A Travellerspoint blog

Bull Head Lighthouse, Bay Bulls

Moving on down the Southern shore of the Avalon, the next lighthouse is Bull Head in Bay Bulls. We visited Bay Bulls on our first full day in Newfoundland, June 9, 2006, after our stop at Cape Spear.

We were there for a boat cruise with O’Brien’s. It was surprisingly comfortable on the boat for late spring on the North Atlantic. We first sailed past the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, home to largest Atlantic Puffin colony in North America (260,000 pairs). The four islands are a nesting ground for approximately 4 million seabirds. We saw lots of birds, but only had a quick glimpse of a whale.

The following year we came back with my mother-in-law on Canada Day (July 1). We again took the O’Brien’s tour and again did not see any whales, but there was an iceberg, and it came with some great lighting. I refer to magical moments in my main travel blog. That was one such moment. I lined it up in my viewfinder and knew I had a good one.


On the way back I took my first photograph of the Bullhead Lighthouse.


On our third trip to the area we went a little further down the road to a town called Mobile. My wife’s cousins were visiting. I thought I should be a good host and take them out on a whale watching trip. Someone told me about the boat trips from Mobile and that they use smaller boats. It sounded great to me.

The weather was gorgeous, not a cloud in the sky. The kiosk for the boat is on the main highway. Cousin insisted on paying. We turned down the road to the boat launch, and suddenly we were in a bank of fog. But the plan seemed to be that the boat would still go out. I could not understand how we would ever see anything. The man mentioned that they had a seen a whale the other day. I thought, “You saw a whale? The other day? That’s it?”

A small group of us boarded the little boat. We started to pull away. Then we came to a sudden stop. The tow line had gotten wound around the propeller. We were only about 10 metres from the dock, so no one was too concerned. The owner was summoned, we were pulled back to the dock and told that we could get our money back or come back in the afternoon. Our visitors literally jumped for joy. They hate little boats but were too polite to tell us. We drove out of the fog, got our refund, had a nice lunch along the way, and saw lots of whales at Cape Spear without leaving dry land.


Our last boat trip was in June 2016. We had visitors again, including my mother-in-law and a couple of my wife’s old schoolmates. They were keen to take the boat. This time we tried another tour company, Gatherall’s. We did not see that many puffins, but after bouncing around for awhile they brought us next to a humpback.

On the way back I took another photograph of the lighthouse.


I had warned my group about the optional “screeching in” ceremony. In my opinion the custom of being screeched in is a silly tourist thing. Tourists are asked to kiss a codfish (usually not fresh, so either frozen or a stuffed toy) and drink some of the local rum product, screech. My group took my advice and did not book the ceremony. They were quite happy when they witnessed the hapless tourists going through the ceremony on the boat, especially since Gatherall’s has a couple of strange variations. They have the tourists dip their shoes in a bucket of water (so a wet shoe for the afternoon). They then pour the screech down the poor folks’ throats. When you visit Newfoundland, skip the kissing the cod part, but try to go out fishing, jig yourself some nice fresh cod, and eat the cod while drinking some screech. Or just go to a restaurant and order some cod and a shot of screech.


The two boat operations, O’Brien’s and Gatherall’s, are quite similar. The Gatherall’s boat is a big larger, so perhaps a little more stable, but the singing is better on O’Brien’s.

I have hiked to the lighthouse two times. They were on consecutive weekends back in 2013. The East Coast Trail Association (the wonderful group that looks after our fantastic network of hiking trails along the coast) has an annual fund-raising hike. That year it was run out of Bay Bulls. Our friends wanted to hike the trail in advance and asked us to go along. It was a beautiful late spring day, sunny all the way from Pouch Cove to Bay Bulls. We started walking and were soon in the fog. It persisted all the way to the lighthouse and all the way back. Once we got in the car, it was sunny again.


It was raining the day of the actual hike. The forecast was for more of the same. I thought we should skip it, but the group was keen to go. Thinking that the day would be too messy for photographs, I decided to leave my camera at home. The clouds went away. I took a couple of photographs with my phone, but in those days, I was a bit of a snob and did not consider a phone worthy of photography, so thought that I would save my lighthouse photograph for my next trip. I have never made it back. But I did have a photo of us in front of the lighthouse, taken by another friend. In this year of staycation, I intend to finally get back there for a good photograph (assuming the weather cooperates).



About the lighthouse, it was first lit in 1908.

Posted by Bob Brink 16:17 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses whales canada icebergs newfoundland

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I love your photos of the humpback As far as I'm concerned the smaller the boat the better so a trip out of Mobile might suit me, although I'd prefer the tow rope to stay away from the propeller ;)

by ToonSarah

Sarah, we will take you on whatever type of boat you want, how about a Zodiac?

by Bob Brink

Perfect! My best whale watching trip ever was in a Zodiac out of Tofino on Vancouver Island, getting really close to grey whales (and I mean really close, close enough I could have touched!!)

by ToonSarah

And they won't try to give you screech on a Zodiac. Since the US will never let you in again after your visit to North Korea, you definitely need to come here.

by Bob Brink

I'm hoping the US will let me in (even if the VT Chicago meet planned for this September has to be cancelled it will be rearranged for next year) but they're going to make me jump through hoops to get there! But you're right, we definitely need to get back to Canada some time, and the east coast for sure :)

by ToonSarah

Sarah, Get a new passport without N. Korea in it if it's not too expensive.

Getting that close to a whale would be great fun. I've only seen them from the coastline out here.

by Beausoleil

This is Canada, so likely no need for a new passport for Sarah.

by Bob Brink

As it happens I'll need a new passport next year but that's not the point. The US Border agents would know from my records that I've visited the DPRK and wouldn't let me in on just an ESTA as it's on the 'Axis of Terror' blacklist. I'll need to get a full visa in order to go to Chicago next September, even on my new passport. Good to know that Canada won't be that fussy

by ToonSarah

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