Skerwink Trail, Elliston’s Bird Island and Cape Bonavista Lighthouse – Three great walks on Bonavista Peninsula, NL

Skerwink Trail - photo by Karen Anderson
Skerwink Trail with view to Port Rexton

Skerwink Trail

This trail, also the local’s name for the Shearwater, a pelagic seabird that thrives offshore here, on Bonavista Peninsula is ranked in the top 35 hikes in the world by Travel and Leisure magazine. It’s 5.3 kilometres and though rated moderate to severe, we found it quite easy at a slow and steady pace with lots of breaks for appreciating the surroundings.

Located on a steeply inclined head of land in Trinity Bay, between Port Rexton and the town of Trinity, you access the trail on the Port Rexton side and head out in a clockwise direction. It doesn’t matter if you do go counter-clockwise, you’ll get the climbing done on the way out and enjoy a descent on the way back but, going clockwise is wise because it gives you the best angle to appreciate the views.

As you’ll see in the photos below, another reason we found the hike to be moderate was the perfect weather we enjoyed on our visit. My memory of it might not be nearly as serene had we done it in a howling gale. We got to start around 9:30 a.m. and enjoyed bluebird day with a dramatic cloud pattern forming offshore. Even with all the photo opp stops, we finished in 90 minutes. Are you ready to follow along?

Stillness

A few boats passed on the mirror of water below us. Birds called from the cliffs and rock stacks. The light danced off the water in ever changing patterns of blues, greys and green. Stunted trees hung on for dear life to the edge of the cliffs – a hint that wind is their usual companion and this day was an anomaly. Timber-stacked steps guided us up and down the steepest bits of the paths. A few songbirds and squirrels checked in on our progress.

When we rounded the tip and turned our back on the vast Atlantic we came face to face with Trinity harbour and its lighthouse perched on Fort (Admiral’s) point at the entrance. Descending to a pebbled beach opposite the town, there were several spots one could stop and just sit a spell on a bench to enjoy the view of this brightly coloured town.

Snaking along the path back inland past marshland ponds we arrived back at the trail’s head astounded to have only seen one other soul on the entire trek. Not crowded! We came to love and appreciate this about unspoilt Newfoundland.

Road food pit stop

Thinking of the day of touring ahead, back on the highway at Port Rexton, we stopped in at Two Whales Coffee Shop for a little sustenance. The fare is vegetarian with superb soups and baking. I liked it so much, I bought their cookbook. Check out the photos of their garden. With this much care taken, you know the food is going to be great.

Next stop: Elliston’s Bird Island Walk and Puffins!

Bird Island near Elliston on the Bonavista Peninsula would not appear to have any official status as a provincial or national park. The only attendant was a local person standing at the side of the road with a lanyard that said “volunteer.” Our volunteer’s name was Mark.

He put down the binoculars he was using to study a search and rescue helicopter that was doing training maneuvers near by and with a smile pointed the way. As an after thought he added, “Don’t forget, Elliston is also the root cellar capital of the world.” Mark was standing by a sign that said “Free Admission. Donations Appreciated. Your donations support Community Development.” It was all very curious but we chipped in because the place was neat and orderly and Mark really was a friendly and genuine volunteer.

The path from our sentinel Mark was straightforward. Straight down the small peninsula in front of us we paced and then up a slight rise to its point. There, we found birders and photographers of every shape, size and age with eyes glued to the rock about 50 metres offshore.

The birders have binoculars and large bird viewing lenses. The photographers have cameras with lenses as long and thick as a lumberjack’s arm. As an entrepreneur, part of me wanted to set up a pop-up camera and lens shop right there. Heck, I’d have bought one if there’d been such a thing. Especially after seeing how poorly my own shots turned out with only the zoom of an iPhone 10 Max. Those adorable little puffins were just out of my range. I definitely had lens envy.

However, this proved to be a good thing. It forced me to zone out the clicking of lightning fast shutter speeds and zone into using my own two lenses that are conveniently built into my head. There was a lot to appreciate in the spectacle before me.

Across the narrow divide, on a towering, flat, grass-topped rock was a massive and very frisky colony of puffins. There must have been a few thousand puffins.

Their swift aeronautical maneuvers amused. They could roll and dip through the air at ballistic speeds or deftly hover as they came in for landing on their bright orange feet with fish in beak. We learned that young puffins spend four or five years at sea before coming to island rocks like this on the coast of Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Ireland to produce their offspring – adorably named as Pufflings. 

A little later the same afternoon, as we drove by dozens of the root cellars Elliston is also famous for, we found more puffins on a rock at Cape Bonavista Lighthouse.

Cape Bonavista Lighthouse

There’s a long windswept trail leading from the town of Bonavista out to the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse. The distance is a little over six kilometers. We didn’t have time to do this trek but saw lots of people enjoying it on electric bicycles. I’ll put that on my bucket list for next time.

As a major bonus, we also saw a pod of four Minke whales in a feeding frenzy about 200 metres offshore as we arrived back at the Bonavista town harbour. Puffins and whales, all in one day, without leaving dry land? A feat you’d only achieve in incredible, unspoilt Newfoundland.

If you are like me, by the time you leave this spot, you’ll be softly singing the Canadian version of that great Woodie Guthrie song…

This land is your land, This land is my land, From Bonavista, to Vancouver Island. From the Arctic Circle to the Great Lakes waters, This land was made for you and me.

Where to stay and eat on Bonavista Peninsula

Trinity was our hub to explore the Bonavista Peninsula from. We knew we’d only have one night and were very happy with the BnB we found, Eriksen Premises. The room was a cozy quilted affair with private bath. There was a big parlour to relax in, if we’d had the time. Breakfast was homemade and ample in the morning. I bought a few nice gifts in the shop attached.

If you are going to stay longer in Trinity, I would recommend checking out the Artisan Inn and Vacation Homes. We ate at their restaurant Twine Loft and noticed the immaculate condition of several of their properties as we strolled about town at sunset before our dinner. The food was expertly cooked, service was professional yet friendly, the setting was a softly lit loft on a wharf overlooking the back harbour – in other words, sublime.

The other notable meal we enjoyed on the Bonavista Peninsula was a lunch at The Bonavista Social Club on the west side at Upper Amherst Cove. Wood-fired pizza and freezing cold draught beer, ingredients from an organic garden onsite, crazy good coffee and baked goods? We had all that and a view you never want to leave. Definitely make this side trip part of your main trip.

Note: This is NOT a sponsored post. My travel to Newfoundland was independent. All photos, words and opinions are my own.

1 Comment

Filed under Time in Nature, Travel

One response to “Skerwink Trail, Elliston’s Bird Island and Cape Bonavista Lighthouse – Three great walks on Bonavista Peninsula, NL

  1. Pingback: St. John’s, NL – Top Five Things To Do, Plus Places to Eat and Stay | Savour It All

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