The Atlantic Puffin, Newfoundland’s Provincial Bird, is a member of the auk family. With a brightly-coloured, parrot-like bill and orange feet, the puffin is a comical looking character. Watching them fly is wholly entertaining, as they have small wings which they must flap madly to gain flight. They leap from a cliff to gain momentum but have a hard time getting airborne from the water. They are great divers, though. At Elliston, you can get close-up with the puffins, often within a few feet of them, provided you keep back from the cliff edge to give them room to come ashore. From May through September, puffins nest in burrows on the cliffs and offshore islands in Elliston on the Bonavista Peninsula – one of the best viewing spots anywhere. About a forty minute drive from Trinity, one can visit the Puffin Site on the road from Elliston to Maberly. Puffins often go out to sea to feed during the day, so best to start or end your day-trip here.
Home from the Sea
A much misunderstood piece of Newfoundland culture, come experience the history of the seal hunt. Before modern roads, schooners visited the coasts of Newfoundland, bringing provisions in the summer months. To survive the winters, people had to store vegetables they had grown, berries they had harvested, salt fish and other provisions in root cellars. By the time the “long, hungry month of March” came, supplies were low, and people were hungry. The seal hunt provided fresh meat to keep families from starvation, and the pelts provided much-needed income – a cash economy so different from the traditional merchant trade that it enabled permanent settlement. Men and boys, without the luxury of modern gear, traversed the open ocean on ice pans heaving on the surface of a frigid sea. Experience the Newfoundland Seal Hunt as told by Newfoundlanders in art and verse.
Built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the great sealing disasters of 1914, Home from the Sea features a visitor’s centre and a seaside monument to remember the boys and men who were lost in two separate disasters during the same storm — the first, the sinking of the SS Southern Cross on it’s return from the Gulf of St. Lawrence; the second, when the crew of the SS Newfoundland were left out on the ice while a storm raged for two days, after two ships captains (a father and son), without radio communications, mistakenly assumed the crew to be aboard the other’s ship. I promise, the experience will be thought-provoking, and unforgettable.
The rugged shoreline of Cape Bonavista protrudes out into the vastness of the North Atlantic. Walk atop a collapsed sea cave called the Dungeon. Tour Cape Bonavista lighthouse and climb the tower to see the old, rare style of light used here.
Explore the Matthew – a reproduction of the wooden boat in which Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) discovered the new world (the poop deck is always a hit with kids).
Experience the history of the cod fishery at the Ryan Premises, a National (bilingual) Historic Site. Learn the history of the merchant trade with England – a system of trade in which wealthy English merchants determined both the price they paid for fish they purchased from the local fisherman, and the price of goods the fisherman relied on to survive here. This usually resulted in the fisherman and their families remaining in a constant state of debt and poverty. This powerlessness has left a lasting mark on the Newfoundland psyche.
Take in a musical performance at the historic Garrick Theatre, as part of the Saturday Summer Music Series.
All along the shores of the peninsula, unique and diverse geological features can be seen. Learn more about efforts to obtain UNESCO status, and the formations in the area at:
As you round the peninsula, take the road to Keels, explore the Devil’s Footprints, and witness the two distinct colours of Newfoundland slate – plum wine and a bluish-green, evident in the landscape here. There’s a caribou herd that frequents these parts.
Take the other road less travelled to Tickle Cove. Walk out to the Tickle Cove Arch, another unique geological formation. There are trails to explore, blueberries to pick, and rumours of panther sightings.
Enjoy a quick hike up the side of Rattle Falls – a beautiful waterfall and favourite hidden treasure of ours.
Alternately cut across the peninsula to Port Union and explore the history of this union-built community and the shift in power that the Fisherman’s Protective Union created.
Historic Port Union and the Coaker Foundation
Step back in time in historic Port Union. Explore the history of the brave fisherfolk who defied the traditional balance of power in the fishery, started the Fisherman’s Protective Union, and built a pioneering community with cutting-edge technology. Amidst a number of historic buildings that include living quarters for the workers, you can tour through the factory that now houses the printing presses, artifacts from the retail shop, tools and equipment preserved from a time when they endeavoured to generate local employment by crafting everything from barrels and fish bars to windows and furniture, in-house. With so much history to preserve, be sure to support the incredible efforts of the Coaker Foundation. Explore the nearby fossil site that is part of the aspiring geopark.
Other activities to explore: