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Visiting Signal Hill

Signal Hill, Newfoundland, is a popular tourist attraction for both its aesthetic beauty and its historical significance. Spectators standing atop Signal Hill's 144 meter high cliffs will experience amazing panoramic views of the ocean, horizon, and Newfoundland coastline. Signal Hill has earned its title as a national historic site because of the crucial role it played in North America's military defense as well as its importance in the advancement of wireless communication under Marconi in 1901.

Cabot Tower, Signal Hill, Newfoundland.
Cabot Tower, Signal Hill, Newfoundland

Enjoy ocean, coastal, and horizon views from atop the 144 meter high cliffs of Signal Hill, Newfoundland, Canada

Parks Canada staff, dressed as a 19th century soldier and holding a musket, is looking out to sea from the clifftops of Signal Hill, Newfoundland.
Take time to consider the significant role that Signal Hill played in North America's military history.

Signal Hill Military History

Even before confederation, Newfoundland's geographic location along North America's eastern border enabled it to play an important role in the military defense of both Canada and the United States. During WW2, both countries positioned troops at vital locations along Newfoundland's coastline, including Signal Hill, to defend against naval attack. Many old war relics remain on the cliffs of Signal Hill as reminders of the contributions it made during WW2. The military props also create amazing photo opportunities. Follow this link to see more information about the military history of Signal Hill which I provide in a separate blog.

Signal Hill: Cabot Tower

Cabot Tower, built in the late 1800's, is an iconic landmark that sits atop the massive cliffs of Signal Hill, Newfoundland. Its interior, with a narrow, winding stairway and thick casement windows, captures the essence of its late 1800's archaeological design. Entering Cabot Tower, you will immediately encounter a Newfoundland theme gift shop which is an ideal place to shop for keepsakes of your time in Newfoundland. Upper levels of Cabot Tower showcase cultural and historic artifact and provide an access point to the rooftop and the flagpole station.

Under a veil of blue summer sky, the iconic Cabot Tower sits high on the cliffs of Signal Hill, Newfoundland.
Cabot Tower is an iconic landmark and historic site located at Signal Hill, Newfoundland.

Cabot Tower, Newfoundland, interior, with its narrow staircase and thick window casings  capture the essence of its late 1800's archaeological design.
Cabot Tower, Newfoundland, maintains its late 1800's construction design

Signal Hill: Cabot Tower Flag Communication in the 19th Century

Cabot Tower's flagmen played an important in role in facilitating communication between land and sea during the 19th century. Before air and road travel, all goods coming into NL arrived by merchant ships. Each ship bore an identifying character for the company it represented (much like company logos do today). The flagman atop Cabot Tower would identify the approaching ship and, in response, would hoist a corresponding flag from the Cabot Tower flagpole. This acknowledged that the ship had been seen and was a sign to local vendors that a shipment was arriving and that they could meet the merchants at port to conduct business.

From atop Cabot Tower overlooking the city of St. John’s, a Parks Canada staff, dressed in an official flagman uniform, provides an information session regarding use of flag signals in Newfoundland during the 19th century.
From atop Cabot Tower, attend an info session about the history of flag communication in NL during the 19th century

Signal Hill: Communication & Technological Advancements

Signal Hill was the site where the first transatlantic message was received by Guglielmo Marconi in 1901. This was an important milestone in the advancement of modern technology. A plaque commemorating his endeavor can be on a ledge overlooking the ocean at Cabot Tower. For those who would like to learn more, I encourage you to visit a museum dedicated to Marconi which is found within Cabot Tower.

A memorial plaque dedicated to Guglielmo Marconi, receiver of the first transatlantic wireless signal, sits atop a concrete wall overlooking the ocean at Signal Hill, NL.
The Guglielmo Marconi memorial plaque atop a concrete wall overlooking the ocean at Signal Hill, NL.

A collection of historical pieces dedicated to Guglielmo Marconi is displayed in Cabot Tower at Signal Hill, NL
A collection of historical pieces dedicated to Guglielmo Marconi is displayed in Cabot Tower at Signal Hill, NL

Signal Hill: Whale Watching Opportunities

Visitors to Signal Hill are often treated to dramatic performances of humpback whales that are commonly seen in Newfoundland ocean waters during summer months. Humpback whales pound the ocean surface with their fins and tails and sometimes leap out of water in an amazing breach, much to the amazement of onlookers.

