Hiking and Culture On Newfoundland's Bonavista Peninsula, Canada

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14233A, Lodge


  • Look for whales, puffins, and bald eagles up close
  • Hike to abandoned fishing villages
  • Explore some of the oldest towns in North America


  • Comfortable motel/B&B accommodation
  • All breakfasts and lunches
  • Whale-watching excursion


DatesAug 9–16, 2014
StaffMelissa Nicholson

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Trip Overview

Please note that the trip dates have changed from what was originally published. If you have questions, please contact us.

The Trip

Known as “The Rock," Canada’s easternmost province is a place with its own time zone and its own dictionary. It’s also a place of arresting landscapes, impressive wildlife, and superlative hospitality.

We’ll spend our first and last nights in St. John’s, the centuries-old capital city, with its colorful houses and steep harbourside location. The rest of the week we’ll be on the Bonavista Peninsula, learning about the fishing that was Newfoundland’s heart and soul and making our own hearts beat faster from the rugged hiking and gasp-inducing coastal views.

Daily hikes will provide lots of opportunities for taking in the unique and varied geology and stirring scenery, as well as some cultural history. We’ll round out our days with a sampling of the Irish-influenced music scene, tours of St. John’s and Trinity (established in 1558), and a sunset excursion to a 170-year-old lighthouse. 

A trip to Newfoundland would be incomplete without boarding a boat. The tour price includes a Zodiac cruise to see if we can be watched by whales or spot some of the puffins, bald eagles, murres, kittiwakes, or other birds and marine life that frequent the area.


Day 1: We’ll meet midafternoon at our B&B in St. John’s. After introductions and orientation, we’ll take a short walking tour to get acquainted with the city’s historic buildings and colorful stories (or is that colorful buildings and historic stories?) before enjoying dinner at a local restaurant. 

Day 2: Today we’ll look for moose and marvel at the otherworldly Newfoundland landscape on our three-hour drive to Trinity. After getting settled into our motel accommodations, we’ll hike the woods and coastal cliffs of the three-mile Skerwink Trail, repeatedly cited as one of Canada’s best. 

Day 3: Our seven-mile hike takes us to the remains of two resettled villages, via quintessential harbors, a centuries-old cart path, a rocky summit, and a forest brook. Tonight, we’ll drive to the iconic lighthouse at the end of the peninsula and watch the sun set over Bonavista Bay.

Day 4: We anticipate close encounters with whales, bald eagles, sea birds, and other marine creatures as our excellent local guides take us out into Trinity Bay in a Zodiac. We’ll spend the remainder of the day in Trinity, where you can visit the historic sites, hike up to the top of the mound, or take in some local theater.

Day 5: Today begins with a visit to the town of Bonavista, which boasts a nearly 300-year-old fishing premises, a full-scale replica of the ship John Cabot arrived on in 1497, and a twin entrance sea cave. This afternoon, you’re free to explore Port Union, a National Historic District surrounded by trails, where some of the world's most unique and interesting fossils are readily visible.

Day 6: We’ll lace up our hiking boots again today for a section of the Little Catalina-Maberly Trail, with its beaches, coastal views, and perhaps even some land-based whale watching. The entire trail is approximately 10 miles; we’ll do a section that's the size of the group’s inclinations.

Day 7: We’ll get in one more hike before our return to St. John’s, a level walk around idyllic Tickle Cove Pond. Back in St. John’s, we’ll enjoy a farewell dinner together, then head to tiny George Street, and its profusion of pubs, in search of traditional music.

Day 8: After breakfast, it will be time to say our good-byes.



Getting There

Our trip will begin and end in St. John’s. St. John’s has an international airport (YYT) with flights connecting through Toronto, Halifax, Newark, or Montreal. A passport is required.

It is also possible to drive to Newfoundland, although significant time should be allowed.  Ferries sail regularly from North Sidney, Nova Scotia.  The crossing takes several hours and the closest landing is a two-hour drive from St. John’s.

Accommodations and Food

We’ll stay in comfortable bed-and-breakfast and motel lodging. Rooms are double occupancy, and all have private baths.  Some single rooms may be available, at additional cost, or we will match you with another solo participant.

The trip price includes all breakfasts and lunches. Breakfast will be provided by our B&B hosts in St. John’s, and prepared by the group in Bonavista. After breakfast each morning, we’ll pack sack lunches before setting out for the day’s activities. (Please bring reusable containers for your food.) We’ll have dinner each evening at local restaurants, at your own expense. Provisions will be made for vegetarians. If you have other dietary restrictions, please discuss these with your leader prior to the trip.

Trip Difficulty

Daily hikes range from 2-7 miles. Participants should be comfortable hiking several days in a row, over rocky, hilly, and possibly wet terrain. St. John’s is also quite steep, and walking around town will require a certain amount of exertion. We’ll hike at a relaxed pace, with plenty of time to soak up the scenery.

Equipment and Clothing

Sturdy, well-broken in hiking boots are essential. Full rain gear is also a must, as rain, drizzle, and fog won’t keep us from our appointed rounds. In your day pack, you’ll need a water bottle, reusable containers for packing your lunch, and anything else that keeps you comfortable for an active day outdoors. Cameras are highly recommended!

Valid passports are now required for U.S. citizens entering and leaving Canada.


  • Arms, Myron, Servants of the Fish.
  • Finch, Robert, The Iambics of Newfoundland.
  • McFadden, David, An Innocent in Newfoundland.
  • Momatiuk, Yva and Eastcott, John, This Marvellous Terrible Place: Images of Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • Proulx, Annie, The Shipping News.
  • Walls, Martha, Newfoundland Book of Everything.
  • Music: http://www.greatbigsea.com/music/discography


We’ll see firsthand the disastrous consequences of overfishing, and learn about the impact of new economic models like tourism and oil drilling on the people and the land. We’ll also gain a poignant perspective on what stands to be lost to climate change; icebergs and whales being just the beginning of the list.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Melissa Nicholson is a teacher and a world traveler, and hopes to someday combine the two. She fell wildly in love with Newfoundland on her first visit in 2006, and has been encouraging people to visit ever since. Melissa enjoys almost anything outdoors, including cross-country skiing, inline skating, rock climbing, and especially hiking. She has lived in London, Boulder, and Seoul, but home is Rochester, NY.

Assistant Leader:

Dr. Gail Tooker is a semi-retired professor of Science and Environmental Education at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cortland. She has been active in Sierra Club trips since 2003 and has served as assistant leader or leader for outings in Maine, Vermont, Oregon, Texas and upstate New York. Dr. Tooker received her advanced degrees from the University of Maine at Orono and lived in that state for nearly 20 years before moving to upstate New York in 1996 to work for SUNY. In her spare time, she likes to travel, both abroad and in the U.S., cross-country ski, go hiking and back packing, work in her gardens, and walk her dog.

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