St. John’s is a city on Newfoundland island on Canada’s east coast. It’s the capital of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and it’s famous for its friendly people, colourful row houses, and beautiful scenery set ashore in the Atlantic Ocean.
Newfoundland can sometimes be overlooked on a Canadian East Coast road trip, and let me promise you, a visit here is so worth it whether you have a few days, or weeks, there’s so much to explore in this province. No matter how much time you have on your itinerary, you’ll want to spend at least 2 days in the city of St. John’s. Here is my helpful itinerary to help you make planning a lot easier.
Day One in St. John’s
Breakfast at Bagel Cafe
Wake up and head to the downtown area for brunch or breakfast. You’re going to want to try Newfoundland touton’s which are pancake-like fried pieces of bread that are served in a variety of ways, but traditionally with molasses on top. I recommend that you go to Bagel Cafe. It’s located right downtown and has amazing breakfast options PLUS touton’s to try.
Hike at Signal Hill
Depending on the weather, which can be unpredictable in Newfoundland, you may want to move some of these activities around. However, if it’s a nice day, head to Signal Hill in the morning. Signal Hill is a National Historic Site due to its significance to the military and communications history of Canada. It’s a great place to come visit not just for its historic significance, but also because it’s home to some great coastal hiking trails.
There are a variety of different trails varying in length and intensity, but we chose to do The North Head trail which is the longest of the trails offered. It took just over an hour but be prepared for both up and downhill hiking. Thankfully, you are rewarded with beautiful views along the way.
Eat Fish & Chips
If you are ready for lunch after working up an appetite on your hike, I recommend you grab some fish and chips. Newfoundland is famous for their fishing industry, more specifically cod fish, so you know that it’s the place you need to eat fish. Locals swear by Ches’s Famous Fish & Chips which has multiple locations around St. John’s. Of course, you can find fish and chips on just about every menu in the province.
Learn at The Rooms
The Rooms is a great activity to do when it’s raining, or if you’re waiting for the weather to clear for Signal Hill. It is a cultural facility home to several museums and galleries in one. Now I’m the first to admit that museums and art galleries are not usually my thing, but I was traveling on this trip with my boyfriend who loves this sort of thing, and really, really enjoyed The Rooms. In fact, it was one of his highlights in St. John’s, so that is why I’ve included this on my list of things to do.
Get Screeched In
Kick off the evening with a screeching-in ceremony. This is an iconic ceremony performed for non-Newfoundlanders that several pubs run across the province. However, if you want to go to the original, and best spot for it, you’ll want to make a reservation at Christian’s Pub on George St. They are the first bar to ever be on the famous George St. and are home to the iconic ceremony that even Anthony Bourdain himself partook in.
The ceremony involves a shot of screech, a short recitation, and kissing of a cod fish (yes, a real cod fish). When you’ve completed your initiation you’ll become an honorary Newfie! Although this may sound touristy or gimmicky, it seriously is a must-do.
TIP: Arrive anywhere from 30-45 minutes before your ceremony and grab a seat right at the bar for the best seats in the house for the ceremony
Pub Crawl on George St.
Continue your night on the historic George Street which is popular for its two-block-long street of bars, pubs, and restaurants. Your next activity is to park the car and just bar-hop. There aren’t any specifically that I recommend because you’ll be able to pick and choose based on what looks the most fun to you. Most will also offer live, local music so you can enjoy some local entertainment. Grab dinner at one of your stops!
Day Two in St. John’s
Start your day by heading out to Cape Spear after breakfast. This is about a 20-minute drive from downtown St. John’s depending on where you’re staying. Cape Spear is another historic site for its lighthouse which is the oldest in Newfoundland and Labrador and is Canada’s most easterly point of land. From late May to early June, you may be lucky enough to spot some icebergs on your visit.
Visit the grounds, the lighthouse, and take a hike (more like an easy nature walk) along the coast. The trail goes on for about 8.7km and is an out-and-back trail, so you can always turn around when you’ve had enough of taking in the gorgeous views.
Have a Jiggs Lunch
Jiggs Dinner is a traditional Sunday roast that is famous across the province. You can find it on many menus on special on Sundays, but since we were visiting St. John’s on a Saturday and knew we wanted to try this famous dish, we managed to find it on the menu at The Big R. An old, hole-in-the-wall, family diner. The meal consists of salt beef, roasted veggies, and potatoes, plus you can usually add roast beef, and/or turkey.
After lunch, head onto Quidi Vidi. This adorable neighbourhood in St. John’s, pronounced “Kiddy Vidi”, sits on Quidi Vidi Lake and is a cute stop to add to your St. John’s itinerary. Do the 3.9km walk around the lake, visit the Artisan Studio for locally made goods, stop for a beer (or two) at Quidi Vidi Brewery, and just marvel at how cute it is here.
Time to spend some time downtown St. John’s. Newman Wine Vault is a historic site located on Water Street and makes for an interesting quick stop. Newman’s tells the story of a 300-year connection between wine produced in Portugal and aged in Newfoundland, known as Ruby Port. You even get a free port sample so what’s not to like?
There are so many fantastic restaurants in St. John’s that you can try for dinner. Chinched came highly recommended to me and has a meat-forward menu. The Merchant Tavern, Oliver’s, and Mallard Cottage (in Quidi Vidi) are also all highly recommended.
After dinner, head back out for some bar hopping on George Street, or head to try some locally brewed beer at Yellowbelly Brewery located just a stone’s throw away.
There you have it, how to spend two busy days in St. John’s. I will say, that although it seems like a lot (and it is depending on how quickly you like to travel), everything in the city is within 15 15-minute drive or less, so you can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time which is great when you are on a schedule.
What would you recommend in St. John’s? Share below in the comments.