25 Best Things to Do in St. John’s, Newfoundland
Disclaimer: Information is accurate as of February 15, 2022
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 historic sites around the corner from 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 this city on the Avalon peninsula.
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 or visit the gift shop inside Cabot Tower.
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.
Take a Walking Tour
One of the best ways to be introduced to a new city is with a walking tour. St. John’s Walking Tours launched in the summer of 2022 and currently offers two walking tours through the downtown core. Choose from the 2.5h Signature Tour or the most compact, less hilly, 90min Core Tour. Find out what makes the city so unique with entertaining and informative stories.
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.
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 each Friday for post-secondary students and to all between 6pm-9pm on the first Wednesday of the 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. Go for a stroll around Quidi Vidi Lake afterwards to feed the ducks.
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 19 microbreweries brewing and more in the works. In St. John’s you can get your beer right from the source at YellowBelly, Quidi Vidi Brewery, or Bannerman Brewing. 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.
Get a Snap of Jellybean Row
While there is no street actually named Jellybean Row or even a single designated area, there are colourful houses everywhere you look in downtown St. John’s. Go on a rainbow scavenger hunt and see if you can find one of every colour.
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. O’Reilly’s Pub is a reliable spot 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 boat 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 humpback whales 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.
Attend the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival
Without a doubt, one of the other staples of any St. Johns’ summer is the annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival. It typically happens close to the George Street Festival, but it couldn’t be more different. The folk festival takes place in Bannerman Park in early July and features workshops, panel talks, and lots and lots of folk music.
St. John’s Farmer’s Market
Shopping local is one of the best things to do when you’re travelling and the St. John’s Farmer’s Market, in its new, larger location offers lots of options to do just that. Whether you want waffles, paintings, soaps, produce, you’ll find it here every Saturday.
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.
Basilica of St. John the Baptist
The Basilica of St. John the Baptist sits on the highest ridge overlooking downtown St. John’s. Built to face the rising sun on the Winter Solstice, it’s the mother church of Roman Catholicism in Newfoundland. Stop by the Presentation Convent Museum next door to see the Veiled Virgin statue. The Veiled Virgin is to St. John’s what Venus de Milo is to the Louvre; what la Pieta is to the Vatican. This bust of Mary was carved in white marble in the mid-1800s by Giovanni Strazza, an Italian sculptor, and is simply stunning.
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.
Get a Flight of Gelato
The newest addition to the St. John’s food scene is The Parlour, with their Instagrammable bubble waffle cones and flights of gelato. My suggestion? Stop in for an espresso and scone for breakfast, get a to-go cone, and head across the street to Bannerman Park to enjoy it.
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April 14th, 2018 at 10:28 am (#)
Great list! I’d add The MUN Botanical Garden and Quidi Vidi Village (with a visit to the Plantation) to the list.
By the way, that is not Middle Cove Beach in the photo.
August 15th, 2018 at 9:47 am (#)
That is Middle Cove Beach
April 14th, 2018 at 7:30 pm (#)
This is all such wonderful advice for St. John’s! I had a great time there and especially loved George Street, Signal Hill, and the Hipster Quarter. Unfortunately, we were too late to see icebergs :(
May 17th, 2018 at 11:29 am (#)
I guess this just means that you’ll have to come back and visit us again. :)
May 5th, 2018 at 11:54 am (#)
Hi This List could also include Spirit of Newfoundland Productions! They are the Dinner & Show Go To here in St. John’s! What a Great Night Out – Gourmet Meal and First Class Entertainment!!
May 17th, 2018 at 11:28 am (#)
There are so many great things to do here it was hard to narrow it down. Those are all great suggestions!
May 7th, 2018 at 10:19 am (#)
Coming this summer. Can’t wait. Thanks for the information.
May 17th, 2018 at 11:11 am (#)
I’d add St. John’s Farmer’s Market, Some Good Market, Replace Hipster Corner with shop on Hip Duckworth/ Water Street, Moo Moos Icecream, Gelato at The Newfoundland Chocolate Company, any East Coast Trail, Johnson Family Foundation walking trails, Vintage row on Water Street west, ummm yup! Lots of goodies. Great list!
May 17th, 2018 at 11:28 am (#)
We really have an embarrassment of riches here don’t we? So many great things to do!
May 27th, 2018 at 1:35 pm (#)
Don’t forget the Railway Coastal Museum! Lots of cool history there. Also Posie Row is newly renovated and an A+ spot for finding expertly crafted local goods like soap, jewelry and other nick nacks. Plus the Ocean Sciences Centre has a great touch tank and the cutest family of seals!
August 20th, 2022 at 12:28 am (#)
Can’t wait to visit!