By Rodolphe Devillers
Coming to IMCC? Here are some “must see”, “must do”, and other hidden gems of St. John’s you should consider!
Let’s start with the classics: everyone HAS to go to Signal Hill. Easily accessible from town, the hill dominates St. John’s and offers stunning views on the city, the harbour’s entrance (called ‘The Narrows’), and the ocean. Signal Hill is a Canadian National Historic Site, being a strategic military place since the 17th century. It is also from there that the first transatlantic wireless signal was received in 1901. If you have an hour or so and the weather is good, I highly recommend walking the ‘North Head Trail’ that starts from the top of the hill and brings you back downtown along The Narrows and the Battery neighbourhood (take your camera!). It is not a difficult hike, but avoid shoes with high heels… Lots of people run it if you feel in shape! On the road going to the top of Signal Hill, you can also visit the Geo Centre geological museum (that also has a nice exhibit on the Titanic that sank close to Newfoundland).
Another iconic place is Quidi Vidi, an old small fishing port just north of downtown that has old fishing houses, and one of the three local microbreweries (Quidi Vidi). It is a longer walk or take the bus #15. They organize regular tours and tastings in the afternoon (details on their Website). One of their beers is made with iceberg water! If you sign up for the IMCC-organised ‘Brews and Sustainable Seafood’ event you’ll be able to visit Quidi Vidi that way. The ‘Village Plantation’ building in Quidi Vidi hosts several local artists stores (my personal favourite is the woodcut prints from Graham Blair). A trail leaving from this area and heading to Signal Hill brings you to a nesting area for bald eagles (keep your eyes open – Newfoundland has one of the largest population of bald eagles in North America!).
(Photo: Tourism Newfoundland©) – picturesque Quidi Vidi
Downtown, you cannot come to St. John’s and not have a few drinks late at night on George Street. The street allegedly has the most bars and pubs per area in North America! And guess what, IMCC will be during the (in)famous George Street Festival (July 28-Aug 2). All full-week delegates will receive a one-day ticket to the festival with their IMCC name badge. If you are looking for other good pubs, there are a lot to choose from but I would recommend Yellow Belly – on the corner of George St and Water St (another micro-brewery). The ‘Underbelly’ in the basement of this old building is a great place to try their beers – I am less keen on their food. The Duke of Duckworth on Duckworth St. is also a very popular place for a drink and their famous fish and chips! (here you can also try beers from the third microbrewery, Storm). If you want to become a real Newfoundlander (with a certificate to prove it), go to Christian’s Bar (23 George St) to get ‘screeched-in’, an increasingly popular tradition for people visiting the province.
Other things to do (quick facts):
- Go for a drink or lunch at The Rooms museum Cafe (fair prices, good food, great view). No need to pay the museum entrance (just take the elevator) but you can obviously visit the museum as well (Natural history, Arts, etc.)
- Walk to the lighthouse on the other side of the harbour (takes a while though, but it is a nice place!)
- Get a coffee at Fixed Coffee (183 Duckworth St)
If you have more time and a car, there are a lot of things to see in the region (e.g. Cape Spear, seabird reserves, whale watching tours). Check our next blog post to see what to visit outside of town.
Dr. Rodolphe Devillers is on faculty in the Department of Geography at Memorial University. He is a member of the Scientific Program Committee for IMCC4.