Bonavista Peninsula is a large peninsula to the north of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is named for and should not be confused with Bonavista town, its second largest urban centre, at the tip of the peninsula, which is covered in a separate article, and Bonavista Bay, the body of water immediately to its north. The water to its south is called Trinity Bay, with the term "Trinity" being used by a wide variety of towns and businesses.
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The peninsula is approximately 85 km long and averages about 20 km in width, spanning from Clarenville in the south to historic Bonavista town in the north. The total population is roughly 20,000, spread between 10 incorporated towns (of which Clarenville and Bonavista are the largest by a substantial margin), and 17 registered communities, most of which contain several additional hamlets.
The peninsula is home to some of the oldest settlements on the island of Newfoundland, particularly the towns of Bonavista and Trinity. Italian explorer John Cabot is reported to have landed at Cape Bonavista in 1497 claiming this part of the New World for the King of England.
The communities and towns on the Bonavista Peninsula are in a slow decline as the importance of the fishing industry decreases. Geographically isolated from major population centres, the provincial government has been attempting to diversify the local economy; most notably in tourism where the region is blessed with spectacular landscapes adjacent to the ocean.
The Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1) passes through Clarenville, at the base of the peninsula, on its way from the provincial capital, St. John's, to the regional centre of Gander. From Clarenville, Regional highway 230 spans 45 km to the tiny community of Southern Bay, and then deviates along the southeast coast through Trinity North (the 3rd largest town on the peninsula) to Bonavista. At Southern Bay, a separate fork of the highway, labelled 235, follows the northwest coast to Bonavista. Nearly all other routes through the peninsula are unpaved.
DLR bus runs once a day from the Memorial University Student Union Centre in St. John's to Port Blandford, at the base of the peninsula (3 hr 15 min, $44 as of June 2019).
Until the beginning of the 20th century, most of the towns on the peninsula were outports, accessible only by boat. A short-lived railway provided limited passenger service for a time, and was later usurped by the existing highway system. As such, transportation in the area is heavily dependent on cars. A few taxi and passenger van services provide limited and expensive service through the area. If you plan to travel by bus or by thumb, check with your hotel or host for advice.
- 1 , Cape Shore Road. Lighthouse is open mid-May to mid-Oct. The drive up to the lighthouse is along a beautiful road with ocean on one side, meadows with sheep, cows, and horses on the other. A statue of explorer Giovanni Caboto (who landed near here) stands just before the parking area. The cliff is home to seabirds (guillemot, auk, turre (murre), dovekie) nesting, flying, swimming, and feeding. You can continue up the path to the light (which has a gift shop selling homemade jams), and down to another cliff, and a view of a rock that is home to thousands of puffins (depending on the seaons, time of day and tides). There are chances to see whales and icebergs in season. There is a provincial museum, containing an exhibition about life in a lighthouse during the 1870s.
- 2 The Devil's Footprints (When you get to Keels, ask a local!). These limestone depressions aren't necessarily a "must see", but they give you a good excuse to drive to the end of the road and wander around the beautiful scenery of out-of-the-way Keels, population 50.
- The Archway, Tickle Cove.
- 1 Port Union Historic District. The first (and possibly only) North America town built by a union, Port Union was the antidote to the predatory credit systems of regional commercial merchants. Sights include the town museum ($2, closed Mondays), factory ($7 guided tour), and founder William Coaker's beautiful bungalow ($5, tours every 30 minutes).
- 2 Champney's West Aquarium (Accessible by vehicle, or just steps from the Fox Island walking trail.), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 10AM-4:30PM daily when in season. This charming small aquarium catches a wide variety of local ocean critters in the spring, keeps them in tanks for visitors to see and touch, with a continuous supply of freshly pumped ocean water, and releases them in the fall. Adults $7, discounts for teens and children.
- 3 Random Passage Site (turn off Hwy 230 for Historic Trinity, and keep going to the town of New Bonaventure at the end of the road), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. May-Sep 9:30AM-4:30PM. Perched on a rocky outcrop, this historical recreation of an early settler village was created as the set for a TV miniseries, and now hosts interpreters, activities, and exhibits. Adults $10, concessions for children and seniors.
- English Harbour Arts Centre, English Harbour
- Historic Trinity
- 4 Lockston Path Provincial Park, ☏ . Roughly 5 km of well cut gravel walking trails through pristine inland mossy woodlands. A relatively flat 3.4 km return trip goes out to and around Northwest Pond, while a 1.7 km loop climbs to a modest lookout. Bring bug spray. Hand-drawn maps at park.GPS trace online There's a $10/vehicle fee for day use of the park, but if it's not busy and it's clear you just want to hike (vs. swim, shower, BBQ, etc.), they'll generally waive it.
- Kings Cove Lighthouse Trail.
- Skerwink Trail.
- Murphy's Cove Trail.
- Fox Island Trail.
- Gun Hill Trail.
Thanks to the inspiring scenery and seasonal stream of tourist traffic, the region is blessed with a large number of art and craft galleries. A traditional fishing centre, the seafood is top-notch, and decorative shellfish traps and sealskin products are also available for purchase.
- 1 Women's Institute Craft Shop, 100 Discovery Trail (Hwy 230), Port Union. Seasonal. Handicrafts made by the members of the local Women's Institute, a non-profit service and advocacy organization.
- 2 Aunt Sarah's Chocolate Shop, 7 Dock Lane, Trinity. Small-batch high-quality hand-made Belgian and other style chocolates.
- 1 , Upper Amherst Cove, ☏ . W-Su 12pm-8pm. A destination unto itself, this restaurant and bakery sources food from local gardens and hosts a brick pizza oven. The setting is spectacular and food is excellent. Expect to wait for a table if visiting on a weekend. $12-$24 for mains.
- 2 Susie's Craft Shop and Cafe, 1 Main St, Birchy Cove (Right on the highway, the only way you can miss it is if you're speeding or looking at the fantastic view to the other side of the road), ☏ . Expensive dishes made with fresh crab, cheap everything else. $12-20 for crab, $3-8 for others.
- Angie's Old Style Country Diner, Little Catalina
- 1 Port Rexton Brewery and Tasting Room, 6 Ship Cove Rd, Port Rexton, ☏ . Mid-May to Oct, hours vary. A craft brewery serving good beer made on-site.
There are B&Bs and vacation homes available throughout the peninsula.
- 2 Lockston Path Provincial Park (a few kilometres north of Port Rexton on the gravel Hwy 236), ☏ . 57 campsites each with fire pits and near to pit toilets. A service block at the far end offers showers and laundry. WiFi is available during limited hours near the centre of the campground. Onsite caretaker, advance online bookings available. $20.15 for partial service camping, $30.90 for full service camping; discounts for seniors and long-term.
There are a few post offices. There is no cellular service on the Rogers network.
- Bonavista, the town at the northern tip of the peninsula
- Clarenville, the town at the southern tip of the peninsula
- Terra Nova National Park, the nearest National Park
- Gander, home to the nearest airport offering commercial flights
- St. John's, the Provincial capital and largest city on the island
- Eastern Newfoundland, the wider region of which this is just a small part
- Twillingate, a popular town about 4 hours to the north, famed for its icebergs
- Gros Morne National Park, among Newfoundland's most popular destinations