About 11km (7 miles) southeast of downtown is North America's most easterly point, marked by the dramatic Cape Spear National Historic Site (tel. 709/772-5367). There's a blocky, picture-perfect white lighthouse on the point here dating from 1836, plus underground passages from abandoned World War II gun batteries.
A visitor center orients you; budget time to walk the site's hiking trails and scout for whales at sea afterward. Admission to the lighthouse, which has been restored to its 1839 appearance and opens from 10am to 6pm daily in season, is C$3.90 for adults, C$3.40 for seniors, C$1.90 for children ages 6 to 16, and C$9.80 for families. Note that the lighthouse, visitor center, and on-site gift shop close from mid-October until mid-May. But the scenic grounds are open (and free) year-round.
Get to the cape by following Water Street south out of the downtown area to Route 10, continuing a bit, then turning left at Leslie Street onto Blackhead Road. Cross over train tracks and under the highway, following Blackhead Road as it twists and turns about 11km (7 miles) to land's end.
In the other direction, about 14km (9 miles) west of the city center, is Portugal Cove (take Route 40/Portugal Cove Rd.), from which regular ferries depart for nearby Bell Island year-round. It's a recommended stop: This is a handsome and historic island, with sharp, green-topped cliffs edging its eastern shore.
First, a little history: This was the only place in North America that lost lives to German U-boats. It happened in 1942, when two iron-ore carrying ships were sunk in the bay (you can still scuba dive to their wrecks, if you hire a boat to take you to the spot) in a sneaky nighttime torpedo attack; during peacetime, German captains had previously run iron boats themselves, so they knew the terrain well. A second sub attack later that week sunk two more ships; 69 men died in all. Later, Bell Island became a thriving community for a time (its population approached 14,000 at one point) thanks to its rich iron deposits; a huge mine here employed hundreds of locals from 1896 until it closed in 1966. (The island is still honeycombed with shafts, some extending far out beneath the sea floor.)
The abandoned mine known as "No. 2" on Bell Island, once the largest undersea iron mine in the world, has been maintained as a museum of sorts by the town. At the Bell Island Community Museum and Mine Tour (tel. 709/488-2880), visitors relive the life of a typical miner, who made his way through the perpetual darkness with a carbide lantern. During a 40-minute tour, you'll descend 180m (200 yards) underground to the point after which potential flooding makes further walking in the shaft dangerous. (The shaft actually descends another 480m/ 1/3 of a mile into the earth; it's something like 5km/3 miles long in total, when you add up all the parts.)
Wear sneakers and bring a sweater or warm jacket; you'll also be issued a hardhat which you must wear at all times. The tours are offered frequently daily in summer; combination tickets incorporating the tour and museum cost C$10 for adults, C$8 seniors, and C$3 for children under 12. Tickets to the museum alone are C$5 for adults and C$4 for seniors (kids enter for free), though it's frankly a lot less fun than the catacombs. The museum and mine are open daily from June through September, from 11am to 7pm.
Ask locals for directions to the Grebe's Nest, a rocky point of land on the island's northern shore marked by an offshore sea stack. From a parking area, you take a short walk through a (man-made) tunnel opening out onto a secluded beach surrounded by towering, crumbling cliffs. It's a great spot to snap a romantic photo at sunset or to spy the grebes that nest there.
You'll also find a few simple accommodations, some lowbrow seafood restaurants, and an art gallery or two on the island. Most travelers use the island as a day trip, savoring its laid-back pace as a contrast to the "big city," which is 20 minutes away.
The ferry (tel. 888/638-5454 from Canada only or 709/535-6244) costs C$6.25 per car and driver, plus C$2.25 per extra adult (C$1.75 for students, children 5 and over, and seniors). It runs every 40 minutes from about 6am (later on weekends) until about 10:30pm, except in very bad weather; the crossing of Conception Bay only takes about 20 minutes. There's a small tourist office in the island's village, but it's easier just to consult the island's good website (www.bellisland.net) before arriving.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.