Humpback whale breaching to the left atop the ocean waters near the coastline of Signal Hill, Newfoundland, Canada.
From atop the clifftops of Signal Hill, experience the thrill of a breaching humpback whale.

Signal Hill: Birdwatching Opportunities

Signal Hill, Newfoundland, offers amazing birdwatching opportunities. In addition to the many different species of gulls and songbirds in the area, a family of bald eagles has maintained a nest on the cliffs of Signal Hill for many years. During fledging, it is common to witness the bald eagles soaring in the skies overlooking the city of St. John's, NL.

Two juvenile bald eagles are soaring through the Autumn skies at Signal Hill, Newfoundland, Canada.
Two juvenile bald eagles soaring in the skies of Signal Hill, Newfoundland, Canada.

Signal Hill Tourist Opportunity: Firing a Musket

During the summer tourist season, Parks Canada staff provide a once daily public tour and information session about the history of Signal Hill, particularly its significance in military defense. Staff also provide a rifled musket demonstration from atop the cliffs of Signal Hill which, for a fee, visitors can participate and fire rounds.

Under a cover of fog at the Queen's Battery lookout, this Parks Canada staff is  holding a rifle musket and dressed in an 1800's soldier's uniform.
At the Queen's Battery lookout, this Parks Canada staff is dressed in an 1800's soldier's uniform and holding a rifle.

Signal Hill Tourist Opportunity: Firing the Noon Day Gun

The noon day gun has had a presence in Newfoundland since 1842. Early use was to help orient nearby ships and also to serve as a public clock for the residents of St. John's. At present, the noon day gun serves more as a tourist attraction and is fired by a Parks Canada official in a soldier's uniform daily at noon during the summer season. Visitors are offered the opportunity to fire theday gun for a fee.

The silhouette of the noon day gun at Cabot Tower, NL, is sharply defined under the veil of a summer blue sky.
The noon day gun is located at Cabot Tower, Signal Hill, Newfoundland.

Signal Hill: Boat Watching Opportunities

Enjoy amazing ocean views and see a wide assortment of ships, including huge cruise ships, entering and leaving St. John's harbour.

Passing the coastline of Fort Amherst, the Caribbean Princess cruise ship navigates through crystal blue ocean water as it heads out to sea.
Navigating through crystal blue ocean water, the Caribbean Princess cruise ship departs St. John's harbour.

Signal Hill: Three Gun Salute as the Nieuw Statendam Cruise Ship Leaves St. John's Harbour

During the summer season, some of the large cruise ships leaving port receive a friendly three gun salute from Parks Canada staff dressed in military uniform. This is the MS Nieuw Statendam Cruise Ship leaving St. John's harbour in '22.

Signal Hill: Hiking Opportunities

Hike Park's Canada hiking paths through the Signal Hill coastline. There are five trails including the Burma Trail, Centre to Citadel Trail, Gibbet Hill Trail, Ladies' Lookout Trail, and the North Head Trail. I provide an overview of Signal Hill hiking trails in a separate blog.

Nature photographer standing atop the coastal hiking trail at Signal Hill, NL, enjoying amazing horizon, ocean, and coastal views.
The North Head Trail hiking path at Signal Hill offers captivating ocean, horizon, and coastal views.

Signal Hill: The Signal Hill Star

The Signal Hill star is lit every year in December to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season. From many points through St. John's, the Signal Hill star can be seen shining brightly and is meant to bring peace and feelings of hope to its people.

Cabot Tower, with its Christmas Star display, sits atop a snow clad clifftop on Signal Hill on an overcast winter day.
The Signal Hill Star is hung on Cabot Tower annually in December.

Visitors to Signal Hill are encouraged to go to the Visitor Information Centre where they will encounter friendly, knowledgeable staff and be given the opportunity to see the many more military and communication displays onsite.

Sandra Murray, owner of Murray House Vacation Home and writer of Newfoundland Travel Blog standing on a bridge overlooking a forest clearing and waterfall.
Sandra Murray, owner of Murray House Vacation Home and writer of Newfoundland Travel Blog

Please continue to follow my blog as I showcase more amazing tourist attractions in eastern Newfoundland.


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