St. John’s, the oldest city in North America, is a brilliant vacation destination. It is here on its eastern fringes, straddled along our rugged coast, that you will discover the charming communities of The Battery, Signal Hill, and Quidi Vidi.
There are few places on the North American continent that offer so much within a confined geographical region. Visually spectacular and culturally and historically rich, each neighborhood delivers an enriching, most unique rural NL travel experience that’s only a minutes’ drive from the hustle and bustle of downtown city life.
St. John’s East holds a near and dear place in my heart, my family goes back 5 generations here. Great-Grandfather Samuel Codner himself was a fire Sergeant at the old East End Fire Station. It is on these very hills that I hiked as a boy.
Our blog presents to you, thrilling points of interest, ordered in sequence, of course, to optimize your travel time and maximize your holiday experience.
A visit to The Battery is to experience a Newfoundland outport in the heart of St. John’s. Situated at the entrance to St. John’s harbour under the slopes of Signal Hill, it is here you will travel along Narrow winding roads passing colourful houses, fishing stages and wharfs.
An award-winning app called the Inside Outside Battery has even been created that will help get you on your way! Click here to download.
Stay At Battery Bluff Cottage
Beautiful modern accommodations built into the cliffs below Signal Hill. All suites offer a spectacular view of the harbor, downtown, and the ‘Narrows’.
Pearcy’s Twine Store & Stage/Inshore Fishing Museum
Since the 1992 cod moratorium, the knowledge and skills pertaining to the inshore fishery (a Newfoundland and Labrador way of life for centuries) are slowly disappearing.
Thankfully, Charlie Pearcey, a fisherman, tradition bearer and amateur archivist is sustaining the tradition and practices by educating countless visitors at his red twine store in the Outer Battery.
Upon entering his delightful little store, you will be captivated by his remarkable treasure trove of artifacts related to the history of the inshore fishery. In 2014, Charlie was officially recognized for all his hard work, being designated a “Provincial Tradition Bearer”.
Blue Moon Pottery
Artist Isabella St. John is one of the most established potters in the province, producing porcelain, stoneware, and raku pottery for over 40 years. She has also operated her own studio and shop, Blue Moon Pottery, in the Outer Battery since 1985.
Blue Moon Pottery is jointly shared with her niece Erin Callahan St. John, a craftswoman in her own right. Many of their works are inspired by their natural surroundings.
North Head Hiking Trail
North Head Trail is Signal Hill’s most popular and challenging hike that takes you along a narrow coastal path through the harbor Narrows before ascending 500 feet to Signal Hill’s top parking lot.
This 1.7 km (1 mile) trail takes approximately 90 minutes to complete. Along the way, you will take in spectacular views of our rugged coastal beauty, the great and unending Atlantic Ocean and historic sites.
Connect with the trail from Outer Battery Road. Do it preferably in good weather and not during the winter nor at night. Important: Be careful with young children, the trail does run fairly close to the edge at some points. This is not a hike for anyone below 10-12 years old without supervision and a rope.
Signal Hill and Cabot Tower
Signal Hill National Historic Site is an outstanding natural landmark rich in communications and military history. It is the site of the last military conflict of the Seven Years War in North America between Britain and French in 1762.
In 1901, Guglielmo Marconi also revolutionized global communications by receiving the first transatlantic wireless signal on these very hills.
Atop this magnificent site sits Cabot Tower, an NL cultural icon named After John Cabot (Giovanni Cabot), the Italian explorer who first discovered Newfoundland in 1497. Cabot Tower was constructed between 1898 and 1900 in honor of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s arrival to Newfoundland.
While visiting Signal Hill, be sure to visit Cabot Tower’s exhibit and Heritage Gift Shop and then take its narrow interior steps to its top for a magnificent outdoor panoramic view of St. John’s and the surrounding ocean and coastline.
Want to become part of history? How does firing off the noon day cannon sound to you? During the summer months, this option is available by contacting Parks Canada. For a closer view of our beautiful city and lovely harbor, be sure you proceed down the trail towards the Gun barrels at Artificers Yard.
Ladies Lookout Trail
This trail has significant historical value because Signal Hill was originally called Ladies Lookout. It is on this very hill that the women of early St. John’s kept watch for the safe return of their loved ones.
Ladies Lookout Trail also delivers some of the most magnificent scenery found on the Avalon Peninsula. Beginning at the top parking lot, the trail will take you to Cuckold’s Cove Trail which then leads to Quidi Vidi Village.
