Updated: Dec 29, 2022
Summer is here, and tourists are flocking to the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador, all dying to become “Come From Aways!” Or as we say, CFAs.
If you’re heading to St. John’s, there’s a dory load of things to do. But also take some time and do a little exploring outside the oldest city in North America. Here’s the inside scoop from a Newfoundlander who loves to explore my birthplace.
Here's my top five things to do on your trip to St. John’s and around Eastern Newfoundland.
Spirit of Newfoundland:
If you really want to feel welcome make sure you book a dinner and show with Spirit of Newfoundland. They are the province’s unofficial ambassadors. Their shows embody Newfoundland’s unique sense of humour while showcasing the incredible talent that makes us famous. They offer year-round dinner shows at the historic Masonic Temple. The Temple is a famous landmark with a spooky history https://iamfunnylikethat.blogspot.com/2018/01/exploring-masonic-temple-full-of.html
The actors, musicians and performers are passionate about their Newfoundland heritage and you’ll leave feeling like you’re one of the family. Show up a little early and try a nip of Newfoundland Screech in their official Screech Room. There’s lots in stock so be sure to take a bottle home with you. While you’re at it, pick up the Screech cake and sauce to bring home and share with friends.
The shows are suitable for all ages and the menu items can be changed to accommodate guests. You’ll enjoy a delicious three course meal followed by a two-act performance. There are a variety of shows to chose from. All the shows are fabulous, but my personal favourite is “Where Once We Stood”, a moving tribute to Beaumont Hamel and Newfoundland and Labrador’s involvement in the First World War (FWW). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll love Newfoundland even more!
You’re among friends when you’re at Spirit of Newfoundland and you’ll feel it at the end of every show when the performers and audience stand to sing Newfoundland’s unofficial anthem, the Spirit of Newfoundland song.
For more information or to book a show, go to: http://www.spiritofnewfoundland.com
East Coast Trail:
One of my favourite things to do is hike through Newfoundland’s majestic pine clad hills. You’ll watch an eagle soar over the Atlantic Ocean and dive in to grab a fish, pick blueberries right off the bush and drink from the crystal-clear streams.
The East Coast Trail is a network of 26 wilderness paths along our coastline and links through more than 30 historic coastal settlements and communities. The trails are marked easy to strenuous and unites genuine wilderness hiking with richly historic communities from Portugal Cove, to Cape St. Francis, to Cappahayden. There are over 300 kilometers of developed trail to explore. Come prepared and follow the guidelines. You’ll need water, good hiking boots, and hiking gear.
The paths of the East Coast Trail take you past towering cliffs and headlands, sea stacks, deep fjords, and a natural wave-driven geyser called the Spout. Experience abandoned settlements, lighthouses, ecological reserves, seabird colonies, whales, icebergs, the world's southernmost caribou herd, historic sites, a 50-metre suspension bridge, two active archaeological dig sites, and many more attractions. You can get all the information and help you need on their web site at: http://www.eastcoasttrail.com
One of my favourite overnights is a trip to Woody Island. You’ll never forget this Woody Island is a resettled community located just two hours outside St. John's. It is a rugged, quaint, beautiful island, resettled in the early 1970's and has preserved much of its original heritage experience.
You’ll be picked up in Garden Cove and board the Merasheen for a forty-minute boat tour around Placentia Bay then on to Woody Island. For lunch you’ll be served a traditional Newfoundland pea soup, homemade bread and treated to tea buns made from scratch and a proper cuppa tea.
After lunch you can explore the island where you’ll find gently rolling hills and grassland with breathtaking scenery. You can go off the main trail and visit the old graveyards, hike along the beaches or visit the ruins of the church and schoolhouse.
You’ll know when it’s supper time because you’ll smell the fresh fish cooking from the kitchen. There seems to be an unlimited amount of homemade bread on this island and you can drop by the kitchen anytime for a slice or a cuppa tea.
After supper enjoy a traditional Newfoundland kitchen party with live entertainment, mummers and lots of dancing into the wee hours of the night.
The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, they take you on another boat ride to Muddy Hole also called Bollard's Town. This snug little cove was resettled in the 1940's. You can explore while the staff prepares a lunch of more homemade soups and sandwiches. The music begins, the fire is lit, the kettle is boiling, the picnic lunch laid out, then it's time to eat.
It’s well worth taking two days out of your vacation to visit Woody Island. It’s reasonably priced and you’ll have a fantastic, traditional Newfoundland old time. Get information here: http://www.woodyi.com
St. John’s Haunted Hikes:
Get out and walk around St. John’s and be sure you do one of the Haunted Hikes. You’ll meet up with an undertaker, crypt keeper or maybe just some other worldly spirit who will take you through dark alleys and laneways that wind through the heart of our historic downtown area.
Your spirit guide will tell you stories of public hangings, duels, and horrific murders, passing over forgotten cemeteries and unmarked graves, past buildings known to be visited by those who have passed over to the other side. You’ll hear of vengeful lovers, murdered soldiers, and mysterious fires. I hope you’re brave enough to explore the secrets that lie in wait in St. John’s darkest corners.
There are two tours that alternate Sunday to Thursday, from the West Entrance to the Anglican Cathedral on Church Hill at 9:30 pm. The tour ends back at the starting point at the Anglican Cathedral and is not wheelchair accessible. The ticket price is $10 per person, ($5 for kids 12 and under) There is no need to book in advance for a regular night tour, tickets are cash sale only. Just show up and pay your ghoulish guide at the start of the tour.
It’s a fun night out but may not be suitable for children…. Unless you want to scare them to death! Get complete details at: http://www.hauntedhike.com
Fish & chips:
There are so many good places to eat in and around St. John’s, but you can’t leave without a good Newfoundland Fish and Chips. In Newfoundland we don’t serve frozen fries, all chips are homemade and hand cut.
There are lots of great places, but my favourites are:
1. Landings Seafood House, 1 Wharf Road, Portugal Cove. It’s about a half hour from St. John’s. At Landings they say, “For the best fish experience, listen to the advice of those who live in the fish ports, never eat fish and chips when you can't see the sea.” This beautiful little restaurant is located next to the Bell Island Ferry and is so reasonably priced it’s down right cheap! It’s also delicious. The fish batter is crispy, and the portions are huge. They also have a full menu of other items like pizza and chicken but try the fish!
2. The Captain’s Table, Witless Bay. Is about an hour outside St. John’s. Try the cod tongues for an appetizer. Yes, that’s right cod tongues. They are absolutely delicious and served with homemade tarter sauce. I follow the cod tongues with the fisherman’s platter. It’s a little bit of everything. Their fish and chips is called “Our Reputation Maker,” but I like the whole platter. The fish is not long out of the water and the batter is light and crispy. It’s worth the drive.
3. Chafe’s Landing is located in the heart of scenic Petty Harbour, just minutes from St. John’s. This is where Anthony Bourdain dined on delicious sea food. You’ll dine on fresh sea food plucked right from the ocean while overlooking historic Petty Harbour. They often feature live music and a fantastic menu. Try the lobsters or famous fish and chips. Hey, if Anthony Bourdain liked it, you’ll love it.
Wow! How could anyone expect to fit all of that into a week. Truth is I could have easily made a list of the top 500 things to do. This province is boiling over with stuff to do. Just Google us. I haven’t even mentioned our famous George Street or the many festivals and events around the province. You may need more than a week, you may have to move here!
I do know one thing, once you visit Newfoundland and Labrador, you’ll heart will never leave.