St. John’s, the oldest city in North America, is a brilliant vacation destination offering so much within a confined geographical region. Straddled along its eastern edge, you will discover three of its charming neighborhoods: The Battery, Signal Hill, and Quidi Vidi.
Each of these neighborhoods deliver an enriching, most unique rural NL travel experience situated mere minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown St. John’s. This blog presents to you, thrilling points of interest, ordered in sequence 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, you will travel along narrow winding roads which pass colourful houses, fishing stages, and wharfs.
Note See this award-winning app Inside Outside Battery to get you on your way.
Stay At Battery Bluff Cottage
Beautiful modern accommodations built into the cliffs of Signal Hill with spectacular view of the harbor, downtown, and the “Narrows”, Battery Bluff Cottage is that ‘home away from home’ which provides for all the amenities to make your stay comfortable and enjoyable including a fully equipped kitchen and private entrance.
Visit Pearcy’s Twine Store, Stage & Inshore Fishing Museum
Since the 1992 cod moratorium, the knowledge and skills of the inshore fishery, a NL way of life for centuries, has slowly disappeared. 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.
Located in the Outer Battery, this delightful spot is a remarkable treasure trove of artifacts related to the history of the inshore fishery. In 2014, Charlie was officially recognized for his hard work, being designated a “Provincial Tradition Bearer”.
Stop By Blue Moon Pottery
Artist Isabella St. John is one of NL’s most established potters, having produced porcelain, stoneware, and raku pottery for over 40 years. Many of her works are inspired by their natural surroundings. Since 1985, she has operated her own studio and shop, Blue Moon Pottery, located in the Outer Battery.
Stop by this lovely little studio to see these amazing works and take in the gorgeous views overlooking St. John’s Harbour and its famous “Narrows”.
See The Battery Murals
While exploring the Battery, keep your eye out for the captivating murals of the Outer Battery, which capture what life was once like for Newfoundlanders living here.
Hike The North Head Hiking Trail
1.7 kilometer (1 mile), 90 minutes, moderate-difficult North Head Trail is Signal Hill’s most popular and challenging hike which takes you along a narrow coastal path through the “Narrows” of St. John’s Harbour, before ascending or descending 500 feet to the top or bottom of Signal Hill (depending on which direction you start, see note below).
Note Connect with the trail from Outer Battery Road or Cabot Tower parking lot. Do it preferably in good weather and not during the winter nor at night. Be careful with young children, the trail runs close to the edge at different intervals. This is not a hike for anyone under 12 years old without supervision and a rope.
Visit Signal Hill and Cabot Tower
Signal Hill National Historic Site is an outstanding natural landmark rich in communications and military history. This is the site of the last military conflict of the Seven Years War in North America between Britain and France 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 also sits Cabot Tower, an NL cultural icon named after Giovanni Cabot (anglicized John 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.
Note Visit the Cabot Tower exhibit and Heritage Shop onsite and be sure to also take its narrow, winding steps to the top for a magnificent panoramic view of St. John’s and surrounding 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.
Stroll Ladies Lookout Trail
0.7 kilometer (0.4 mile), 20 minutes, moderate Ladies Lookout Trail has significant historical value because Signal Hill was originally called Ladies Lookout, and it is on this very hill that the women of early St. John’s kept watch for the safe return of their loved ones.
Directions Begin at Cabot Tower parking lot. The trail leads to Cuckold’s Cove Trail then onto Quidi Vidi Village. Double and triple your time and distance should you proceed to Cuckold’s Cove and Quidi Vidi Village respectively.
Explore The Johnson Geo Centre
Johnson GEO CENTRE is a world class attraction that takes you deep underground to experience the story of Planet Earth, from the inside-out. Cut directly into Signal Hill’s ancient rock, the external walls of the exhibit area are 550 million year old exposed rocks, 100 million years older than the eastern Appalachian Mountains, and over 400 million years older than the western Rocky Mountains.
Fact NL’s oldest rocks are found in Northern Labrador and date 3.87 billion years, among the oldest discovered anywhere on the planet. There is no other place on the planet like NL, so accessible and that so fully illustrates the history of Earth.
Visit The Interpretation Centre And Eat At NL Chocolate Café
Signal Hill’s Visitor Interpretation Centre, with interactive, multimedia displays and kiosks, gives you a glimpse into its fascinating military and communications history spanning the 1600s to the Second World War.
