Atlantic Puffin swimming on top of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve in Newfoundland, Canada

When & Where to See Puffins in Newfoundland

If you’re dreaming of catching a glimpse of puffins in Newfoundland, you’re in for a fun adventure! These beautiful seabirds are a must-see during summertime.

Whether you’re a casual birdwatcher or just looking to enjoy nature in a relaxed way, knowing when and where to see puffins in Newfoundland will make your trip truly special. 

My favourite spot was seeing puffins from a boat tour in Bay Bulls.

Let’s get right into helping you plan an unforgettable puffin-watching trip.

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A puffin flying over some waves of water with a fish in its mouth, located in Newfoundland in Canada.

Best Time to See Puffins in Newfoundland

The best time to see puffins in Newfoundland is from mid-May to August. Each summer they flock to the eastern shoreline to feed, breed and nest. The rest of the year they live out at sea.

While it’s still possible to see puffins in September, there are fewer of them and you will find them more on the water than on land. If you plan to visit in September like I did, you’ll want to book a boat tour. 

Best Time of Day to See Puffins

The best time of day to see puffins is in the early morning or late afternoon

This is when they are most active in gathering food and relaxing at their nests. Just like us, they don’t like the midday heat.

Where to See Puffins in Newfoundland

Atlantic puffins nest on the rocky islands along Newfoundland’s eastern coastline to keep them safe during mating season. 

The best places to see puffins in Newfoundland are Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, Bonavista Peninsula, and Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve

Two puffins flying over the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve in Newfoundland, Canada on a sunny day.

Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, Bay Bulls

You will find the largest Atlantic puffin colony in North America at Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. Every year, more than 260,000 puffins choose to nest here during the spring and summer months. 

The Reserve is made up of four islands just off the coast of Bay Bulls. You can only reach it by a boat tour which will take you to see the birds on the island. It’s also a great opportunity to do some whale watching and enjoy scenic views of the coastline from the water. 

Atlantic Puffin swimming on top of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve in Newfoundland, Canada

And because they are on the water in September as they get ready to leave until the next year, Witless Bay Ecological Reserve is a great spot to view them in the late puffin season. I visited in early September and was able to watch them landing and taking off from the water. While I didn’t get to see thousands of them, I was happy to see any.

The best part is it’s only a 20-minute drive from St. John’s along the Irish Loop. So afterwards, you can make it one of the stops on the Irish Loop drive like I did. 

Seeing puffins and watching the first sunrise in Canada were two of the highlights of my Newfoundland trip.

Three puffins on top of a rock at Elliston Point in Newfoundland, Canada, on a sunny day. Behind them, there is another puffin flying with the Labrador Sea beyond the distance.
Unsplash photo by Timothy Holmes

Elliston Point, Bonavista 

Elliston is the best place to see puffins in Newfoundland on land. From Elliston’s cliffs, you can watch as the puffins come and go to their nests on the rocks. Over 300 pairs of puffins call these cliffs home for the summer. 

If you are quiet and still, you can get close to these beautiful sea birds. They might even land a few feet away from you. But do not touch them! They are wild and we want to respect them.

It’s also the easiest puffin viewing spot to access on land. Just a 5-minute walk from the parking lot to the cliffs. This easy access and how close you can get to the puffins make it the most popular puffin viewing site in Newfoundland. 

Two puffins sitting on some rocks in Newfoundland, Canada.
Unsplash photo by Gurpreet Singh

Cape St Mary’s Ecological Reserve

Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve is another great location known for its beautiful cliffs and plenty of seabirds, including puffins. 

The most popular birdwatching spot is Bird Rock which is home to thousands of northern gannets, puffins, and other birds. 

You can reach Bird Rock following a 1.3 km hike from the parking lot. Guided hikes are available at the interpretive centre from May to October. 

Located 2 hours from St.John’s along Route 10, it’s one of many places to stop along the Irish Loop

Melissa and her husband on a boat looking at a cliff during a puffin and whale watching tour in Newfoundland, Canada, on a sunny and partially cloudy day.

Best Puffin Tours

Prefer to join a tour? These are the top-rated Newfoundland puffin tours:

Newfoundland Puffin & Whale Watching Tour – ride a large, comfortable boat from Bay Bulls, NL to search for puffins and whales (I did this tour and loved it!)

Bonavista Puffin & Whale Tours – search the coastline of Bonavista Bay, NL for puffins and whales

Small-Group Puffin Photo Tour – a day trip tour to Cape St Mary’s, NL to photograph puffins and enjoy a picnic lunch

Melissa on a boat looking at puffs during a puffin and whale watching tour in Newfoundland, Canada, on a sunny day. Beyond the distance are some mountains. Right next to Melissa, there is a green sign that says "no jumping".

What to Bring Puffin Watching

  • Camera with a zoom lens (300mm is ideal – I was happy with my 200mm zoom lens)
  • Binoculars
  • Layers to be prepared for changing weather (I wore 4 lightweight layers)
  • Sunscreen
  • Water

Tips for Puffin Watching 

  • Be patient. Puffins move very quickly, which makes photographing them more difficult
  • Do not try and touch the puffins. They are wild birds, please respect them
  • Don’t leave any trash. Pack out any food and drink that you bring with you

Map of Where to Find Puffins in Newfoundland

Final Thoughts on Finding Puffins in Newfoundland 

Seeing puffins in Newfoundland is an experience you won’t forget. From their colourful beaks to their playful personalities, these birds are sure to bring a smile to your face. 

Whether you’re exploring the cliffs of Elliston or taking a boat tour to Witless Bay, there are plenty of opportunities to see the official bird of Newfoundland up close during summer.

And while you are here, don’t miss out on other fun things to do in Newfoundland

Happy puffin spotting, and enjoy your adventure in beautiful Newfoundland.

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