Skip to Content

Best Places to See Puffins in Newfoundland

This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking and making a purchase through the links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. See my disclaimer for more information. This and display ads allow me to keep the site up to date and give back.

Wondering where to see puffins in Newfoundland? Let me help you! I grew up in Newfoundland and love photographing these silly birds.

Amidst the breathtaking landscapes of Newfoundland, there’s a group of charming seabirds that steal the hearts of visitors and locals alike—the Atlantic puffins.

With their distinctive appearance, comical antics, and endearing personalities, these adorable birds have become one of Newfoundland’s most beloved icons. They were designated the provincial bird in 1991!

If you’re planning a trip to Newfoundland, these are the best places to see puffins.

#1 PUFFIN TOUR NEWFOUNDLAND

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Newfoundland Puffin Cruise

✅  Spot whales and puffins in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve

✅ Reserve is home to over 2.5 million seabirds 

✅ Learn from crew and naturalists on board

Where to find puffins in Newfoundland

Witless Bay Ecological Reserve

witless bay ecological reserve newfoundland
Witless Bay

The Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, located near Bay Bulls, is home to one of North America’s largest Atlantic puffin colonies.

This area has whales and several bird species, including puffins, common murres, black guillemots, northern gannets, greater shearwaters, and northern fulmars. I did a puffin-watching tour here a few years ago, which was incredible!

puffins in bonavista newfoundland

You’ll have to hop on a boat tour from Bay Bulls to visit the island. It’s one of the best places to see puffins near St. John’s, just a 25-minute drive from the city.

You’ll head out into the reserve’s protected waters, where you’ll encounter thousands of puffins nesting on the cliffs and diving into the sea. This memorable experience offers a unique chance to witness puffins in their bustling breeding grounds.

four puffins in newfoundland
Witless Bay

The tour takes place on a catamaran with a spacious viewing platform that can accommodate up to 100 people on its outside deck.

At the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, the onboard crew and naturalists share insight into the 2.5 million seabirds and the large populations of whales that call the reserve home. It’s by far the best place to see puffins in Newfoundland!

The boat will stop along sheltered areas of the islands that comprise the reserve, where you can watch seabirds in their natural habitat. Some species you can see include Atlantic puffins, common murres, black guillemots, northern gannets, greater shearwaters, and northern fulmars.

Elliston puffins

A close-up of two curious puffin in Newfoundland, its striking orange beak and soulful eyes captivating the viewer with its endearing charm
Puffins in Bonavista

Elliston, a charming coastal town located on the Bonavista Peninsula, is known as the “Root Cellar Capital of the World.” However, this picturesque destination is not just famous for its historic root cellars; it is known as being one of the best places to see puffins in Newfoundland.

Head to the Elliston puffin viewing site to observe these adorable birds in their natural habitat.

Located just a short walk from the town’s center, this well-maintained viewing area offers a panoramic vista of Bird Island, a small, uninhabited island teeming with puffins and other seabirds during the breeding season.

While photographing puffins here from a distance, I was ecstatic when four flew over to the viewing site and were just a few feet away from me! I was able to capture amazing footage of them.

@explorewithlora Found in Elliston, Newfoundland #puffins #explorenl #newfiecheck #nlwx #newfoundlandersoftiktok #newfoundlandandlabrador #wildlifelover ♬ Fantasy – Alina Baraz / Galimatias
lora smiling happily with two puffins behind her

Puffins make incredible photography subjects with their vibrant beaks and distinctive waddling walk.

A captivating puffin portrait against a backdrop of rugged coastal cliffs, epitomizing the harmony between these endearing seabirds and Newfoundland's breathtaking environmen

Bonavista puffins

coastal cliffs and atlantic ocean in bonavista newfoundland

Bonavista Bay is another great place to see puffins. I haven’t done a boat tour here, but I have seen whales from the shore and puffins. Here’s a reputable boat tour operator that can bring you to a closer encounter.

However, I’ve found Elliston (next to Bonavista) to be a much better place to see puffins in Newfoundland up close. And it’s completely free to visit!

A group of puffins engaged in animated social interactions on a picturesque island off the coast of Newfoundland, showcasing their delightful personalities

Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve

Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve, situated on the southwestern coast of Newfoundland, is the most accessible seabird colony in North America.

It’a a haven for various seabird species, with bird rock being the third-largest nesting site of northern gannets in North America! It’s also a breeding area for murres, and you may see puffins.

The site is overflowing with birds perching and diving for food, creating a fantastic scene that will make you feel like you’re in an episode of planet earth.

When is the best time to see puffins in Newfoundland?

The best time of year to see puffins in Newfoundland is generally between May and August.

During this period, puffins arrive in Newfoundland for their breeding season, and the chances of spotting them nesting on coastal cliffs and islands are highest. The exact timing may vary slightly depending on weather conditions and the specific location you plan to visit.

