Ever eager to keep up my circumnavigation around the island, I move east, clockwise around the perimeter. Newfoundland’s “other” national park, Terra Nova, Gros Morne’s baby sibling sits on the east coast. If you drew an imaginary line across the northern part of the island from Gros Morne on the western side, chopping off all the “fingers and arms” that jut off from the coast, you would hit Terra Nova National Park on the eastern side.
Every national park has a reason to warrant protection and conservation by the National Park Service. In the case of Terra Nova, it’s the long coastal shoreline of the deep cut, long “sounds,” or inlets where the water meets the boreal forest. These bodies of water are natural magnets for bird watchers. The other anomaly within the park it’s large, tall, dense forest, a rarity on “The Rock,” particularly along the harsh, salty, windy coastline which typically stunts tree growth.
One observation I have made about Canada National Parks, if I may generalize, is that they seem “inside out” from US National Parks. In the US, we tend to surround our parks with concessions, services, infrastructure, while defining and confining “nature” within the park boundaries. In most cases, you will find minimal services inside the park itself, but instead must travel outside the boundary for conveniences.
In Newfoundland, it seems just the opposite. The national parks have really nice services and concessions in the core of the park. You will typically find campgrounds with wifi, laundromats, ice cream shops, tour companies, etc. in the heart of the park, but it’s difficult to tell where the park boundary ends, because “nature” just goes on and on for miles. In fact, Newfoundland is like one giant national park!
Newman Sound Campground within the park is a lovely family campground amidst dense, tall trees. Unlike Gros Morne which warranted three blog posts, that’s about all I have to say about Terra Nova, other than I did have a peaceful night sleep here with raindrops hitting the roof. Oh sure, one could spend days kayaking on the Sound and hiking in the forest, but those things I can do back in the USA…so I move on.
I leave Terra Nova bound for the Bonavista Peninsula. From everything I have read, this is one of the highlights of a trip to Newfoundland, and I am excited to get there! Everything I love…miles of rugged, craggy coastline pounded by deep blue surf, quaint little fishing villages, and a lot of opportunity for whale spotting. Never mind the lighthouse.
Though Leif Erikson was credited with “discovering” Labrador while Columbus got credit for the USA, it was John Cabot (a Venetian then known as Giovanni Caboto, seriously) who earned his piece of discovery pie when first landing on Newfoundland. He was believed to have made landfall on the Bonavista peninsula in 1497 at which time he supposedly exclaimed, “O buono vista!” which translates to “Oh happy site!” It later became the cape’s namesake, Bonavista. Happy site indeed!
It’s a drizzly, cold, damp, misty, moody morning when I leave Terra Nova to head up the western coast of the Bonavista Peninsula. Not the kind of day that I enjoy driving, but I really don’t want to be hemmed in the park with screaming, tent-bound kids on a rainy day. So I set the GPS for the Bonavista Social Club in Upper Amherst for a late lunch. With a name like that (a word-play on the famous Buena Vista Social Club Cuban musicians) I expect mostly hype, sorta like the Bora Bora Yacht Club which turned out to be a thatched hut. But this place is so busy, they gave up on taking reservations. So I am prepared for the wait. What else do I have to do on a cold, rainy afternoon?
I must set the stage first by saying it’s rare to find any kind of restaurant around the perimeter of Newfoundland (St. John’s being the exception) that serves anything but pan-fried cod. My food pyramid has all but collapsed while being in Newfoundland where “vegetables” consist of potatoes and carrots, and the closest you can come to “salad” is coleslaw. So a place famous for its wood fired pizza is an honest to goodness tourist attraction!
To pass through a lush garden of greens to reach the front porch, then enter a warm, cozy restaurant with a roaring pizza oven in the center on a cold, gray day is a little like an oasis in the desert. And to top it off, they have draft beer, Port Rexton T-Rex Porter. I take a seat at the bar, just in front of the open oven and enjoy not just my usual “one beer” with dinner because I’m driving. I’ll have two. I’m not going anywhere for awhile…
Continuing on north, I reach the town of Bonavista, larger and livelier than I had anticipated. It’s getting late in the evening, so I drive on out to Cape Bonavista, the site of the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse. There are actually two lighthouses in this site..well, one lighthouse and one “lightstation” as they are now officially called. The original Cape Bonavista Lighthouse, built in 1870, is now a National Historic Site, while the current lightstation sits on a tower just behind the historical structure.
The Cape Bonavista lighthouse is the last remaining place in Eastern Canada where you can see an example of a catoptric light. Using bowl-shaped (parabolic) reflectors with a highly polished silver surface, light from the seal oil lamp was reflected out to sea. The “bowls” were turned by a weight-driven clockwork mechanism that had to be rewound every two hours. The lamps used an average of 650 gallons of seal oil every year, until the switch was made to kerosene in 1895. At this time, Cape Bonavista got a “used” light from the Isle of May lighthouse in Scotland. It remained in service until 1962.
The entire cape is socked in when I arrive. I can see the image of the lighthouse, but the best photos I could hope for would be a fuzzy outline in grayscale. I have seen in the Escapees Days End directory (thanks, Chris!) that there is a good boondocking site nearby. Although “camping” is not typically allowed at the National Historic site, just outside the grounds there is a small municipal park on the cliffs edge overlooking a cove.
I find a spot with a view of the cove, and sit watching whale spouts out my window until the curtain of darkness comes down on the show. There are at least six humpbacks that I count in different positions at the same time. Who needs a whale watching boat when you have an RV??
Although I can no longer see the whales after nightfall, I can hear their husky, forceful exhale as they break the surface. This leads on into one of the most magical nights I’ve experienced yet…..falling asleep while listening to whales breathe in the cove beneath my bedroom window…Priceless!