How To Have The Best Freaking Newfoundland Summer Ever

We know you’re excited, but let’s take a deep breath. Think for a second. Summer on the Avalon barely lasts two months, so we have to spend this time wisely.

Lucky for you, we at The Scope are experts at both budgeting time and telling other people what to do, so we put our heads together and compiled this list of things you should do to make this your best Newfoundland summer ever. So get some friends together and give ‘er.

Illustrations by Bryan Melanson.

GO FLY A KITE

We’re perpetually amazed by how few people fly kites here. I mean, there’s plenty of wind, there are plenty of open fields, what’s the hold up? If you think flying a kite is boring, you obviously haven’t tried it recently. Stunt kites are especially cool, because, well, you can make them do stunts. If you’re looking for a way to spice it up even more, you can shoot fireworks at the kite while it’s in the air or tie extra spools of string to it and see if you can fly it literally to the moon. Or to CBS. Or even further if you’re already in CBS. There are plenty of places you can buy kites. We know Travel Bug on Water Street had a whole catalogue at one time.

GO SEA KAYAKING

If you’re thinking of the kayaking you see on videos where people are rolling and shooting down rivers, you’re thinking of whitewater kayaking, which, in our opinion, has pretty much nothing to do with sea kayaking. There’s nothing like sea kayaking on a calm day. Gliding over the water, creeping around the rocky shoreline, you get the very strong feeling that nature is all around you—because, duh, it always is. Stan Cook is the local go-to guy for sea kayaking, and his crew has daily coastal tours ranging from two and a half hours to full day trips. Check www.wildnfld.ca

CALL A PAYPHONE ACROSS TOWN

The next rainy day you are bored and have no one to talk to, remember, although most payphones don’t accept incoming calls, some do. At least according to www.­­payphone-project.com. There are a bunch listed from Newfoundland on the website, including a phone at the Esso on Torbay Road (576-0168), and one in the Village Mall by Winners GoodLife Fitness (364-9921). The point of this isn’t to make a prank phone call, but to make a semi-random connection with someone halfway across the city, trying to extend the conversation as long as you can without being creepy. Good luck!

EAT A PUFFIN

Attention tourists: It’s our provincial bird, and it’s delicious. It’s not usually on the menu, but if you ask, many local restaurants will serve you up a helping of puffin and chips.

DRESS FOR SUMMER

Newfoundland doles out summer in brief spurts, interspersed with blasts of fog, wind, and occasional freezing rain. Wear what you like, but always bring layers. Layers, layers, layers. That’s all you need to know.

BUY A STEAK AND A SIX-PACK AT HALLIDAY’S

‘Nuff said.

WALK THE GRAND CONCOURSE AT NIGHT

It’s dark, it’s quiet, and on a warm summer night, there’s nothing quite like it. Whenever we hear the song “Summertime Clothes” by Animal Collective, we think of walking the Grand Concourse at night.

WATCH THE SUNRISE FROM SIGNAL HILL

There’s something spectacular and magical about seeing the sun come up over the ocean. These days though the sun is rising at 5 am, so you may have to set your alarm clock.

WATCH THE SUNSET

It sneaks up on you: first the sky’s blue, then it’s pink and orangey, and then it’s night. Any west-facing shore will do, like Topsail Beach, or anywhere in CBS really. Or anywhere on the eastern sides of Conception Bay, St. Mary’s Bay, Placentia Bay, yadda yadda. Or, if you’re in a pinch, the park benches in Bannerman Park also work well. You’ll need some blankets. And some (alcohol free) wine. And perhaps some cheese and a baguette. If you’re in Bannerman Park, all the punk teenagers crawl out of the shadows once the sun’s down, allowing you to reminisce about how much of a jerk you were when you were fifteen. It’s magic.

THROW A MUSTACHE PARTY

No, this isn’t innuendo. We mean have a party and get people to wear fake mustaches. Things are always more fun with fake mustaches.

WALK UP SIGNAL HILL TEN TIMES

Local adventurer and eccentric TA Loeffler has more energy than any battery we know of, and she’s definitely climbed more mountains than you. In fact, this year, she’s planning on climbing to the highest peaks on three continents. Soon she’ll be making an attempt at Russia’s Mount Elbrus—the highest mountain in Europe at 5,642 metres (18,510 ft). Before she leaves, to celebrate turning 44 on June 24th, she’ll be hiking up Signal Hill ten times. “It will take about five hours and I’m looking for folks to come join me for an ascent or two… or six,” she writes on her. “In lieu of gifts or cards, I’m asking for folks to wear sky blue that day and to consider making a donation to the Canadian Prostate Cancer Network.” She might even do it in her full blue lycra superhero outfit, weather depending.

