St. John’s Family Fun
Our family had some WestJet money that needed to be used up in the next few months, so we started thinking about a fall trip.
Newfoundland immediately came to mind for several reasons.
It is a cheap and easy flight from Halifax (only 1.5 hours).
There is plenty to do for a long weekend in St. John’s to keep an active family occupied.
We have a family friend who lives there and offered to let us stay with him!
We went to Newfoundland 11 years ago for our honeymoon, and loved it so much that we wanted to go back and explore it again, this time with our family!
So, on a weekend in October, we headed to St. John’s, Newfoundland!
We rented a car for the 4 days we were in Newfoundland. This made it so easy to get around and not have to worry about buses – especially with the kids!
I was shocked that the city of St. John’s is less than a 10 minute drive from the airport! This made it so easy to get around!
Much like Halifax, St. John’s is an old city with the roads going squeegee-wiff, and not lining up at perfect angles, so make sure you have a good map, or bring your GPS. We could not have survived without ours!
A Good Time to Visit
We went to St. John’s the weekend after Thanksgiving. Many of the attractions, museums, and gift shops had closed for the season the weekend before.
Despite many things being closed, there were still plenty of attractions that were open. And, the weather was still warm enough (which I really worried about!)
So, if you are planning a fall trip to St. John’s, definitely try to go before Thanksgiving, but if not, there are still lots of opportunities for family fun!
During our 4-day visit, we certainly packed in a lot of family fun!
This was a definite trip highlight! The Suncor Energy Fluvarium is a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental education and freshwater ecology.
The Fluvarium is a great interactive museum to learn about water – what it is, how it’s used and how it’s abused.
It also features 9 large windows looking into a stream!
Johnson Geo Centre
The Johnson Geo Centre is another family-fun must-see in St. John’s.
Looking to learn more about the Earth and its incredible past? Wanting to get out for a super-fun day with the kids? Fascinated by the Titanic story and want to learn more about the countless stories of its passengers and crew? The Johnson GEO CENTRE gives you all of that and more!
This museum is built right into the rocks at the base of Signal Hill. In fact, the museum walls are the rocks!
It is an interactive museum with lots of activities for kids!
St. John’s most popular landmark, Signal Hill, recalls the town’s historic past and communications triumph, as well as offering coastal hikes and colourful performances, against sweeping views overlooking the Atlantic. Signal Hill was the site of St. John’s harbour defences from the 17th century to the Second World War and where Guglielmo Marconi received the world’s first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901.
I was cautioned that many of the trails are steep and narrow (like the North Head Trail) so, be sure to wear proper footwear!
Thomas (7) loves things that are “most in the world”. The tallest building, the longest bridge, the oldest church, etc. So, we knew he was going to love Cape Spear!
Stark white Cape Spear Lighthouse pierces a sky swirling with seabirds atop a craggy headland. It overlooks a vast expanse of indigo ocean where glittering processions of icebergs glide by, Humpback whales breach and pods of porpoises send misty spouts into the Atlantic air. On North America’s easternmost point of land, historic Cape Spear Lighthouse, the oldest surviving lighthouse in Newfoundland and Labrador, offers a glimpse into the lives of 19th century lighthouse keepers and their families.
Also on site you can travel back to the Second World War on an interpretive walk amid concrete bunkers and gun barrels pointing seaward at Fort Cape Spear, remnants of a coastal defence battery on the lookout for German naval attackers.
Cape Spear is a quintessential place to visit while in St. John’s. It is approximately 15 minutes outside the city.
Before Terry Fox started his cross-country run, he dipped his artificial leg into the St. John’s harbour. At this spot there is now a bronze statue and memorial site commemorating his journey.
When one thinks of St. John’s, the first picture that comes to mind is probably the rows of colourful town houses.
The city has done a great job of making this their image. These houses can be found on most of the streets perpendicular to the harbour (especially around Victoria Street).
We also had a walk down George Street, notorious for its music. However, the street doesn’t come alive before the kids’ bedtimes, so this trip we were content to just walk down it!
We walked around the historic settlement of Quidi Vidi. There is a brewery and an old restaurant here as well, but just the view and the scenery was worth it!
We also walked the trail around Quidi Vidi Lake.
This is where the annual rowing regatta happens each year.
On Saturday, we decided to drive the Irish loop to the southern part of the Avalon Peninsula.
Because of the time of year, many attractions were closed. But we did find a few things to do along the way. The drive was incredibly beautiful and the scenery so diverse.
In retrospect, the drive was too long for the kids. It took us 7 hours door-to-door with the kids. In the future, I would have gone as far as Ferryland and returned to St. John’s. Had more things been open, we could have easily filled a day with just this side of the coastline.
I also should have done more research about the western side of the peninsula and found more places (that were open) that we could have stopped to explore. It was too long for the kids cooped up in the car!
As you drive down the coast, you can visit Petty Harbour (home to Great Big Sea’s Alan Doyle) to the mini aquarium (in season) or Bay Bulls and Witless Bay where (in season) you can get a boat cruise to see puffins and whales – if they haven’t already migrated!
Our first stop was at La Manche for an incredible hike, which was my trip highlight!
This trail is part of the East Coast Trail, but you can walk just this section to the abandoned community of La Manche and across a suspension bridge that connects the sections of the trail.
The trail is very well signposted and is a fairly easy 1.4km trail to the bridge.
It was raining slightly when we were there so the path was very wet. I have a feeling that it would be wet most of the year, as the streams tend to also follow this path.
Wear waterproof boots or bring extra socks and shoes!
Other possible stops along the Irish Loop are Ferryland to the Colony of Avalon (when in season) to learn about archaeological digs and the settlement that was founded in 1621.
Even if it’s not open, it’s a great place to stop for the incredible views!
The rest of the Irish Loop was a beautiful drive that offered great views, rugged terrain and vast bogs. It makes for a (long) beautiful scenic drive!
Eating in St. John’s
While in St. John’s we had a few great eating experiences.
The first is Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food located at 272 Water Street in downtown St. John’s.
Ches’ Fish and Chips
You can easily see why this place is famous for their fish and chips. I even had mine done in the Newfoundland style and had dressing and gravy on my fries.
Other Newfie delicacies included a moose burger at a local diner on the Irish loop. When in Rome…
We had a great trip to Newfoundland and managed to catch all the major tourist sites, despite it being off-season!
I can’t wait for us to go back to Newfoundland with a bit more time and explore more of the Island!
Definitely consider planning some St. John’s family fun for your family!