Please note: This blog post was originally written on June 13, 2019. At the time of this vacation I was an ambulatory wheelchair user, meaning I mostly relied on crutches and my rollator and sometimes used a wheelchair. The accommodations worked for me based on my needs at the time. I also haven’t been back to many of these places since this post and cannot speak to whether accessibility changes have been made, but I am returning to the Bonavista area later this summer to do an updated post
A few weeks ago we packed our bags, hopped in a truck with our best friends Pamela and Finn, and headed to Trinity for the weekend. I just recently found out that there are two Trinitys in Newfoundland, and it’s really important to specify which one you’re in when you have to call an ambulance (luckily we were told this but didn’t have to put it into practice!) So just to be clear – we went to Trinity, Trinity Bay on the Bonavista Peninsula. Not to be confused with Trinity, Bonavista Bay. I know, Newfoundland is confusing.
For those of you unfamiliar with Newfoundland, I will tell you a little bit about Trinity. But because I’m not an expert on Trinity, I’m just going to copy and paste an excerpt from the Newfoundland and Labrador tourism website, because they worded it far better than I ever could. You should also check out the link to their website to find out even more about Trinity.
History, friendliness, and steadfast authenticity are woven into every aspect of the Trinity area. The town offers beautifully restored fishing rooms and saltbox houses, accommodations in historic buildings, and top-rated dining experiences. Nearby you’ll get a chance to hike along the coast on one of the province’s most popular trails. Or take a boat tour and see some of our breathtaking coastline from a different perspective as you watch for whales, birds, and icebergs. Houses, museums, art galleries, and other historic buildings preserved from the 19th century fill Trinity and its surrounding communities. Find your way using old-fashioned street signage marked in calligraphy, watch a blacksmith at work, and visit the Cooperage to learn about barrel making. You can tour the filming locations of The Shipping News and Random Passage, and rest atop a cliff and look out over the ocean, as did Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, and Dame Judi Dench.
Artisan Inn & Blueberry Cottage
The main purpose for our little excursion around the bay was to be the very first guests at Blueberry Cottage – a vacation home managed by Artisan Inn. Artisan Inn is a collection of vacation homes nestled in Trinity. You have the option to rent out entire homes, or in some cases you can rent out rooms and feel more like you’re staying in a B&B. Artisan Inn is considered a “diffused hotel” which is “a single hotel which rooms are located in separated, but near, buildings as a way to restore and valorize towns and villages lacking bigger structures.” The owners of Artisan Inn own multiple homes that make up Artisan Inn, but also manage some vacation homes in Trinity owned by other people (Blueberry Cottage being one of them).
To check in we headed to the main building which is called The Twine Loft. The Twine Loft is a restored waterfront fishing room that now serves as a restaurant for unique Newfoundland fine-dining, drinks, an art exhibit, a loft where you can find maps and brochures from the area, read or play a board game, and it’s also the front desk for Artisan Inn. Guests normally head upstairs to the main office to check in for their stay and receive a little orientation which includes information about their accommodations as well as things to do in the town. In our case, Marieke (the manager of Artisan Inn) met us downstairs so we could check in and then we followed her in the truck to Blueberry Cottage where we finished our orientation in the dining room.
The reason we were invited to Blueberry Cottage as its first official guests is because the home is listed as “limited mobility friendly,” and Artisan Inn wanted to actually test that out to ensure that they didn’t miss anything important that could get in the way of a great stay for someone with my kind of accessibility needs. I was asked to make notes of any changes I thought should be made so they could be incorporated to ensure a better stay for all future guests.
The cottage was amaaaazing. It is big, modern, and oh so beautiful. The white wood walls with grey and blue accents kind of makes it feel like you’re vacationing in Cape Cod. And when you look out almost any window in the house, you’re looking out at the ocean or a very picturesque small Newfoundland town full of colourful heritage houses. Also the kitchen gave me major kitchen envy. The fan for the stove is actually a button on the microwave. What sorcery is this?! I also like other parts of the kitchen, not just a fan button, because that would be weird. But that certainly left a lasting impression on me, I must say.
The cottage is a two story home, but everything you would need is all on the main level. There is a ramp that leads up to the deck and into the kitchen. On the main level there is an open concept kitchen & dining room area, living room, a small bathroom, and a queen suite off the kitchen that has a bathroom with a seated shower. And then upstairs there is another queen suite, a large bathroom, and a third bedroom with 2 twin beds. There is also a basement with access to laundry should someone need to avail of that. The house also came equipped with everything you would need in the kitchen save for your own groceries, as well as a bbq and a fire pit. Everything you need for a wonderful weekend getaway!
