When it comes to autumn getaways, St. John’s, Nfld., is hard to beat. This city charms with its friendly locals, surprises with its innovative food scene and stuns with its rugged, jaw-dropping landscapes.
Visit Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site
As Canada’s oldest city, discovered in 1497, St. John’s is packed with must-see historical attractions, including Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site. At nearly 200 years old, it’s the province’s oldest surviving lighthouse, and it sits on North America’s most easterly point.
Wander around downtown’s Jellybean Row
One of city’s most recognizable landscapes is Jellybean Row, which is not a single line of houses but multiple rows of brightly coloured dwellings throughout downtown, built in various architectural styles. These colourful homes have been the hallmark of St. John’s since the Great Fire of 1892. No one can say for sure where the vibrant colours came from, but local folklore says fishermen painted their homes bright so they could see them from the sea when the fog was particularly thick.
Explore Signal Hill National Historic Site
Another iconic attraction is Signal Hill National Historic Site, which has served as the centre of the area’s defence for centuries. This site is perhaps most famous for being where Guglielmo Marconi received the world’s first transatlantic communication in 1901. Today, sightseers can take in incredible views of the ocean, the harbour and the city from Signal Hill. Visitors can also explore on-site Cabot Tower—built to commemorate John Cabot’s 1497 voyage to North America, and to mark the 60th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s reign.
Go to Quidi Vidi
This quaint little neighbourhood, tucked away in a harbour, feels worlds apart from downtown. Where the unusual name (pronounced kiddy-viddy) comes from is a mystery—some say it was derived from another language, possibly the French name Quidville, while others say it was named after a local lady of the night, Kitty Vitty, who lived in the area. The area’s main attractions are Quidi Vidi Brewery (known for its iceberg beer), award-winning Mallard Cottage restaurant and The Quidi Vidi Village Plantation, which serves as an incubator for local artists.
Take a road trip
If you want to see more of Newfoundland, there are plenty of charming towns along the Avalon Peninsula to explore, many within a couple of hours of St. John’s. Middle Cove Beach is 20 minutes north of the city and a popular spot with locals for picnics in the summer and fall. Further west are idyllic towns such as Brigus, known for its hiking trails and historic attractions, and Cupids, a more than 400-year-old English colony (Canada’s first). South of St. John’s is the popular Irish Loop, a scenic touring route that runs along the coast and through small towns such as Ferryland and Witless Bay.
Why the History of St. John’s, Newfoundland, is Really Cool
The streets of St. John’s are teeming with history dating back at least four centuries. Visit historic attractions—like Signal Hill National Historic Site, Cape Spear Lighthouse and Mallard Cottage—to learn about one of Canada's oldest cities.