A visit to St. John’s wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Signal Hill National Historic Site. Perfectly perched on the entrance to the harbour is the lookout, but to a child’s eye it looks like a little castle… and the views from the top are some of the best in Canada.
Signal Hill National Historic Site was built at the entrance of the harbour in the mid 1700’s, as a way to protect the town of St. John’s. The castle on top of the hill has a perfect 360 degree view over the city, harbour, and Atlantic ocean, perfect for spotting potential threats. The grounds also host barracks for soldiers, cannons (whom have never been fired in anger), as well as an interpretation centre and hiking paths for visitors to explore.
If it’s a nice day when you arrive in St. John’s you’ll definitely be able to see Signal Hill from downtown. You’ll want to check out the iconic castle on the rocks, but once you’re up on the grounds, there’s so much more to explore!
We started off down at the visitors centre where we picked up our Xplorers booklets and took part in the local interpretation centre. We checked out all of the museum style artifacts, maps, and stories and then watched the 15 minute video in the theatre. I highly recommend the show for everyone, it provided great insight into what life was like at Signal Hill years ago, and how the site has transformed over the years.
Meet St. John’s
There are no words to describe the view looking down over the City of St. John’s. Bright jelly bean coloured buildings dot the hill, forming a truly unique city that slides down into the harbour. The harbour is lined with the biggest boats I’ve ever seen. And as an active shipyard, boats are getting ready for their next trip out into the Atlantic.
Calling All Cannoneers
Fun to pose with and perfectly positioned over incredible panoramic views, these cannons that were once meant to protect the city, now welcome visitors for photo ops. These cannons have never been “fired in anger” but were once fired to test them out, and unfortunately the test went awry… the cannons blew out all the windows in the houses below, leaving the queen angry and requiring that they only be set off if in times of war. Fortunately, they have never been fired off again.
Trails and Hiking
Be sure to bring comfortable hiking shoes so that you can check out one of the many hiking trails around the site. Whether you’re looking for a skyline experience and want to see big vistas and views, or want more of a rocky beach side experience, there are trails for everyone to explore.
The kids couldn’t wait to get into the castle, and I loved the fact that we were welcomed inside to explore. The narrow steps up to the top led us into another interpretation room with displays, and then we were able to hike out to the main lookout and pretend to be a guard looking for potential threats. The view from the top is absolutely a must see!
If you go be sure to bring:
- Time to check out all the stops (2-3 hours)
- Good walking shoes
- Be prepared for the weather (sunscreen and hats, dress in layers)
- Give yourself time to watch the movie in the interpretation centre.
Is this a sponsored post?: Yes, however my experiences and thoughts are my own!
Read more about our East Coast Adventures here:
Cape Spear National Historic Site
How to Explore St. John’s in One Day
Hunting for Icebergs in Newfoundland
Terra Nova National Park
Gros Morne National Park
All Aboard – Gros Morne Boat Tour! Music, Memories and More!
Butterflies, Bugs and Bees – Hands on Experiences at Newfoundland Insectarium
The Fortress of Louisbourg
Essential Louisbourg Experience – Beggar’s Banquet
Silver Dart Lodge
Cape Breton Highlands National Park
PEI National Park
Stepping Back to Simpler Times at Shaw’s Hotel
Learning the Lobster Trade with Top Notch Charters
What Brings You to PEI May Not Be What Keeps You There…
East Coast Road Trip Summary