READ LISA MOORE’S ALLIGATOR

Although she has a new book out called February that’s most definitely worth reading, her 2005 novel Alligator is an essential read for anyone living though summer here. It perfectly captures the erratic, eccentric, energetic, insane feel of this city in summer, and there are even spanworms in there as a symbolic thread.

RESCUE SOME OF THOSE SNAILS ON LONG’S HILL

On warm summer nights, hundreds of snails slither out to the sidewalk near the Kirk, going up Long’s Hill. We don’t know why they do it, but we always feel a little bad when we hear the crunching sound under our feet. Why doesn’t anyone think of the snails?

TRASH YOUR CAR

Cars are so last century. The Newfoundland and Labrador Lung Association are hosting a campaign to take your crappy old vehicle—as long as it was made before 1995, has been registered and insured for the past six months, and is in running condition—and turn it into $300 cash. Cash! That’s kind of like magic, isn’t it?

HANG OUT ON THE HOLDSWORTH COURT BALCONY

As much as tourists guides would like to tell you otherwise, George Street, with a few notable exceptions like the Rock House and The Fat Cat, and the occasional other bar, is not a good place to look for original music. It is the domain of “hits of the 90s” cover bands and bands playing “We’ll Rant and We’ll Roar.” Bands or musicians in town whose music lies outside the mainstream—or even just happens to write their own songs—probably first started gigging at either CBTG’s, Distortion, or Roxxy’s (now The Levee). Holdsworth Court remains one of the best places in town to see new and interesting bands, and it’s usually the cheapest place to see live music in town. The deck itself is arguably the most important part of the experience. The deck is the best socializing opportunity this town has for young music lovers and local freaks to meet up and shoot the shit or talk shit about other bands.

GO SWIMMING WITH THE CAPELIN AT BEACHY COVE

They should be rolling by early July, and we imagine swimming with them would be exhilarating.

GET A TEMPORARY TATTOO SUNBURN

Local musician Danny Keating had this happen to him a few years ago—he had a stick-on tattoo of a dragon on and got a sunburn. The tattoo peeled, but the tan mark didn’t.

GO ON A STREAK

First, get some friends together. You’ll need a pair of running shoes and a hat with a brim, because this is a small town, and what works best is if you plan out a safe and private starting point and ending point. Make sure they aren’t too far from each other too, because you’re definitely going to be running and laughing, and you’ll be out of breath, and you don’t want to be running for more than six or seven minutes. And you definitely don’t want to be last in the group.

CATCH A CAB AT 3AM

There are plenty of techniques for catching a cab when the bars start pouring people out their doors. Unfortunately, the advice is all over the place. Some people say to walk west towards Mount Pearl. Some guys recommend getting their girlfriends to do the hailing. Some people say walking up the hill towards the Basilica is the way to go. The best piece of advice we heard was to befriend a cab driver and get his cell number. Bingo.

GROW YOUR OWN FOOD

Living in a city, even one as small as this, it’s easy to roll to a grocery store, crack open a freezer door, and chuck a bag of frozen green beans from China into your cart. Nothing wrong with China or green beans, but why the hell would you buy something like that when you can grow a couple of your own green beans? If you’re curious but don’t know where to start, get in touch with FEASt (Food Education Action St. John’s) at growing.local@gmail.com or 237-3417.

GET AN ICE CREAM HEADACHE

Because really, it just isn’t summer without lightning bolts shooting through your brain and Turtle Cheesecake running down your hand. But maybe you’re not a fan and want to prevent ice cream headache? “Touch the roof of the mouth with the tongue, or eat very slowly,” says Lisa Ryan, frozen dairy ringleader at Moo Moo’s Dairy Bar.

BUY A PIECE OF LOCAL ART

If you’re visiting the province, or even if you’re out walking around, it’s tough to resist the urge to break out your camera and snapping a few off at the scenery. Look around you and you’ll notice hundreds of people around you doing the same thing. Odds are, however, that your landscape photos are going to suck real bad, and your ecstatic Newfoundland moment will be lost forever. The A1C area code in downtown St. John’s—it is rumoured—has the most professional artists than any other area code in Canada. Sure, there’s good art and bad art, but instead of snapping digital photos like a maniac, why not wander into a gallery (or restaurant) and buy a piece of art?