This is an intermediate trail that is 0.7 km (0.4 miles) long and takes roughly 20 minutes to complete. Double your time and distance should you wish to proceed onto Cuckold’s Cove Trail and Quidi Vidi Village. I have done the full jaunt many times and I highly recommend the full route.
The Johnson GEO CENTRE is a world class tourist attraction that takes you deep underground to experience the story of planet Earth from the inside, out!
Cut directly from Signal Hill’s ancient rock, the external walls of the exhibit area are of natural, 550 million years old exposed rock — 100 million years older than the eastern Appalachian Mountains and over 400 million years older than the western Rocky Mountains!
Our province’s oldest rocks are found in northern Labrador and are dated at 3.87 billion years of age, amongst the oldest discovered anywhere on the planet. There is no other place on the planet so accessible and that so fully illustrates the history of Earth, dating back nearly 4.5 billion years to its birth.
Signal Hill Interpretive Centre & NL Chocolate Café
Be sure you tour the visitor center and its interactive, multi-media displays and kiosks. Learn about Signal Hill’s fascinating role in military and communications history from the 1600s to WW2. The movie alone is worth the small admission price.
On site is the newly opened Newfoundland Chocolate Café. This delightful little spot is home to creative and positively delicious artisan crafted chocolates made right here in Newfoundland.
Their yummy menu also offers coffee, cake, gelato, and sandwiches. There are eat-in tables and outside picnic tables weather permitting. A great spot to unwind and reenergize after your Signal Hill jaunt!
Ghosts Of Signal Hill
Daring escapes, murdered pirates, ghost ships, buried treasure, tragic drownings, and headless phantoms: it is all in a night’s work at Signal Hill National Historic Site.
From storyteller and celebrated folklorist Dale Jarvis, award-winning creator of the St. John’s Haunted Hike, comes an evening of ghost stories, historical tales and strange adventures on Newfoundland’s most historic hill.
Join the dashing Lieutenant Ranslaer Schuyler by lamplight inside the historic Queen’s Battery and prepare for the thrills and chills as local lore and legends unfold after the lights go out.
Ghosts Of Signal Hill takes place every Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm throughout July and August. Tickets are $15 (cash only) at the Visitor Center on Signal Hill Road.
There is a short uphill walk to the site so bring good shoes. It gets dark early, so bring a flashlight to help your way up and down the hill. There is no lavatory at the Queen’s Battery but there are washrooms available at the Visitor Center.
Signal Hill Tattoo
The Signal Hill Tattoo is an internationally known historical animation program that has won numerous awards including the coveted Canadian Heritage Award.
The Tattoo portrays the garrison life and duties of His Majesty’s Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Foot and the 27th Company-2nd Battalion-Royal Regiment of Artillery, ghostly echoes of a bygone era of British military might.
Each summer, audiences are thrilled by cannon, mortars and musket fire booming alongside the stirring tunes of the Fife and Drum Band. The Tattoo is performed at O’Flaherty Field, one of the sites where defenses were erected during the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713).
Blueberry Picking On Signal Hill
Blueberry fever hits Newfoundland’s most historic hill usually during the first week of August (depending on the summer weather). A cooler spring, warmer fall in recent years has seen an abundance of blueberries lasting well into September.
This is a favorite summer pastime of mine since I was a little boy, grazing the hills for these tasty, healthy treats with my Nan and Pop, a wonderful childhood experience.
Signal Hill is covered in blueberries and you will see droves of people picking away, but they are not always in clear view, they tend to grow amidst low-lying shrubs. A little effort on your part will yield a bountiful reward!
Quidi Vidi Village
Quidi Vidi is the only community in the province that is actually referred to as a village. Pronounced “Kiddy Viddy” Or “Kwi-Dee Vi-Dee”, it’s an exceptionally charming and scenic St. John’s neighborhood.
Situated around a well-protected harbor, known locally as “The Gut”, it is a tiny sheltered corner of the east coast that gives you a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean from inside “The Gut”.
Quidi Vidi is home to four centuries of settlement. Historically, it was a fishing village but became active after World War II for the construction of nearby U.S. Pepperrell Air Force Base in Pleasantville.
Today Quidi Vidi is now a part of St. John’s, though it still possesses a distinctly rural, small-town feel. It is also very easy to explore on foot, taking you no more than 10 minutes from start to finish.
Dee Jay Charters
Dee Jay’s recently celebrated 25 years in service and is one of the finest adventure boat tours in all of NL with a crew that is friendly, welcoming and highly knowledgeable.
