Reprinted from Country Discoveries March/April 2006 (Copyright ©2006 David Tilley)
Puffins on parade. The Bonavista Peninsula′s jagged shoreline (at top) attracts hordes of Atlantic Puffins during breeding and nesting season in spring and summer. The provincial bird of Newfoundland, puffins are easily identified by their orange and yellow beaks, which get brighter during breeding season. Roughly 95% of the worlds Atlantic Puffins live in Newfoundland and Labrador. Also known as the "clowns of the sea" or "sea parrots", they look like penguins but aren′t related. They spend the entire winter at sea!
SOME 500 YEARS AGO, explorer John Cabot gave Newfoundland′s rugged Cape Bonavista its name when he spotted land and exclaimed in his native Italian, "Oh, buono vista," which translates into "happy view. " Centuries later, there′s still plenty to discover on this jagged slab of land that juts into the Atlantic Ocean on Newfoundland′s northeastern coast. I never tire of its quaint seaside communities, lighthouses and heritage sites, whale and iceberg sightings, secluded coves and magnificent shorelines and friendly, down-to-earth people. The so-called Discovery Trail loops up the peninsula′s east coast to the town of Bonavista, via Highway 230, then loops down the west coast along Highway 235. If there′s a prettier drive, I′d like to see it! A good starting point is the Visitor Information Center in Clarenville, located on Trans-Canada Highway 1.
From there, Highway 231 takes you north to Highway 230 for your drive up the coast. I always enjoy the community of Trinity-just south of Highway 230 on Highway 239-with its five centuries of history and old-world architecture. The Trinity Pageant is a great way to relive the area′s colorful history. Members of the Rising Tide Theater lead this theatrical walking tour of the town, and these characters really know how to spin a yarn in the old story-telling tradition. Trinity is a
cultural center famous for its churches, arts and live entertainment. You′ll love the rich atmosphere and genuine hospitality. As you head north, you′ll pass through more charming villages like Port Union, a union town that′s home to museums, historic buildings and great hiking trails. As you get closer to Cape Bonavista at the tip of the peninsula, take a detour on Highway 238 through the towns of Maberly and Elliston. Elliston is noted for birds and roots!
bonavista bounty. First lit in 1843, the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse (at left) is a popular attraction at the top of the wind-battered headland that juts into the North Atlantic Ocean. Historic Trinity is known for its old churches, like St. Pauls Anglican church (above), and the Trinity Pageant, a combined walking tour/theatrical drama (below).
First of all, it′s home to the Bird Island Puffin Festival; held during the third week of July (that′s July 14-23 in 2006), it honors the pretty orange-beaked seabirds that reside here on the coast in huge numbers. Elliston is also known as the "Root Cellar Capital of the World"; you′ll see the sod-covered mounds virtually everywhere you look.
a happy sight indeed!
For ocean lovers, the highlight of the drive is beautiful Cape Bonavista itself. Don′t miss a guided tour of the restored Cape Bonavista Lighthouse, a provincial historic site. Nearby is the still-thriving fishing community of Bonavista. One of my favorite attractions is a full-scale replica of Cabot′s 15th-century vessel, The Matthew. It′s on display at an interpretive center in the town. It′s one of many things to do and see here amid some of the world′s most rugged and inspiring headland scenery. Historic buildings include some of the oldest courthouses and churches in North America. You′ll find it hard to leave, but there′s more to see on the western side of the peninsula. Highlights include places like Kings Cove, with its lighthouse trail, and Tickle Cove, with its impressive sea arch and amazing shoreline geology. Keel, a tiny and picturesque fishing village, is one of the continent′s oldest settlements. I find something new each time I travel along the Discovery Trail. Come do some exploring on your own and see what I mean!