We picked a great weekend to test out the accessibility of a vacation home, because my back was swollen and I had sciatica, so I spent the entire weekend zipping around in my wheelchair. I otherwise probably would have brought my rollator instead, but I’m glad I was sitting down because it opened my eyes to things that I might not have noticed otherwise. The house was fairly easy to get around, and I suggested a couple changes to make that even better (pretty simple things like moving a shoe mat and rearranging the furniture a bit so a wheelchair could more easily turn corners).
I made a list of about ten things that I thought could be changed to provide a guest with limited mobility with an even better experience, and I’m very happy to report that Artisan Inn and the home owners began implementing those changes immediately. It was great how receptive they were to my suggestions! They honestly starting making the improvements almost as quickly as I was sending the suggestions to them. They are fixing the ramp, making the ground around the ramps easier for a wheelchair to roll on, making the doorways easier for a wheelchair to get through them, adding hooks on the back of the bedroom door that are at wheelchair height, adding grab bars to the shower and next to the toilet, and a few more things.
But I wanted to note that even with those changes being made, Blueberry Cottage doesn’t function as and is not advertised as a fully wheelchair accessible vacation home. The bathroom in the main level suite is not large enough for a wheelchair to maneuver around inside, and everything in the kitchen is at a standing height rather than wheelchair height (for instance the fancy microwave with the stove fan button is above the stove and I couldn’t reach it while seated). So there are times when I had to get out of my wheelchair and stand up to do a few things. I know that not everyone can do that, so this vacation home might not be well suited for those who absolutely need their wheelchair at all times. But as far as a vacation home listed as “limited mobility friendly” goes, I think it is superb! I have advised Artisan Inn to list all of the accessibility features that Blueberry Cottage does have, so someone who may have a chronic illness or disability like mine can look through the list and see if Blueberry Cottage meets their accessibility needs.
As far as me and my needs go, it was very refreshing to be able to stay in a beautiful vacation home that I could move through with ease and independence. There aren’t many options for me as far as local vacation rentals go, so I’m very glad to see this one added to the short list I have to work with! I was also told about another room at Artisan Inn that is great for guests with limited mobility called Studio Room. It’s a multi-room ground floor unit with a king bedroom, living room, kitchenette and private bathroom. It’s on the first floor of Barbour House and is attached to The Twine Loft via the boardwalk area. It looks super pretty and I will probably stay there at some point in the future too! Staying at Artisan Inn is a very unique vacationing experience that I highly recommend to everyone!
Touring around Trinity, Port Rexton,
Elliston & Bonavista
After a relaxing Friday night of eating barbecued burgers, drinking wine, and watching weird real estate shows on HGTV, we woke up on Saturday ready for adventures! We decided to go for a scoot around Trinity to find places where we could act like tourists. Before our weekend getaway I took to Twitter to see what sorts of places I could visit in a wheelchair and I received multiple tweets or messages telling me that I would find almost all shops, restaurants and tourist spots in the area to be wheelchair accessible. I quickly realized that was far from the truth. The first spot we went into is called Green Family Forge. There was a ramp leading up to the interior of the building, but (and this wasn’t my first time seeing this in the area) there was a step up to the ramp, and then another step from the ramp to the entrance of the building. I am honestly very confused by this trend. I’m not entirely sure why someone would even bother building a ramp if there is no access for a wheelchair to even get onto the ramp. But between Matthew and Finn, I made it up the ramp and into the forge, which had a ramp all the way around it and was quite easy to navigate through. We had a great time watching a wonderfully talented local blacksmith (Devin Hookey) forge a leaf keychain and explain the process to us, and then he helped get me back out onto the main road.
Next we made our way down by the water and came across a chocolate shop called Aunt Sarah’s Chocolate Shop. I was very sad to see that there was one large step up into the shop that could easily be a ramp instead. The interior looked to be wide open and accessible, if one could get inside the store. I had to wait outside while others went in and looked at chocolatey deliciousness. We tried some of the chocolate and it was amazing, I just hope that someday they make their storefront accessible for all customers!
We didn’t go into any other shops in Trinity, although I did see one souvenir shop & restaurant combo that did have a ramp. There was another gift shop that looks quite beautiful but I was told by a friend who visited the week before that I certainly wouldn’t fit inside it in my wheelchair. After taking in the beautiful scenery around us, we bundled back into the truck and made our way to Port Rexton.
