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How To See Puffins In Elliston, Newfoundland In Canada


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Leilah Colella



Welcome to Elliston, Newfoundland, a charming little town on the eastern coast of Canada. Known as the “Root Cellar Capital of the World,” Elliston offers much more than just an intriguing history of root cellars. It also happens to be one of the best places in the country to see puffins up close in their natural habitat.


Situated on the Bonavista Peninsula, Elliston boasts breathtaking coastal views, rugged cliffs, and an abundance of wildlife. But it’s the puffins that steal the show. These adorable seabirds are often referred to as “clowns of the sea” due to their colorful beaks, striking plumage, and amusing antics. Watching them dive into the ocean and fly through the air is a true delight for nature enthusiasts and bird lovers alike.


Every year, thousands of Atlantic puffins migrate to the cliffs of Elliston to breed and raise their young. This has made the town a premier destination for birdwatching in Canada. Whether you’re a seasoned birder or a casual observer, witnessing the puffins in Elliston is an unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe of the wonders of nature.


But puffins aren’t the only attraction Elliston has to offer. The town is also home to beautiful sandy beaches, picturesque hiking trails, and a rich cultural heritage. You can explore the charming streets lined with colorful houses, visit local artisans’ studios, or indulge in delicious fresh seafood at the waterfront restaurants.


So, if you’re looking for a unique and unforgettable adventure, Elliston should be at the top of your list. In this article, we will guide you on the best time to visit, where to stay, how to get to Elliston, the top puffin viewing sites, and other wildlife you can spot in the area. Get ready to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and charm of Elliston, Newfoundland.


Why Elliston, Newfoundland?

When it comes to observing puffins in Canada, Elliston stands out as a top destination. Here are a few reasons why Elliston, Newfoundland should be on your radar for a puffin adventure:


1. Puffin Capital of North America: Elliston proudly holds the title of the “Puffin Capital of North America.” With its coastal cliffs and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, Elliston provides the perfect breeding ground for puffins. The town has made significant efforts to protect and preserve these seabirds, making it an ideal place to witness their natural behavior up close.


2. Abundance of Puffins: Every summer, thousands of puffins flock to the picturesque cliffs of Elliston to nest and raise their young. The cliffs offer ideal nesting sites, with safe nooks and crannies for the puffins to lay their eggs. This means that visitors to Elliston have a high chance of spotting numerous puffins during their visit.


3. Accessibility: Unlike some puffin colonies that are difficult to access or require long boat rides, the puffin viewing sites in Elliston are easily accessible from the town itself. You can simply walk to the cliffs or drive a short distance to reach the prime locations for puffin sightings. This convenience makes Elliston an excellent choice for birdwatchers of all ages and mobility levels.


4. Spectacular Coastal Scenery: Elliston’s rugged coastline and stunning cliffs add to the overall charm of the puffin viewing experience. The dramatic cliffs provide a magnificent backdrop as the puffins dive into the ocean and soar through the air. The combination of the vibrant seabirds and the breathtaking coastal scenery creates a truly memorable and picturesque setting.


5. Diverse Wildlife: While puffins may be the main attraction, Elliston is also home to an array of other wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for other seabirds such as razorbills, kittiwakes, and murres, that share the coastal cliffs with the puffins. You may even catch glimpses of whales swimming offshore if you’re lucky.


6. Cultural Heritage: In addition to its rich wildlife, Elliston has a fascinating cultural heritage. The town is renowned for its historical root cellars, which were used to store food supplies in the past. You can explore these unique structures and learn about the early settlers’ way of life. Elliston is also known for its vibrant arts and crafts scene, with local artisans showcasing their talents in pottery, painting, and more.


With its abundant puffins, stunning scenery, accessibility, diverse wildlife, and cultural attractions, Elliston, Newfoundland, offers a truly unforgettable puffin viewing experience. Whether you’re a bird enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking a unique adventure, Elliston is the place to be. Get ready to immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of these adorable seabirds and the picturesque coastal landscapes.


Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Elliston, Newfoundland for puffin viewing is from May to August. During these months, the puffins migrate to the coastline to breed and raise their chicks, providing visitors with the best opportunities to see these charming seabirds in action.


