A vandalized road sign has Mélanie and I driving south from St. John’s towards Bay Bulls instead of west on the TransCanada Highway, but local assistance makes our second attempt successful and we leave the Avalon Peninsula for the first time as we drive past the southern tip of Conception Bay to stop for refreshments and an early morning stretch at the Whitbourne Visitor Information Center along the TransCanada Highway near the southern tip of Trinity Bay.
We would be remiss had we not captured these very realistic moose photographs before continuing past Trinity Bay and north around the end of Clode Sound to complete the 3 hour, 247 KM (153 mile) drive from St. John’s into Terra Nova National Park.
Our initial objective is to explore the Nature House Activity Centre at the Newman Sound Visitor Centre about 32 KM (20 miles) into Terra Nova National Park from the south park entrance which is about 32 KM (20 miles) north of Clarenville, Newfoundland.
Immediately following an entertaining and productive conversation with Parks Canada personnel to identify premium, short hiking opportunities, Mélanie and I enter the Nature House Activity Centre to investigate the Touch Tanks and immerse ourselves in the fascinating world of cold, salt water sea life.
Mélanie wastes no time in examining the living samples from the cold, crystal-clear salt water. I am content to take photographs. Our inner children are alive and well
There are a number of very interesting exhibits here. One which attracts our attention, for several minutes, is a remote-controlled underwater camera which we can operate to view sea life at the bottom of a nearby wharf. The sea floor is teeming with energetic life and large fish seem to find the movement of the camera interesting because we are frequently eyeball to eyeball with them via the monitor. Untouchable marine specimens can be viewed up close and personal through the thick glass of wall mounted aquariums where Mélanie needs to squeegee condensation created by the cold, circulating water behind.
The tour through the exhibits reveals fascinating facts about unique lifeforms and their seemingly bizarre behaviours.
In an adjacent room, the large tanks, behind the aquarium glass, reveal unusual fish and crustaceans hiding from more public visibility. There are classrooms on the periphery for children’s activity and education. Very impressive.
The Starfish Eatery, a small cafeteria at the back of Nature House, creates marvellous sandwiches on order and hosts large bay windows with views over the wharf extending into Newman Sound. It is one of our best lunch experiences and somewhat reminiscent of the view from Smitty’s Lounge overlooking St. John’s Harbour. Following lunch, we walk on the wharf and enjoy the sights, sounds and feel of the salt air waterfront. The fresh air odours are unique and interesting to me.
Parks Canada Staff have recommended two short hikes. The first is a short and easy 3.5 KM (2.2 mile) loop named Louil Hill. It is suggested best done clockwise and provides spectacular views over Alexander Bay and surrounding communities. The other recommendation is the 2.0 KM return (1.3 mile) Ochre Hill Trail with a variety of landscapes and natural attractions including breathtaking views of Clode Sound and Bread Cove.
There are many amazing hiking opportunities in Terra Nova National Park at varying lengths and skill levels up to the difficult 32 KM (20 mile) difficult Outport Trail along the south side of Newman Sound. This spectacular hike climbs Mount Stamford and visits the old abandoned saw mill settlement at Minchin Cove. There are more than 60 KM (37.5 miles) of hiking trails in Terra Nova National Park suitable for a wide variety of skill levels and ranging from short, easy strolls to challenging, difficult hikes.
Our decisions border on painful. There is so much to do and so little time. The decision is to pass on the short hikes and make the approximate 200 KM (125 mile) drive east on Bonavista Peninsula to visit Cape Bonavista between Bonavista Bay and Trinity Bay. It is difficult to evaluate the balance between driving distance and optimum discovery.