Your 2.5-hour ocean excursion takes place aboard their vessel the Shanadithi II, a 42′ Cape Island style tour boat that combines the best of a big boat and that of a zodiac. Departures take place from downtown St. John’s at Pier 6.
Sailing out through the famous harbor narrows, you navigate in and around picturesque Quidi Vidi Village. From here you visit Cape Spear, the most easterly point in all of North America. Finally, you will travel through Blackhead Bay, Deadman’s Bay and Freshwater Bay.
On your journey, you will have the opportunity to see majestic icebergs, magnificent whales, countless species of delightful seabirds (including the famous puffin) and of course Newfoundland’s breathtaking coastal beauty. A tour with Dee Jay Charters is to experience the most amazing natural wonders on our planet!
Inn Of Olde Pub
Standing outside the pub, you could not possibly imagine what surprises await you inside this odd looking structure.
Dimly-lit with a low ceiling and sloping floor, the Inn Of Olde is really someone’s basement turned into a charming pub that has retained its old essence.
Upon entering, you will immediately marvel at the countless memorabilia and antiques adorning the walls and ceiling. This eclectic assortment of treasures, worthy of a museum, has a feel of visiting an aunt or grandmother.
Owner Linda Hennebury, your host, is funny and charming with a heart of gold and personality to match. Take a seat, have a cold beer and try some of Linda’s delicious sea fish chowder as she shares some wonderful Newfoundland love and amazing stories that will keep you laughing.
Food options are limited but reasonably priced particularly for those travelers on a budget. This place is hopping at night too with a great bunch of locals who are very welcoming to “come from aways”. The Inn of Olde is also the go-to spot for your “Screech In” (become a certified honorary Newfoundlander)!
Don’t miss this amazing little gem, feel what it is like to be a local Newfoundlander and share in some wonderful people offering true authentic hospitality. Be sure to give Linda a hug before you leave!
Where else in Canada can you experience exceptional dining at an 18th Century vernacular style cottage?
This former large, rambling antique shop (a National Historic Site and one of the oldest wooden buildings in North America) was painstakingly restored over a two year period by sommelier Todd Perrin and team.
Today Mallard Cottage has been transformed into a top Canadian foodie locale (all the while retaining its rustic charm and historic integrity). The food here is inventive, sustainably sourced, delicious and fresh. Their specialty is seafood and wild game.
Mallard Cottage is also never content with the foodie status quo with a menu that is always changing, a culinary art gallery of sorts. Seats are increasingly difficult to come by so be sure you make reservations.
Quidi Vidi Village Plantation
Quidi Vidi Village Plantation serves as a craft enterprise incubator and is a major St. John’s hub for creative activity.
This beautiful building atop its own wharf was designed to reflect the fishing stages and fish plants that occupied the site since the 1600s.
Housed on its upper level are several artists’ studios where you will meet passionate artisans in their creative element. Say hello, get to know their process and see all the hard work and unique methods that go into the crafting of their products.
The diverse artistic mediums here range from textiles to ceramic, from print-making to handmade soaps, which is nothing short of inspirational!
A visit here is a rare insight into how these innovative craftspeople create their one-of-a-kind works. The artisans are amazing and the shopping experience is outstanding, further enriched by the opportunity to chat with its makers.
Quidi Vidi Brewery, Tour & Newfie Kitchen Party
Quidi Vidi Brewery is an independent brewing company (NL’s largest craft brewery) with deep cultural roots in the area. To begin, a guided tour of their wonderful brewing facility is a must. See where iceberg beer is made and sample their eight brands of world-class award-winning beers that are on tap!
Friday evenings, beginning at 5:30, they also host a Newfoundland “kitchen party”. This is a fun-filled boisterous event featuring live local music by the brew crew band. Their foot-stomping performance will have you up on the floor in no time.
Quidi Vidi Battery
Quidi Vidi Battery is a reconstruction of a British coastal battery dating to 1812. Situated at the mouth of Quidi Vidi Harbour, it sits upon an archaeological site excavated by the province in 1965 and 1995.
Quidi Vidi Battery represents an important period in Newfoundland history, one of 12 coastal military installations the British designed to protect St. John’s from an attack overland.
First opened in 1967, it was the first Provincial Historic Site developed by the province that opened to the public. In keeping with the period of 1812, the site consists of a barracks, gun deck with two cannons and two carronades and a powder magazine, all enclosed by a wooden palisade.
Quidi Vidi Battery was the longest-lived coastal battery, manned by British military personnel until British forces left Newfoundland in 1870, a true testament to its strategic importance.