Two Days In St. John’s Newfoundland Trip Report – What to See, Eat & Do!
Maybe my favorite trip of 2019 was a quick weekend trip to St. John’s. No, not the St. John’s in the Caribbean that you are probably thinking of. I got to spend two days in St. John’s Newfoundland and it is was simply amazing. St. John’s Newfoundland offers supreme natural beauty, a vibrant downtown, tons of restaurants but it still has that small town vibe. I have heard it called the most Irish place not in Ireland because many people that live there are Irish. I wanted to share with you what I did during my two days in St. John’s Newfoundland and also share a few things I look to hit on my return trip, because I will be back!
Where Is St. John’s Newfoundland?
I may be getting ahead of myself some. Some of you may be wondering where St. John’s Newfoundland is exactly. It is located on the eastern border of Canada and it is actually the most eastern point of North America.
How I Got There
We took a flight from Detroit to St. John’s with a connection in Toronto on Air Canada. This is the award I booked with United miles after Lifemiles decided to not play nice with me. This was also the trip where I almost got denied boarding on my return flight because United and Air Canada don’t work so well together.
The cash price of the ticket was $700+ but I paid 25,000 United miles and $68.03 in taxes and fees. I was pretty happy with my return on that redemption. I transferred Ultimate Rewards points that I had earned with my Chase Ink Cash card to United to make the booking.
Hotels in St. John’s Newfoundland
There are a few points hotels in St. John’s but unfortunately they are pretty much all Marriott hotels, and one Choice Hotel. We ended up settling on the Delta Hotel that is right in the heart of downtown just blocks from George Street.
Luckily I still had a free night certificate left from my Chase Bonvoy Boundless card that I used to cover my night. My buddy used 25,000 Marriott points for the second night. The hotel during the summer runs from $200-$300 CAD a night. That is about $150-$225 USD a night.
What Did We Do?
I feel like we packed a lot into our two days in St. John’s Newfoundland. We arrived around lunch on Friday and left early Sunday morning so I guess it was more like one and a half days.
Quidi Vidi Village
The first thing we did after dropping off our stuff at the hotel was catch a cab to Quidi Vidi Village. I suppose you could walk there but it would take a while since it was a ten minute cab ride that cost us around $10. This was the number one thing on my list that I wanted to do so we hit it first.
Quidi Vidi is a small fishing village set just off the sea. It is naturally protected by cliffs but fisherman still go in and out of the village to the sea via the harbor every day. The buildings are colorful and raised on stilts for the rising tides.
Quidi Vidi Brewery
There are two restaurants in the village, Quidi Vidi Brewery and Mallory Cottage. There is also a fish and chips food truck right outside of the brewery since the brewery doesn’t have food service. You can order from the truck and take it into the bar because of this. Be sure to get your food early since they serve only what the fisherman bring them and they ran out two times while we were there on a Friday night.
The brewery is a must see and the second floor overlooks the cliffs and beautiful village. We got there at 5pm on a Friday night and the place was already packed. They had live music until 11pm and it was an Irish band of course! Their beer selection is ample but they are famous for their Iceberg beer which they use actual glacier water when brewing.
Mallory Cottage is one of the highest rated restaurants in St. John’s. They also had an outdoor area with a fire pit, cornhole and food service. We hung out there for a bit after leaving the brewery but didn’t try the food. It started to get chilly so we headed back into town.
Once we got back to the hotel and layered up we headed out to the nightlife on George Street. This is where all of the action happens until 4AM on the weekends. Pretty much every bar had live music but most of them also had a cover charge of $5-$10 CAD. It is surprisingly dead until Midnight or later, I guess most of the younger crowd doesn’t come out until then since they are open until 4.
If you want to check out some live music and throw back a few pints then you have to check out George Street.
Water Street, Ducksworth & Harbor Drive
The other main drags in the city are Water, Ducksworth and Harbor Drive. All three have a ton of restaurant and pub offerings plus some unique stores like the Freak Lunchbox.
During the day we actually preferred Water Street & Harbor Drive since you could get a good view of St. John’s Harbor while eating lunch. The views of Signal Hill, the freighters or even cruise ships is worth the price of admission.
Walking to Signal Hill
After a late night on George Street listening to some awesome bands we decided to head to Signal Hill. Signal Hill overlooks downtown St. John’s, the harbor and out towards the ocean. It used to be known as the “lookout” and it was used as a signaling location during military affairs. Signals would be sent out using the flagmast on top of the summit. There is still one on top of the building that you get to climb up and see. This is also where the first Transatlantic radio transmission went out.
The walk took about an hour and once you get outside of downtown it is pretty much uphill. It wasn’t the best decision after a late night but we made it to the top. We hit a cool little cafe on the way up to take a break, we were told by a local it had the best coffee in town.
We decided to hop on the bus that comes around every 30 minutes or so to go back, it cost $10 CAD per person.
There are quite a few different things to see and do on your way up or down from Signal Hill that are all incorporated in the experience:
- Johnson GEO Center – this is the first thing you will come across on the way up the hill. This is a museum that actually goes down into the side of the hill and has exhibits about icebergs and the Titanic etc. We didn’t have the time to do it since it takes a few hours but it also has a store and snack shop inside if you need a break.
- Signal Hill Visitor Center – located in between the peak of Signal Hill and the GEO center is the visitor center. There is a chocolate/ice cream shop inside and some info about Signal Hill. They also put on a demonstration while we were there, had a fully costumed firing squad and shot a cannon (pictures in the slideshow above).
- Barracks – On the hill in-between the visitor center and Cabot Tower are the barracks that have been restored. This is where people manning Signal Hill would stay while stationed there.
- Cabot Tower – at the peak of Signal Hill is Cabot Tower. There is a little gift shop inside with some cool stuff. You are also able to get onto the roof of the building to see the signal masts as well as get the best views of the whole area. It is pretty cool they allow people on the roof.
Things I Want To Do Next Trip
We were able to hit a lot of the main attractions during our day and a half in town. We pretty much walked the entire downtown and went into various shops and pubs. The amount of restaurants per capita is one of the densest in the world. It is truly impressive! Having said that there are some things that I still want to hit.
- Iceberg Tours – I guess it is possible to see icebergs as late as June which is pretty amazing.
- Puffin & Whale Watching – this would be number one on my return trip. Puffins look like a cartoon almost, you can not believe they are real!
- Cape Spear Lighthouse – this is located about a half hour out of town which is why we didn’t do it but it is supposed to be even better than Signal Hill. I may have to rent a car next time just to do this, that is big coming from me!
- Getting Screeched In – The “screech-in” is an optional ceremony performed on non-Newfoundlanders involving a shot of screech, a short recitation and the kissing of a cod. I don’t think I will ever do this but I know many people love it so I added it in.
My two days in St. John’s Newfoundland were pretty much perfect. The town is quaint yet entertaining and the natural beauty of the place is astonishing. There are restaurants and pubs everywhere and if you like fish & chips then you are in for a treat.
It really did feel like I was back in Ireland. The people are super friendly, not surprising since they are Irish and Canadian after all. I don’t think it gets better than that combo!
I often dream about being back at Quidi Vidi Brewery, drinking a pint of Iceberg and listening to the band strum away. That is perfection in my book!