capital and largest city of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

For other places with the same name, see Saint John (disambiguation).

St. John's is the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is the oldest city in North America and is 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.

Cabot Tower on Signal Hill

With 206,000 residents (2016), the metropolitan area is the second largest in Atlantic Canada, behind Halifax.

Understand edit

Houses in St. John's are typically painted in bright colours.

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.

The province's House of Assembly meets in St. John's, at Confederation Building.

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.

Get in edit

By plane edit

Airport edit

Airlines edit

Canadian airlines operating to St John's:

Other airlines:

Ground transportation edit

You can reach downtown by public bus No. 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. A single fare costs $2.50.

Taxi to downtown costs about $25.

By car edit

St John's is the easternmost point on Highway 1 (Trans-Canada Highway), the main road across Newfoundland. If you splash loudly into the Atlantic Ocean, you'll know you've gone past the city.

Traffic arriving from out-of-province normally crosses by ferry from North Sydney (Nova Scotia) to either Port-aux-Basques or Argentia, then follows TCH 1 east to town. (It's also possible to cross from Labrador via a ferry at Blanc-Sablon Québec, but the Trans-Labrador Highway to Quebec Route 389 in Labrador City-Fermont is no easy journey.)

By boat edit

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- to 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.

By bus edit

Get around edit

By bus edit

Metrobus, +1 709-722-9400, . St. John's public transit system, serves nearly all of St. John's, with limited service to the neighbourhoods of Shea Heights, Kilbride and the Goulds, as well as the neighbouring city of Mount Pearl. Surrounding communities are not served by bus.

The fare is $2.50 per ride (adults and seniors, Jan 2022), and not per distance, making it a very cheap, affordable way of getting around town. A ten-ride pass is $22.50 for adults, $18.00 for seniors. Most bus drivers are kind and courteous to passengers and are willing to give directions.

Travellers can check routes and the current position of any bus on the Metrobus website or app. Buses are frequently late/early and are not considered a reliable transportation option by locals. Walking is often quicker for journeys under 4 km, especially for destinations that aren't on main roads. Bus stops typically do not have shelters or benches, and are not cleared during winter - if it has snowed recently, bus stops are often buried/hidden by snowbanks.

Bus trips typically involve walking for the beginning/end legs of the journey. Some buses are accessible for people with mobility issues, but sidewalks and stops are not accessible, especially during the winter. Metrobus operates GoBus Accessible Transit - a shared ride, door-to-door service as an alternative.

By car edit

St. John's is a driver-dominated city, although the road layout is haphazard and a map or GPS is de rigueur for visitors. Except for the Downtown centre, parking is almost always abundant. Traffic jams are frequently encountered during road maintenance season due to limited transportation corridors to outlying communities. The downtown area contains many one-way streets so it is important to watch for signs.

St. John's International Airport has the following car rental agencies: Hertz, Avis, Thrifty, Budget, and National. In the city you can also find Enterprise, Discount, and Rent-A-Wreck. Executive Car Service is also available for chauffeured car rentals and tours from several providers such as Black Car Service, Corporate Concierge and Jimmy's Sedan Service. If no rentals are available, U-Haul vehicles may be another option.

Book rental cars early for travel during the peak summer months. Rental cars are often totally unavailable during tourist season, so it's recommended to book rentals months in advance.

By foot edit

The Downtown core can be easily explored by foot if you have full mobility. Take a stroll up Water Street, stop for a drink or take in some live music at a wide range of drinking establishments, a wide range of restaurants, and distinctive shopping. For several weeks during the summer, a section of Water Street is made pedestrian-only, bringing life to the normally car-filled streets.

George Street, just above Water at the west end of the downtown core, near City Hall and the Convention Centre, is a concentration of nightclubs, taverns, restaurants that is typically busy any night of the week, with bar patrons spilling onto many patios and onto the street. Adjacent streets such as Duckworth Street also have interesting shopping and restaurants, and there are a number of (liquor-licensed) billiards halls.

