Being settled by the British in 1630, and being a city of significant size from that time to the present day, St. John’s is considered by many to be the oldest city in North America. While this bureaucratic designation has only been placed upon St. John’s since 1921, this city has been the governmental centre of Newfoundland ever since it was founded, making a centre that is historically significant among cities in North America.
Apart from its age, St. John’s stands out from the crowd in a number of other ways. For starters, it is closer to Ireland, a country to which it owes many of its present residents, than it is to Regina, Saskatchewan, a city that is barely past the halfway point of Canada from west to east. It boasts the highest concentration of pubs per square foot in North America, making it the best place in the country to get properly wasted with the most jovial of folk. Its harbour is closed in by cliffs that are epically craggy and tall, which are crested by fortifications that have seen action in many conflicts in the past.
Combined with the charming nature of its people, the signs of its past in the fishing industry around its vicinity, and the new found wealth of the oil industry that has pumped fresh vitality into a place that many prematurely proclaimed dead on arrival, St. John’s will prove to be the exclamation point on your trip to Newfoundland.
Located at the highest point overlooking the entrance to St. John’s harbour, Signal Hill is a site that has been valued both as a place of militaristic importance, and as a location where one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century was achieved. Ever since the establishment of St. John’s, Signal Hill has played a key role in its defense, standing tall against the French in the Napoleonic Wars, and the Americans in the War of 1812.
Cabot Tower was built here in 1897 to commemorate John Cabot’s landing nearby 400 years prior, as well as the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The events that this place will be most remembered for throughout history will be the day that a wireless transmission was received for the first time, as Guglielmo Marconi listened to Morse Code transmissions entered by an accomplice in Cornwall in the United Kingdom, transmitted through the air with no wires, for the first time ever!
Fortifications built at the site of what is the current iteration of Fort Amherst had been around since the 18th century, but the current fortifications that exist to this day are gun emplacements that defended shipping interest from German U-Boats in the Second World War. Also present is a lighthouse that still serves a guide for shipping interests navigating the narrow channel that grants access to well-sheltered harbour.
While the St. John’s of today is a thoroughly modern city that offers all the conveniences one would expect in such a place, a neighbourhood along the craggy cliffs of its harbour that is known as The Battery offers a peek into its past, and into the outport fishing villages that still exist beyond its boundaries.
The colourful houses here will fill you will a sense of wonder that will make you look forward to your explorations of the hinterland of Newfoundland, while the tall cliffs that soar above you will make you judge any other cities that you visit hereon much more sternly when it comes to physical beauty.
After the all the exploration that you have done to this point, you have probably developed quite a thirst. George Street has specialized in quenching these problems with prejudice over the years, as it boasts (as previously mentioned in the intro) the most pubs per square foot in North America.
Folks of all kinds will feel welcome here, as this stretch of libations purveyors has been an island of acceptance for those that identify as LGBT over the years, and retains that moniker to this day.
What to learn more about the impressive geological features that proliferate throughout the St. John’s area? If so, a visit to the Johnson Geo Centre will go a long way to satiating that curiosity. Located in the side of a hill that is a perfect example of a rocky outcropping exposed by glacial erosion, this centre will highlight all the reasons why Newfoundland is considered by many leading scientists to be the world geological showcase, from the Tablelands to the oil deposits that are in abundant formation just offshore.
If you like watersports, great beer, and outstanding bodies of water, than a trip to Quidi Vidi Lake will tick all three boxes with vigour. Every year, the Royal St. John’s Regatta, which is North America’s oldest annual sporting event, takes places here, as rowers from around the province and beyond duke it out for bragging rights. The Quidi Vidi Brewery is this province’s largest craft produce of beer, and offers tours for $10, and trails circle the lake for all to enjoy!