It's commonly believed that in 1497, when Italian explorer John Cabot first arrived in Canada, he docked in present-day Bonavista, Newfoundland and Labrador. Today, the town name is often attributed to something Cabot allegedly said when he set eyes on the area: “O buon vista,” or, “Oh, happy sight.” It’s not difficult to see why he was in awe — Bonavista, Newfoundland is teeming with natural splendours.

Backed by dense forests, the small seaside town sees humpback whale pods, puffin colonies, goliath icebergs, seals, sharks and more wildlife in the summer. Colourful fishing boats bob in the harbour; sparse clusters of quaint abodes dot the shoreline; and Cape Bonavista Lighthouse, painted in red and white stripes like a carnival tent, keeps a watchful eye over Bonavista’s treacherous cliffs.

Three hours north of St. John's, Bonavista, Newfoundland sits on a peninsula with other adorable towns like Trinity, Elliston and Port Rexton, all within an hour of one another by car, and worthy of a Newfoundland road trip. Each pit stop on the peninsula is a hidden gem in its own right: Bonavista, for mouth-wateringly fresh seafood; Trinity, for history and culture; Elliston, for its kooky root cellars; and Port Rexton, for some of the best beer in the province. Across the peninsula, local tours offer bucket-list-worthy expeditions out onto the open water to get up close and personal with the wildlife.

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While the area has historically relied on salt fish catches as a major industry, it’s become a popular tourist destination. Here, you’ll stumble upon dozens of family-run restaurants, rowdy pubs and rustic tea rooms serving traditional, homestyle seafood meals. Dig into Newfoundland favourites like cod tongue, fish and brewis (cod, pork fat and dry biscuits) and jiggs dinner (corned beef, veggies and dumplings), and other Atlantic bounties like lobster, crab and mussels.

True to reputation, Newfoundlanders are friendly to a fault. Whether through sharing cheery conversation with a stranger, enjoying live music or savouring a meal in a lively atmosphere, you’ll feel like you’re part of the family from the moment you arrive. If you’re looking for adventure or to soak in the rural Newfoundland charm, this is the place to be.

What to see and do in Elliston and Bonavista, Newfoundland

Elliston Puffin Viewing Site

In Elliston, you might feel like you’ve arrived in The Shire. In the root cellar capital of the world, there are more than 130 of the little caves peeking out from hills across town. You’ll spot several on your way to Elliston Puffin Viewing Site, a roosting site on a rocky outcropping high above the beach. During the summer mating season, watch thousands of the little creatures hop around their burrows before leaping into the swells below.

Bonavista Puffin and Whale Tours

Bonavista, Newfoundland | An iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland

In the summer, there’s never a slow day in Bonavista’s waters. Sign up for a voyage with Bonavista Puffin and Whale Tours to witness the incredible local wildlife. Local skippers entertain with jokes and stories as you venture into the open ocean, spotting whales frolicking and breaching the surface. You’ll coast by an Atlantic Puffin colony and get within feet of gargantuan 10,000-year-old icebergs.

Bars and restaurants in Port Rexton and Trinity, Newfoundland

The Twine Loft

Enjoy a fine-dining meal right on the shores of the Atlantic at Twine Loft in Trinity. In the cozy cottage-style dining room, you’ll gaze out to sea as chefs prepare elegant plates with Newfoundland seafood, like chowder or cod en papillote. Dig into mains like brown beer-braised lamb shank, or maple blueberry chicken over candlelight. Local beer is on the drink menu, with ales from Newfoundland favourites like Quidi Vidi and Port Rexton Brewing Co.

Port Rexton Brewing

This brewery and lively year-round taproom is a must-visit on a trip to the Bonavista Peninsula. Order a flight and sample a variety of their popular craft brews, from easy-drinking blonde ales and medium-bodied porters, to zesty kettle sours and gluten-free options. Mingle with the locals under the dangling light bulbs, and catch a live music performance. Take your ale outside to soak in some rays on the patio, and grab a grilled cheese from the on-site food truck.

Where to stay in Trinity, Newfoundland

Artisan Inn

Stay at Artisan Inn, a “diffused hotel” with numerous properties across Trinity. Individual rooms can be booked in the three-suite Barbour House; or, choose an entire vacation home or private suite like Campbell House with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, two optional lofts and a private patio with a propane fire table. Each suite strikes a balance between chic and historic; settled in the 16th century, Trinity has a storied past.