May and June are particularly ideal for birdwatching in Elliston. This is when the puffins return to their nesting colonies after spending the winter out at sea. Witnessing the puffins reuniting with their mates and preparing their nests is a magical experience. It’s also a great time to see the adorable pufflings, the newly hatched baby puffins, as they emerge from their burrows.


July and August offer a different spectacle as the puffins are busy feeding their chicks. You can observe the parents flying back and forth from the sea, bringing back small fish and other prey for their hungry offspring. This period offers ample opportunities to witness the puffins in action and capture some incredible photographs.


It’s important to note that puffins are migratory birds, and their presence in Elliston is seasonal. Outside of the breeding season, the puffins venture out to sea, so it’s best to plan your visit during the established months to maximize your chances of seeing them.


Weather-wise, Newfoundland’s summers are generally mild, with temperatures ranging from 10 to 20 degrees Celsius (50 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit). However, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for unpredictable weather conditions along the coast, as fog and wind can be common. Dressing in layers and bringing a waterproof jacket is advisable, as well as wearing sturdy, comfortable footwear for walking along the cliffs.


Keep in mind that puffin viewing sites in Elliston can get crowded during peak visiting months, especially on weekends. To avoid large crowds, consider visiting on weekdays or during early morning hours. This will allow you to enjoy a more serene and intimate experience with the puffins.


Ultimately, the best time to visit Elliston for puffin viewing is during the breeding season from May to August. However, the stunning coastal landscapes, cultural attractions, and wildlife sightings make Elliston a captivating destination year-round. So, whenever you choose to visit, be prepared for an unforgettable adventure filled with adorable puffins and the natural beauty of Newfoundland.


Where to Stay

When planning a visit to Elliston, Newfoundland to see the puffins, you’ll find a range of accommodation options to suit your preferences and budget. Here are some recommendations for where to stay in and around Elliston:


1. Bed and Breakfasts: For a cozy and personalized experience, consider staying in one of the charming bed and breakfasts in Elliston. These accommodations offer comfortable rooms, delicious homemade breakfasts, and friendly hosts who can provide valuable insights about the area and help make your puffin viewing experience even more memorable.


2. Vacation Rentals: If you prefer a more independent stay, vacation rentals can be a fantastic option. There are cabins, cottages, and vacation homes available in and around Elliston, offering privacy and the opportunity to have your own space. This is particularly ideal for families or larger groups who want to enjoy the comfort and convenience of a home away from home.


3. Hotels and Motels: While Elliston itself may not have large hotel chains, there are hotels and motels available in nearby towns such as Bonavista or Trinity. These accommodations provide comfortable rooms and convenient amenities such as on-site restaurants, fitness centers, and parking facilities. Staying in these towns allows you to explore the wider area while still being within a short drive from the puffin viewing sites in Elliston.


4. Campgrounds and RV Parks: For those who enjoy camping or traveling in RVs, there are campgrounds and RV parks in the vicinity of Elliston. These options offer a more rustic and outdoor experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in nature while still being close to the puffin colonies. Be sure to check for availability and book in advance, especially during the peak summer months.


When choosing your accommodation, consider factors such as proximity to the puffin viewing sites, amenities provided, and your preferred level of comfort. It’s also worth noting that accommodations in the area can fill up quickly during the peak season, so it’s advisable to book well in advance to secure your preferred choice.


Regardless of where you stay, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the beauty of Elliston and its surrounding areas. Whether you choose a cozy bed and breakfast, a charming vacation rental, or a hotel in a nearby town, your stay in Elliston will be a delightful and convenient base for your puffin-watching adventures on the captivating Bonavista Peninsula.


How to Get to Elliston

Getting to Elliston, Newfoundland, is relatively straightforward, and there are several options available depending on your preferences and starting point. Here are the main ways to reach this charming coastal town:


1. By Air: The closest major airport to Elliston is St. John’s International Airport (YYT), located approximately 240 kilometers (150 miles) away. From here, you can rent a car and drive to Elliston, which takes about a 3-hour scenic journey along the Trans-Canada Highway. Alternatively, you can take a domestic flight from St. John’s to Gander International Airport (YQX), which is closer to Elliston, and then drive for about 2 hours to reach your destination.