A captivating puffin portrait against a backdrop of rugged coastal cliffs

Travel tips for spotting puffins in Newfoundland

  1. Research the Best Time: Puffins in Newfoundland typically arrive in late spring and stay until early fall. Plan your visit between May and August for the best chances of spotting these adorable birds during their breeding season.
  2. Seek Coastal Cliffs: Puffins prefer nesting on coastal cliffs and rocky islands. Look for locations along the Newfoundland coastline, such as Elliston, Witless Bay, and Cape St. Mary’s, where puffin colonies are known to thrive.
  3. Boat Tours: Consider taking a boat tour from reputable operators in areas like Bay Bulls or Bonavista. These tours provide access to prime puffin habitats and offer close-up encounters with these seabirds. The experienced guides can provide valuable insights into puffin behavior and habitats.
  4. Binoculars and Cameras: Bring a pair of binoculars to enhance your viewing experience and get a closer look at puffins perched on the cliffs or flying over the water. Don’t forget to bring a camera with a zoom lens to capture stunning photographs of these charismatic birds.
  5. Be Patient and Observant: Puffins cans sometimes be elusive, so patience is key. Spend time observing their nesting areas and watch for their distinctive flight patterns and colorful beaks. Keep an eye out for their characteristic dives into the water to catch fish.
  6. Check Weather and Tides: Puffins are more active and easier to spot during calm weather conditions. Check the weather forecast before your trip and try to choose a day with clear skies and minimal wind. Additionally, pay attention to the tidal patterns, as some puffin colonies may be more accessible during low tide.
  7. Follow Local Regulations: When visiting ecological reserves or protected areas, adhere to any guidelines or regulations in place to protect the puffin colonies. Maintain a respectful distance from the birds and avoid disturbing their natural habitats.
  8. Visit Early Morning or Late Evening: Puffins are generally more active during the early morning or late evening hours. Consider planning your visit during these times for the best chances of seeing them engaging in feeding or socializing behaviors.
  9. Enjoy the Surrounding Wildlife: While searching for puffins, keep an eye out for other seabirds, marine life, and the stunning coastal landscapes of Newfoundland. Seals, whales, and various other bird species often share the same habitats, offering additional wildlife-watching opportunities.
A group of puffins sunbathing on smooth rocks near the shore, soaking in the the Newfoundland sun while surrounded by the calming sound of crashing waves

FAQ: Newfoundland Puffins

Are there puffins in Newfoundland?

Yes, Newfoundland is home to an abundant population of Atlantic puffins. These charming seabirds nesting along the province’s coastal cliffs and islands.

When is the best time to see puffins in Newfoundland?

The best time is between May and August. During this period, puffins arrive for their breeding season, and visitors have the highest chance of spotting them in their colonies.

When do puffins nest in Newfoundland?

Puffins typically start nesting in Newfoundland in late spring, around May and continue until early fall, usually August. This nesting period provides the best opportunities to see puffins actively tending to their chicks.

Where can you see puffins in Newfoundland?

Puffins can be spotted along Newfoundland’s coastal areas, especially on cliffs and rocky islands. Popular locations include Elliston, Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, and Bonavita.

Where can I see puffins in St John’s?

While puffins are not typically found in St. John’s itself, you can take a short drive to nearby locations such as Witless Bay Ecological Reserve from St. John’s, where puffin colonies thrive.

How long do puffins stay in Newfoundland?

Puffins usually stay in Newfoundland from late spring to early fall, which spans approximately five to six months, encompassing their breeding season.

Where is the best place to see puffins in Canada?

Newfoundland offers some of the best places in Canada to see puffins. The Witless Bay Ecological Reserve is particularly famous for hosting large colonies of puffins and other seabirds.

Final thoughts: Puffins in Newfoundland

Newfoundland is an incredible province to visit, and the opportunity to witness puffins in their coastal habitats adds an extra layer of magic to any visit. From the picturesque cliffs of Elliston to the protected reserves of Witless Bay, Newfoundland is one of the best places to see puffins in Canada.

The best time to see puffins in Newfoundland is during their breeding season, from May to August, when they arrive to nest and raise their adorable chicks. As you check out these spots, remember to maintain a respectful distance from the birds and follow ethical wildlife-watching practices.

Traveling through Newfoundland? Check out these posts!

up close photo of two puffins with overlay text that says where to see puffins in newfoundland

Author

  • Lora Pope

    Lora is a full-time digital nomad on a quest to visit every country in the world and pet as many dogs as she can along the way. Over the last 15 years, she has traveled to 70+ countries and six continents solo. She currently calls Puerto Vallarta, Mexico home and enjoys ending each day with sunset and tacos on the beach.

    View all posts