the bonavista branch line

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The Bonavista Branch Line was a railway line that ran from Clarenville to Bonavista (seen here in blue). It was in use from 1911 – 1983.

The Bonavista Branch Line runs for 145 km between Clarenville and Bonavista.  I recently rode this in 4 days (return trip = 290 km) and thoroughly enjoyed the trip.  The railbed, for the most part, is in fantastic shape.  There are a couple of sections that have not been repaired since Hurricane Igor struck in 2011 but there are easy workarounds to those.

The first 15 km of the trail runs along the water from Clarenville to Georges Brook and offers some good views.  But after that the track often remains inland and it is typically bordered by dense forest so the vistas tend to be few and far between.  The upside of this corridor of trees is that it blocks the wind and provides shade, a real bonus as the temperatures were very high when I rode this in early August.

Running water wasn’t plentiful on this ride so I often resorted to taking water from ponds and filling up whenever I passed through a town.  I had access to a store once or twice each day so resupply was easy.

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Filleting cod near Georges Brook.

This gives you a good sense of how the trail typically is.  Note the good quality of the former railbed and the corridor of trees lining it.

This gives you a good sense of how the trail typically is. Note the good quality of the former railbed and the corridor of trees lining it.

The track leads you to Trinity and the surrounding communities which were a real highlight of the ride.

The track leads you to Trinity and the surrounding communities which were a real highlight of the ride.

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East of Trinity there are two trestles that collapsed in 2011's floods, but you can get around them by taking the road.

East of Trinity there are two trestles that collapsed in 2011’s flood, but you can get around them by taking the road.

Again, you get an idea of what the riding is like - smooth trail lined with trees.

Again, you get an idea of what the riding is like – smooth trail lined with trees.

I didn't see much wildlife but I did see a pair of nesting osprey.

I didn’t see much wildlife but I did see a pair of nesting osprey.

Yep - it was hot.

Yep – it was hot.

After reaching Bonavista I started the return journey by riding down Highway 235 then picking up 236 (dirt road) back to Trinity.  I did this because the section between Bonavista and Trinity wasn't interesting enough to repeat AND...

After reaching Bonavista I started the return journey by riding down Highway 235 then picking up 236 (dirt road) back to Trinity. I did this because the section between Bonavista and Trinity wasn’t interesting enough to repeat AND…

...I wanted to hit the Bonavista Social Club in Upper Amherst Cove.  Pizza from a wood-fired oven after riding all day?  Yes please!

… I wanted to hit the Bonavista Social Club in Upper Amherst Cove. Pizza from a wood-fired oven after riding all day? Yes please!

The food was fantastic and as I ate a pod of 6 humpback whales were breaching in the water below.  It doesn't get much better than that.

The food was fantastic and as I ate a pod of 6 humpback whales were breaching in the water below. It doesn’t get much better than that.

An iceberg on the horizon.

An iceberg on the horizon.

Looking back at Upper Amherst Cove.

Looking back at Upper Amherst Cove.

I'm now back on the railbed near Port Rexton.

I’m now back on the railbed near Port Rexton.

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I had a fantastic continental breakfast at The Twine Loft in Trinity.  It was so good I came back again the next day.  Fresh fruit, yogurt, toast, cereal, muffins, tea buns, cookies, juice and coffee all for 8 bucks!

I had a fantastic continental breakfast at The Twine Loft in Trinity. It was so good I came back again the next day. Fresh fruit, yogurt, toast, cereal, muffins, tea buns, cookies, juice and coffee all for 8 bucks!  Plus, the owner, Tineke Gow, went out of her way to be helpful by pulling out topographic maps and calling her daughter for the status of some of the trestles I would have to cross.

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Fresh blueberries on my oatmeal in the morning were a real treat.

Fresh blueberries on my oatmeal in the morning were a real treat.

It was so hot on this ride I had to jump in a pond and drink beer at the same time just to cool off!  :-)

It was so hot on this ride I had to jump in a pond and drink beer at the same time just to cool off! 🙂

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8 thoughts on “the bonavista branch line

  1. Wonderful to see and read, as usual, Malcolm! The photos of in and around Trinity really made me nostalgic for my visits there. And I second your review of breakfast at The Twine Loft! One question, was the underwater shot a selfie?

  2. Well Malcolm, that looked like a fun one! When I was a kid we lived in Shoal Harbour very close to where the switch was to divert the train to Bonavista. As a matter of fact, the trestle that crossed the Shoal Harbour River was almosr in front off our house. We used to walk to school on those very tracks most days. I remember one day seeing Ryan’s Fancy all standing at the back of the train as it went by…they were shooting a CBC special. That was back when I was in grade 2! Ahh childhood memories. I have an aunt in Port Rexton.
    I love that you seek out these unique adventures and have no qualms about doing them solo. Carpe diem my friend. Im going to have to come home and share ome with you before long.
    Search for a blog by some guy named Logan called Pedaling Nowhere. He rides a fat bike, goes all over the world and drinks some mighty fine beer.
    Cheers!

    • Chris – stop threatening to come home and do it. Or, I’ll throw out another option to you: I’m thinking of heading to the Yukon next year for a few weeks. The rough plan is to hang out in Whitehorse for a couple weeks and ride all the great trails I’ve heard about then go ride The Dempster Highway. Interested?

      I’ll check out the Pedalling Nowhere blog.

    • None. The last train ran here in 1988; we decomissioned the railway in exchange for $800 million from the federal gov’t toward improving the main highway across the province.

  3. This looks awesome, Malcolm! I went to Trinity last spring and made a side trip to the Bona Vista Social Club for some amazing homemade pizza and soup. Twine Loft wasn’t open yet at that time of year so I missed out on that one.

    Looks like you’re having an excellent summer in NL! Let me know if you have any plans to make it back to BC for a visit. 🙂

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