St. John’s – Newfoundland and Labrador

St. John’s is the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. It is the oldest city in North America and is located on the Avalon Peninsula in the southeast corner of the island of Newfoundland. The city is the easternmost point on the Trans-Canada Highway, a network of roads leading more than 8000 km westward to Victoria, British Columbia. With just above 200,000 citizens, the metropolitan area is the second largest in Atlantic Canada, behind Halifax.

Understand :  John Cabot was believed to have sailed into the harbour on June 24, 1494 – the feast day of John the Baptist, for whom St. John’s Harbour is named. The first year-round settlement was not long after 1630, although a seasonal fishery operated in the region long before then. Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed the area as England’s first overseas colony on 5 August 1583 under Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth I. Fishermen from England’s West Country controlled most of Newfoundland’s east coast by 1620. Fortifications were installed from 1670 onward to defend the city, against the Dutch and then against the French – both of whom had briefly captured the town at one time or another. When Newfoundland became a self-governing dominion within the British Empire in 1907 (a status similar to that of New Zealand), St. John’s was its national capital. Confederation with the Dominion of Canada in 1949 demoted the city to provincial capital status,  by then, Newfoundland had fought in two world wars. With a location 2100 km (1339 miles) northeast of Toronto, St. John’s is closer to Dublin than Vancouver. It is the most easternly urban settlement in North America and is 3½ hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. Vancouver on the west coast of Canada is 8 hours behind GMT

Access : Coordinates: 47.561389, -52.7125 / By plane : 1 St. John’s International Airport (YYT IATA) (is located 10 km (6.2 mi) from the downtown section of St. John’s). Flights arrive from major centres like Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, the Caribbean,London-Heathrow and Dublin from June to October by Westjet. The airport is served by Air Canada, WestJet, Porter and United Airlines. (Don’t mix up the destination with Saint John) St. John’s International Airport. You can reach downtown by public bus Nr. 14 on weekdays only, buses leave roughly hourly from 6:45am to 7:15pm to the campus of Memorial University, where connections to various downtown buses are available.

By car :  If you wish to drive to Newfoundland, you will have to take a ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, or fly and rent a car. (It’s also possible to cross by ferry from Labrador, but the trip via Quebec Route 389 and the Trans-Labrador Highway is no easy journey.) Once you arrive at either ferry terminal (see below), follow the Trans-Canada Highway east  it will bring you directly to the city of St. John’s. By boat :  The island portion of the province is accessible by several ferries leaving North Sydney, Nova Scotia. From there, you can take a 5 to 6 hour ferry ride to Port-aux-Basques, at the southwest corner of Newfoundland, and drive 905 km across the island to St. John’s, near its eastern tip. From mid-June through September, you can take a 14-17 hour ferry ride from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Argentia, Newfoundland, which is 131 km from St. John’s. Ferry schedules and reservation information are available from Marine Atlantic. You should make a reservation well in advance, especially if you want a cabin on an overnight crossing. Marine Atlantic ferries offer a wide variety of on board accommodations and features, including deluxe cabins, dormitory sleepers, full meal and beverage service, live entertainment, movies, and children’s activity programs.

