Cape Spear in Newfoundland is known for its deep history, but few people realize it's an opportunity to make a little history as well. If you wake up early enough, you can be the first person on an entire continent to experience a sunrise!
Making lifelong memories is easy at North America's most easterly point, where visitors are treated to gorgeous panoramas enriched by centuries-old traditions. Let's explore some of the magic of Cape Spear so you can plan your next excursion.
Cape Spear's story begins in 1836 with the construction of its grandest attraction, the Cape Spear Lighthouse overlooking the North Atlantic. A new lighthouse was built in 1955, and the original now serves as a preserved historical site. Today, visitors can experience the building as a lightkeeper would in 1839.
Cape Spear provided strategic protection in WWII when a defence battery was built to secure convoys from German U-boats. Tourists can still check out the original bunkers and 10" guns.
Cape Spear sits 75 metres above sea level on the edge of the Maritime Barrens ecoregion of the Southern Boreal Zone, one of three zones breaking up Newfoundland.
Though susceptible to fog rolling in from the ocean, the long empty stretches of rocky cliffs offer an endless view into the horizon on a clear day. The headland is sparse, blanketed in moss, lichen, and windswept grasses, but the ocean is teeming with seabirds, dolphins, porpoises, and all kinds of whales.
Getting to Cape Spear
Cape Spear is a solitary point on the Avalon Peninsula. Although it can feel secluded, you aren't too far from Newfoundland and Labrador's capital and one of its best places to live, St. John's.
Only 12 kilometres separate the relaxing calm of Cape Spear and the colourful city of St. John's. It's one of the northernmost capes on the eastern edge of the peninsula.
Thanks to its proximity to St. John's, Cape Spear is accessible to travellers from around the globe. With the capital as a hub, it's only a 15-minute drive to the cape.
St. John's International Airport accepts national and international flights from around North America, the Bahamas, and London. From Montreal, the flight is 3.5 hours. As the most easterly airport in North America, it's a short 5-hour trip if you're crossing the Atlantic from Europe.
From St. John's, Cape Spear is an easy drive down Black Head Road, which eventually turns into the tail end of Route 11. It's the only road that takes you into Cape Spear.
The shortest route if you're driving from the mainland begins in Sydney at the tip of Nova Scotia. Marine Atlantic transports travellers to Port aux Basques on the southern edge of Newfoundland. The ferry trip takes about six hours.
It's a long 9-hour drive along NL-1E to St. John's after you get off the ferry. Once in the capital, you'll follow Black Head Road the 13 km into Cape Spear.
Things to Do in Cape Spear
There's plenty to do across Cape Spear's 23 km range. You can take it in from any angle for a guaranteed photo-worthy view. Explore a little deeper to discover perfectly preserved highlights of Canadian heritage.
Cape Spear Lighthouse
The oldest standing lighthouse in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Cape Spear Lighthouse has transformed into an official National Historic Site of Canada. Visitors can access the grounds at all times of the year, but the lighthouse itself is open seasonally between late May and early October.
Inside the lighthouse, the main quarters are restored to their original 19th-century layout. During the peak season, there are guides on hand to detail the lives of light-keeping families in the mid-1800s.
An adjacent art gallery showcases dozens of captivating paintings of the idyllic Newfoundland coast, while a gift shop offers visitors small tokens of their time at the historic landmark.
August is a great time to visit Newfoundland, both for social events and for ultimate whale-watching experiences. One of the best places for the latter is Signal Hill, a 20-minute drive from Cape Spear.
Situated north of St. John's, the National Historic Site overlooks the capital 167 metres above sea level. Because of its exceptional ocean view, Signal Hill was a fiercely contested strategic location during wars of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
Tourists can enjoy reenactments displaying the drills and wartime tactics from various royal Newfoundland regiments.
While the vantage point was once ideal for sighting ships in wartime, it is now a prime spot for viewing icebergs and a rich assortment of humpback whales, dolphins, orcas, and more.
Bowring Park is south of St. John's, another 20-minute journey from Cape Spear. The park, which covers 200 acres, has plenty of recreational features including playgrounds, tennis courts, a swimming pool, and an amphitheatre.
There are long stretches of nature walks that take you through woods, across streams, and past waterfalls. It's a beautiful area to hike and bike or relax by the water to picnic and feed ducks.
The Rooms is the cultural hub of Newfoundland and Labrador, sitting on Bonaventure Ave. in St. John's. Open since 2005, the facility contains the provincial archives, natural history museum, and art gallery. The provincial art gallery manages several notable collections and over 7,000 artworks.
While at Signal Hill, checking out Cabot Tower is a must. Built in 1900, the tower has been at the centre of several crucial moments in global history.
Cabot Tower was commissioned to honour Newfoundland's discovery by John Cabot 400 years earlier. Before its construction, the site served as a critical holding during the Seven Year's War. It was also here that Guglielmo Marconi made communications history by receiving the first transatlantic telegraph in 1933.
Quidi Vidi Brewery
Quidi Vidi Brewery occupies an old fish plant in Quidi Vidi village in St. John's. Sample a diverse range of craft brews as enjoyable as the view from the taproom. The brewery is a true tourist destination, offering beer enthusiasts a rare chance to taste beer brewed with ancient iceberg water.
Hotels Cape Spear - Best Ones to Stay At
There are no hotels in Cape Spear, but the short jump to St. John's puts you in the mix of countless places to stay during your visit. You'll find tons of hotels and motels, many of which offer excellent amenities and rooms for under $100 a night.
The DoubleTree by Hilton looks out on St. John's Harbour and is only minutes from shopping, dining, and downtown fun. It's a convenient distance from the North Head Trail, which takes you up to Signal Hill. During your stay, you can enjoy an on-site restaurant and fitness centre in a modern setting.
Delta Hotels by Marriot
The recently renovated Delta Hotels by Marriott in downtown St. John's offers an elegant stay near Cape Spear. It's an ideal location if you want to take in some of the city's culture. But with a restaurant, fitness centre, swimming pool, and sauna, you can find plenty of reasons to hang out at the hotel too.
Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland
Resting on the old site of Fort William, the Sheraton Hotel offers another perspective on the harbour. Here you can enjoy a workout room, indoor pool, and an easy stroll to the downtown scene.
Best Times to Visit Cape Spear
The best time to visit Cape Spear is during the summer months when everything is open and the ocean is full of marine activity. Try to plan a trip between May and October.
If you visit in July or August, you'll be able to experience guided tours of the area, unlimited access to historic sites, and amazing views. It's the perfect time to get in quality whale watching. The summer months also offer the best opportunity to hike the Cape Spear Trail, a scenic tour of unspoiled landscape spanning nearly 10 km long.
Weather in Cape Spear
Even in the summer months, you need to be prepared for all seasons. The windy, open landscape of the cape is prone to frequent weather changes. A beautiful day can quickly turn into a misty, frigid outing, so pack a pair of pants and a coat along with your shorts and tee shirts.
Although the weather is extremely unpredictable across Newfoundland, the climate remains relatively temperate. Winters are usually warmer than on the mainland, while summers stay mild, with temperatures staying around the low 20's.
Have a Whale of a Time in Cape Spear
If you've never visited Cape Spear, start planning a trip for next year. It's a world of timeless wonder, where the best of Canada's natural beauty and historic depth combine for truly memorable moments.
Before you start exploring the splendour of our nation's vast landscape, it's crucial to think about travel insurance. Accidents can happen anywhere, and the last thing anyone needs is to be left stranded far from home.