Quidi Vidi Lake, Quidi Vidi Harbour and Signal Hill are popular areas within walking distance of downtown. During the summer, a private free Hop On Hop Off[dead link] bus service connects downtown, Quidi Vidi, Cape Spear and Signal Hill.

Caution: during the winter, most sidewalks are not cleared, so pedestrians must walk on the streets and climb over icy snowbanks. These dangers make walkers a relatively rare sight - typically only the poor and stubborn walk in St. John's. Stops signs are routinely ignored by drivers, and drivers often run red lights, especially when turning right. Traffic laws are generally not enforced by the police. Pedestrians must be extremely cautious to protect themselves - don't expect your legal right of way to be respected.

By bicycle edit

There are a handful of steep hills in St. John's, although they can often be avoided by taking more gradually sloped routes. Be warned: although the hills are frequently cited as a reason for the lack of cyclists, the reckless drivers and poor infrastructure are the most significant barriers to active transportation. Few cycling lanes are available, and most are placed in dangerous door zones beside parking areas. Cycle lanes are only designated by a faded stripe of paint - there are no separate protected cycling lanes. Cyclists are officially banned from the network of gravel paths, the Grand Concourse, which is mostly treated as a recreational activity for drivers rather than a legitimate transportation option. This ban on cycling is frequently ignored by cyclists who are terrified of the dangers imposed by car-centric culture. There are very limited bicycle rental options in the city.

By taxi edit

Many of the cab drivers are quite knowledgeable and eager to help visitors find out about local attractions. If you want to see something but aren't sure what or where, ask a cabbie for a tour of the city or Cape Spear, the easternmost point in Canada. Note that if you are flying in to the airport, taxis may not be available, so you may be stranded at the airport. Taxi drivers are often reckless drivers, so pedestrians and cyclists should be wary, and should not expect them to stop at stop signs or red lights.

See edit

  • 1 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.    
  • 2 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.    
  • 3 Bowring Park, 305 Waterford Bridge Rd, +1 709-364-1531, . A beautiful 20-ha (50-acre) park with duck ponds, bridges, walking trails, tennis courts, playground equipment, an outdoor pool and many monuments.    
  • 4 Memorial University's Botanical Garden, 306 Mt Scio Rd (on the campus of Memorial University), +1 709-864-8590. M-F 9AM-4PM.    
  • 5 Fort Amherst, Fort Amherst Rd. A lighthouse and World War II military fortification across "The Narrows" on the opposite side of the harbour from Signal Hill. Offers unique views of the city and Cape Spear.    
  • 6 The Rooms (The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery), 9 Bonaventure Ave, +1 709-757-8090, . Fall/Winter: Tu Th Sa 10AM-5PM; W F 10AM-9PM; Su Noon-5PM (closed M). Spring/Summer: M Tu Th Sa 10AM-5PM; W F 10AM-9PM, Su Noon-5PM.. 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. Adults $10, seniors (60+) and students $6.50, youth (age 6-16) $5, child (under 5) free. Free admission W 6-9PM.    
  • 7 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.
  • 8 Commissariat House, Provincial Historic Site, 11 Kings Bridge Rd, +1 709-729-6730. 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.  
  • 9 Supreme Court, 309 Duckworth St, +1 709-729-1137. 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 façade on each of the two streets.
  • 10 Government House, 50 Military Rd (between Bannerman Rd & Kings Bridge Rd), +1 709-729-2669, . Government House contains the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, and sits in 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.    
  • 11 Railway Coastal Museum, 495 Water St (south of downtown), +1 709-724-5929. 10AM-5PM, closed M & Tu from Oct 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.
  • 12 Eastern Edge Art Gallery, 72 Harbour Dr, +1 709-739-1882. Tu-Sa noon-5PM, closed Su M. Contemporary art from Canada and the province.
  • 13 Suncor Energy Fluvarium, 5 Nagles Pl, +1 709-754-3474. Scientific exhibits explaining water in relation to rivers, watersheds and ecosystems.
  • 14 George Street (between Adelaide St & Water St). This narrow street lined with colourful buildings is the core of St. John's busy nightlife.
  • 15 Newman Wine Vaults, 436 Water St, +1 709-729-2627. 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 includes admission to Commissariat House.
  • 16 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.
  • 17 The Johnson GeoCentre, 175 Signal Hill Rd, +1 709-737-7880, toll-free: +1-866-868-7625, .
  • Historic St. John's Harbour.

