Cape Bonavista, on Newfoundland's Bonavista Peninsula, is one of the island's best scenic and historical gems. The lighthouse here was erected in 1843, and is now a provincial historic site. There is a 2km trail that runs along the shoreline around the lighthouse and it is a great place for spotting icebergs and whales.
The story of the Cape goes back to 1497, when scholars believe that the Venetian mariner Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) first landed on the new world and claimed the island of Newfoundland under the crown of England. Just a short distance from the lighthouse there is a large bronze statue of Cabot, commemorating his legacy and in the town of Bonavista itself, there is a replica of his ship the "Matthew" and an interpretation center that tells the story of how he came to be the discoverer of North America.
200 years later, just after the Queen Ann War, the treaty of Utrecht in 1713 established Cape Bonavista as the boundary between the French and English fishing rights in Newfoundland. The English received the right to fish from Cape Bonavista in the north to Cape Race on the southern shore of the Avalon Peninsula. The French maintained the rights from the north of the cape all the way to Pointe Riche on the Great Northern Peninsula. There is still evidence today of the French presence on the north side of Bonavista Bay, and there is a provincial historic site commemorating the French presence in the town of Bonavista itself.
I visited during the 24th of May weekend and the bay was still choked with hundreds of icebergs ranging from small "bergy bits" and "growlers" to three storey towers of ice. There are several good lookout points around the cape that you can use to get some good views of the ice below. During my visit I got to experience the exiting spectacle of watching a fair sized berg rolling over and cracking under its own weight.
Although you could kayak around the cape I would not recommend it for anyone less than an expert paddler. Landing sites are few and far between and the few that do exist are dangerous surf landings. Whales are common in this area during June and July.
Cape Bonavista is a short route but it is very scenic and historically significant. Combined with nearby Dungeon Provincial and the many national and provincial historic sites in the town of Bonavista, you can make a full day of exploring on the historic Bonavista Peninsula.
Take route 230 from the TCH near the town of Clarenville. Follow 230 all the way to the town of Bonavista.
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