If you love rugged coastlines with tall, limestone cliffs you’ll love Gaspé. With the St. Lawrence River on one side, Chaleur Bay on the other and the Gulf of St. Lawrence at its point, there is plenty of coast to explore on Québec’s Gaspé Peninsula.
When we were on Our Great Canadian Roadtrip a friend suggested a side trip to Gaspé and we’re so glad we took her advice. East of Québec City and north of New Brunswick, Gaspé Peninsula (Péninsule de la Gaspésie) offered our first look at the incredible coastal scenery that we’d been looking forward to seeing in Atlantic Canada.
There aren’t many roads on Gaspé, but there is one long highway that follows the contours of its coastal shore. Don’t plan to take this drive as a day trip though. Not only is the coastal road almost 700 km long, but you’ll want to stop and enjoy the gorgeous sites along the way. We arrived on the peninsula’s northern border in the cute seaside town of Metis-Sur-Mer. Along the northern coast we passed several fishing villages with bright houses, and a few with pretty lighthouses. Near the end of the peninusla we visited the picturesque lighthouse at Cap-des-Rosiers. It is the tallest and oldest lighthouse in Canada.
At the end of the peninsula the cliffs become more dramatic. From the town of Cap-des-Rosiers we could see tall, seaside cliffs ahead and knew we wanted to get closer. Following the road toward those tall cliffs we entered Forillon National Park. It’s not a large park but it takes over the long cape at the end of the peninsula. On the north side of the cape the land is dramatic with tall steep, limestone cliffs hovering above the Gulf of St. Lawrence. On the south side the cliffs aren’t as tall, but they are equally rugged and show the effects of years of beating by the tough surf in Gaspé Bay. There are a few hiking and biking trails in the mountainous park that give you different views of this magnificent coast.
Sitting on the other side of Gaspé Bay from Forillon National Park is the peninsula’s namesake, the town of Gaspé. It’s a cute town with homes covering the shore and small hills along its side. From there the highway continues to follow the coast passing small towns and picturesque coves with pebble beaches. There were plenty of water birds and we even saw seals swimming in the water, but too far away for a good picture. After a few more turns of the winding highway we had our first view of our next destination, Percé Rock. With its distinctive arch we knew, even from this distance, that it was going to be a great site.
Percé Rock is part of a breathtaking coastal scene. Just off shore, this small island is bordered by steep cliffs and has a distinctive arch at one end. On the shore beside it, the green fields of Cap Mont-Joli lead to equally steep cliffs. Filling in the green space, two heritage homes add the final touches to this spectacular site.
Percé Rock is actually not an island but is connected to the main land by a sand bar that’s only exposed at low tide. Its distinctive arch is one of the largest in the world at 15 m (49 ft) high.
The best part was seeing this rock in different light. It was impressive during the day, but in the evening the rock glowed from the rays of the setting sun. In the morning, the sun rose right beside it for another amazing view. We didn’t know we would take so many pictures of one rock feature, but this one changed its look throughout the day, showing us a different aspects to its beauty.
The town of Percé has taken advantage of being so close to this popular tourist site by making sure people stay for a few days. There are with several hotels and restaurants to choose from as well as a few different activities to keep you busy. There are kayak rentals, boat tours and a zipline for those who are more adventurous. It’s a cute town with well maintained older buildings, a park and a walkway along its sandy beach.
After such a great experience on the coast Gaspé Peninsula we were very excited to see what else Canada’s east coast has to offer.
Travel Tips for Visiting Gaspé Peninsula
• Even though Google Maps will try to steer you away, take the coastal highway all around the border of the peninsula. There are a couple of shortcuts that run through the middle of the peninsula, but they are not very scenic.
• If you plan to visit Forillon National Park, don’t forget your annual Parks Canada Discovery Pass. If you don’t have one, there is a daily entry fee.
• Provincial Parks in Quebec are called National Parks, but are not a part of Parks Canada. You can not use your Parks Canada Discovery Pass.
• The primary language in Québec is French. All signs, including traffic signs, in the province are in French. Some signs have English as well, but not many. This mostly becomes problematic when driving. Make sure you know your route so you don’t have to depend on a quick translation. On this trip we found that most people do speak some English, especially those working in the tourism industry.
Coming Next – The World’s Highest Tides – Bay of Fundy
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