Falling in love with Gaspésie

The morning when the whole coastline was shrouded in its misty glory is finally upon us. A shimmery haze is slowly replacing the low layer of the clouds, leaving us in a speechless awe.

Anse du Griffon
Anse du Griffon coastline

The colour of leaves had started to change already when we began our new journey.

Our love for road trips started many years ago, and with the most recent one along Lake Superior still in our mind, we pursued one more destination from our never-ending bucket list: the Gaspé Peninsula.

With ten provinces and three territories, Canada is the second-largest country in the world; a very large one, with amazing landscapes, interesting cities, and a wide variety of wildlife. From West to East, Canada has so many hidden gems, that one cannot cover in a lifetime, probably. This time we chose to visit the Gaspé Peninsula (known as Gaspésie), in Quebec.

Quebec is the largest province in Canada, representing 15.5% of the surface area, totaling 1.5 million km2. The name of Quebec was inspired by an Algonquian (native) word, meaning “where the river narrows”. The province is very large, but our road trip focused on the south shore of St Lawrence River that extends from the Matapedia Valley into the Gulf of St Lawrence (which is the mouth of St Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean).

The sightseeing should have started in Riviere-du-Loop, with a lighthouse, if we would have found it. Instead, we bumped into Santa’s house (at least one of them😊) on the way back to the main street.

Noel au Chateau

With no extra time, we headed straight to Rimouski, where spent our first night in the area. But not before having a stop at Pointe-au-Père lighthouse, one of the heritage treasures in Rimouski.

Pointe-au-Père lighthouse, Rimouski
Pointe-au-Père lighthouse, Rimouski

Quick facts about the Pointe-au-Père:

  • Pointe-au-Père lighthouse is one of the tallest lighthouses in Canada, with a height of 33 metres;
  • The first official pilot station opened at Le Bic in 1762 was relocated to Pointe-au-Père in 1905 where it remained for 54 years. In 1906 Pointe-au-Père became the official pilotage station, and in 1909 the new lighthouse built was equipped with a powerful beacon to guide all ships entering the estuary; Its dioptric lantern (1.5-ton beacon of glass and brass) and its original interior staircase are still intact;
  • From 1859, Pointe-au-Père is linked with Quebec by telegraph, and as of 1906 with the arrival of the Marconi station, the communications as greatly improved, capable of transmitting wirelessly up to 483 km.

Waking up in a super rainy morning was not what we wanted. As we were in no rush for any outdoor activity, we stopped again at the Site historique maritime de la Pointe-au-Père, and decided to visit both museums on the site: The Onondaga submarine, and The Empress of Ireland, but they will be the reason for other stories.

The Empress of Ireland Museum, Rimourski

Despite the foul weather along our route, we fed our love for art at Centre D’art Marcel Gagnon. “Le Grand Rassemblement” or The Big Gathering is the central piece one should not miss. More than a hundred concrete characters emerging from the sea came to meet us along the shore, right at the end of the parking lot.

The Big Gathering, Centre D’art Marcel Gagnon
The Big Gathering, Centre D’art Marcel Gagnon

With more than 15 lighthouses, Gaspésie is definitely the place with the most density of them. Some of them are accessible to the public, while others are no longer in use. The foul weather that continued for the whole day is definitely a proof the lighthouses are so much needed along the treacherous shore.

In life, there are things that you can change, and things you can’t do anything about. Like the forecast! The daunting weather made me only imagining how the rugged mountains would look on a sunny day. The winding road continued to bring new surprises, leaving our desire to grow through anticipation.

Route 132, Gaspé Peninsula

And suddenly, right the next morning we woke up in a balmy glow of a long-awaited sunshine, beckoning us to new adventures.

And adventures were waiting for us at Forillon National Park! Little we knew that we are going to hike the second best trail of the year, a month after the one in the Northern Ontario, at Pukaskwa National Park.

Although we planned only a short hike to Mt Alban, we were so eager to go on the trail, especially after the previous rainy day. The greenery and the sunny sky mesmerized us, keeping us wanting to walk more and see more. We couldn’t feel anything but reverence for the expansiveness of this inland sea, the Gulf of St Lawrence. Pondering between the sky and the sea, watching this serene, but yet so powerful mass of water, we hardly wanted to move on.

