In June 2023 we spent a few weeks traveling through eastern Newfoundland. Newfoundland is a remote place – getting to St. John’s involves a 4-5 hour ferry ride to Port-Aux-Basques, followed by a 900 km drive to St. John’s. Or you can fly, as we did, from Halifax and be there in 1.5 hours. Either way it’s a long way from anywhere. For years I’ve heard about the beauty of Newfoundland and its welcoming people, so I was very excited to go.
St. John’s is a vibrant city with a lot of history. It is perhaps best known for its colorful row-houses.
Downtown St. John’s is located on a steep hillside above the harbour.
We climbed up Gibbet Hill to get a view of the city.
St. John’s harbour is a major base for the Canadian coast guard.
From these hills, the narrow harbour entrance was easily defended back in the day. The point jutting out in the distance is Cape Spear.
Once we got to the top of Signal Hill, we spotted a hiking trail that looped around North Head and The Narrows back into the city. North Head trail traverses steep terrain, but it’s boardwalks and stairs the entire way.
Looking back up at Signal Hill. The Narrows and St. John’s are on the left.
There are some Parks Canada Adirondack chairs.
North Head Trail traverses steep sidehills along The Narrows.
At one point you need to round a corner with only a narrow ledge to walk on. Luckily there is a chain for security.
A fishing vessel enters The Narrows. The lighthouse on the other side of The Narrows is at a place called Fort Amherst. Cape Spear is in the distance.
The trail ends at The Battery, a small village clinging to the rocks above The Narrows.
A walk through the steep streets of The Battery leads back to St. John’s.
View of The Battery from across The Narrows. Gibbet Hill is above.
View of St. John’s from Fort Amherst.
While in St. John’s, we had the opportunity to stay at the Ryan Mansion for two nights. The Ryan Mansion is steeped in Newfoundland history. It was built between 1909 and 1911 for for James Ryan of Bonavista, Newfoundland. James Ryan was a wealthy tycoon who controlled Newfoundland’s fish trade with Europe during this time, and he owned a fleet of nearly 200 schooners. No expenses were spared in the construction of the home. The grand staircase, wainscoting, and other finishing carpentry were commissioned from a firm in Belfast, Northern Ireland. This was the same firm that built the grand staircase of the Titanic at roughly the same time. The staircase of the Ryan mansion survives, while the Titanic’s, of course, does not.
The finest woodwork that money could buy.
The Ryan Mansion is now a six-room boutique hotel. Charles and Camilla stayed here in 2009 while on a visit to St. John’s. The room we stayed in was the same one that Camilla stayed in. The housekeeper showed us Charles’ room, but we thought ours was nicer.
Petty Harbour is a picturesque cove just south of St. John’s.
Petty Harbour is an active fishing port. There was lots of fishing gear strewn about.
Cape Spear is Canada’s easternmost point.
We walked up to the lighthouse to get a view. A coastguard vessel was heading out to sea.
Here I am checking things out.
Cape Spear was the last stop on our trip to Newfoundland. It felt like a fitting ending, especially after seeing a minke whale round the cape.
Continue to part two of our Newfoundland trip.