  • Attractions : tour of the city or Cape Spear, the easternmost point in Canada.
  • Signal Hill. Majestically overlooking the city and designated as a National Historic Site. The hill was the last stand of the French army in North America during the Seven Years War. Cabot Tower, built in 1897, stand as the top today. The first wireless transatlantic message was received there in 1901.
  • The Battery. Small village on the edge of the downtown where small houses are framed by the sheer cliffs. The village was once part of the British Defence for the St. John’s Harbour. A trail leads from the end of the Battery around the cliffs and up to Signal Hill.
  • Cape Spear National Historic Site. Great lighthouse and most easterly point in North America. A 15-km drive from St. John’s.  4 Bowring Park, 305 Waterford Bridge Rd. A beautiful 20-ha (50-acre) park with duck ponds, bridges, walking trails, tennis courts, playground equipment, an outdoor pool and many monuments.
  • Memorial University’s Botanical Garden, 306 Mt Scio Rd. M-F 9AM-4PM. Memorial University of Newfoundland Botanical Garden
  • Fort Amherst, Fort Amherst Rd. A lighthouse and World War II military fortification. Located across “The Narrows” on the opposite side of the harbour from Signal Hill. Offers unique views of the city and Cape Spear.
  • St. Thomas’ Anglican Church, 8 Military Rd. This black wooden church opened in 1836, and is the oldest church in St. John’s.
  •  Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, 16 Church Hill . The cornerstone for this Anglican cathedral was laid in 1843. The church was destroyed by the St. John’s Great Fire of 1892, and was rebuilt between 1893 and 1905.
  • Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, 200 Military Rd . This Roman Catholic church designated a minor basilica by the Pope). It was built between 1841 and 1850, and has twin 43-metre-high towers.
  • St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 76 Queens Rd . This Gothic Revival church, built in 1894, has an impressive spire.
  • Gower Street United Church, 99 Queens Rd . This red brick church was completed in 1896.
  • The Rooms (The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery), 9 Bonaventure Ave . M Tu, Th-Sa 10AM-5PM; W 10AM-9PM. the major cultural centre at Fort Townsend for Newfoundland & Labrador. The building has become one of prominence (and controversy) rivalling that of the Basilica. The Rooms contain the Newfoundland Museum, Provincial Archives, and Art Gallery. From the upper floor you can get an unrivalled view of the area. For the cheap, there is free admission on W 7-9PM.
  • Colonial Building, Military Rd & Bannerman Rd. The Colonial Building is a neoclassical building constructed of white limestone brought from Cork, Ireland. Opened in the 1850s, it was the seat of Newfoundland’s legislature until 1959.
  • Commissariat House, Provincial Historic Site, 11 Kings Bridge Rd . The commissariat procured supplies for the local military in 19th century. The first commissariat had a house built to provide a residence as well as a staffed public office. The rooms on display are furnished with many antiques circa 1830. A narrated guided tour is provided. Price also includes admission to Newman Wine Vaults.
  • Supreme Court, 309 Duckworth St. The Court House, built in 1901, is a Victorian-era building built of local granite and sandstone. The building extends between Duckworth and Water streets, and has an interesting facade on each of the two streets.
  •  Government House, Military Road (between Bannerman Rd & Kings Bridge Rd). Government House contains the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, and is situated within a park with flower beds.and blossoming trees. As well as visiting the gardens, the public may go within the main entrance of Government House to sign a guest book and pick up a free postcard. (The main entrance of the building is at the rear on its north side ,  bypass the side entrance on its west side.) Free.
  • Railway Coastal Museum, 495 Water St (south of downtown) . 10AM-5PM, closed M & Tu from October to mid-June. The museum has various exhibits about rail and coastal shipping located in the original 1903 Riverhead Railway Station. The museum contains dioramas of passenger car interiors built into the dismantled passenger car bodies. Outside, south across the street from the museum, a locomotive and two carriages are on display in a small park. Behind the museum at its NE corner, the shop building of the Newfoundland Railway still stands without any tracks; although closed to the public, the shop front can be viewed from a public area.
  •  Eastern Edge Art Gallery, 72 Harbour Dr . 12-5pm, closed Sunday & Monday. Contemporary art from Canada and the province.
  •  Suncor Energy Fluvarium, 5 Nagles Pl . Scientific exhibits explaining water in relation to rivers, watersheds and ecosystems.
  • George Street (between Adelaide St & Water St). This narrow street lined with colourful buildings is the core of St. John’s busy nightlife.
  • Newman Wine Vaults, 436 Water St . Open in the summer months. Historic wine vaults, constructed in the late 18th century to age port wine, occupy one of St. John’s oldest buildings. Port wine was imported from England, aged in the cellars, and often exported back to England because the sea voyage and Saint John’s cool temperature were good for the wine. The front of the building was modernized in the early 20th century; however, the interior is well preserved in its original state. A free sample of port is offered to adult visitors. Price also includes admission to Commissariat House..
  • Terry Fox Mile 0 Site, 1 Water St (behind the St. John’s Port Authority building). A small park containing a bronze sculpture of Terry Fox dipping his foot in the water at the site where in 1980 he began his Marathon of Hope to raise money and awareness for cancer research

Activities : Iceberg  Ocean Tours, See whales, seabirds and icebergs./. Tour the brewery and sample specialty beers./ Performing arts theatre located in a brightly coloured wooden building./ Harbourside Park, Water St at Queens Cove. The park, situated opposite the National War Memorial. It hosts concerts, and features statues of a Newfoundland dog and a Labrador Retriever./  Bannerman Park / East Coast Trail. A cliff side trail along the coast north of Signal Hill./  St. John’s Haunted Hike, Church Hill (tour begins and ends at the Anglican Cathedral).

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