Arriving in St. John’s, Newfoundland I was instantly charmed by the colors of the city. Historic downtown streets are lined with wooden row houses painted red, yellow, lavender, green and blue. Hilly streets wind past these "jelly bean" houses, stately churches and historic monuments. I was charmed again as I got to know the people of this special place. This is a place of folklore, humor and stunning natural beauty.
Locals relish the opportunity to tell you about their city and invite you to become part of their world – if only for a few days. And when they speak, it is enchanting. I could have sworn I’d landed in Ireland instead of Canada’s easternmost province. When you stand on the most easterly point at Cape Spear overlooking the Atlantic Ocean you are directly across from County Clare, Ireland with just a watery road between you. Immigrants from Ireland settled here centuries ago and the Irish lilt has never left.
The residents of St. John’s are unlike anyone else in Canada – or really anywhere. They have a unique take on the English language and manipulate it regularly by changing words, dropping the "h" on one word and adding it to another word beginning with a vowel. I have no idea why, but I found it fascinating. As my tour guide, Mike Edmunds, explained, "You can take the ‘h’ out of Holyrood and put it back in Avalon." It’s just what they do.
Often shrouded in heavy fog, Newfoundlanders are ecstatic when sunshine shows up. It was present for my visit giving the reds, yellows, lavenders and blues of the wooden row houses even more brightness. The residents love the sunshine so much they even want to share it with their laundry. On a bright sunny day you will hear them say, "It’s a fine day on clothes." And with that they will hang all of their mentionables and unmentionables out on the clothesline for all the world to see.
Head up to the top of Signal Hill for sweeping views of the magnificent landscape surrounding St. John’s. From this vantage point you can look down to the harbor of St. John’s below and the narrow passageway that leads to the sea. On the other side powerful waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash against the ancient rocks. A lighthouse precariously perched on a rocky cliff stands watch below. The power of the water is nothing short of amazing. As one gentleman told me, "If ye fall in, ye won’t drift ashore, you’ll drift to Ireland."
The stone fortress of Cabot Tower stands at the highest point of Signal Hill. Built to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland, the Cabot Tower was used to house signaling functions until 1958. Nobel Prize recipient, Guglielmo Marconi received the first trans-Atlantic transmission of the human voice at Signal Hill in 1920.
The Newfoundland province has a unique geological record that reveals the history of the Earth dating back almost to its birth over 4.5 billion years ago. Learn more about this unique geological make up at the Johnson Geo Center. Built into the landscape, the external walls of the exhibits area showcases the features of Signal Hill’s geology with 550 million year old exposed rock.
For a genuine wilderness hiking experience, the extensive network of trails comprising the East Coast Trail wind past a natural wave-driven geyser called the Spout, deep fjords, towering cliffs, abandoned settlements, lighthouses and more.
The deep blue waters surrounding Newfoundland are home to 22 species of whales. Between May and September the whales can be seen breaching the surface of the water and playing along the shoreline. And even if your whale watching cruise doesn’t yield a whale sighting you’re likely to see those adorable puffins who are much more adept at swimming than flying.
Have you visited St. John’s, Newfoundland? What were your favorite experiences?
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Terri Marshall is a New York City based freelance writer whose work includes travel, spirits, and all things chocolate. Terri's work appears in several publications. She has been a featured guest on Peter Greenberg's Worldwide Travel radio program and Denver's KZKO Radio Morning Express show. Terri will not hesitate to go to the source for great chocolate - even if that means hiking through the jungle and picking cacao pods herself.
Happiest when she's globetrotting, Terri has covered destinations all over the United States, Europe, and into Central and South America. Favorite adventures include reindeer driving in Norway and fishing for piranhas in the Amazon jungle of Peru. You can keep up with Terri's adventures on her website www.TrippingwithTerri.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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