We’re only three hours from the ferry at Argentia or from the Airport at Gander, and just three and a half hours from the provincial capital of St. John’s. Take the Trans Canada Highway to Highway 230 or 233 and cruise north along the coast.. There are tourist chalets and craft stores located along the route and throughout the town.
Please take sometime and view some of the attractions awaiting your discovery below.
The Ryan Premises & Bonavista Museum
For more than 100 years this merchant-run salt fish complex served as a key economic force behind Bonavista’s inshore fishery. The Ryan family made their fortune buying and curing salt cod and selling it all over the world.
Cape Bonavista Lighthouse
Throughout history innumerable vessels sailing through Newfoundland’s waters have been dashed upon the rocks of her rugged coastline. The lighthouse and that extraordinary breed of men and women who chose to maintain and operate.
The Matthew Legacy
John Cabot’s famous voyage of dicovery to Newfoundland was made in a 65-foot caravel called the Matthew, almost certainly named for Cabot’s wife, Mattea. The Matthew was a decked vessel of 50 tons, with a high sterncastle and three masts.
We do not know precisely when John Cabot – or Giovanni Caboto, to use his original, Italian name, was born, or even where he was born. It is most likely, though, he was born around 1455 in Gaeta, near Naples, Italy, and was the son of a spice merchant. His name is also associated with Genoa, and he may have spent time there.
Bonavista is built upon sedimentary deposits of the Precambrian Age (600 million years ago). On the road between Lance Cove and Bonavista you’ll find one of nature’s carvings – the Dungeon. It is a circular opening in the cliff with two seaward-side channels where the sea roars through.
The earliest owner of the Mockbeggar Property that has been identified was Joseph White of Poole (1685-1771). He carried a diversified business related to codfishing, salmon, and seal fisheries, ship building, and trading between Newfoundland, Ireland, New England and the West Indies.
The carriage gun in front of the courthouse was used in the First World War.
The Whipping Post
In 1754 Bonavista had an institution known as the “Whipping Post” where lawless people were punished as an example to others at that time. There was no clergyman, no day scholls and the world had not heard of the renowned Robert Raikes or the Sunday School Institution as we know it today.
Bonavista’s first courthouse burned to the ground in 1897. The present courthouse was built in 1900, on the very spot where Bonavista’s English defended themselves from French attack in 1704, and where the Whipping Post stood.
White Rock Murals
Located atop White Rock is one of the Town’s water tanks. It was constructed in 1995/96, and was painted with paintings portraying life and the history of the Town of Bonavista.
The highest point of land in Bonavista is White Rock. Visitors can drive up to the rock and be rewarded by a magnificent view of Bonavista, the nearby town of Spillars Cove and the Atlantic Ocean. It is a great place for photographer to take scenic pictures of the surrounding country.
Alexander (Bridge) House
The oldest house in Bonavista today is the 182-year-old dwelling built in 1811 by Alexander Straithie, a Scottish tradesman from Renfrew, Scotland. It is also the oldest surviving structure documented in Newfoundland. This is not to say that there may not be older structures in the province but that the Bridge House is the one to which the oldest date.
Loyal Orange Lodge
This Lodge Building, the largest fraternal hall of wooden construction in North America, was built in 1907. Displayed inside are many artifacts of the local lodge, including furniture, certificates, and photographs. The Orange Lodge was the site for many historic gatherings. Among the noteworthy Newfoundlanders who spoke in the lodge was Sir Wm. F. Coaker, founder of the Fisherman’s Union and the neighbouring community of Port Union. Sir William addressed a public gathering at the lodge in 1912, while trying to establish the ‘Bonavista Platform.’
Memorial United Church
The first Methodist church was constructed in 1814 under the ministry of Rev. William Ellis. It served its congregation for thirty-five years and was known as the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel while its followers were called ‘Wesleyans’. In 1851, it was felt that the church.
St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church
(1815 – 1842) This small church with Gothic Revival elements was erected on what became known as Chapel Hill. Permission to build was granted by Governor Pickmore in 1815, and the building was completed in 1842 with its first priest being Rev. Father Matthew Scanlan.
Flakes and Stages
Flakes – wooden platforms covered with spruce or fir poles (longers) – and stages – primitive wooden buildings (frequently built over the water along the shoreline) – were essential to the fishermen for landing, splitting, salting and drying their catches of codfish.
J.T. Swyers Company Ltd.
Joseph Thomas Swyers (1876-1965) was the founder of J.T. Swyers Co. Ltd. Joseph, after the death of his father Joe Swyers, being the eldest in the family, was left to provide for his mother and sister. He had saved twenty dollars and went to see Mr. James Ryan, who was the leading merchant in Bonavista at this time. He told Mr. Ryan that he wanted to start a business.
The Cape (Cape Bonavista) like most of coastal Newfoundland provides a home and sanctuary for a great variety of seabirds. The offshore islands, high cliffs, and sea stacks provide ideal nesting places. The great black back gull commonly known as the saddleback and the herring gull are the prominent species but a variety of others such as the Atlantic Puffin can be seen.
Several species of whales, the minke and humpbacks in particular visit our shores in early summer to feed on the schools of hearing, mackerel and especially caplin that are present in inshore waters at this time of year. It is a rare privilege to watch the swimming and feeding display put on by these huge mammals.
The icebergs come in all shapes and sizes moved by the wind and sea. Most of them originate from the large portions of ice that break off from the glaciers on the west coast of Greenland.
All around the coast of the Bonavista one is captivated by the scenic beauty of the rugged coastline. Seastacks, caves, beaches, steep cliffs and islands…all carved by wind and sea.
The Town of Bonavista is full of history. Many of its buildings, both homes and businesses, have been classified as Heritage Structures due to their age and significance to the history of our Town and province. In recent years, funding has become available to restore many of these buildings to their original state. These restorations are still ongoing.
Heritage Townscape Project
Over the last couple of years, Bonavista has been undergoing a historical facelift. Funding has become available to enhance the downtown and harbour areas and to restore heritage structures to their original state. Visitors may note the new platation of trees, park benches, parking lots, sidewalks, and facilites being added to the downtown areas.