I just got back from a week in the Gaspésie region of Quebec. My lovely wife is from a village in the
north east so I have the good fortune of being an “adopted son” there.
For those who may not know, Gaspésie is a large peninsula in Eastern Quebec jutting out into the St Lawrence. The whole area is dramatically dominated by cliffs hills and mountains, criss-crossed with rivers and valleys, and bordered by the sea. The name derives from the local Mi’kmaq population’s words for “Lands End”.
The Peninsula has a long history of human settlements. There is evidence of thousands of years of native inhabitants, and the first Europeans arrived in the 1500s. By the early 1900s the area was well known for its great cod fisheries, timber, and abundant salmon rivers.
I spent this Thanksgiving weekend enjoying the fine sunny days and amazing autumn foliage. At this time of year the busy tourist season is winding down. The weather is often great although trending colder. It is a good time to see lots of minke, fin, blue and humpback whales, dolphins and porpoises, northern gannets, porcupines, bears, beavers, foxes, and moose.
Near our place is a valley located in the boundaries of the Forillon National Park, which bisects the tip of the Peninsula. Within the sheltered valley is a fantastic trail of about 10k that is great for a walk, bike ride or jog. It’s surrounded by steep hills with beautiful fall colours, has a peaceful river winding through it, and is an easy spot to see lots of wildlife.
On Saturday we took a new train service offered by Via Rail, called L’Amiral. This is a first-class tourist train that runs between the region’s main town, Gaspé, and the popular tourist village of Percé, which is home to the famous Percé Rock which juts out of the sea in spectacular fasion. The tracks run right along the seaside and there were some great views. The service is offered to the large cruise ships that visit the area and seems like a good way to let short-time visitors see the sights.
Percé is also the location of Bonaventure Island, where the largest colony of Northern Gannets in the world is located. Bonaventure is now a Quebec Provincial Park but used to be the home island of a large Channel Islands fishing empire which managed the cod fisheries in the area.
I love the Gaspésie Peninsula very much and encourage anyone to visit for its striking natural beauty and history. If you do come up try to drive up the 132 Highway which is one of the most beautiful coastal roads in the world (according to Michelin Green Guide and National Geographic).
Leave yourself lots of time to stop and take pictures!