St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
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At first glance, North America’s most easterly city may have a West Coast semblance (the colourful row houses and hilly terrain are San Fran–esque), but St. John’s has a personality all its own. Standing here since the 16th century, it remains true to local traditions, from the salt–cod cuisine to quirky Christmastime mummering (making house calls to friends, dressed in disguise).
where to stay
- Street view of the front entrance of the Alt Hotel, St. John’sAlt Hotel St. John’sFor the harbour views
- Queen-sized bed with white linens against an exposed brick wall at Blue on Water hotel in St. John'sBlue On WaterFor the island hospitality
- The geometric red and white exterior of the JAG Hotel, St. John'sJAG HotelFor the classic-rock vibe
Eat & Drink
This pop–up–turned permanent fixture doesn’t claim to serve authentic Thai fare, but joyfully riffs on the Southeast Asian flavours it loves, incorporating East Coast seafood, greens and herbs into the mix. Shareable plates play off the hopped up, fruity and sour brews of its host venue, Bannerman Brewing Co. Take the sai ua pork sausage, recast as perfect cod fritters resting on a pool of cooling yogurt and topped with mouth–numbing green chili chutney. On summer nights, the large taproom opens onto an adjoining deck, and live folk music mingles with screeching gulls overhead to create a sort of outdoor Newfoundland kitchen party. Longlisted as part of Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2022.
Squid at Chinched Squid, a.k.a. calamari, is bait fish in Newfoundland, so it’s all the more alluring here marinated in gochujang and charbroiled to a perfect texture. Chef–owners Shaun Hussey and Michelle LeBlanc source all they can from the province, from heritage pigs for the house–cured charcuterie to the Rock’s renowned root vegetables. Try the buttered charred carrots, served with crunchy farro, chickpea vinaigrette and a refreshing dollop of crema.
Newfoundland seafood at Mallard Cottage In a remodelled two–century–old heritage house in sleepy Quidi Vidi Village, hometown chef Todd Perrin and sommelier Stephen Lee elevate familiar Newfoundland cooking with top–notch sourcing and technique. Sit on wooden spoke chairs in the new back room, or take a seat in a dark, moody corner of the low–ceilinged front room and pick from the seasonal menu offering the best of Newfounland produce, meat and fresh seafood.
Sandwiches to–go at Rocket Bakery and Fresh Food Call ahead to Rocket Bakery and Fresh Food and have your roast–chicken sandwich prepped to go, or stop in to refuel after your twack around downtown St. John’s.
A quick lunch at the Battery Café The Battery Café is a great bet for barista–brewed coffee, takeout smoked salmon sandwiches and bottles from Quidi Vidi Brewing.
what to do
Whales and humpbacks at Ecotours Zodiac Adventures Wildlife crowds the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve when the sardine–like capelin roll in to spawn each summer. Some 260,000 puffin pairs summer here (they mate for life, aw) with auks, murres and gulls. Captain Tyler can take you close in his 12–seat Zodiac, steering the craft into Gull Island’s dramatic sea caves. Go this month to see fin whales, humpbacks or, if you’re lucky, a pod of orcas or dolphins.
Rare vinyls at Fred’s Records Fred’s modest shopfront conceals a sprawling sonotheque with resounding wood floors that make their own tune as you creak and thump your way along the stacks of records. Hand–drawn signs call out Newfoundland, In Performance and Staff Picks sections, the latter chosen by the local musicians and artists who work there. Look for hard–to–find vinyl from homegrown artists like Mark Bragg or The Once.
Cod–salting experience at Fishing for Success Jig for cod with fourth–generation fisherman Leo Hearn in Petty Harbour. At the inshore fishing grounds, drop a line from your rowboat–size dory, sound your lure off the ocean floor, then haul up your catch, hand over hand. Pay attention as Hearn points out the landmarks that guided fishermen before fish–finders. Back on dry land, you’ll clean and salt your cod, then warm up with a cup of real fisherman’s stew.
Historic hike at Signal Hill Newfoundland is called the Rock for a reason: Climb Signal Hill at the east end of the city and you’ll realize exactly why. We suggest visiting historic Cabot Tower, the site of the first radio contact between the New World and Britain, then taking a hike. The challenging 1.3–kilometre North Head Trail clings to the red rock cliffs, through the Narrows, the Battery and back into St. John’s Harbour.
Rock climbing trips at Wallnuts Climbing Centre Wallnuts Climbing Centre is located about 20 minutes from Flatrock – a town so friendly that cars stop if you even think about crossing the street. Graded by difficulty, the climbing trips range from a staircase to a climb that takes years of training, a specific gene pool and guts. The variety allows beginners, intermediate and experienced climbers of all ages to take advantage of the rocks.