The most eastern City in North America, St. John’s is a unique city with a rich history. The blend of rural and urban culture means that there is something always happening in or around the city. St. John’s has it all, from outdoor adventures to annual events and festivals, wonderful attractions and shopping, fabulous cafes and restaurants, scenic drives and tours.
Whether you’re here for a short stay or taking your time and exploring St. John’s at a relaxed pace, there is a lot for you to do, see and discover. So, if you’re looking for something to do that won’t cost you a dime, listed below you will find 25 free things to do in and around St. John’s, Newfoundland.
1. Climb to the Top of Signal Hill
Signal Hill offers amazing views of St. John’s Harbour and the downtown area. The site is famous for being the place where Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic signal in 1901. The Lookout Trail features interpretive panels about the site’s history and is a great place to take photos of the area, and you may even spot whales in the harbour. Free admission on Canada Day.
2. Visit Cape Spear
Cape Spear is known for its amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean, along with being the most eastern point of North America. It is also home to the oldest ‘surviving’ lighthouse in the province, which has been restored and is now a museum about lighthouses and their keepers.
3. Explore Fort Amherst
At the entrance of the St. John’s harbour is Fort Amherst. The fort is made up of a small lighthouse, along with fortifications and cannons that were built to defend against German U-boats in World War II. It has great views of the harbour and Signal Hill across the harbour.
4. Hike the East Coast Trail
The East Coast Trail is a trail system that connects over 30 different communities in Newfoundland. You can hike either north or south and see breathtaking views all along the trails. The trails can take a few hours to hike, so you should pack some snacks and water before you head out.
5. Take pictures at Quidi Vidi Village
Quidi Vidi Village is a picturesque community with small houses sitting on the sides of the rocky cliffs. This quaint village is a ‘must’ visit for anyone who loves take photos. It is one of the oldest cities in North America and the local craftspeople keep traditional skills alive.
6.See the Jellybean Row Houses
Jellybean Row Houses are the brightly colored houses that line the streets of St. John’s down to the harbour. Stories say that people would paint their homes in bright colors to help fisherman come home when it was foggy or storming. You can walk down the hills and take gorgeous photos of these brightly colored homes.
7.Visit the Eastern Edge Gallery
The Eastern Edge Gallery is an artist-run gallery in the heart of St. John’s. The Gallery presents local, national, and international contemporary art, which includes visual art, installation, sound, and social practices. A visit to this gallery will challenge your ideas of art and celebrate amazing artists. Admission to most exhibitions and public events is free.
8. See a Concert at Harbourside Park
During the summer months, Harbourside Park is home to St. John’s lunchtime concert series called Music at Harbourside on Fridays. You can kick back with some friends, or enjoy some time by yourself with great live music. You will also see statues of Newfoundland and Labrador dogs in the park.
9.Visit the Terry Fox Memorial
On the Terry Fox Mile Zero Memorial Site is a bronze sculpture of Terry Fox made by Luben Boykov. This is where Terry started running a marathon to raise money for cancer research. The Terry Fox Run started in June 1981 to keep his dream alive. He is a local hero who has touched the lives of many Canadians.
10. Visit One of the Oldest Communities in North America
The town of Ferryland is on the Irish Loop drive, and is one of the oldest communities in North America. There is an active archaeological dig and a 19th century style lighthouse that you can visit. It is a great place to spend the day, especially if you want or need to get out of the city.
11. Watch the Downtown Busker Festival
The annual Downtown Busker Festival hosts a show every 45 minutes with over 20 shows a day at various performance areas in Downtown St. John’s. Buskers travel from across the country and the world to perform. The performances of the jugglers, magicians, acrobats, comedians, and plenty of other performers will entertain the whole family when they show you what they can do.
12. Celebrate St. John’s Birthday
Celebrate St. John’s birthday with St. John’s Days events. There are number of events across St. John’s, which include outdoor concerts, historical open houses, tours, scavenger hunt, a campfire at Signal Hill, and much more. All the events are free and everyone is welcome to attend.
