Routing: Exit Trinity, turn right on Route 239, then right again on Route 230 toward Bonavista. About 40 minutes from Trinity, you see the turnoff to Elliston and Maberley. Unless you’re interested in the reproduction World War I trench along this stretch of road (at Discovery Shooting Club), we recommend that you continue straight into Bonavista (because the road is in terrible condition and subject to resurfacing this season). As you enter Bonavista, stay straight and look for the water tower. Take the turnoff to Spillar’s Cove to the right. Follow that road to the Elliston turnoff (Crewe’s Garage is on the corner). Turn right toward Elliston, then make a left at Home From the Sea. Follow the road to Maberley.
The road winds out past Sandy Cove Beach, and the puffin viewing site, to Maberley and makes for a beautiful drive. Elliston is the root cellar capital of the world – over a hundred cellars are nestled in the hills here. Be sure to stop at the puffin viewing site – just a short walk from the road lies Newfoundland’s finest puffin-viewing site. The puffins nest on islands just off-shore and often come to the land. Puffins are active in the morning, and come home to nest in the evening, spending the day feeding out on the water, so best to start or end your day here. If you’re really keen to enjoy a great day, a guided hike and that quintessential Newfoundland custom of a “boil up”, join biologist Jon Joy of Tuckamore Discoveries and learn about puffins, flora and fauna.
Be sure to take the road along the shore to the Sealer’s Memorial on the waterfront. Visit Home From the Sea – the sealer’s museum. Misrepresented by animal rights groups who have used the seal-hunt to raise funds, sealing is one of the most misunderstood pieces of traditional Newfoundland culture. Unlike the migratory cod fishery and merchant trade which were largely a cashless economy, the seal hunt provided boys and men the opportunity to return home with cash in hand, which was instrumental in enabling permanent settlement here. Newfoundlanders often refer to the “long, hungry month of March” – before modern roads, rural communities had to subsist through the long winters on whatever food they could preserve or cellar, because schooners didn’t bring provisions when the harbours were frozen over. By spring, with food stores nearly used up, seals provided much needed protein for hungry Newfoundlanders, and a vital economy. Specifically, Home From the Sea, tells the story of two sealing disasters which took place in quick succession just before the first world war. Those events largely wiped out a generation of Newfoundland’s strongest and brightest young men. One of the stories tells of how two ships, captained by a father and son, mistakenly assumed the crew of sealers was safely aboard the other’s ship, only to return to harbour and discover otherwise. The men and boys were left on the ice for fifty-three hours while a blizzard raged. Home From the Sea is open May-October. Off-season by appointment.
From Elliston, follow the signs to Bonavista, but turn right toward Spillar’s Cove instead of heading directly into Bonavista. A short distance up the road, you’ll see the turnoff for Dungeon Road – a gravel road that loops around to Cape Bonavista. The dungeon – a collapsed sea cave, is not well-marked, but stop where you see the wooden rails and walkways and walk atop it.
Continue along Dungeon Road, past grazing animals, to the Cape Shore Road and turn right to Cape Bonavista. Enjoy the vistas; whales or icebergs are often visible here. The lighthouse, which features a rare and ancient style of light, is well worth a tour. Provincial sites are open May 19 – Oct 5, 2018.
If you need a pick-me-up, enjoy a light lunch at Mifflin’s Tea Room.
In Bonavista, you’ll find Ye Matthew Legacy – a reproduction of the wooden boat in which John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) discovered the new world when he landed at Cape Bonavista in 1497. Scamper around the boat, equipped with a “poop deck” and learn about trans-Atlantic travel – fun for all ages. Open May 25 – Sep 25, 2018.
Be sure to stop at Ryan Premises, a National Historic Site (bilingual), which outlines the history of the traditional whaling and sealing industries and the salt cod trade. Understanding the merchant trade is critical to understanding Newfoundlanders. Wealthy merchants from Europe came to Newfoundland to oversee a seasonal, migratory fishery. Merchants determined the quality of, and the price paid to, fisherman for their salt cod, while, at the same time, providing the necessary provisions to fishermen. A cashless economy, marked by a power imbalance that left fishermen in a state of perpetual indebtedness to the merchant, the migratory fishery defined an era in Newfoundland’s history. Open daily 10-6, June 1st to September 3rd, 2018.
Bonavista is enjoying a rejuvenation – young entrepreneurs are setting up shop and there are some interesting shops to browse – enjoy the Newfoundland Salt Company (authentic sea salt), handmade Sweet Rock Ice Cream, quality textile craft at Tree Line and Yellow Rose. The Garrick Theatre has been restored and has live music performances on Saturday nights, as part of the Saturday Summer Music Series, as well as movies and other musical events.
Wind your way back along the Bonavista Bay side of the peninsula, Route 235 – a markedly different landscape, with beautiful natural features. Pull off in Upper Amherst Cove (a right turn just before Route 237) to enjoy a meal at Bonavista Social Club – an intimate restaurant with limited seating. Featuring a wood-fired oven, Katie, Shane and staff offer great vistas from their covered deck, home-grown produce, and a menu that varies with the season. Be sure to taste the local flavour – try the rhubarb lemonade or a moose burger with partridgeberry ketchup. Mike Paterson, of Paterson Woodworking, makes reproductions of Newfoundland furniture and has a woodworking shop here. Catch him, if you can.
Take the road to Keels and enjoy the unique geological features – explore the Devil’s Footprints, and witness the two distinct colours of Newfoundland slate – a 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. The film the Grand Seduction was filmed in Open Hall and Red Cliff. Wildlife photographer Paul Dolk captures some of the amazing creatures that inhabit the waters here. Explore the art studios, heritage architecture, and landscape.
When you come back to Route 230, make a left turn. Enjoy a quick hike up the side of Rattle Falls – a beautiful waterfall at the turnoff to Ocean Pond, on the right at the bottom of the hill just past Midway Irving. A quick walk gets you to the top, or wet your feet in the swimming hole at the bottom. Another favourite “hidden” treasure of ours.
You can always cut across the peninsula at Route 237. We do not recommend using Route 236 – a gravel road from King’s Cove to Port Rexton. While the road from Route 230 to Lockston Path Provincial Park is tended to, the other section offers no services – not fun with a flat tire.