Two young children gather around Capt. Jan Negrijn aboard his tour boat as he hauls a large net from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean in Newman Sound.

Moments later, one of them squirms away while the other looks on in delight after Negrijn pours the net’s contents into a glass jar. It’s teeming with animal plankton and jellyfish.

“One of the things I used to do as a kid was muck about on the shore,” Negrijn says with a laugh. “Now I’m retired and I’m doing it again.”

Negrijn leads a tour aboard a converted lobster fishing vessel that aims to promote awareness of the vibrant ecosystem off the shores of Terra Nova National Park.

Like other tour boat operators in Newfoundland, he takes landlubbers within camera range of bald eagles, whales and icebergs. But, as a former commercial fisherman and university academic, he also offers a unique perspective on the sea and the environment surrounding it.

To the wonder of kids and parents alike, he places the animal plankton under a microscope, giving the curious a close glimpse of the bizarre-looking creatures that sustain aquatic life.

“That’s why I tell the kids not to pollute the ocean,” he says.

Designated as a national park in 1957, Terra Nova draws droves of visitors with its diverse array of flora and fauna. It’s estimated that about 250 moose wander its woods and, with each consuming about 20 kilograms of vegetation a day, they’ve left an indelible mark.

Its rocky headlands, which jut out into the ocean, have earned Terra Nova the nickname Gateway to Fingers of the Sea.

But the natural beauty of this swath of Newfoundland’s Bonavista Bay, Canada’s most easterly national park, isn’t confined to Terra Nova’s borders.

On the northern periphery lies the Road to the Beaches, a short winding stretch that leads to Eastport, one of the province’s most scenic communities.

Every August, the town of 500 hosts Winterset in Summer, a literary festival that has grown in popularity in recent years. The community also boasts a sandswept beach, which, if you’re familiar with the province’s rocky terrain, is a rare sight.

About a 10-minute drive northeast of Eastport, where the road ends, lies Salvage, one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in North America. The picturesque community of 170 is on the edge of the Eastport Peninsula, a throwback in time to when the cod fishery ruled. Remnants of old wooden fishing stages, which were used to salt and dry cod, remain. A short hike up the Round Head Lookout offers a postcard view of the town, as well as of the icebergs that drift by.

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