Getting a Feel for Canada's East Coast in St. John's, Newfoundland

Having lived in Canada for the majority of my life and having traveled extensively through British Columbia and Alberta, I’ve gotten to know the western provinces quite well, but I always wondered how the east coast stacks up to the west.

This summer I finally had a chance to explore some of Canada's Atlantic provinces.

One destination that I got to visit was St. John’s, the capital city of Newfoundland and Labrador (Canada’s most easterly province), famous for it’s colorful row houses, diverse history, weathered lighthouses, rugged coastline, and affinity to the sea.

One day was not nearly enough time to explore St. John’s, but I feel like I got a taste for this friendly and scenic part of Canada, especially after wandering around the historic Signal Hill area.

Signal Hill

Signal Hill is St. John’s most popular landmark and a National Historic Site of Canada.

Not only was it the location of the city’s harbor defenses from the 17th century up until the Second World War, it was also where Guglielmo Marconi received the world’s first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901.

It’s not difficult to reach Signal Hill from downtown St. John’s. You can walk or drive east along any of the main roads, like Water Street, until you reach Signal Hill Road. From the turn off it’s a quick drive up to the top of the hill, or approximately a 20-minute walk.

Signal Hill Cannons
St. John's
Signal Hill

After catching my breath from marching up to the top of the windy hill, I found myself face to face with the iconic Cabot Tower, which was built to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland, and also to mark the 60th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s reign.

Inside the tower you’ll find an exhibit about Guglielmo Marconi and the wireless station that operated here, along with an obligatory gift shop.

Fort Amherst Lighthouse

Looking down over The Narrows, the channel that is the only access to St. John’s harbor, I spotted the weathered Fort Amherst lighthouse. While the first lighthouse in Newfoundland was built here in 1810, the lighthouse seen today was constructed in 1951.

I watched as wave after wave slammed against the rugged coastal cliffs and the lone lighthouse stared down at the constant swell.

Now, this was what I had pictured Canada’s Atlantic coast to look like!

North Head Trail

After soaking in the view at the top of the wind blown hill I descended down the North Head trail, Signal Hill’s most popular hiking trail.

From Signal Hill the trail begins down a series of boardwalk stairs and eventually turns into a gravel path that winds it’s way along the cliffs back into St. John’s.

I’m so glad that my mum, who was wandering around with me for the day, convinced me to go on this hike. The trail brings you closer to the ocean providing a better view of the stunning surroundings and Fort Amherst lighthouse. Well worth the trek!

North Head Trail
North Head Trail
North Head Trail
North Head Trail
Fort Amherst Lighthouse
North Head Trail
Fort Amherst Lighthouse
Seagulls

Along the way, we ran into some locals who were quick to strike up a conversation with us. I found the people here to be much friendlier and more open than those on the west coast of Canada.

The North Head Trail starting from Signal Hill going into St. John’s took us about an hour. This included some photo stops along the way.

Nearing closer to St. John’s we came upon The Battery, a tiny neighborhood located on the steep slopes of Signal Hill, famous for it’s colorful houses and importance as a battery for the defense of St. John’s harbor during both World Wars.

The Narrows St. John's
Fishermen mural

The winding streets in this neighborhood were pretty quiet, but I did find some cheeky signs and monochromatic street murals depicting the St. John’s fishing industry.

Never confuse education with intelligence 
The Narrows st. John's

One day was not nearly enough time to explore St. John’s, but I feel like I got a sense of this friendly, historic, and picturesque part of Canada, especially after exploring Signal Hill.

To cap off the day as our cruise ship sailed out of the harbor through The Narrows, the Signal Hill cannons were fired as a way of saying goodbye to the vessel and passengers.

It was a great way to end an already memorable day here in St. John’s and a send-off that I’ll never forget.

North Head Trail