The Beauty of St. John’s
The Best Things to Do in St. John's, Newfoundland
by Karolina Jez
I’m super excited to share the details of my Urban Getaway to the Alt Hotel in St. John’s, Newfoundland with Air Canada Vacations!
Visiting Canada’s east coast and particularly Newfoundland has been on my bucket list since I moved from Vancouver to Montreal. It just seems the coast doesn’t get the love it merits…and that became even more evident after I discovered what St. John’s has to offer!
We rented a car with Budget on arrival and made our way to downtown St. John’s, which was a 15-20 minute ride from the airport, an easy route to the Alt Hotel St. John’s.
The Alt Hotel St. John’s is part of the same family as the Germain hotels and I immediately felt right at home. The incredibly friendly staff were definitely a highlight, particularly one lady who patiently answered my 2 billion questions about the city and what to do. In fact, the people of St. John’s were generally just so nice, so warm and so polite! Our room was perfect, with the most comfortable beds and comforters. I definitely fell in slow-motion on the white fluff of a duvet as soon as I got in!
Our first stop: CAPE SPEAR! On a cliff located a 15-minute drive outside the downtown centre, Cape Spear is home to Newfoundland’s oldest surviving lighthouse. The drive up was majestic. After cruising down a forest-lined road, you find yourself driving on top of what I can only describe as a massive rock, with ocean waves crashing against the cliff. We parked, walked towards the lighthouse and, despite the cold and the fog (okay, it was about 3 degrees…we were COLD), we were blown away by the beauty around us. For me, personally, the thought that, beyond that point, the closest piece of land would be Europe, was really cool.
After trotting around there for a bit, snapping pics and making new friends (everyone was so friendly! We met a group of breast cancer survivors who were on a trip together. I won’t get into it, but it was inspiring to meet such amazing women), we headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.
Our first night, we dined at The Merchant Tavern, a lovely and modern restaurant with really good cocktails and incredible food. If you go to St. John’s, it’s definitely a must. The night was young when we finished, so we headed to George Street for some live music at O’Reilly’s. Live music in this town is serious; it’s a totally authentic representation of Newfoundland. Pub dancing and enjoying live music are how people party and I am not opposed at all! So. Much. Fun! An early night was in the books though, as we had a day of exploring ahead of us.
The following two days were spent exploring–the highlights were definitely finding the Jellybean Row Houses that define St. John’s architectural landscape. The homes, so brightly coloured, popped against the cloudy and foggy atmosphere. Green, blue, pink, yellow–you name it, there’s likely a house painted in it! So cute!
We then took our fish and chips craving over the Chafe’s Landing, a place the late and wonderful Anthony Bourdain ate at so we knew it was going to be a truly delicious feast. See picture below for the most perfect piece of fried cod I have ever had!
Signal Hill was another must-see, of course! Overlooking St. John’s, the views were incredible. Fortifications were built here in the 17th century and served as harbour defences until the Second World War. You can see anyone coming by boat up there! While the site itself is the most popular landmark of St. John’s, my friend and I still talk about the Newfoundland Chocolate Company, a small café located halfway up to Signal Hill. Here, you can choose a fun hot chocolate from a mouth-watering menu or opt for a delicious mocha. This was hands-down the BEST mocha I’ve ever had and I still dream about it daily! NEED. MORE. If you go to St. John’s, you MUST go there. The warm beverage was much needed, as the cold gusts of wind up on Signal Hill were chilly enough to wake the dead! (Side note: it was unseasonably cold for the month of June).
We finished the day eating a delicious lentil soup at the uber-cool Mallard Cottage located in Quidi Vidi Village, home to the province’s largest microbrewery, the Quidi Vidi Brewery. Mallard Cottage is a must if you like the vibe of places like Joe Beef and Liverpool House, aka brimming with cool locals.
I want to finish with my FAVOURITE part of this trip: getting SCREECHED in at Christian’s Pub! Screech is Newfoundland’s rum. Back in the day, they used to trade this deep, dark rum with the Jamaicans, who, in exchange, took loads of cod off their hands. In order to become an honorary Newfoundlander, you must participate in a Screeching Ceremony, during which you learn some awesome Newfoundland slang, take a shot of Screech…and….kiss a cod. Yes, an actual cod. It happened. We laughed. We learnt. We drank. We got a certificate. True story! It was hilarious! Best part? Christian’s Pub is where Anthony Bourdain got “screeched in” when he spent 2 weeks in Newfoundland.
Our Sunday night was spent celebrating our honorary titles: we had an insanely delicious dinner at Adelaide’s, made some awesome new friends (and perhaps, just perhaps, a few more drinks than I care to remember) with dancing back at Christian’s. Let’s just say that we were in no hurry to get up and at ‘em the next day!
Our last night was spent with a lovely group, hailing from Toronto and Montreal. We had dinner at Mussels On The Corner, which has a long menu of mussels cooked in ways you couldn’t even imagine. Not into mussels? You can try something else off their delicious menu and if you’re adventurous enough…maybe sample a seal meat poutine.
I feel truly lucky to have visited this adorable city, full of history, great food (read: chocolate), great people and great music. It’s the perfect Urban Getaway that actually feels more country-meets-small-town. In fact, St. John’s would be a great place to fly into for a few days before spending some time exploring the rest of Newfoundland…something I absolutely will do one day.
If you’re looking to get away to St. John’s, Newfoundland for a few days, check out packages that include your flight and hotel!
This post was written by photographer and content creator, Karolina Jez. To learn more about Karolina, you can visit her website www.nineblonde.com.