2. By Ferry: If you’re traveling from Nova Scotia, you can take a ferry from North Sydney to Port aux Basques, which is located on the western side of Newfoundland. From Port aux Basques, you can drive across the island to reach Elliston. The ferry journey takes approximately 6-8 hours, and the drive to Elliston from Port aux Basques can take about 8-10 hours, depending on road conditions and stops along the way.


3. By Car: If you’re already in Newfoundland or prefer a scenic road trip, you can drive to Elliston from various points on the island. The Trans-Canada Highway provides access to Bonavista Peninsula, where Elliston is located. From the capital city of St. John’s, it’s approximately a 3-hour drive to reach Elliston. Keep in mind that road conditions may vary depending on the time of year and weather, so it’s important to check for any closures or advisories before your trip.


4. By Public Transportation: While limited, there is a local bus service that operates in Newfoundland, which includes stops in some towns on the Bonavista Peninsula. However, it’s important to note that the bus service may not directly reach Elliston. It’s best to check with the local transportation providers for the most up-to-date schedules and routes if you plan on using public transportation to get to Elliston.


Upon arriving in Elliston, having a vehicle will provide you with the most flexibility to explore the area and visit the puffin viewing sites. However, if you’re unable to rent a car or prefer not to drive, you may consider hiring a local tour operator that offers guided tours to Elliston and other nearby attractions.


Regardless of the method you choose, the journey to Elliston is part of the adventure. You’ll be treated to picturesque scenic views, charming coastal towns, and the warm hospitality of Newfoundland along the way. So, plan your mode of transportation, pack your sense of adventure, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey to Elliston, where puffin encounters and natural beauty await.


Puffin Viewing Sites in Elliston

Elliston offers several prime locations where you can observe puffins in their natural habitat. Here are some of the top puffin viewing sites in and around Elliston:


1. Elliston Point: Located on the eastern side of the town, Elliston Point offers stunning panoramic views of the rugged coastline and is one of the best spots for puffin watching. From the cliffside viewing area, you can often see puffins perched on the rocks, flying overhead, and diving into the water to catch fish. Elliston Point is easily accessible and provides an excellent vantage point to observe these adorable seabirds.


2. Bird Island: Just a short distance from Elliston, Bird Island provides another exceptional opportunity to see puffins up close. The island is home to a large colony of nesting seabirds, including puffins. You can witness the bustling activity of these beautiful birds as they come and go from their burrows and go about their daily routines. Boat tours are available to take you to Bird Island, allowing you to observe the puffins from a closer distance.


3. Cape Bonavista: While not within Elliston itself, Cape Bonavista is only a short drive away and is worth visiting for its impressive puffin colonies. The cliffs of Cape Bonavista are home to thousands of puffins during the breeding season. You can follow the walking trails along the coastline and find ideal viewing spots to watch the puffins, surrounded by breathtaking ocean views. Cape Bonavista also offers a lighthouse and a visitor center where you can learn more about the local wildlife and history.


4. Skirwink Trail: If you’re up for a scenic hike, the Skirwink Trail near Elliston is a must-visit. The trail, which winds its way along the coastline, offers incredible views of the rugged cliffs and the opportunity to spot puffins on the rocky ledges. The Skirwink Trail showcases the natural beauty of the Bonavista Peninsula and provides an immersive experience in the puffins’ habitat. Be sure to bring your camera and hiking gear to enjoy this picturesque trail while searching for puffins.


When visiting these puffin viewing sites, it’s important to respect the birds’ natural habitat and observe them from a safe distance. Keep in mind that puffins are wild animals, and it’s crucial not to disturb or approach them too closely. The use of binoculars or a camera zoom lens will allow you to appreciate their beauty while minimizing any disturbance to their activities.


Remember to check local wildlife regulations and any specific guidelines for each viewing site before your visit. These guidelines are in place to protect the puffins and their habitats, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy these remarkable birds in their natural environment.


So grab your binoculars, head to these puffin hotspots, and prepare to be amazed by the adorable antics and vibrant plumage of the charismatic puffins in Elliston, Newfoundland.