Churches edit

Do edit

  • Iceberg Quest Ocean Tours, Pier 6, 135 Harbour Dr, +1 709-722-1888, . Departures at 9:30AM, 1PM, 4PM, and 7PM. Enjoy St. John's from the water. See whales, seabirds and icebergs.
  • 1 The Quidi Vidi Brewing Company, 35 Barrows Rd, +1 709-738-4040, . Tour the brewery and sample specialty beers. The 30-min hike along the shore from Signal Hill is gorgeous.
  • 2 LSPU Hall (Resource Centre for the Arts), 3 Victoria St, +1 709-753-4531, . Performing arts theatre located in a brightly coloured wooden building.
  • 3 Arts and Culture Centre St. John's, 95 Allandale Rd, +1 709-729-3900. Performing arts theatre.
  • 4 Harbourside Park, Water St at Queens Cove (opposite the National War Memorial). The park hosts concerts, and features statues of a Newfoundland Dog and a Labrador Retriever.
  • The Grand Concourse, 439 Allandale Rd, +1 709-737-1077, . The Grand Concourse Authority oversees an extensive collection of walking trails in the city.
  • 5 Bannerman Park, Military Rd opposite Carew St. This urban park has large grassy areas and a few small flower beds. Near a small bandstand, there is a life-size statue of a girl sitting on a park bench tying her ice skates. A building shaped like a railway station has a BeaverTails stand and a WC.
  • 6 St. John's Haunted Hike, Church Hill (tour begins and ends at the Anglican Cathedral). Su-Th at 9:30PM in summer. Tour historic St. John's while being regaled with stories of the spooky & strange.
  • East Coast Trail. A cliff side trail along the coast north of Signal Hill. This trail system extends in segments to the north and south for dozens of kilometers.
  • Newfoundland Growlers hockey. ECHL team, plays at Mile One Centre.

Learn edit

The only university in Newfoundland and Labrador is Memorial University, located on the northwest side of the city. There is also College of the North Atlantic, which is the province's community college.

Buy edit

St. John's has two modern shopping centres. The Avalon Mall, the largest shopping centre in Newfoundland, has 140 stores (including Winners/HomeSense, Sport Chek, H&M, Old Navy, a 12-screen Cineplex movie theatre (Scotiabank Theatre), and The Rec Room) and is on Kenmount Road. The Village Shopping Centre is in the West End on Topsail Road. St. John's also has several big box centres; Stavanger Drive in the east end; Kelsey Drive (off Kenmount Road); and Pearlgate located in the suburb of Mount Pearl. Also near Pearlgate is The Shoppes at Galway, which is the home of St. John's Costco store.

Downtown St. John's boasts a wide array of shops and boutiques, most notably Water Street. Everything from unique souvenirs to designer clothing.

Unlike most provinces in Canada, cold beer can be purchased in convenience stores. Liquor and wine are only available at NLC locations. Cannabis products can be purchased from several retail locations by adults (max 30 grams), including pre-rolls and beverages.

Groceries edit

  • 1 Sobey's, 8 Merrymeeting Road, +1 709-726-2242. M-Sa 8AM-10PM, Su 10AM-6PM. Sells groceries.
  • 2 Dominion, 260 Blackmarsh Road, +1 709-579-0133. Daily noon-midnight. Sells groceries. This chain is known as "Loblaws" elsewhere in Canada.

