Puffins Amongst the Scenery

By Kai Rambow

 

“Heading up to see the puffins, are you?” asked the construction worker.  She continued with a strong Newfoundland accent, “I’ve lived all my 61 years in this bay area, never knew about the puffins.  I kept wondering why all these people were coming out here.  I’ve never seen them myself.  Finally going with my boyfriend on Sunday.”

A simple question about directions turned into a funny conversation.  People are the best part of travel in Newfoundland.  While they are proud of their rich traditions, they are incredible welcoming, warm and helpful.

 

Puffins at Elliston

There are a few species of birds that generate excitement even with non-birders.  Atlantic puffins are one of them.  Even when they are just standing around, they look cute.

Puffins come ashore for a few months to breed before returning to the ocean.  Elliston is one of the few locations worldwide with relatively easy access for viewing.  The puffins apparently can be approached very closely here, although they did not the day we visited.  It was still enthralling to watch them.

Close by are traditional root cellars used to store food.  Park your car, check out the cellars, then take a short walk to see the puffins.  There are no charges to see the cellars or puffins.  After watching the puffins there are cafes and gift shops nearby.

 

Bonavista

Ten minutes away from Elliston is Bonavista.  This town of 3,400 is a relaxing place to have a bite, poke around and even stay overnight.

Drive to the lighthouse at the tip of Cape Bonavista.  You’ll see more puffins and even whales in the surrounding waters.  As you head back to Bonavista, stop at Dungeon Provincial Park.  It’s a short, scenic drive.  Rocky shores with clear waters dominate the views throughout the island.  As you drive through Newfoundland, you’ll clearly see how it earned its nickname, “the Rock.”

 

Tips for a Great Trip

Stop for Gas:  There are sizeable stretches of road, even on the Trans-Canada highway, without facilities or gas stations.  Any time there is a stop with gas/facilities, take advantage of it.  We stopped for gas and food at the Tim Horton’s in Clarenville, and topped the tank again in Bonavista. 

Drive Times and Stays:  It will take about 3 hours 30 minutes from St. John’s to Bonavista.  For a more relaxed pace, you might want to stay overnight here.  Remember Bonavista is a small town with a limited number of sleeping accommodations.  Be sure to book in advance.  The drive from Bonavista to the next recommended stop Gander is 2 hours 45 minutes.

If you have a tighter schedule and are more energetic, you can leave St. John’s, drive to Bonavista, do activities and still reach Gander comfortably.  In the summer, the sun rises around 5:30 a.m. and sets around 8:45 p.m.  You’ll have plenty of daylight on good roads.

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