Tips for Seeing Puffins

Seeing puffins in their natural habitat is an incredible experience. To make the most of your puffin-watching adventure in Elliston, Newfoundland, here are some helpful tips:


1. Timing is Key: Plan your visit during the breeding season, which is from May to August, when the puffins are present in large numbers. Early mornings and late afternoons are often the best times to see active puffins as they engage in feeding and other behaviors.


2. Bring Binoculars or a Camera with a Zoom Lens: Puffins can sometimes be found on cliffs or out at sea, so having a pair of binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens will allow you to observe them more closely. You’ll be able to appreciate their vibrant colors and distinctive features without disrupting their natural behavior.


3. Dress Comfortably: Weather conditions along the coast of Newfoundland can be unpredictable, so be prepared for varying temperatures and the possibility of wind and fog. Dress in layers and wear sturdy footwear, as you may need to walk along uneven terrain to reach the best viewing spots.


4. Be Patient and Observant: Puffins are agile and swift flyers, and they may dive into the water for extended periods as they search for food. Keep a close eye on their movements and be patient. This allows you to capture incredible moments when they resurface or take flight.


5. Respect Their Space: Remember that puffins are wild birds, and it’s crucial to keep a respectful distance to avoid disturbing them or their nesting sites. Keep noise to a minimum and follow any designated pathways or viewing areas to minimize any potential impact on their natural behavior.


6. Listen for Their Calls: Puffins have distinct calls that can help locate their presence. Listen for their low growls, grunts, and the sound of their wings flapping as they fly. Familiarizing yourself with their calls can enhance your overall puffin-watching experience.


7. Consider a Guided Tour: If you’re new to puffin watching or want expert guidance, consider booking a guided tour. Local guides are knowledgeable about the area, the behaviors of the puffins, and can provide valuable insights that enhance your understanding and appreciation of these fascinating seabirds.


8. Bring Snacks and Water: Spending time watching puffins can be an immersive experience, so pack some snacks and water to stay hydrated and energized throughout your outing. Having a picnic near a puffin viewing site can also allow you to spend more time observing their behaviors.


Remember that puffins are just one of the many natural wonders in Elliston. Take the time to explore the beautiful coastal landscapes, visit the charming towns, and immerse yourself in the rich culture and heritage of the region while you’re there.


By following these tips and respecting the puffins’ natural habitat, you’ll have a memorable and ethical puffin-watching experience in Elliston, Newfoundland.


Other Wildlife in Elliston

While puffins steal the spotlight in Elliston, they are not the only fascinating wildlife you can encounter in this part of Newfoundland. The rugged coastal landscape and diverse ecosystems support a range of other wildlife species. Here are some of the other wildlife you may have the chance to spot during your visit to Elliston:


1. Whales: The waters off the coast of Newfoundland are home to numerous whale species. Keep your eyes peeled for majestic creatures such as humpback whales, minke whales, fin whales, and even the occasional orca or sperm whale. Whale watching tours and boat excursions are available in the area, allowing you to witness these incredible marine mammals up close.


2. Seals: Seals are a common sight along the shores of Newfoundland. Look out for harbor seals and grey seals, which often bask in the sun on rocky outcrops or swim gracefully in the water. These charismatic creatures can often be spotted near harbors, coastal areas, and on boat tours.


3. Bald Eagles: Keep your eyes on the skies for the magnificent bald eagle, a symbol of power and freedom. These large raptors often soar above the cliffs and shoreline, searching for prey or nesting sites. Witnessing a bald eagle in flight is a memorable experience that adds to the natural beauty of Elliston.


4. Other Seabirds: Puffins may be the stars of the show, but Elliston is also home to a variety of other seabirds. Look for razorbills, kittiwakes, common murres, cormorants, and seagulls as they soar through the air or nest on the cliffs. Each of these birds has unique characteristics and behaviors that can be fascinating to observe.


5. Foxes: While puffins and seabirds dominate the coastline, you may encounter the cunning and elusive red fox in the grassy areas and wooded sections near Elliston. These small carnivores are known for their beautiful reddish coats and can occasionally be spotted foraging and exploring their territory.


Remember, wildlife sightings are never guaranteed, as animals roam freely in their natural habitats. However, by exploring the coastal areas, taking boat tours, and keeping an eye out for movement and signs of wildlife, you increase your chances of encountering these incredible creatures.