Clothing edit

Souvenirs edit

Eat edit

St. John's is the hometown of Canadian fried chicken chain Mary Brown's Chicken. The first location opened in 1969 in St. John's at the Avalon Mall, where there is still a branch. Many of their locations are available in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Breakfast edit

  • 1 Bagel Café, 246 Duckworth St, +1 709-739-4470. One of the best breakfasts available in St. John's.

Budget edit

Newfoundlanders will tell you that you can't leave St. John's without having fish and chips at either Ches's or the Big R (known to locals as "the Big Arse"). Local favourite dishes include "chips, dressing and gravy" (french fries and stuffing covered in thick gravy), "fish-and-brewis" (a sort of hard bread), and "cod cheeks" (the cheeks of cod fish, really).

  • Ches's Fish and Chips. 4 locations: 9 Freshwater Rd, 655 Topsail Rd, 8 Highland Dr, 29-33 Commonwealth Ave.
  • The Big R. 2 locations: 69 Harvey Rd (Downtown, 8AM-8PM), and 201 Blackmarsh Rd (8AM-midnight)
  • 2 International Flavours, 4 Quidi Vidi Road, +1 709-738-4636. Pakistani cuisine.
  • 3 Leo's Fish and Chips, 27 Freshwater Rd, +1 709-726-2658.
  • 4 Magic Wok Eatery, 408 Water St, +1 709-753-6907, . Tu-Th noon-11PM, F noon-midnight, Sa 4PM-midnight, Su 4PM-11PM. Good traditional or Canadian-style Chinese food.
  • 5 The Rocket (Rocket Bakery and Fresh Food), 272 Water St, +1 709-738-2011. 7:30AM–8PM. Coffee, baked goods, soups, sandwiches.
  • 6 Bamboo Garden, 252 Duckworth St, +1 709-726-7802. Excellent service, great dim-sum style dumplings, noodle soups and crazy cheap!

Mid-range edit

  • 7 The Sprout, 364 Duckworth St, +1 709-579-5485, . M-Sa 11:30AM-8:30PM. Vegetarian cuisine.
  • 8 Pi, 10 King's Rd, +1 709-726-2000. Gourmet pizza and pasta.
  • 9 The Celtic Hearth, 288 Water St. 24h. Traditional Irish pub and restaurant.
  • 10 India Gate, 286 Duckworth St, +1 709-753-6006. M-F 11:30AM-1:30PM (buffet); daily 5PM-9PM. The best Indian food in St. John's.
  • 11 Zapata's, 10 Bates Hill, +1 709-576-6399. Mexican food.

Splurge edit

Drink edit

George Street, in the heart of downtown, is a prime location for nightlife. Water Street, said to be the oldest street in North America, also contains several pubs, usually of a more relaxing atmosphere.

Sleep edit

Budget edit

Mid-range edit

Splurge edit

  • 16 Delta Hotels St. John's Conference Centre, 120 New Gower St, +1 709-739-6404. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. New Gower at Barter's Hill. Near George Street, Mile One Stadium and the St. John's Convention Centre. For Tim Hortons fans: There is a footbridge behind hotel reception leading to a small Tim Hortons outlet open on weekdays only.
  • 17 Ryan Mansion, 21 Rennie's Mill Rd, +1 709-753-7926. A 5-star Bed and Breakfast in a Heritage home in downtown St. John's. Marble en suite baths feature heated floors and therapeutic tubs for two. Suites have en suite baths featuring personal steam/shower rooms and century-old tubs carved from granite. A collection of local, national, and international artworks, sculpture and artefacts are exhibited throughout the mansion, and a cosy library offers a selection of books & games.
  • 18 Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland, 115 Cavendish Sq (near the business district), +1 709-726-4980. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Offers 301 rooms with free wired and wireless internet use. Newly renovated lobby and lounge. Many rooms feature views of the harbour and downtown.