Cap des Rosiers, view from Mt Alban
Cap des Rosiers, view from Mt Alban

The trail system in Forillon NP consists of several shorter interconnecting trails (with some amazing lookout points along the way), rated from easy to difficult, where one can hike from 30 minutes to whole day.

If you love wildlife, then Le bout du Monde trail (the Land’s End) is for you. We felt so fortunate to be able to spot whales, and sealions in the water, along the trail, and porcupines, and so many birds throughout the park. The highlight of the day was the flocks of gannets that were flying so low, along the rocky shore at the end of the peninsula.

Gannets over Le bout du Monde, Forillon National park

The following evening found us in Gaspé, the birthplace of Canada, learning about Mi’kmaq, the native people of these lands, and their nations. The most common assumption is that Gaspé name comes from the Mi’kmaq word Gespeg, which means Land’s End.

An interesting fact is that the locals speak with about 20 different accents, influenced by the languages spoken by Mi’kmaq, French, English, Jersey Islanders, Scots, Irish, and Acadians who first settled in this region.

Gaspe, Birthplace of Canada
Gaspé, the birthplace of Canada

Most people know very little about Gaspé Peninsula; the map doesn’t reveal too much, other than what it is: the end of a province. There is no train network, nor large cities. Only a rocky shore, and small towns connected by a winding road. But still, this winding road is the one connecting the communities, the people, and their stories.

If your spirit is longing for scenic drives, and if you love to be introduced to new experiences, then Gaspé Peninsula is the place you are looking for. What makes it even more special, beside the staggering views, is that they are easily accessible. You can stop by along the road (Route 132) basically in every town, as the Communal stops and lookouts are now and then, every few kilometers.

Arriving in Percé, we were taken by surprise with the geological features. The Indian Head Rock in Saint-Georges-de-Malbaie, and Percé Rock are the most notable landmarks. But not only. Bonaventure island is very famous for its gannet’s colony, and several hiking trails in the hilly surroundings.

The Indian Head Rock, Saint-Georges-de-Malbaie
The Indian Head Rock, Saint-Georges-de-Malbaie
Percé Rock
Percé Rock – Percé, Quebec

A suspended glass platform and ziplining are available for the ones looking for more adventurous activities, under the heritage of UNESCO World Geopark of Percé, and tickets must be purchased before heading up to the mountain. The trails and lookouts are accessible free of charge at all times, and both Mont Sainte-Anne, and La Grotte offer mystique views of the vivid nature.

Mont Joli, Perce
Mont Joli, Perce

And if this is not enough, and you are willing to learn a bit of local history, then the south of the whole peninsula is choke-full of historic sites, such as Gaspesian British Heritage Village, Site historique national de Paspébiac , Battle of Restigouche National Historic Site, and Fort Ingall.

Matapedia Valley
Matapedia Valley

With its rich pastures and colourful foliage, Matapedia Valley enchanted our senses along Route 132, completing a full circuit of this surprisingly beautiful peninsula.

Hard to say Adieu, but until we see you again.. Bonne journée!

Tip(s) of the day:

  • As a funny fact, the Gaspé Peninsula is slightly larger than Belgium;
  • We considered September a good month to visit the peninsula, as it was off season in regards with crowdedness, and finding accommodation;
  • We have not taken in consideration that September is also off season for fishing, thus, no fresh lobster, or other seafood;
  • Forillon National Park is a real gem with best hiking opportunities in the area. If you are planning to visit it, then all information can be found here;
  • Tickets for the suspended glass platform and ziplining can be purchased in Percé, before heading up on the mountain, information can be found here;
  • Be prepared for any sudden change in the weather, being so close to the ocean the weather is very unpredictable;
  • This is a very touristy area, accommodation can be found anywhere: motels, hotels, camping sites, however the summer months can be quite busy, thus booking in advance might be wise;
  • Some restaurants require booking in advance for a dinner table, better to check them out online before heading over there.

~ visited in September 2021

39 thoughts on “Falling in love with Gaspésie

  1. I also drove around the Gaspé passing by the same places as you. Coming from the big Canadian cities, there is the feeling Gaspesian villages live at a different pace, a bit out of time. Nice pictures despite the bad weather!

