Explore Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve

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Have you never visited the Cape St. Mary’s Newfoundland Ecological Reserve? If not, take out a pen or pencil right now and add it to your bucket list. Top on the agenda of any birder and nature enthusiast visiting Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, the highlight of any visit to the Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve is walking to Bird Rock

After taking the winding road to the Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve parking lot, find a spot to park, put on some sturdy footwear, take an extra sweater, stick a snack in your pocket, grab your water bottle, and be sure you have something to take photos with. You’re going to want to take photos. 

From the parking lot, Bird Rock at the Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve is just over a one-kilometre walk along a winding coastal path that takes you across rocky windswept subarctic tundra common in southeastern Newfoundland.

Couple hiking to Cape St. Marys to view the seabirds

Cape St. Mary’s is famous for nesting northern gannets, a seabird that you usually have to take a boat to go see. Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve, however, is the only place in the world you can see nesting northern gannets without having to go offshore in a boat, making Cape St. Mary’s one of the most accessible seabird colonies on the planet.

Here you can get up close and personal with all sorts of rare seabirds like:

  • puffins,
  • black-legged kittiwakes,
  • gannets, and
  • thick-billed murres.

The birds here are true regulars, with some pairs returning to the same nesting location year after year for over 30 years. 

Take your time walking along the path to bird rock. This part of Newfoundland is known to be shrouded in fog and weather conditions can change quickly.

Walking to Bird Rock Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve

Be sure to stay on the path since steep cliffs along the edge of the pathway can sneak up on the careless hiker. With plenty of benches and natural rest spots along the way to bird rock, it’s easy to find a place to catch your breath or take a photo while reminding yourself it’s not a race.  

The big orange first aid kit in the middle of the boulder field on the last part of the trail just before bird rock serves as a reminder to take your time and watch your step.
First Aid Kit is a helpful reminder to take extra care

The big orange first aid kit in the middle of the boulder field on the last part of the trail just before bird rock serves as a reminder to take your time and watch your step.

“We put the first aid kit here in the middle of the boulder field because this is the area where people most often twist their ankle,” says one of the ecological reserve park interpreters. “Often people are excited to get to bird rock and forget the trail can be treacherous.”

A warning to be mindful

As soon as you get to bird rock you will realize why it is so special. 

Bird rock puts you face to face with nesting northern gannets but keeps you separated by a 73-meter chasm between you and the nesting seabirds. The birds know you can’t get to them and are therefore not a threat, so they pretty much go about their business as if you weren’t there at all.

Here is a video of what the last section of the walk to bird rock at the Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve looks like:

Have you had a chance to visit the Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve and see some of the nesting seabirds up close? What was your trip like? We would love to hear your stories and see photos of your adventure to bird rock and the Ecological Reserve in Cape St. Mary’s Newfoundland. 

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Whale House Guest House offers luxury boutique private suites with outdoor hot tubs overlooking humpback whale feeding grounds. Located next to the east coast trail in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, just 30 min from downtown St. John’s.

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