there are still plenty of opportunities to get out there. Book a tour with Iceberg Quest and you could find yourself scooping bergy bits out of the ocean to drop in your drink or watching a pod of humpbacks feed on capelin.
Bonfire at Middle Cove Beach
One of my favourite summer traditions in St. John’s is to pick up a load of firewood, a case of beers, some hot dogs and marshmallows and get slightly out of town for a bonfire on Middle Cove Beach. On a typical night you’ll see the light of over a dozen fires. Get here early to get a fire pit, but if you’re late and you really want a fire you can make your own circle of stones and have at it. I just love roasting marshmallows while listening to the ocean roll on the shore.
Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium
Get up close and personal with our local sea life at the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium – a unique catch-and-release aquarium. There are hands-on touch tank exhibits, live animal displays, and one-on-one science interpretation. Perfect if you’re travelling with family.
Go for a Bounce
Get Air is an indoor trampoline park with a ninja course, foam pit, slam ball, and more. It’s a great activity if you find yourself facing one of St. John’s rainy days.
Play Jenga at Mochanopoly
Another great rainy day activity is head to Mochanopoly Board Game Cafe downtown. They have a huge selection of board and card games to go with your coffee and cookie. There’s no wifi here because they want you to unplug and interact with your friends.
Axtion Climb Adult Night
If you’re looking for a way to get the blood pumping before heading to George Street, try the aerial course at Axtion. Test your fear of heights and hand-eye coordination with the eight different challenges. Or maybe play a little smash ‘em up with their dryland bumper “boats”. Or maybe the Axtionator is more your style. Newfoundland’s only indoor amusement park ride is a giant pendulum that spins as you go higher and higher. Check out their calendar for adult night.
Pet the Goats at Lester Farms
Who couldn’t use a little goat therapy? Head out to Lester Farms and take a stroll through the petting barn. Feed the goats and say hi to the alpaca. You never know what animals you’ll see. From mid-summer into fall you can also test your wits in their corn maze. Don’t forget to stop by the Harvest Hut food truck and get yourself a grilled cheese and tornado potato.
Test Your Puzzle Skills
Want to test your logical thinking, teamwork, and general ability to think out-of-the-box? Get yourself to BreakOutNL where you’ll have 45 minutes to think your way out of a ‘locked’ room. Pick your theme from a cabin on the Titanic to a dungeon or being abducted by aliens. Makes a great rainy day option.
Float Your Stress Away
I’ve written before about floating and I’m a big believer in it’s restorative, energizing effects. I longed for the day that Newfoundland would get a float tank. Well, the day has come. The stunningly beautiful Winterholme Wellness Centre & Spa is home to St. John’s first sensory deprivation tank. If you’re visiting from far away, give it a try to beat the jet lag blues or sooth post-airplane pains.
Feed the Ducks at Bowring Park
Pick up some duck feed at Marie’s Mini Mart and head to Bowring Park to make some feathered friends. While you’re there, take a stroll through the park to find the Peter Pan statue and the vintage horse fountain. Maybe even catch a show at the amphitheatre or take a dip in the community pool.
Shop at Hipster Corner
There’s a corner of downtown that has an aura of cool unlike anywhere else. It’s located on the edge of the War Memorial on Duckworth Street. You can shop for new and vintage vinyl at the purple-painted Fred’s Records then pop across the street for unreal falafel and hummus at Mohamed Ali’s. Just down the steps is Model Citizens is too cool for school. They’ve curated a great collection of vintage clothing and designer resales. You may also find some new, locally produced items. Finish up your visit with the best espresso in town at Fixed Coffee & Baking.