Starting and ending at the Skerwink Hostel this trip usually takes us 3-4 hours, depending on wildlife action, any eating time, and how photogenic the landscape is feeling that day. Any hikes you wish to do will add an additional 2-3 hours.
From Port Rexton/Trinity East head North along Route 230 until you reach Catalina where the road intersects with Route 237. Take a left, following the 237 across the peninsula until you reach Route 235. Turn right heading North, following signs to Bonavista.
Shortly after joining the 235 you will pass through Upper Amherst Cove, home to the Bonavista Social Club, a great family run restaurant offering farm-to-table cuisine. If you’re not quite ready for food simply stay on the 235 until you enter Bonavista. This is a stunning drive, where the road hugs the coastline, offering many whale-sighting opportunities. In May and June, keep an eye out for icebergs, as they are known to get caught in this section of Bonavista Bay.
Once you enter Bonavista the road weaves through the town, and you’ll want to keep an eye out for signs to Cape Bonavista, and the Dungeon Provincial Park. While in town check out the recently restored buildings along Church Street, now home to a series of great shops and restaurants, including Sweet Rock Ice Cream, the Boreal Diner, and East Coast Glow to name a few. There are also many great heritage sites to visit, including the Mockbeggar Plantation, where you can learn about the history of the Newfoundland fishery and grab a coffee at Neil’s Yard Cafe.
Continue driving North to Cape Bonavista until the road ends, and you find yourself surrounded by wild ocean and beautiful views.
We usually spend about 30 minutes to and hour at Cape Bonavista, depending on the temperature, and the visibility. When the ocean is too rough whales are hard to spot (unless they’re being very playful), but the area is still beautiful, and you will find yourself taking many pictures.
From here, you’ll either want to head back into Bonavista for food, or make the executive decision to wait until you’re back in Port Rexton for lunch/dinner.
Whichever you choose, the next section of the loop is through the Dungeon Provincial park the turnoff for which is between Bonavista and the Cape down Lance Cove Rd. Don’t hold your breath for street signs, but it’s good to know the names if you’re using Google Maps.
The Dungeon Provincial Park is surrounded by communal pasture, so you will see horses, cattle, and the odd sheep walking around. The road throughout both pasture and park is unpaved, so take it slow (especially in early Spring before they’ve done much post-winter repair work). You’ll probably end up stopping and starting a lot anyway, as you will want to get out and take pictures.
Once you’ve entered the park proper, you can leave your car in the parking area to one side, and get out and walk around on a short section of trails. Don’t go too close to the edges, as it is sedimentary rock, and can collapse without warning. Plus, the pictures are just as stunning from a few feet back, so there’s no need to put yourself at risk for the perfect selfie.
Once you’ve had your fill of coastal pics (or so you think), you’ll continue along the same road into the second section of communal pasture, toward Elliston.
When you reach paved road take a right, this is Route 235 continued, but you won’t be on it long. Your next left is Elliston St (aka the Old Bonavista Rd or Route 238), follow this all the way to Elliston. This route offers a beautiful view of Bonavista as you’re heading over the ridge, so keep your eyes out for a spot to pull over and enjoy the scenery.
Once in Elliston, you will pass the Home from the Sea: Sealer’s Interpretation Center. This is a fabulous center if you have the time to pop in. It is $7 per person, and you will learn about the history of the sealing industry in Newfoundland, and the profound importance it played in outport communities and culture.
After the Interpretation Center, turn left, following the Main rd through the town, where it becomes Maberly rd. Continue past Sandy Cove Beach until you reach the Puffin Viewing Site. There is space to park on the right-hand-side of the street, next to a few root cellars.
Access to the site is free, however they do accept donations for upkeep and maintenance.
The walk out to the site will take approximately 5-10 minutes, and once there you will be standing on the exposed cliffs, so take a coat and a hat. If traveling with friends or family that cannot stand for very long, consider taking a camping chair out with you, so everyone can enjoy the experience in comfort.
Puffins are hilarious and adorable, and they will land alongside the viewers if there is a decent space left for them. Depending on the time of day (dawn and dusk are best), the size of the colony will vary. We try to get there a bit before dusk, after having grabbed an early dinner in Bonavista, so we’re not driving home in the dark.
Enjoy the madness of the colony to your heart’s content, before heading back through Elliston to the 238 – staying straight at the Sealer’s Interpretation Centre rather than back the way you came.
At the end of the 238 you will rejoin Route 230, which you can follow South until you find yourself back in Port Rexton.
If you’ve stayed longer than expected and you are driving home at night, just take it slow and keep an eye out for moose.
If you’ve timed it right, you should enjoy a beautiful sunset over the hills of the Bonavista Peninsula.
Below are some more of our favourite views along this drive: