St. John’s is the capital city of Newfoundland, an island on the east coast of Canada and the country’s youngest province. Given the natural beauty surrounding the city, it only makes sense that some of the best things to do in St. John’s are free.
East Coast Trail
The ECT is a network of trails along the east coast of Newfoundland, and many trails are either in the city limits or just outside. Hiking these beautiful trails is a great way to explore all that nature has to offer on our island. You might see whales, icebergs, sea arches, and so much more. All while enjoying the beauty of Newfoundland’s unique landscape.
Window Shopping Downtown
Downtown St. John’s is the cultural hub of the city, and it’s a popular area for visitors and locals alike. St. John’s is famous for its brightly coloured buildings and townhouses, and the wide variety of shops and restaurants promises a great time.
You don’t need to spend money to enjoy an afternoon downtown. Listen to buskers, window shop at the local boutiques, relax at Harbourside Park – there’s something for everyone.
Signal Hill & Cape Spear
Signal Hill and Cape Spear are two of the most recognized and popular landmarks in & around St. John’s – and for good reason.
Signal Hill is steeped in history and is only a few minutes from the downtown core of St. John’s. It has arguably the best view of the city, as well as a fantastic view of the ocean waves smashing against the cliffs.
You can also visit Cabot Tower while you’re up there. It was built in 1898, and in 1901, Marconi received the first trans-Atlantic wireless message near the tower. History!
If you want to experience more of the outdoors, there is a great hiking trail that will take you down along the cliffs.
Next there’s Cape Spear – the most easterly point in North America. It’s home to the oldest surviving lighthouse in Newfoundland, dating back to the mid-1800s. You can also see bunkers and gun barrels from World War II. They were built as a defence against German submarines lurking off the coast off the island, and troops were stationed there (including Bill Cosby!) from 1941 to 1945.
Cape Spear is also a beautiful place to see the ocean, and also whales, icebergs and birds, depending on the season.
Royal St. John’s Regatta
The Royal St. John’s Regatta takes place on the first Wednesday of August each year. It’s said to be the oldest organized sporting event in North America. It takes place at Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John’s, again only a few minutes from the downtown core.
The rowing races are only part of the event, which draws thousands of both locals and tourists. There are also tons of food stands, games, and other fun things that the whole family can enjoy. The food and games cost a couple of bucks, but watching the races and enjoying the atmosphere are free.
For those interested in more history, there’s The Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist – again in the downtown area. The cornerstone for the cathedral was laid in 1841 and consecrated in 1855.
Exploring this magnificent building is free of charge, and of course if you’re interested, attending a service is also an option. If you’re interested in a detailed self-guide for touring the cathedral, you can find it on their website.