Always remember to observe wildlife from a respectful distance and avoid disturbing their natural behavior or habitats. Appreciate the beauty of these animals and cherish the opportunity to witness them in their natural environment.


So, while you explore the puffin hotspots in Elliston, keep your senses alert for other fascinating wildlife encounters. Elliston is a nature lover’s paradise, where the magic of puffins and the wonders of the animal kingdom come together to create an unforgettable experience.


Nearby Attractions

While Elliston itself offers a wealth of natural beauty and wildlife, there are also several nearby attractions that are worth exploring during your visit. Here are some notable attractions in the vicinity of Elliston:


1. Bonavista: Just a short drive from Elliston, the town of Bonavista is a must-visit destination. This historic town is steeped in maritime history and offers a variety of attractions, including the famous Bonavista Lighthouse, Ryan Premises National Historic Site, and Mockbeggar Plantation. Explore the charming streets lined with colorful houses, visit local art galleries, and indulge in delicious seafood at one of the waterfront restaurants.


2. Trinity: Located approximately an hour’s drive from Elliston, the picturesque town of Trinity is a gem of Newfoundland. Step back in time as you wander through its well-preserved historic district, featuring beautifully restored 18th-century buildings. Take a guided tour of the Trinity Pageant, a reenactment that brings the town’s colorful history to life. Enjoy coastal walking trails, boat tours, and the renowned Rising Tide Theatre, which showcases local talent.


3. Dungeon Provincial Park: Just a short distance south of Bonavista, Dungeon Provincial Park is a natural wonder that combines stunning coastal beauty with intriguing geological formations. The park features towering sea stacks, natural arches, and a collapsed sea cave known as “The Dungeon.” Take a leisurely stroll along the trails and marvel at the power of the ocean carved into the rugged cliffs.


4. Cape Bonavista: While previously mentioned as a puffin viewing site, Cape Bonavista is also a worthwhile attraction in its own right. The cape offers breathtaking views of the rugged coastline, a historic lighthouse, and the opportunity to spot icebergs during the spring and early summer months. Explore the walking paths, visit the Ryan Premises National Historic Site, and learn about the area’s rich fishing heritage.


5. Twillingate: If you have more time to venture a bit further, consider a day trip to the beautiful town of Twillingate. Known as the “Iceberg Capital of the World,” Twillingate offers stunning coastal scenery, boat tours to see icebergs, and the chance to sample delicious fresh seafood. Explore the Long Point Lighthouse, hike scenic trails, and experience the vibrant culture and hospitality of this charming fishing community.


These nearby attractions provide a variety of experiences beyond puffin viewing, allowing you to delve deeper into the natural beauty, history, and culture of the Bonavista Peninsula. Whether it’s exploring charming towns, learning about Newfoundland’s rich heritage, or witnessing the breathtaking coastal landscapes, these attractions complement your visit to Elliston and ensure a well-rounded and memorable journey.



Elliston, Newfoundland, is a hidden gem for nature lovers and bird enthusiasts, offering an incredible opportunity to see puffins in their natural habitat. From May to August, thousands of these colorful seabirds flock to the cliffs of Elliston to breed and raise their chicks, creating a captivating spectacle that is hard to beat.


But Elliston is more than just a puffin haven. The town’s stunning coastal landscapes, charming streets, and rich cultural heritage make it a destination worthy of exploration. You can immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Bonavista Peninsula, embark on scenic hikes, and uncover the fascinating history of the area’s fishing communities.


Whether you choose to observe puffins from cliffside viewpoints, take a boat tour to Bird Island, explore nearby attractions like Bonavista and Trinity, or venture further to encounter icebergs in Twillingate, there is no shortage of incredible experiences awaiting you in this corner of Canada.


Remember to respect the puffins and other wildlife, keeping your distance and observing them from a respectful standpoint. Plan your visit during the breeding season, bring binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens, and be patient as you wait for memorable puffin sightings.


So, pack your sense of adventure, venture off the beaten path, and prepare to be enthralled by the charm and wonder of Elliston, Newfoundland. Whether you’re a seasoned birder, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply seeking a unique and unforgettable experience, Elliston is the perfect destination to witness the magic of puffins and immerse yourself in the beauty of Canada’s eastern coast.