From YHM to where? - Hamilton City Magazine Skip to main content
Celebrating all things Hamilton / Welcome Message
City Life

From YHM to where?

Experience Hamilton to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Canada Day kicks off summer on Canada’s far east coast.

Where can you fly to from the Hamilton airport? One answer is St. John’s, Nfld.

Welcome to another in HAMILTON CITY Magazine’s series highlighting destinations you can access through the John C. Munroe International Airport in Hamilton. Thanks to WestJet, you can fly direct to the capital city of Newfoundland and Labrador, a province known affectionately as The Rock. 

If you’re a war history buff, this summer is an ideal time to visit St. John’s because July 1 marks the unveiling of the refurbished Newfoundland National War Memorial along the downtown waterfront.

And if you’re not enthusiastic about war history, this summer is also an ideal time to visit St. John’s because the city is continuing its summer tradition of shutting down Water Street to traffic, making it a premiere pedestrian shopping and dining destination.

Newfoundland National War Memorial

First, the St. John’s war monument – officially called the Newfoundland National War Memorial – is hard to miss on Water Street. Towering over the street, it’s one of the most photographed images next to the city’s iconic rows of colourful jellybean houses. 

The focal point of the memorial is a female figure, representing liberty, lifting a flaming torch towards St. John’s Harbour. During the First World War, this harbour saw the departure of a significant portion of Newfoundland's population – 8,500 out of 250,000 – to fight for Britain. Tragically, 1,500 did not return. Remember, Newfoundland and Labrador didn’t join the Dominion of Canada until after WWII. 

Designed and erected in 1924, the St. John’s war memorial cenotaph today honours Newfoundland and Labrador’s participation in WWI, along with WWII, the Korean War, the War of 1812, and most recently, Afghanistan. However, 2024 is a significant year. 

The 100th anniversary of the Newfoundland National War Memorial (not to be confused with the Newfoundland National War Memorial in Beaumont-Hamlet, France) marks an important addition to this national landmark: the Tomb of an Unknown Newfoundland Soldier.

On July 1, St. John’s celebrates the unveiling of the tomb of the unknown soldier and the completion of the year-long site renovation.

The construction underway at the Newfoundland National War Memorial. PHOTO: SHERRI TELENKO

St. John’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The remains of a Royal Newfoundland Regiment soldier previously buried in a World War I cemetery in Northern France was repatriated to Canada prior to the 2024 Canada Day ceremonies in St. John’s. The soldier’s remains are now interred at the newly created tomb of the unknown soldier. 

Why unknown? 

“Because he belongs to everyone, especially everyone in Newfoundland,” says Pierre Trowbridge, operator of St. John’s Walking Tours. And if there’s any doubt of Newfoundland’s connection to the sacrifices made during both world wars, listen to the catch in Trowbridge’s voice as he becomes emotional during this part of the historical walking tour along Water Street that he leads several times a week.

St. John’s Walking Tours 

Trowbridge established St. John’s Walking Tours after returning to his hometown in 2020. The company’s historical signature walking tour runs during the summer every day at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The three-kilometre-long tour lasts 2.5 hours and costs $45 per person for adults.

Like most walking tours, this is the best way to learn the city’s history through the eyes of a local. You’ll see the St. John’s war memorial, Jellybean Row, Bannerman Park, and be privy to some good dinner recommendations, too. Note that St. John’s Walking Tours also runs a food tour on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 2 p.m. during the summer.

The famous Jellybean Row in St. John's Nfld. PHOTO: SHERRI TELENKO

Water Street 

Part of the St. John’s signature walking tour takes place along Water Street, as does a significant amount of activity during the day. (The pub-lined George Street is the city’s nightlife mecca, similar to Hess Village). Water Street embraces notoriety as North America’s longest continually operating commercial street, tracing its genesis to the 1600s when fish merchants lined the streets. St. John’s Harbour, to this day, remains an active commercial port, despite the loss of the cod industry in the early 1990s. 

Water Street today is a visitor-focused retail hub lined with boutiques, dispensaries, clothing stores, breweries (including Yellow Brew and Dildo), and souvenir shops. Benjamin’s Menswear, a store with a 25-year history on Water Street, is worthy of note because it is located in a building that once housed Benjamin Bowring’s department store established 200 years ago. 

Yellow Brew on Water Street, St. John's. PHOTO: SHERRI TELENKO

St. John’s Pedestrian Mall

Even better, Water Street shuts down to traffic from late June to September, becoming a pedestrian mall between Adelaide to Prescott Streets noon to 10 p.m. each day. Restaurants unique to St. John’s, like The Gypsy Tea Room, extend their dining areas into the street, reminiscent of the pandemic shutdown era.

In fact, turning Water Street into an outdoor summer festival started in 2020 to help preserve the downtown business core. The idea stuck, and now shutting the street to cars is an annual summer practice punctuated by pop-up concerts and evening Markets on Wate’ events every other Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. 

Steeped in history and authenticity, it’s easy to spend several days in St. John’s, walking, shopping, eating, and exploring. Barely a three-hour flight from Hamilton, the city is the gateway to Newfoundland’s scenic coastal vistas accessorized by passing icebergs, migrating whales, and nesting puffins. 

The spectacular scenic coast of Newfoundland. PHOTO: SHERRI TELENKO

Note that WestJet also flies from the Hamilton Airport to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Sherri Telenko is a travel writer and 20-year member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and writes about travelling with dogs at