Cope edit

Visitors should have clothing for highly variable weather in Saint John's. For example, the high for July 5, 2017 was 9 °C (48 °F) but was more than 20 °C (68 °F) on the next day.

Stay safe edit

While St. John's is generally regarded as a safe city, increases in the crime rate have been reported. Panhandling is very common in downtown, however simply replying "no" or ignoring those individuals usually does the trick, while a few more may be more persistent. Very rarely will these people become violent, and are usually not a problem.

As in any other city of comparable size, use caution when travelling after dark. Common areas to avoid after dark include Buckmaster Circle, Old and New Penneywell Road, areas immediately around Hamlyn Road, Livingstone Street, Water Street west (Springdale Street west to the beginning of Waterford Bridge Road including Victoria Park) and Shea Heights. Most of these places are not areas which tourists would normally be in, and shouldn't be a huge problem.

Caution should be used when on George Street, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. With excessive drinking and drug use, there is a high tendency for people to turn violent. However, it's unlikely that you'll fall victim to assault if you keep out of trouble. Take caution at 24-hour restaurants and convenience stores across town, especially in the downtown area. Patrons from George Street often stagger into such restaurants after last call and can be violent, sometimes attacking unsuspecting individuals. As well, a rise in armed robberies in the metropolitan area have left 24-hour convenience an easy target for criminals.

However, with crime rates much lower than the national average, little is to fear about walking around St. John's at most times of day or night. With some basic caution, there is no reason why your visit to the city can't be a safe one.

Nearby edit

Cape Spear
  • 23 Cape Spear National Historic Site, Blackhead Rd, Cape Spear, +1 709-772-2191, . The most easterly point in North America, a 15 km (9.3 mi) drive from St. John's. Great lighthouse on an ocean-facing cliff, with walking trails. Beware! It's 45 m down the cliff face, so heed posted warnings. A man drowned here in 2015; a woman fell off the cliff to her death in 2018.    
  • 24 Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium, 35 A Southside Rd, Petty Harbour, +1 709-330-3474, . Jun-Oct. Petty Harbour, about 12 km (7.5 mi) south of town, is a picturesque fishing village and friendly, quiet retreat. From Blackhead Road (which leads from St. John's to Cape Spear), turn south onto Maddox Cove Road.
  • 7 Salmonier Nature Park, on Salmonier Line (Route 90), 12 km S of Trans-Canada Highway 1 in Holyrood (about 60 km (37 mi) west of the city), +1 709-229-7888, . A 3-km nature trail winds through a mixture of wood and wetlands. View animals in their (enclosed) natural habitats. The trail takes about an hour to walk. 65 km from St. John's.
  • 25 Bell Island Community Museum, 13 Compressor Hill, Bell Island (a little under 30 km (19 mi) west of town on Route 40), +1 709-488-2880. A ferry runs from Portugal Cove west to Bell Island.
  • 8 Middle Cove Beach. Torbay, Logy Bay and Middle Bay are about 13 km (8.1 mi) north of the city, past the airport. The closest beach to St. John's. Noted for annual caplin roll in late June.

Go next edit

  • Bonavista and its famous lighthouse are 310 km (190 mi) further north
  • Dildo - quiet little fishing town is less than an hour's drive away - go whale watching or check out the archaeological remains of early Indian settlement
  • Irish Loop - 7- to 8-hour scenic drive following the southern 'cape' shore (route 10) back to the Trans-Canada Highway. Bay Bulls, one of the closest points to town, is a small bay 32 km (20 mi) east on route 10 which is home to various boat tour companies offering whale, puffin, and iceberg watching.
Routes through St. John's
GanderMount Pearl  W   E  END
Conception Bay SouthMount Pearl  W   E  END

This city travel guide to St. John's is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.