Exploring Newfoundland: The Beautiful Penninsula of Bonavista

True to it’s designation

As we left St. John’s with the warmth of the city with us our next destination was Bonavista.  I had heard so much about the beauty of this place and everyone we met said it was one of the many go to places we had to see. On the way back west we came across a plaque that simply said shipwreck with an arrow. Hmmm we must go investigate. You know how I am about plaques! What we found was indeed a shipwreck. We followed the signs to a little place called Conception Harbour. There before us was the shipwreck of the whaling ship S. S. Charcot.

This ship had its issues before it broke its moorings and sank in 1968 in Conception Harbour. Built in 1923 it traveled the world when in 1937 it was damaged by heavy seas and repaired. After being sold many times to different companies it was purchased by Hawke Harbour Whaling Company in St. John’s. Tragically in 1959 the Whaling company caught fire and she sat in Conception Harbour until her final demise where she sits today. It is interesting how time and the elements took a once mighty ship and is taking back to the sea!

S. S. Charcot

What a great find!! Follow the plaques it is amazing what you will find!! This Chipmunk thinks so too!!

We stopped for the night at a place called Lockston Path Provincial Park. It is a path getting in there but worth the trip! Very nice park.

Off to Bonavista to apparently as the sign said was the most roadtrippable town. We would not be disappointed. Bonavista and the surrounding area of Elliston were both intriguing and beautiful! As we drove into this quaint little town you could feel the beauty we were about to behold. What we did not realize, was the interesting things to do in this little shoreline village.

So much to explore

We had read about a replica of John Cobot’s ship, Matthew. Off to find the ship. I will admit we got lost a few times in this little place. The ship was in a building on the harbour with a wonderful story of the ships doctor as he started as a boy on the ships that would eventually bring him here.


Jacomo was the son of a butcher who lived a simple life in a village by the sea named Genoa. He is described on the plaques as a common man who lived an uncommon life. At the age of 12 when he was no longer considered a child he left home to work on the merchant ships. He apprenticed under the surgeon working on ships employed by one of the largest trading families of Genoa. As he learned his trade he heard sailors talk of men risking their lives to sail past the edge of the earth, past the equator. It was said the water boiled and the sun burned with talk of monsters and storms. Terrors of the “the great empty sea.” As he listened he wondered what would cause men to take such risk into the unknown.

In 1485 his mentor passed away. He was lost without him and wandered the trade routes applying the skills in healing the sick as he went. It was at Claring Cross near London he would save a man by the name of Giovanni Cabato from 3 men who wished to do him harm and his life would take a new direction. As they sat and chatted over dinner he realized this man was “possessed and consumed by a vision” he did not quite understand. Giovanni told him of a plan to sail across the seas but stay north creating a shorter trade route. Giovanni was so sure of his success that Jacomo was convinced and excited of the prospect of finding a new way.

That evening they headed west. As they left the English Channel and headed out to sea, he fell asleep to the hope for a safe a travel. There was no maps to guide them only a compass and the stars to show them the way. They used different instruments to guide them, Astrolabe, a sounding lead and a log and reel.

The tools of the trade

After storms battered the ship for days land was finally sighted. It was filled with trees and fields by a sea filled with fish. After planting a flag for the British they returned swiftly to England to tell of what they found. Giovanni Caboto had discovered what is now Newfoundland.

His ship, Matthew even has an interesting story in that he wanted to name it after his wife. In those days it was bad luck to name a ship after a woman so just as Giovanni Caboto’s English name was John Cabot, Mateo his wife was Matthew. What an interesting story. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

In the museum as promised there was a life size replica of the explorer’s ship.

With a mast standing over 72 feet high it was an impressive sight! 4 main sails and miles of rope, a crew of 20 men sailed this great ship.

The crows nest is very far up!!

The people in the museum told us of a plantation house we must visit. A Plantation house?? I have always equated that description with Georgia and the cotton fields but really a plantation house is a house that can sustain itself. This was a fish plantation. In the early 1700’s the Mockbegger Plantation was a successful fishing operation which helped shape the the town of Bonavista. The house was built in 1870 and acquired by F. Gordon Bradly in 1939 and has been restored to that year. Entering the doors it is like a walk back in time when Newfoundland was deciding to join Canada or stay their own entity. I am so glad they decided to become a part of our great nation.

