When & Where To See Puffins In Newfoundland

The seabird capital of North America, Newfoundland is a bird watcher’s paradise.

We saw thousands of puffins and seabirds during our summer in Newfoundland and are sharing with you everything you need to know about where and when to see Atlantic Puffins in Newfoundland for yourself during the peak summer bird-watching season!

About Puffins In Newfoundland

A black and white Atlantic Puffin with an orange beak stretching its wings on the edge of a rocky cliff in Newfoundland

Not only are Atlantic Puffins extremely adorable, but they are also the official provincial bird of Newfoundland!

One of the four species of puffins, Atlantic Puffins call the North Atlantic Ocean home.

So what makes Newfoundland such a great place to see these tiny birds that look like a cross between a penguin and a toucan?

An estimated 60% of the Atlantic Puffin population comes to Newfoundland to nest in protected areas each year.

A group of atlantic puffins gathered around tunnels they have built for laying their eggs during the summer nesting and mating season
Atlantic Puffins dig tunnels to lay their eggs in

A species that spends most of its time at sea and far from land, summer in Newfoundland is some of the best chances you will get to see these cute creatures up close…and I mean REALLY close if you are lucky!

Flapping their wings 400 times per minute to fly at speeds up to 55 miles per hour, puffins are quick (and stealthy quiet)…you never know when one might just pop up beside you!

These monogamous pairs mate for life, and a trip to Newfoundland in the summer will have their bright orange beaks on full display for mating season, with cliffside tunnels for laying eggs on full display.

When To See Puffins In Newfoundland

White and black puffins with bright orange beaks posing on the cliffside at Elliston Point in Newfoundland

Puffin and seabird activity in Newfoundland typically stretches from the very end of May to the very beginning of September.

Your very best bet for seeing puffins will likely be in July and August, which also overlaps with whale activity and brings some of the best weather of the year to the island.

READ MORE: When Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit Newfoundland?

Where To See Puffins In Newfoundland

Use the following map to plan your trip to see puffins in Newfoundland! See more about each location and what to expect below.

Elliston Point

A small rocky island covered in puffins surrounded by bright blue waters crashing into the gray rocks below
Puffins mostly nest on the rocky islands just off the coast, but if you are lucky they will come to visit you on the land at Elliston Point

Elliston Point is the closest land-viewing site for Atlantic Puffins you will find in Newfoundland.

While many of the puffins will be nesting on nearby North Bird Island and South Bird Island, there are also plenty of puffins to be seen on the cliffs just across from the end of the path at Elliston Point.

If you are lucky you will even see puffins flying over to rest or grab nesting supplies right on your side of the cliffs on Elliston Point, only feet from where you yourself are perched.

On the morning of our visit to Elliston Point, we were amazed at just how many puffins we saw and how close they came to us on the mainland. Most of the pictures in this article were taken by us at the Puffin Site at Elliston Point!

Signs leading to a brown path through a bright green grass field to the famous puffin site at Elliston Point in Newfoundland

Park along Maberly Road in Elliston, and take a roughly five-minute walk down a narrow, well-grooved path to the famed puffin viewing site (see map above for exact location).

Admission to the Puffin Site is free, although donations are welcome.

Puffin Colony At The Cape Bonavista Lighthouse

The red and white striped Cape Bonavista Lighthouse sitting up on a hill behind a green field filled with purple wildflowers
Cape Bonavista Lighthouse

Out behind the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse is another small puffin colony nesting on a rocky island just offshore.

Just 20 minutes from Elliston Point, we highly recommend checking out both puffin viewing sites. You likely won’t see puffins as close here as you might at Elliston Point, but it is still a great opportunity to see them!

Bring your binoculars!

A small rock island with nesting puffins in Newfoundland
Puffin Colony on a small island out behind the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse

Witless Bay Ecological Reserve

One single puffin holding a small twig in its bright orange beak

The four islands of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve are home to the largest colony of Atlantic Puffins on Newfoundland, with more than 500,000 arriving to nest and mate every summer.

Depending on the time of year of your visit, and the conditions, here you could have the chance to not only see puffins, but whales and icebergs as well.

READ MORE: When & Where To See Icebergs in Newfoundland

With no land viewing site, seeing puffins at Witless Bay does require a boat tour, like the ones below (roughly 30-45 minutes south of St. John’s):

Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve

While you might not see many puffins at Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve, this is the place to go to see one of the largest nesting sites for Northern Gannets, along with other varieties of seabirds.

A true bird watcher’s paradise!

Located on Cape Shore roughly 2 hours from St. John’s, this is a popular day trip and addition to the amazing sights along Newfoundland’s Irish Loop.

A couple standing in front of bird rock where thousands of sea birds come to nest at Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve each year
Don’t miss the seabirds on Bird Rock at Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve (a perfect addition to the Irish Loop)

How To Maximize Your Chances To See Puffins

A black and white puffin in Newfoundland with its orange and black beak wide open
Puffin beaks only turn orange for the yearly mating season
  • Remain still and quiet, observing from a distance.
  • Bring along binoculars or a telephoto/zoom lens to get a closer look at the puffins
  • Plan your puffin-watching adventure for the early morning or late afternoon, when puffins are most active and gathering food
  • If you are looking for a true up-close encounter, stay put. While Zach roamed around taking pictures, I planted myself in the grass, watched, and waited. About 30 minutes into the mesmerizing show on the cliffside, it happened. A tiny black and white puffin landed RIGHT next to me! Inches away, I held in my excitement to savor a wildlife moment I will never forget.
A birdwatcher dressed in blue smiling with her binoculars surrounded by puffins in Newfoundland
Surrounded by puffins at Elliston Point

Puffin Watching Packing List

  • Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses
  • Binoculars
  • Camera with Telephoto lens
  • Rain gear and waterproof footwear (Newfoundland gets its fair share of rain (and wind) and the weather can be unpredictable)
  • Layers (whether arriving in the early morning or later afternoon, expect the temperature to change during your puffin viewing session)
  • Patience (the best experiences and sights, come to those who wait)
White and black puffins with bright orange beaks posing on the cliffside at Elliston Point in Newfoundland

Plan Your Perfect Trip To Newfoundland

Book Accommodations

Use Booking.com to compare prices on local hotels, bed and breakfasts, inns, and more.

If you are looking for private rentals, consider one of the many VRBO properties in Newfoundland.

Newfoundland also has amazing camping options all over the island! Check out our Newfoundland RV Trip Itinerary to see all of the great campsites we stayed in & more on the best time to visit Newfoundland to plan your travel dates!

Rent A Car

Newfoundland is made up of rural and remote communities separated by long stretches of road through untouched wilderness. The best way to explore is to have a vehicle to get around in!

Be sure to reserve your rental car for Newfoundland early through a service like rentalcars.com, which will compare available cars at different locations and from different companies in the area.

Rent An RV

Want to RV around Newfoundland, but don’t have an RV of your own?

Consider renting one from a private owner through RV Share or use a larger company like Cruise America/Cruise Canada.

More Resources For Planning Your Trip To Newfoundland:

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