Note Onsite is Newfoundland Chocolate Café, home to creative and delicious artisan crafted chocolates made right here in Newfoundland. Their menu also offers coffee, cake, gelato, and sandwiches.
Watch The 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 eerie 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.
Note Ghosts Of Signal Hill takes place every Friday and Saturday at 8:00PM throughout July and August. Tickets are $15 (cash only) at the Visitor Centre on Signal Hill Road. There is a short uphill walk to the site so bring good shoes and 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 Centre.
See The 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. 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), ghostly echoes of a bygone era of British military might.
Note The Tattoo runs from July 1 until mid-August on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 11:00AM and 3:00PM.
Go Blueberry Picking
Blueberry fever hits Newfoundland’s most historic hill beginning the first week of August, but cooler springs and warmer falls in recent years have seen an abundance of blueberries lasting well into September. Signal Hill is covered in blueberries, but not always in clear view, they tend to grow amidst low-lying shrubs, so a little effort on your part will reap 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”, this charming and scenic St. John’s neighborhood is situated around a well-protected harbor known locally as “The Gut”.
Quidi Vidi is home to four centuries of settlement, and while historically it was a fishing village, it became active after World War II due to 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 no more than 15 minutes from start to finish.
Ride The Waves With Dee Jay Charters
Dee Jay’s is one of the finest adventure boat tours in all of NL with a friendly, welcoming, and highly knowledgeable crew. This 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, on Harbour Drive, at Pier 7, sailing out through the famous harbor “Narrows” to navigate in and around picturesque Quidi Vidi Village. From here you visit Cape Spear, the most easterly point in all of North America, then onto Blackhead Bay, Deadman’s Bay, and Freshwater Bay.
On your journey, opportunities abound to see majestic icebergs, magnificent whales, countless species of delightful seabirds (including the famous puffin) and, of course, breathtaking coastal beauty.
Note Dee Jay’s also offers ocean “cod jigging”, as well as, “screech-ins” where you become a certified, honorary Newfoundlander.
Drop By Inn Of Olde Pub
Dimly-lit with a low ceiling and sloping floor, Inn Of Olde is really someone’s basement turned into a charming pub that has retained its old essence. Upon entering, you will marvel at the countless memorabilia and antiques adorning the walls and ceiling, an eclectic assortment of treasures, worthy of a museum, that has a feel of visiting your 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 her delicious seafood chowder, as she shares wonderful Newfoundland love and amazing stories that will keep you laughing. Food options are limited here but reasonably priced.
This place is also hopping at night 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).
Do not miss this amazing little gem, feel what it is like to be a local Newfoundlander, and share in some wonderful people offering true hospitality.
Dine At Mallard Cottage
Where else in Canada can you experience exceptional dining at an 18th Century vernacular style cottage? This former 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 itself 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. While their specialty is seafood and wild game, they are never content with the status quo, their menu is always changing, a culinary art gallery of sorts.
Note Seats are increasingly difficult to come by, be sure to make reservations.
Meet Artists At 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, sitting atop a 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 artist studios where you will meet passionate artisans in their creative element.
Artistic mediums here are a diverse range from textiles to ceramic and print-making to handmade soaps, nothing short of inspirational. Say hello, get to know their process and see all the hard work and unique methods that go into the crafting of their products.
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.
Note Lower level serves as an event venue showcasing a wide range of local talent.
Tour Quidi Vidi Brewery & Attend A Kitchen Party
Quidi Vidi Brewery is an independent brewing company and NL’s largest craft brewery with deep cultural roots in the area. On a guided tour of their facility, you will see where iceberg beer is made and get to sample their eight brands of world-class award-winning beers.
Note Fridays at 5:30PM, they hold a Newfoundland ‘kitchen party’, a fun-filled boisterous event featuring live local music by the Brew Crew band, a foot-stomping performance that will have you up on the floor in no time.
Step Back In Time At Quidi Vidi Battery
Not to be confused with The Battery neighborhood, 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 between 1965 and 1995.
First opened in 1967, Quidi Vidi Battery 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 represents an important period in Newfoundland history, one of twelve coastal military installations the British designed to protect St. John’s from an overland attack. It was also the longest-lived coastal battery, manned by British military personnel until British forces left Newfoundland in 1870, a true testament to its strategic importance.