Gaspésie: A Recap Of A Region You Must See To Believe
Have you ever heard of the Gaspésie region of Québec? Well, neither had I up until a month before I recently took a road trip there the last week of August. The reason you probably have never heard of it, unless you are from Québec, is because the area is so isolated.The maritime region is about a 10 hour drive from Montreal and other than driving, it is extremely expensive to fly with flights ranging in the $600 CAD ($495 USD) roundtrip range. Despite the effort to get there, once you arrive, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, incredible hikes, and welcoming locals. There is a reason why National Geographic ranked the region as the third must see destination in the WORLD in 2009. Here is my recap of my five day trip in the region:
Friday, August 25th: If you are bold enough to make the drive in one shot by all means go ahead, but my girlfriend, Kaity, and I decided to take the more easy going approach and stayed at an Airbnb (Join Airbnb with this link to save $25 on your first booking) for one night across the river from Québec City in Lévis to break up the driving.
Total Trip Time: 3 Hours
Saturday, August 26th: I think one of the best part about a road trip is stopping wherever you want and whenever you want. Once we left in the morning from Levis, we decided to head to a cafe that looked interesting in Rivere-Du-Loup called Cafe Du Clocher RDL. The breakfast wrap was great and they surprisingly have coffee from all over the world! It was a great place to fuel up before a long drive.
On the way out of town, we debated whether to pick up a ride share or not from one of the ride share groups we saw on Facebook. We decided we would and ended up picking up a traveler named Marc. We took him along for $50 CAD to Gaspé (Side note: If you are doing a trip on a budget, this is a great way to make some extra money and get to meet new people. Also, a great way to travel around and it is very common in this region.) The trip took a little longer than expected to get to Gaspé due to road construction and bathroom breaks, but we had amazing views driving right along the the St. Lawrence. We also got extremely lucky with the weather. We had nothing but sun and blue skies the whole week!
Total Trip Time: 11 Hours
Sunday, August 27th: We ended up setting up our tent and camping gear in a camping park called Camping Griffon. We arrived in medium season so we payed $28 CAD ($23 USD) a night for a spot with electricity and water. I would highly recommend this family run spot for its amazing facilities alone! The bathrooms and shower area were cleaned twice daily, they had hot water, grills, and you can camp with views of the water. The staff is very helpful in navigating the region and you are a 10 minute drive from the entrance of Forillon National Park. The only downside was that we were a 30 minute drive from the nearest grocery store so come prepared or stop in town Gaspé to stock up on food on your way to the camp site. Also, be prepared to wear layers. It gets very cold at night! I had on at least a hat, 4 sweaters, 2 pairs of sweatpants, and 2 pairs of warm socks.
On our way to Forillon, we made a quick stop at Cap-Des-Rosiers Lighthouse, took some pictures of the scenery, but didn’t go up the lighthouse because you can only go on tours every 45 minutes that cost $5CAD (4USD).
When we arrived at the entrance of Forillon at about 10 AM, we were worried we would have to pay to enter the park without a tag, but entrance for everyone this year is FREE, with or without a Parks Canada tag. We drove to the Cap Bon-Ami section of the park to hike Mont Saint-Alban and were greeted with incredible views of the cliffs and gulf. The panoramic view from the observation deck at the top of Mont Saint-Alban is even more stunning! If you only have time for one hike, this is absolutely the one you should do! Next, we decided to venture to the Grande Grave trail to go to Land’s End. The Grande Grave was actually set up as a fishing town for European fishermen that were drawn to the area by the large amount of Cod in the region. At its peak, the town was home to 400 people and exported cod to far away lands such as Italy, Spain, and the Caribbean. They created their own cure for the cod named simply, “Gaspé Cure”. There are a few original houses dotted along the trail that are still standing and you can read about this fascinating history. As you walk the trail, you are met with amazing views of the gulf and great hiking trails. A little known fact is that Cap Gaspé is actually the beginning (or end if you see it that way) of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT) that runs all the way down to the Southern US. The trail is about 4 hours long so plan accordingly.
Monday, August 28th: We spent another full day at Forillon for a total of two days, but you could easily spend a week hiking the trails! It’s easy to see why people spend all summer hiking and traveling the region such as Marc had been doing.
After an intense hiking day the previous day, we opted for more “relaxed” hikes to La Chute Trail, which is only about 1 KM and takes about 30 minutes to go there and back. After that we decided to go to Penouille Beach, but on the way we stopped by Fort Peninsula, the only World World II military area preserved in Québec. Not many people know that from 1942 to 1944, German U-Boats sank 23 Allied ships in the St.Lawrence and as a result, the Canadian Navy built the fort to defend cargo ships against attack from the Germans. You can now go underground, see the remaining giant canons, and read about day to day life. Well worth the visit!
Tuesday, August 29th: We left the beauty of Forillon and continued along Route 132 to Percé and its famous rock. Only 76 KM from Gaspé, the drive took about an hour and a half and we decided to pay $35 CAD ($29 USD) each to go on a boat tour and be dropped off at Bonaventure Island. The boat ride was amazing as we got great views of the rock, spotted a Minke Whale, and as we got close to Bonaventure Island, we saw one of the largest North Gannet, a giant seabird, nesting colonies in the world with over 120,000 nesting birds! The sight of all these white and black birds diving and flying around you was incredible. Once we arrived on the island, we had to pay $7.50CAD($6.17USD) to enter as it is a SEPAQ (Quebec Provincial Park). On the island there are three trails that you can hike and you must stay on at all times since the ecosystem on the island is so fragile. All of them lead to the Northern Gannet nesting site, where you can see these bird’s unique mating and nesting behavior close up. The trip to the island is worth it, but other than the boat tour there is really no need to stay in Percé so I would recommend to only do a day trip. Once we got back to Percé, we got back in the car and headed three hours down the 132 to a town called Bonaventure, a charming French Acadian town that is home to one of the clearest rivers I have ever seen! We stayed at Cime Adventures, a campground that provides adventure tours. If you have a chance, stay in one of their tipis for only $50 CAD ($41USD) a night.
Total Trip Time: 4.5 Hours
Wednesday, August 30th: On our last full day in the Gaspesie region, we went to a small cafe called La Petrie to have pastries and coffee to treat ourselves. This place is awesome! Very nice staff and amazing pastries. If you are in Bonaventure, go! Thank me later :) When we came back, we wanted to kayak. We did the “family” two and a half hour kayaking trip down the Bonaventure River. The other option was the “Popular” 4 and a half hour kayak trip that includes Class 1 and 2 rapids. I can’t imagine how intense that option is since the “family” one was hard as you had to pay attention and navigate through different water levels and changing water speeds. It was a great workout and the scenery was beautiful. Luckily, neither Kaity nor I flipped over, but Kaity’s kayak did fill with water and I lost my kayak at one point..we’re alive haha
After our kayaking trip, we picked up salmon filets and had a well earned meal. To be honest, most of our food budget was spent on fish because we knew we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have amazing, fresh fish for a good price. We either would cook it in the pan we brought or get smoked salmon and put it on Tim Horton's bagels for breakfast. Yum!
Overall, this was one of my favorite trips I have ever done for a whole variety of reasons. There are so many things to do in this region and I think that in a few years time, the tourism in the Gaspésie area will take off! Go while the prices are reasonable and more people discover this beautiful place. It is also a great fitness location destination because there are tons of ways to stay active from hikes to paddle boarding to kayaking and many, many more! If you have any questions about my trip or want more tips for planning your trip, feel free to reach out to me directly.