Our main reason for visiting Port Rexton was to check out Port Rexton Brewery & Tap Room, which is a wonderful local brewery that also has a delicious food truck (Oh My Cheeses) parked outside. I was very happy to see that the brewery was accessible for me. It was easy to get in through the door, there were wide aisles that I could move through, and there was a bathroom big enough for my wheelchair to fit inside. I can’t remember if the bathroom had grab bars for the toilet because I only went in there to wash my hands, so I’m not sure if it’s truly accessible. We ordered a few beer and some poutine, bought some really cool sweaters, and hung out for about an hour before setting off again to continue our adventure.
Next we made our way to Elliston to look for icebergs, root cellars, and puffins. We had to stop for a Diet Pepsi break as soon as we got to Elliston, and we found this really cute spot called The Puffin Cafe. It was wheelchair accessible, had some delicious looking food, and a million dollar view of the icebergs. The women working there were also extremely nice! Next time I make my way back for a baycation, I will definitely be stopping in there for a bite to eat! After leaving The Puffin Cafe, we drove through Elliston and stopped a couple times to look at the icebergs. Then Matthew, Pamela and Finn went for a small hike out to a cliff to look for puffins, who were unfortunately hiding while they were there. We then poked our heads into a few root cellars and got back in the truck to make our way to Bonavista.
Once we arrived in Bonavista I was too tired to do much of anything. Matthew, Pamela and Finn checked out the dungeon caves, and then we parked while Pamela checked out a craft store or two on Church Street. I didn’t see many ramps around so I didn’t feel like using my energy to get out of the truck and then just have to sit outside of stores while the others shopped. I was told that Bonavista Social Club is a great restaurant that is wheelchair accessible, but we were full from our poutine so we didn’t have a chance to check it out.
Twine Loft Dining
After our quick Bonavista excursion, we made our way back to Blueberry Cottage to have a quick rest before heading to The Twine Loft for a delicious Newfoundland fine-dining experience. They offer two different 3 course meals that you can choose from each night, and everyone sits down for supper at the same time. It’s such an inviting atmosphere, especially thanks to it being a candle-lit dinner. My starter was an apple and pear soup that was divine. For my main I had herbed pork with apple brandy mushroom cream sauce served with roasted garlic mashed potato and honeyed apples, parsnip and carrots. It was perfect. They also offered an amazing looking salmon entree that Pamela and Finn ordered, but I eat salmon about 4 times a week so I decided to treat myself to the pork. After that we had a raspberry molasses cake for dessert.
I HIGHLY recommend having supper at The Twine Loft if you are ever in Trinity! The service was impeccable, the view is astounding, and the food was absolutely delicious. The Twine Loft was also fairly accessible, aside from an issue we had where I rolled down the wheelchair ramp when we were leaving and completely brought up in the loose gravel at the bottom of the ramp. My husband and friends had to work together to push me out of the area and back to the truck. But they are already working on improving the ground in that area to make it more accessible! The washrooms are also located outside so they are easier to access, and they do have an accessible washroom.
Weekend Accessibility Rating: So Close!
Although we were met with a number of accessibility issues over the weekend, I think that most people could probably find enough tourist spots, shops, and restaurants throughout Trinity and the surrounding towns in order to have a nice weekend getaway there. But it could certainly be improved upon. I’m hoping that some changes are made in the future to make Trinity, Bonavista and surrounding areas more accessible for everyone. It doesn’t feel awesome to have to wait at the bottom of a step and have ice cream flavours shouted out to you by your friends instead of getting to be there next to them drooling about the ice cream in real time.
I would have had considerably more tourist options if there were some small ramp improvements (please stop making ramps with steps up to them) and if the number of shops and cafes that have just one or two small steps could replace those steps with ramps. There were quite a few times when we looked at a ramp or a step and thought “ugh, they were so close to making this accessible. So close!” In towns like these, where tourists abound, one would think there would be more attention paid to accessibility. I know money is always an issue with this, but I still think improvements could be made to serve all future tourists (and lots of disabled people have money to spend if they could just get inside!).
I found it very refreshing to see the enthusiasm that Artisan Inn has for making things more accessible, and I hope that enthusiasm spreads to other local businesses!
If you know of more accessible tourist attractions, shops, restaurants, cafes, hotels, or vacation rentals in the Trinity/Bonavista area – please comment below with that information! I am trying to compile a more exhaustive list for future tourists with limited mobility/wheelchair users, and for myself for my next visit. Thank you!