This is the fourth part of my travelogue regarding my trip through the maritimes I took with my brother in August 2016. I’ve previously written about Nova Scotia, PEI and eastern Nova Scotia, traveling through Newfoundland and now complete the journey with this look at St John’s Newfoundland and a quick look at the drive back west.
St John’s Newfoundland – a short photo tour
The trip involved a lot of driving, so it was a nice break to stay in a hotel for more than one night! We did a bit of walking and drove some of the slightly longer distances. St John’s is a working port town as well as a popular tourist hub. It is also one of Canada’s most historic cities as it was founded 5 years after Columbus ran into the new world.
St John’s Newfoundland has a lot to offer with some great restaurants, fun bars, scenic views and an awesome museum. It is also a lot of fun for photographers!
Click any image below to view it larger
As the photo above shows, St John’s is a colourful town. Many of the houses and buildings are still painted in the traditional mix of colours from past years when leftover boat paint was used on homes.
Although it’s a little hilly and can be a bit of a workout (especially if you had fun the night before!), St John’s is still quite easy to get around. If driving in the city seems a little awkward at times, remember that the roads were originally designed for British right-hand drive vehicles.
There is plenty to explore outside the city, but we didn’t venture very far, having driven enough during the past week.
A quick walking tour from our hotel took us to a couple of great locations. We walked up Military Road and stopped first at Government House (built in 1831 for the then Governor of Newfoundland). We made our way through the main entrance (below) and…
… once inside, I took care of some official business (by signing the guest book).
From Government House, we continued up Military Road to the Basilica Cathedral of St John the Baptist. It was closed this day (and then another day for a funeral, but our third attempt to visit was successful).
Like much of St John’s Newfoundland, the Basilica also has a long history. This grand building was opened in 1850 and has overlooked St John’s Harbour since.
From the Basilica, Military Road changes its name, and we arrived at The Rooms. I didn’t know what to expect, but The Rooms is Newfoundland’s historic record on display. It combines a museum with archives and art galleries. The province’s story is told and during our visit a touching display about WWI was presented. We spent a lot of time here (and not just because of the rain).
After The Rooms closed, we walked down to Water Street and found the National War Memorial. It is placed on the spot where Newfoundland was claimed for England in 1583. It was unveiled in 1924 as a memorial to the ‘Great War’.
After a good afternoon of walking, it was time to eat, enjoy a beer and get more rest for the next day’s adventure!
We started our second day with a trip to Signal Hill. It was a little gloomy, but soon the sun broke out and the day warmed up. Signal Hill is another historic part of the city as it has overlooked and protected the harbour for over 300 years. It’s also the location where the first transatlantic wireless signal was received in 1901. The final battle of the Seven Years’ War in North America was fought here in 1762. So yes, St John’s is full of history lessons, and we learned a lot of them!
A major landmark in St John’s is Cabot Tower. Although it looks like an old Gothic castle, it was completed in 1900 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland.
Signal Hill has a large area of trails to explore and of course, cannons overlooking the harbour.
After exploring Signal Hill, we walked down to the Johnson Geo Centre. You might not think an underground geology museum would be a lot of fun, but they did a great job with this one. Lots of exhibits show the natural history of Newfoundland. They host other exhibits, like the fine Titanic one we saw, and the Centre covers a lot of ‘ground’.
Just don’t forget to pet the Newfoundland and Labrador dogs while you’re there!
After the epic walk back UP Signal Hill, I was ready to drive somewhere. We headed over to Quidi Vidi Harbour, home of the Quidi Vidi Brewery (makers of Iceberg Beer).
Quidi Vidi is another small fishing village and worth seeing even if you don’t visit the brewery. We explored the area and made our reservations for an afternoon tasting and tour. We stopped for lunch at the Inn of the Olde where we had a great time meeting new friends, watching a ‘Screech In’ and enjoying some fine Newfoundland beer.
The next morning, a little later than usual, we walked down to the Terry Fox Monument. This is located at Mile 0 of the Trans Canada Highway and is where Fox began his heroic run.
We continued along the waterfront, checked out the tourist shops and ended our day back on Signal Hill for sunset.
The next morning we packed up and headed west towards the ferry to the mainland and home. The return trip is never as much fun and with a time limit due to ferry schedules, we didn’t stop often. We spent the night in Stephenville (in honour of my brother) and caught the ferry the next morning.
Here’s a few shots from the drive (mostly while in motion) that shows some glimpses of the majestic Newfoundland scenery that I now miss all over again.
I’ll end this post with a quote I found in The Rooms, and I think it sums up my thoughts perfectly. With this trip and in Newfoundland especially, I was transformed. I re-found my Canadian identity. I found a new appreciation for Canadian history that I had been searching for throughout my life. I found the roots of Canadian culture that was sadly diluted by the time it found its way to the west coast. I am altered, and I am a better person for having traveled.