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  2. In Westrn Canada not much is known about Gaspé, we had no idea what to expect before we went. Like you we were stunned by the landscapes in this remote peninsula. Even though the weather didn’t cooperate you have great pictures to show how spectacular it is. I love the enthusiasm in this post Christie! Maggie

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    1. Thank you Maggie! Indeed, Gaspé Peninsula is a small one, I’ve always heard how beautiful it is, and finally we had the chance to see it with our own eyes! The weather was not very cooperant all the time, but I can’t really complain, as we had 3 amazing days on the trails, which compensated for the bad ones🙂
      xx

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  3. Canada is such a HUGE country … you can do 100’s of different road trips and not doing one of them twice 😄.
    Love the photo’s of all the lighthouses (and Santa’s house 🎄). The coastline is breathtaking beautiful (even in misty conditions) and so is your amazing photo of Perce Rock!

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  4. We’re hoping to head out east this summer and visit the Gaspé Peninsula. The scenery looks stunning along the rugged coastline. I’m also such a huge fan of lighthouses. Despite the weather, looks like you had a fabulous time.

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    1. Indeed, we had an amazing time! I’m sure you will enjoy there, it is an wonderful place. We didn’t really visit any lighthouse, some of them supposed to be open to the public, but then they were closed when we got there.. hopefully by June they will open, so you can get inside😊
      Have a nice weekend!

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  5. I used to think the Cabot Trail was the most beautiful drive on the East Coast. That was until we drove the Gaspe again in 2018. It had likely been 30 years since we had been there. We traced a similar route, except for Forillon. We crossed the peninsula inland for the first time and it was also a treat. Our hotel at Perce had a direct overview of Perce Rock. Thanks for sharing Christie. Allan

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    1. Glad you have fond memories from Gaspe, Allan. Our motel was also located between Perce Rock and Mont Joli, where we had a terrific view of the gulf from. It did rain cats and dogs on our second day in Perce, and probably the strong winds brought in some plankton to the shore, reason all gannets were plunging non-stop into the water to catch their lunch. Such a feast for our eyes!

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    1. Now that I think over, I believe those cute villages deserve so much more time.. I will probably return one day, earlier in the summer, I guess🙂
      Thank you for coming along!
      Have a lovely weekend, xx

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, Christie, what a beautiful place and incredibly scenic coastline – it looks like a paradise for outdoor sports! I love your lighthouse photos and gigantic red Perce Rock rising majestically from a deep blue sea; I’d say it’s even more beautiful in person! Thanks for sharing. I hope all is well 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. The deep blue waters and the skies make everything so photogenic, but the feeling to be up there, and feel the breeze in the face while watching the infinite, this is something I won’t forget soon🙂 Looking at all these pictures now, I realize how much I miss the place, already..
      Have a lovely weekend, Aiva! Hope all is well with you, too! xx

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  7. I rode my bicycle across the Peninsula on 132 when I was on my solo 10,000 mile tour of North America in 1989, Christie, and then Peggy and I drove it when we retraced my route four years ago. Beautiful. (Right after that, I rode my bike across Gaspe, I rode across Quebec. I can attest to how big it is. :)) Thanks for the fun memories. –Curt

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    1. Wow, that was a tour, no kidding😊 We saw many people biking along 132, this is a very nice way of slow traveling, where you can stop easily along the way.
      I love all the coastal landscapes, especially where the ‘green’ meets the ‘blue’, there is something magical about. But you know better, from the other side of the continent😊
      Glad I brought you back fun memories!

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      1. It was Christie. 🙂 Even the road trip we took to revisit the route three years ago was one heck of a journey! I must have gotten a few dozen posts off of it. Sorry this took so long to get back to you. Our life has been insanely hectic as we prepare for our next adventure. –Curt

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      2. No worries Curt, just answer when you can, having fun is the most important thing. Preparing for a new adventure is already so much more interesting🙂 I can’t wait to hear about where you’re heading to!

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    1. Road trips are very popular in Canada, since it’s such a large country, and with the beautiful landscape, what is not to love about🙂
      Thank you, and have a lovely week ahead!

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    1. Early mornings might look a little creepy in the proximity of water (especially at the beginning of the autumnal season) as the warmer air of the day encounters the coolness of the water. It’s magical..

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