Beautifully restored

Our next stop was the lighthouse. Up the shoreline along the coast was a beautiful drive.

The lighthouse was so cute. They had tours of the inside and it was so little inside. Up the small spiral staircase case they showed us how weights were used to turn the lanterns on the tower to warn the ships of the peninsula. We were told it was one of the few lighthouses in the world that could still work with the original equipment.  Cool!

Bonivista Lighthouse

Just down from the lighthouse was the statue of John Cabot. Little did we know it would be our next Instagram boondocking spot.

The John Cabot Statue was neat and the views from where the statue stood were magnificent.

John Cabot
The view!

Little did we know the best was yet to come. As we had a bite to eat and watched as the sun set over the ocean our Ahhh factor increased by a thousand!!!

An incredible sunset
A beautiful boondocking spot

Waking up to a beautiful day and a fantastic view as I was making coffee Kim was out and about. She met a guy, on a rock that had a drone and was taking pictures. His name was Ryan and asked if we would like him to do a drone shot of us and the van. Oh yes please. This was the start of a great day!

Starting to leave town to make our journey west we came across Dungeon Provincial Park, just down the road from the lighthouse. We did not make it very far. Lol! We pulled in and was greeted by horses. I thought they had to be wild horses as this was a Provincial Park but it turns out that the horses belong to people in the community and this is also a community pasture. Just beautiful animals.

The horses

We entered the park and were amazed at what we had found. 600 million year old rocks that had been worn through by weather and water. Over the past 10,000 years the North Atlantic has worn away the sediment and rock to form sea caves. As the land above got thinner it collapsed and created arches of rock.

As immense as it was beautiful, the sea crashing through the rock was a sight to behold. The views of the bluffs and the ocean from this point were breathtaking to say the least.

Along the coast we noticed a fishing boat surrounded by seagulls. What a beautiful picture of what must have been a successful day for those fishermen.

A successful day!

Heading out of town we stopped at the Matthew ship gift shop. Walking back to the van we noticed this plant. It was pretty and unusual. As Kim bent down to touch it a gentleman stopped and told us they call that plant itching powder. Pheww she didn’t touch it! Lol! He told us as children they would break apart the pods and pit it on other children as a joke. It was very itchy when the pods were broken open.

Looks innocent!

As we drove south to go to Elliston as we were told there were Puffins there we saw this old house. We had past many but for whatever reason I had to stop and take a picture.

A picture of the past

Elliston we found out was more than Puffins. It also the home of the root cellar. The cold room in the basement of your grandmother’s house started here. Small rooms are built into the rock by the community and shared between households to keep their perishables cold.

Root cellar

Off to see the Puffins. To get to the island they were on was a little bit of a trek. Over rocks, down a trail by the edge of a bluff, up a small hill and we finally arrived.

Do not stray from the path!

Puffins are small birds that nest on cliffs and build small burrows in the rock. They are colorful little birds who feed off the fish and eels in the ocean. There are many species of Puffins and what we saw were the North Atlantic Puffins. They were cute and colorful!

North Atlantic Puffins

It is quite amazing how these little birds use their beaks and feet to dig out the soil between the rocks and create burrows to nest in. These little birds dive into the Atlantic to get the fish and can spend up to a minute ‘swimming’ under water although it usually only takes them 20 – 30 seconds to find what they need. Using their wings as if they are flying under water and their feet as rudders they can carry up to 4 fish back to their babies. It is interesting to note that they keep the same mate and the same burrow every year. They have about a 20 year life span and will flock together to keep predators away from the burrows. I also read they are nosey birds and if a tiff breaks out they will all come to see what’s going on. I just thought that was funny. In the winter they fly out to sea and are only seen in pairs or small numbers. They are true sea birds and only come to land to nest in early spring.

A Puffin by it’s nest

I always find nature amazing. How this little bird that is no bigger than a pop can can live through what must be horrendous conditions and thrive and prosper. Working together when needed but also able to survive those angry seas on their own.

Next week as we work our way west then south come along and see what we found in the beautiful town of Corner Brook.

Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure with me.


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