I’ve never thought of Canada as a ‘short break’ destination – to me it’s always been a country of endless adventures and mind-blowing scenery waiting to be explored, that you could never experience it all in just a few short days. How wrong was I! – Louise at SuperBreak.
SuperBreak’s Louise had the time of her life visiting the charming coastal city of St John’s in Newfoundland, Canada and has revealed all her top tips and must-see sights for anyone thinking of heading to this Canadian gem for a short break away – Louise recommends a 5-6 day break.
Pre-Flight Hotel – Gatwick
I stayed overnight at the Sofitel London Gatwick prior to catching a flight. The hotel itself is superbly located just as you step off the rail transfer from the South Terminal to the North Terminal, and after a swift check-in, I was shown to my spacious room overlooking the runway. The bed was incredibly comfortable and bathroom spacious – I even got a welcome letter and chocolates!
Day 1: Gatwick to St John’s, NFL
11:59am: I’m probably Canada’s biggest fan, so you can imagine that I was like a kid at Christmas at the airport for our early morning flight. St John’s is only a 5.5 hour flight from Gatwick meaning we’d land at 11.37am Canadian time. Perfect for the afternoon of activities we had planned out!
Flying with WestJet was really easy – I simply downloaded the app the night before and checked-in online 24 hours before the flight. You’ll also need the app to gain access to the “WestJet connect” in-flight entertainment service, which gave me access to hundreds of free TV shows and movies, so it’s worth taking your iPad with you. You also get complimentary soft drinks and snacks during the flight and more importantly decent leg-room! On landing, we were met at the airport by McCarthy’s Party Tour Bus, who quickly whisked us to our hotel, along with a few stories and sightseeing pointers along the way!
On touch down, we were met at the airport by a McCarthys Party Tour guide, Larry who swiftly whisked us off to the 4* Delta Hotel located in down town St. John’s. Ensure you request a room overlooking the harbour; on sunny days you’ll be able to see the ships sailing in.
Breakfast consisted of a huge buffet with hot “full-English” food, breakfast cereals, breads, cold meats, freshly diced fruit, sweet treats and of course plenty of strong coffee! If you want to venture out and sample the local atmosphere, then the popular George Street, with its eclectic mix of bars and nightlife is only a mere 5-10 min walk away. If you want to explore the local shops – including the ‘Newfoundland Chocolate Company’ – then it’s about a 15-20 min walk from the hotel.
2pm: Visit to Signal Hill – In actual fact, we visited Signal Hill twice on the trip! On our first visit, the scenery was covered in a blanket of creeping fog and mist, however on the second trip the weather had turned revealing miles of glistening ocean, rugged landscape and panoramic views across St. Johns.
3pm: Visit to Quidi Vidi Village & Plantation – Nestled on the quiet shores of the Quidi Vidi Gut, the plantation houses a host of arts and crafts by local artists, from pottery to paintings and homemade jewellery – it’s the perfect place to pick up a treasure or two as a reminder of your trip.
4pm: Quidi Vidi Brewery – Who doesn’t love a brewery tour? We headed to the Quidi Vidi Brewery and it didn’t disappoint. Just a 5-minute walk from the Quidi Village Village & Plantation and surrounded by the steep walls of the Quidi Vidi Gut, the brewery was founded by David Rees & David Fong back in 1996 and has since released eight different Quidi Vidi beers.
The tour started on the upper floor with our host handing out wooden paddles with samples of each of the eight beers. Whilst we got to sample five beers, but my favourite by far was the light Iceberg beer, bottled in their iconic cobalt blue bottles and made from 12,000 year old iceberg water. Needless to say a crate came home with me in my luggage!
7pm: Eating like the locals – At dinner time we ventured out to find somewhere delicious to eat like the locals. We decided upon Portobello’s Restaurant which overlooked the harbour and had delightful views of Signal Hill. It was a fabulous restaurant and one I’d highly recommend, just be sure to try the salmon and a Portos Punch cocktail!
Day 2: Conception Bay Loop
Today’s journey would take us on a costal drive along Conception Bay – home to the pirates many centuries ago. In the morning we visited the Hawthorne Cottage National Historic Site in the heart of the quaint town of Brigus, just 1 hours’ drive from St. John’s, the home of the 20th-Century ice navigator, Bob Bartlett.
Afterwards, take a walk around the picturesque Brigus, with its lush gardens, flowing streams and winding lanes. We stopped a the Country Corner Restaurant in Brigus, which house a small gift shop and the most delicious Blueberry ice cream I’ve ever tasted!
12pm: Lunching like the locals again – At lunch time we headed to Skipper Ben’s, a quaint B&B and restaurant is nestled on the shores of Cupid’s Bay. I’d recommend the pan fried Cod (or Fish as the locals would say!), followed by the blueberry crepe with fresh berries, cream and a ball of delicious ice cream in the centre. Of course, no meal would be complete without a bottle of Quidi Vidi beer!
1:30pm: Cupids Legacy Centre – Built in 2010, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first English settlement in Canada, the Cupid’s Legacy Centre is a must visit! The centre houses over 160,000 artefacts recovered by archaeologists from the Cupids Cover Plantation Provincial Historic Site. Our guide, Andrew, was really knowledgeable about the history, which ended on the rooftop faerie Garden, but to be honest, you could spend a good couple of hours alone reading the stories and exploring the exhibits.
After our visit, we were passing by on Route 70 and took full advantage of learning more about the aviation history of Newfoundland at Harbour Grace. By the shores of Harbour Grace, we explored the many information boards showcasing the amazing story of Amelia Earhart – the first woman to ever climb into the cockpit and fly an airplane across the Atlantic in 1932.
Later that evening, we ventured to The Stone Jug, a rustic pub and grill with amazing food and live entertainment. Make sure you try their signature drink – the ‘Dark & Stormy’ – a mix of spicy ginger beer and St Croix rum! After eating early, we ventured into downtown St. John’s and to the famous George Street – home to traditional live Newfoundland music and entertainment. It’s a lively spot to while away the evening whether you’re looking for Irish traditional music, jazz, reggae, karaoke, blues, or hip-hop.
See Staff Pick: Discovering Newfoundland Part Two for a second helping of Louise’s Newfoundland adventures.
Are you planning a trip to Newfoundland? Let us know your must-see travel spots in the comment box below!