EAT MUSHROOMS

GO HITCHHIKING

Going hitchiking in Newfoundland is, potentially, the most fun you’ll have in your life. You’ll meet interesting people, and it may even reaffirm your faith in humanity. That said, depending on the weather, or if you’re stupid about it, it’s potentially the least fun you’ve ever had in your life too. We’re no experts, but we’ve been known to thumb our way around the island, and here’s what we learned: 1) Be clean. If you look like a weirdo, drivers will just as easily choose not to pick you up. 2) Spend a little time drawing a nice sign describing where you’re going. It lets them know you have it together. 3) Choose a place where cars can pull over safely. 4) Make sure you have enough food and water with you. 5) Carry your bed with you.

BANG A GONG IN BANNERMAN PARK

(Or a drum, or a tambourine…) If you’ve ever been to Montreal in the summer, you probably know about the weekly gathering known as Tam-Tams at Parc Mont-Royal. Sure, it’s mostly dirty hippies, but it’s a cool, spontaneous gathering of human beings who have gotten together just because being around other people is interesting. Well, here in town, something similar has started up on Saturdays at 3pm (or Sunday, if rained out) called Jam-Jams. So you never know what kind of things the future has in store. We’re just about due for some medieval duct-tape sword fighting and zombie attackness. www.tinyurl.com/jamjamsNL

RIDE A BIKE OUT OF THE CITY

Riding out of the city on your bike is a little like taking acid. Once you’ve done it, you’ll never look at things the same way ever again. Is the city really holding onto you so tightly? No! Hop on and GTFO. We’re in Newfoundland. Even in the heart of downtown St. John’s you only have to walk 10 minutes to reach an area where you can pick berries. Speaking of which…

FIND A SECRET BLUEBERRY PATCH

Don’t pick the ones near telephone poles, because legend has it they are sprayed with defoliant. The blueberries don’t have to compete with the trees for sun, so they grow there. But the berries are full of sorrow.

DEFEND YOUR SECRET BLUEBERRY PATCH

The trick is to tell no one. Especially not us.

HAVE AN AUTHENTIC NEWFOUNDLAND EXPERIENCE

We could suggest Wal-Mart at 4 am—we were there for a late-night fan in the middle of last summer’s heat wave and watched a gnarly group of teenage boys get busted for shoplifting. But that’s probably not what you mean. I also hate to break it to you, but cod—the kind John Cabot claimed he could catch by throwing a basket overboard—is currently being considered for listing under the federal Species at Risk Act.

HECKLE A SHAKESPEARE BY THE SEA PRODUCTION

Well, it’d be pretty rude, but if you have to do it, at least do it right:
“Thou dost talk nothing to me!” “Fie, what a spendthrift is he of his tongue!” (from The Tempest) or “She speaks, yet she says nothing.” “Thou sham’st the music of sweet news by playing it to me with so sour a face.” (from Romeo and Juliet)

GO TO SAINT-PIERRE AND MIQUELON

Saint-Pierre and Miquelon is right there. It’s France. You know, the France with the wine, bread, mopeds and cobblestone streets? It’s down there. They speak French there, and they’re not joking. It’s no historical reenactment. Unfortunatley, you do need a passport to get there, but knowing that as of June 1 everyone visiting the US will need a passport too makes it a little better. You don’t even need a passport any more! Saint-Pierre is Newfoundland’s own little parallel universe.

CLIMB UP A CLIFF

Newfoundland is made of rock, so it’s no surprise people who go rock climbing here say it’s awesome. In order to go without a guide, you’ll need a month or so of learning the basics and practicing indoors, says Leo Van Ulden, director of Wallnuts Climbing Centre, and he can get you started for as low as 34 bucks. He first tried it himself during the summer of grade 9. “I was on holiday to see family in BC during the summer of grade 9. One of my older brothers took me climbing outside in a place called Squamish,” he says. “I was hooked the first time I had a harness on.”

GET EATEN BY A HUMPBACK WHALE

If you think watching a whale is cool, just think how awesome it would be to be ingested by one of those sons of bitches! Unfortunately, it ranks up there with pigs learning to fly, since, A) humpbacks have no teeth, B) they can’t swallow anything bigger than your fist, and C) they’re peaceful, zen-like buddha creatures. Actually, scrap C. They’re likely only as smart as your smart dog, and have been known in rare circumstances to harm human beings when they feel threatened. They are wild animals, after all.

GO TO BELL ISLAND

Ride your bike on the ferry, walk up that steep hill, roll around for a few hours, then circle back and have some fish and chips and a beer at Dick’s. Then hop back on the ferry.

