Have Blanket, Will Travel
St. John’s is a city nestled on the edge of nature, surrounded by scenic beauty, dramatic coastlines and wildlife. I decided to grab my picnic blanket and basket and perch myself at some of our top destinations. Join me as I explore our colourful capital city:
In Canada, the sun rises first on Newfoundland and Labrador. I decided to grab my coffee and experience it for myself. Cape Spear National Historic Site is home to the most easterly point in North America and the oldest surviving lighthouse in Newfoundland and Labrador. I set up camp in the wild grass atop an old World War II bunker and took it all in. The Atlantic expanded before me and seemed to go on forever. Two tiny icebergs dotted the coastline. How do I take my coffee? With two humpbacks and side of fresh ocean air, please!
Coffee finished, but still thirsting for adventure, I made my way to Fort Amherst. Located at the entrance to the Narrows, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, it’s the perfect perch for a sunny afternoon. The fortification was designed to guard the mouth of St. John’s harbour during the two world wars and originally consisted of a tower and gun battery. I stood at the edge of the harbour and watched as the waves crashed below. Here, the sea is powerful and unforgiving – I closed my eyes and let the waves bring me to a place of total serenity. For the more adventurous, there are a series of trails – part of the East Coast Trail - that rise above the lighthouse and beyond, but I was content with my blanket, the sun and the view.
It was time to move on and find a perch where the views of the ocean and the city are simply unbeatable. Signal Hill was the reception point of the first transatlantic wireless signal by Guglielmo Marconi in 1901, as well as the site of harbour defences for St. John’s from the 18th century to the Second World War. I was just about to open a book when I was stirred by the crack of muskets and the roar of cannon fire – the Signal Hill Tattoo was putting off one of their award-winning performances. With the sound of history at my back, I scanned the ocean for humpbacks and icebergs and marvelled at the expansive hiking trails – in just a short walk I could be over the Narrows and into the colourful Battery. I imagined all the nooks and crannies where I could spread my blanket and decided it was time for a change in perspective – and maybe a small lunch.
I grabbed a sandwich, tucked it safely in my basket and made my way to Quidi Vidi Village – a charming and scenic fishing village that’s easily explored by foot. A quiet community, the village is a little sheltered corner of the east coast, with a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean from inside “The Gut”. I lay my blanket on the edge of the wharf, home to the Quidi Vidi Plantation, and unwrapped my lunch. As I sat the local fisherfolk waved and shouted greetings my way – tourists are a regular and welcome sight here. To my right was one of the oldest wooden buildings in North America - Mallard Cottage - where you can dine on locally harvested meats and vegetables. As I ate my locally sourced turkey sandwich, (the chefs at Mallard would be proud!) I began to yearn for an ice cold Iceberg Beer from Quidi Vidi Brewery - maybe one of the lads would swing me over to get one on his boat…
With my belly full I left Quidi Vidi for my final destination – a popular tourist attraction in St. John’s, Government House is the official residence of the Lieutenant-Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador. The grounds are open to the public and the walkways, flower beds and majestic trees are just begging to be explored. After a day of dramatic coastlines it was time for an oasis. I sat on the lush green lawn and finally opened my book. I could hear birds chirping and the whinny of horses from the stables – home to four Percheron horses that belong to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Mounted Unit. I read until the sky turned pink and red and the sun started to set. I folded my blanket, tucked it under my arm and made my way home, thinking I had barely scratched the surface of St. John’s “perches” – I couldn’t wait to do it again.
Grab your blanket, grab your lunch and explore. Find your own perch or set up camp in one of the above – I’m only happy to share! St. John’s is waiting for you.