National Historic Site
At the easternmost point in North America lies Cape Spear National Historic Site. Originally built in 1839, the Cape Spear Lighthouse is the oldest remaining in Newfoundland. A place of historic significance and of natural beauty, Cape Spear is a fantastic getaway for you and your family; see this beautiful video called Exploring Cape Spear, shared by Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism.
World War II Remnants
Cape Spear, like many places around the world, still bears the mark of war on it. During World War II, the site was used as a coastal defence battery to protect St. John’s Harbor from German submarines. The lighthouse stands in what was a strategic location during the Battle of the Atlantic and was a pivotal part of the convoy route from Europe to North America. As a result, a battery and garrison were constructed and contained bunkers, underground tunnels and two, 10-inch guns at the tip of the Cape.
Once the war ended, the majority of the defences were demolished. However, visitors can still explore the remnants of the defenses manned by Canadian and U.S. soldiers by visiting the barracks and gun barrels that remain as a reminder of the war’s reaches. Tours can be scheduled in advance with soldiers from the Royal Canadian Artillery.
Cape Spear Lighthouse and Visitor Center
The lighthouse has been restored to its original state in order to reflect the life of a lighthouse keeper’s family in the mid-nineteenth century. Despite the known dangers of Newfoundland’s coast, Cape Spear was only the second lighthouse to be constructed during this time. While most people now think of lighthouses as solitary structures, this architectural style was not always in practice. The structure at Cape Spear is made up of a stone tower emerging from the center of a residential house that the keeper and his family lived in. This tower was in use until 1955 when a new stand-alone tower was built nearby using the light from the original one.
Visitors to Cape Spear can go inside the original lighthouse at this national historic site and learn about the life of the Cantwell family who, for generations, famously tended to the vital light mariners relied on for more than 150 years. The restored and authentically furnished residence allows visitors to step into the past for a unique learning experience. After exploring the lighthouse, be sure to stop by the visitor’s center for more information on the historic site and the history of lighthouses.
Wildlife and Scenic Beauty
Cape Spear National Historic Site is not only historically important, the area is also beautiful and teeming with life. The diversity of flora allows the landscape to undergo several transformations throughout the year as different species of flowers begin to bloom as others are fading. The cape’s unique Newfoundland coastal location make it an ideal place to watch for birds, whales and other forms of wildlife. Bring your binoculars and watch for birds such as the shearwater, murres, razorbills and possibly even a skuas or jaeger.
During the summer, keep your eyes open for a chance to see the majestic humpback whale breaching the surface. In addition to humpback whales, you and your family may also see Minke and Fin Whales as well as dolphins, porpoises, seals and otters. Besides wildlife sightings, you may even spot an iceberg or two drift lazily along the coast.
Once you've explored the coast, take some time to hike on the East Coast Trail which passes through Cape Spear and grants visitors access to the island’s peaceful hiking trails. While exploring the area’s landscape, though, keep in mind that the terrain and coastline can be dangerous because of the winds, irregular tides and ocean movement. It is important for guests to stay on marked trails and follow any warning signs that are posted by the park staff.