VOLUNTEER FOR A FESTIVAL

Being a volunteer driver for the Magnetic North Festival was how Scope contributor Sarah Smellie was introduced to the city. She met tons of people, went to some kicking parties and learned the general layout of the city. And a few months later she got a phone call from a friend in the Yukon saying that an actress staying at her hotel told a hilarious story about being in St. John’s for the festival and getting a ride from a “fresh-off-the-boat redhead who screamed her way through Rawlin’s Cross.”

RESCUE SOMEONE WHO HAS FALLEN IN THE HARBOUR

We were curious: since we’ve been pumping raw sewage into the harbour for, like, ever, is there a set number of immunizations for someone who falls into the water? If there is, Dr. Jim Hutchinson at the MUN Faculty of Medicine doesn’t know about it. “Most people who come in contact with that kind of material don’t get sick, so it’s not like it’s a giant risk for horrible things. However, people would obviously find it gross,” he says. “But coming in contact with stuff that has human excrement or animal excrement in it doesn’t in and of itself constitute a giant risk.” If you’ve ever fallen into a manure pile on a farm, you probably know what he’s talking about. Although coming into contact with harbour water wouldn’t be doing your immune system any favours, the vast majority of the population is immunized against serious infectious diseases so there wouldn’t be any serious infectious diseases hanging out in their poop. Rescue away! (Or maybe try a rope first.)

AUDITION TO BE EXTRA ON THE REPUBLIC OF DOYLE

You too could be Dead Body #4 or Sad Man with Ladle! CBC-TV’s dramedy The Republic of Doyle is one of the biggest budget television series ever produced in Canada, according to the self-congratulatory press release from the provincial government, and it is indeed a pretty huge deal for the local film and television industry. Why not try to get in on the action? The Film Development Corporation is putting together some workshops for people interested in auditioning on June 21. We don’t have a lot of details, but you should get in touch with maggie.keiley@me.com if you’re curious.

DANCE LIKE NO ONE’S WATCHING

We contacted Stacey Tuttle, voted 2008’s Best Fan in our annual Best of St. John’s Readers’ Poll, to ask her how she manages to get up and dance when no one else is dancing. “It gets the party started,” she says. “It endears the band to you, other people feel less self conscious about dancing, and next thing you know, everyone’s having a time. Forget how ridiculous you look, and flail to your heart’s content. Nine chances out of ten, no one gives a fuck, and if they do, they likely look at least as ridiculous as yourself. If you paid $5 or $10, you might as well get the most out of it, and you’re going to have way more fun dancing up front than standing around.”

You probably have plenty of other suggestions, so crank that laptop and leave a comment below. What do you like to do here in the summer?

9 comments

“Teenage Polar Bear” by Parks

From Pap Pap to Parks.

6 May 2013

  1. TD · May 6, 2013

    Having been a fan of The Scope publication for a while, I hate to admit that “How to have the best freaking Newfoundland Summer ever” is the worst article I’ve ever read. Not only should you have gotten a fact checker to verify that The Village Mall hasn’t had a Winners store in almost three years now but suggestions on “eating mushrooms” and “hitchhiking” certainly are the lamest ideas for fun I’ve ever heard. Why not add licking beach rocks and counting stop signs to this list of great Newfoundland Summer activities? It would at least be considered an educational experience.

  2. Elling Lien · May 6, 2013

    I agree. I find it ridiculous that licking beach rocks isn’t on this list!

    Thanks for the correction for the Village. Someone should tell the guy who makes the payphone lists..

  3. Justin Q. · May 6, 2013

    So would being eaten by a whale be considered an educational experience?

  4. Joshua · May 6, 2013

    Aha, this was actually an amusing article. me and my friend are going to do these things over the summer

  5. Vince · May 6, 2013

    Learn to do a circus skill / art

    The city is full of Unicyclists, Jugglers, Contact Jugglers, Hula Hoopers, Fire Spinners, Clowns, Diabolists, Acrobats, etc.

    They’re all fun and there’s plently of people willing to show others how for the sake of speading the joy, myself included.

  6. Marsha · May 6, 2013

    Go for long drives to places with odd names and have your picture taken by the road signs… Don’t forget Dildo, Trinity Bay :)

  7. Harry · May 6, 2013

    Eat a Puffin? Thats my favourite animal you! Who ever thought of that idea, then hang yourself upside down!!! What are you? An Abominable idiotic flying Pig?
    Probably. I don’t want to use any rude language, so I’m just gonna say Puffins are better than You!:p
    P.S. I do not accept terms of use.
    P.S.S. Puffins are always going to be better than You!

  8. Elling Lien · May 6, 2013

    Best Comment Ever or Weirdest Spam Ever… The jury is out.