Newfoundland: Bonavista to Gander

I did not expect to cram so many things into our time in Bonavista.  Yet, here I sit, tired out by a day that I thought was going to be a lot easier.

We woke up this morning to fresh partridge berry pancakes at our Air BnB and what we thought were going to be some quick stops along the road to Gander.  The first was the Ryan Premises, which is a National Historic site that goes over not only the history of Bonavista, but the history of fishing in Newfoundland, the history of seal hunting, and a museum for the town.  I went in not expecting much from what I thought was a small-town museum, but oh my goodness, was I wrong.  They had a giant magnetic board game depicting how a journey across the Atlantic might work, displays that were good looking and informative, different buildings to look at and a souvenir shop with adorable puffin merchandise.  This might have been the best small-town museum I’ve ever been in.

Next stop in town was Ye Matthew, a recreation of the wooden ship that John Cabot took across the Atlantic when he discovered Newfoundland.  While the Ryan Premises fit into the Canada 150 deal where everything is free, the Matthew was $7.25 a pop, which was… fine.  I’m not sure if it was too highly priced because we’ve been doing free all summer, or if it was just the right price, but it was a nice exhibit, with lots of information about Cabot, his expedition, and a video of Queen Elizabeth coming to Bonavista to commemorate the 500th year since Cabot discovered Newfoundland.  Right near the harbour where, if we were doing a whale and puffin tour, we could easily catch a boat.

Our whale and puffin experiences would be coming, though.

The Bonavista lighthouse had been near the top of the list of things to see on our trip to the east, due to its scenic location and the seabirds that circle it.  Before we even got there, we started to see the puffs of water that come from a whale’s spout.  We pulled over and saw about a dozen whales moving between the rocks, feeding on the fish in the area.  Even though we had the close encounter a few days ago in St. John’s, we still stood there for about a half hour, watching them come in and out of the water.  As we then made our way towards the lighthouse, we saw swarms of little black birds and realized they were PUFFINS!!!  They were flying up towards the lighthouse and hanging around the nearby rocks and generally being awkward and adorable.  So, that was another half hour of watching animals and taking pictures.  The lighthouse, which was beautiful, ended up being a bit of an afterthought.

Our next stop was the Dungeon Provincial Park, which is literally just a gravel road that leads towards a near sea cave that cuts into the rocks.  Totally worth a stop, especially if you’re on the way to the “Root Cellar Capital of the World”, Elliston, which was home to…


As amazing and adorable as the puffins were all over a rock that was just off shore.  Close enough that, with a decent zoom or binoculars, you could get some amazing views, but that you’d still see them interacting in their chubby little way regardless.  We even got lucky enough to have two puffins leave that rock and land within an arm’s length of us – we literally could have grabbed them, they were so close.  Again, a good half hour just snapping shots of puffins.

So, by the time we were done with Bonavista, the whales, the lighthouse, and the puffins, we were behind the “schedule” we thought we’d be on for the day.  Our final destination was Gander for the evening, and we’d make one more stop along the way in Terra Nova to drive up to the Blue Hill Lookout and get a view of the park, before finally making it to Gander.

So, long day, but one of the better ones.  Just puffined out!

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