13. Blackhead One Room School and Church Museum
The Blackhead One Room School and Church Museum is a fully restored one-room school and church that was built in 1879. The friendly guide will show you around the school, or you can take a self-guided tour of the building. There is also a beach in the yard that you can relax on, and you may spot an iceberg in the bay.
14. Flatrock Museum
You can learn about the history of Flatrock at the Flatrock Museum, which is located in the town hall. The museum contains many artifacts and photographs of life when the town was being founded. All the items in the museum are on loan from the Flatrock residents and were used in the farming or fishing industry.
15. Crow’s Nest Officer’s Club
Founded in 1942, as the Sea-going Officer’s Club, The Crow’s Nest Officer’s Club maintains the 1940s look and feel. Today, the club is a museum that displays hundreds of military artifacts and photographs. So, visiting the club is an excellent way of learning about Newfoundland’s military history.
16. Visit the New Ocean Science Centre
You can dip your hands into the saltwater touch tank at the Ocean Science Centre and learn about the sea life around Newfoundland. You can also get up close with the harp seals Babette, Deane and Tyler because they live outside in tanks. If you’re lucky, you will be there when a staff member goes out to feeding them.
17. Topsail Heritage Homes and Garden Walk
Explore Topsail with the 1.3km self-guided Topsail Heritage Homes and Garden Walk. The walk starts at the storyboard located at the St. John the Evangelist Church. The tour will take you to the important heritage locations in the city, which include a variety of historic homes, gardens, the church, and even the cemetery.
18. St. John’s Farmers Market
You can spend a Saturday morning at the St. John’s Farmers Market. Take some time to wander through the market and learn what is grown and made near and in St. John’s. The market has been running for over 10 years, and the vendor list keeps growing each year.
19. Terra Nova National Park
Explore Canada’s most easterly national park, Terra Nova National Park that has 400km of natural beauty. You can experience the coast by kayaking, or hike around the park on one of the 11 hiking trails where you can spot eagles, seabirds, beavers, and moose. Free admission on Canada Day.
20. Salmonier Nature Park – Holyrood
You can walk the 3km long boardwalk trail that travels through a wetlands and woods to the rehabilitation facility at the Salmonier Nature Park. Along the paths, over a dozen of species of wildlife are visible in sensitively designed enclosures. It is a wonderful, relaxing stroll for anyone who wants to reconnect with nature.
21.Hike to the top of Topsail Bluff
Topsail Bluff is a popular hiking location that takes you to amazing views. The trail is less than an hour long to hike. There is a playground, gazebo, amphitheater, and picnic sites at the Topsail Bluff Rotary Park at the start of the trail.
22. The Victoria Park Lantern Festival
This well-kept summer secret will keep the whole family busy with a diverse array of activities and performances. You can make your own paper lantern during the afternoon, then add it to the other lanterns at The Victoria Park Lantern Festival. People make lanterns of all shapes and sizes at the public lantern-building workshops, so have fun and be creative when you make yours.
23. The Royal St. John’s Regatta– Quidi Vidi Lake
Every year, over 50,000 people gather on the shores to watch the oldest continuing sporting event in North America. The Royal St. John’s Regatta is a rowing race that is held every year since 1818. This event is also called “The Largest Garden Party in the World” because it is just as much about the social events on the shore before and after the race, as it is about the rowers competing on the water.
24. Bonfire at Middle Cove Beach
It is a summer tradition in St. John’s to pick up some firewood, and bring food to cook over an open fire and spend the evening at Middle Cove Beach for a bonfire. Most summer nights, there are dozens of bonfires on and around the beach. You will need to get there early if you want to get a fire pit.
25. Lester Farms
Take the family to pet alpacas and goats, along with chickens and rabbits at the petting barn at Lester Farms. If you visit from mid-summer to fall, you can test your problem solving skills in the corn maze. There is a lot of farm fun to be had this summer at this popular farm.