St. John's

For other places with the same name, see Saint John (disambiguation).
Cabot Tower on Signal Hill

St. John's is the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. It is the oldest city in North America and is located on the Avalon Peninsula in the southeast corner of the island of Newfoundland. The city is the easternmost point on the Trans-Canada Highway, a network of roads leading more than 8000km westward to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia.

Understand

John Cabot was believed to have sailed into the harbour on June 24, 1497 - the feast day of John the Baptist, for whom St. John's Harbour is named. The first year-round settlement was not long after 1630, although a seasonal fishery operated in the region long before then. Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed the area as England's first overseas colony on 5 August 1583 under Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth I. Fishermen from England's West Country controlled most of Newfoundland's east coast by 1620. Fortifications were installed from 1670 onward to defend the city, initially against the Dutch and later against the French - both of whom had briefly captured the town at one time or another.

When Newfoundland became a British Commonwealth Dominion in 1907 (a status similar to that of New Zealand), St. John's was its national capital. Confederation with the Dominion of Canada in 1949 demoted the city to provincial capital status; by then, Newfoundland had fought in two world wars.

With a location 1339 miles northeast of Toronto, St. John's is closer to Dublin than Vancouver. It is the most easternly urban settlement in North America and is just 3.5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. Vancouver on the west coast of Canada is 8 hours behind GMT.

Get in

By plane

St. John's International Airport (IATA: YYT) is located 18 minutes (10 km) from the downtown section of St. John's. Flights arrive from major centres like Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, the Caribbean,London-Heathrow and Dublin from June to October by Westjet. The airport is served by Air Canada, WestJet, Porter and United Airlines.

You can reach downtown by public bus Nr. 14 on weekdays only, buses leave roughly hourly from 6:45am to 7:15pm to the campus of Memorial University, where connections to various downtown buses are available.

By car

If you wish to drive to Newfoundland, you will have to take a ferry from North Sydney, NS or fly and rent a car. Once you arrive at either ferry terminal (see below), simply follow the Trans-Canada highway east, and it will bring you directly to the city of St. John’s.

By boat

The island portion of the province is accessible by several ferries leaving North Sydney, Nova Scotia. From there, you can take a 5 to 6 hour ferry ride to Port-aux-Basques, at the southwest corner of Newfoundland, and drive 905 km across the island to St. John’s, near its eastern tip.

Alternately, from mid-June through September, you can take a 14-17 hour ferry ride from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Argentia, Newfoundland, which is roughly a 1 hour drive (131 km ) from St. John’s. Ferry schedules and reservation information are available on the Marine Atlantic website . It is recommended that you make a reservation well in advance, especially if you want a cabin on an overnight crossing. Marine Atlantic ferries offer a wide variety of on board accommodations and features, including deluxe cabins, dormitory sleepers, full meal and beverage service, live entertainment, movies, and children's activity programs.

By bus

If you choose not to travel with your own vehicle, you can take DRL Coachlines from Port-Aux-Basques to St. John’s (although that’s a long bus ride, typically 12 hours if on schedule), or New Hook Bus Lines (+1 709 426-4876) from Argentia to St. John’s (much easier to handle: 1-2 hours).

Get around

By bus

St. John's has a public transit system of buses called Metrobus, that services nearly all of St. John's, the neighbourhoods of Shea Heights, Kilbride and the Goulds, as well as the neighbouring city of Mount Pearl. The service is $2.25 per use, and not per distance, making it a very cheap, affordable way of getting around town. Most, if not all, of the bus drivers are kind and courteous and are willing to give directions. Travellers can check routes and even the current position of any bus on the Metrobus online .

By car

St. John's is a driver-friendly city, although the road layout is haphazard and a map or GPS is de rigueur for visitors. Except for the Downtown centre, parking is almost always abundant and traffic jams are non-existent. Be aware that the downtown area contains many one-way streets so it is important to watch for signs.

St. John's International Airport has the following car rental agencies: Hertz, Avis, Thrifty, Budget, and National. In the city you can also find Enterprise, Discount, and Rent-A-Wreck. Book rental cars early for travel during the peak summer months. Executive Car Service is also available for chauffeured car rentals and tours from several providers such as Black Car Service, Corporate Concierge and Jimmy's Sedan Service.

By foot

The Downtown core can be easily explored by foot. Take a stroll up Water Street, stop for a drink or take in some live music at a wide range of drinking establishments, and a wide range of restaurants as well as distinctive shopping.

George Street, just above Water at the west end of the downtown core, near City Hall and the Convention Centre, is a concentration of nightclubs, taverns, restaurants that is typically busy any night of the week, with bar patrons spilling onto many patios and onto the street itself. Adjacent streets such as Duckworth Street also have interesting shopping and restaurants, and there are a number of (liquor-licensed) billiards halls.

By bicycle

Be warned, St. John's rivals San Francisco with its notorious sloping hills. Unless you're in the mood to challenge gravity, renting a bicycle is probably not the best idea.

By taxi

St. John's issues over 300 taxi licenses, and many of the cab drivers are quite knowledgeable and eager to help visitors find out about local attractions. If you want to see something but aren't sure what or where, ask a cabbie for a tour of the city or Cape Spear, the easternmost point in Canada.

See & Do

Buy

St. John's has two modern shopping centres. The Avalon Mall, the largest shopping centre in Newfoundland, has 140 stores and is on Kenmount Road. The Village Shopping Centre is in the West End on Topsail Road. St. John's also has several big box centres; Stavanger Drive in the east end; Kelsey Drive (off Kenmount Road); and Pearlgate located in the suburb of Mount Pearl.

Downtown St. John's boasts a wide array of shops and boutiques, most notably Water Street. Everything from unique souvenirs to designer clothing.

Quebec and Newfoundland are the only provinces in Canada where cold beer can be purchased in convenience stores.

Groceries

Clothing

Souvenirs

Eat

Breakfast

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

George Street, in the heart of downtown, is a prime location for nightlife as it boasts the most bars per square foot in North America. Water Street, the oldest street in North America, also contains several pubs, usually of a more relaxing atmosphere.

Sleep

Budget

Mid range

Splurge

Stay Safe

While St. John's is generally regarded as a safe city, recent increases in the crime rate have been reported. Panhandling is very common in downtown, however simply replying "no" or ignoring those individuals usually does the trick, while a few more may be more persistent. Very rarely will these people become violent, and are usually not a problem.

As in any other city of comparable size, use caution when travelling after dark. Common areas to avoid include Buckmaster Circle, Old and New Penneywell Road, areas immediately around Hamlyn Road, Livingstone Street, Water Street west (Springdale Street west to the beginning of Waterford Bridge Road including Victoria Park) after dark, and Shea Heights. Most of these places are not areas which tourists would normally be in, and shouldn't be a huge problem.

Caution should be used when on George Street, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. With excessive drinking and drug use, there is a high tendency for people to turn violent. However, it's unlikely that you'll fall victim to a violent assault if you keep out of trouble. Extreme caution is to be had at 24-hour restaurants and convenience stores across town, especially in the downtown area. Violent patrons from George Street often stagger into such restaurants after last call and can be violent, sometimes attacking unsuspecting individuals. As well, a recent rise in armed robberies in the metropolitan area have left 24-hour convenience an easy target for criminals.

However, with crime rates much lower than the national average, little is to fear about walking around St. John's at most times of day or night. With exercising some basic caution, there is no reason why your visit to the city can't be a safe one.

Go next

Routes through St. John's

Gander Mount Pearl  W  E  ENDS


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, December 19, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.