sparsely populated eastern tip of Quebec
its spectacular coasts, small fishing villages and beautiful mountains,
Gaspésie is like no other part of Canada
Once upon a time, many centuries ago, a large part
northeast Atlantic coast of North America was colonised by people
from France. Along the northeast coastline, there were three French
colonial areas called Acadie, Gaspésie and Terre-Neuve.
Main points of
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In the 18th century, following conflicts and treaties between
warring nations in Europe, Acadie - now part of Maine and New Brunswick
- and Terre-Neuve - now called Newfoundland - came under British
colonial rule. That left Gaspésie as the only
area on the Atlantic coast of continental America.
very few people lived there. The only settlements were fishing villages
along the coast, inhabited in part by French settlers from Acadia, and
in part by British Loyalists who moved up from the new United States
following its independence.
To this day,
Gaspésie remains a very sparsely populated area, with a
population of under 100,000 people in an area of a little over 20,000
km² – which is less than 5 people per square
kilometer, far less than the neighbouring Atlantic provinces
Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
It's no surprise therefore that Gaspésie, a land
coasts and mountains, remains a very unspoiled and beautiful part of
eastern Quebec, and an area that attracts visitors looking for
grandiose scenery, a stunning coastline, great hiking areas and a
fabulous natural environment.
Gaspésie coastal highway - right on the water's
Gaspésie offers two kinds of opportunity; on the
the opportunity for a leisurely drive along what is arguably the most
scenic coastal route in North America, on a par with California's
Highway 1; on the other hand a mountain and National Park area with
fabulous hiking and skiing trails through a pristine natural
It is Gaspésie's coastal route
that attracts the most visitors: but don't imagine that it attracts the
crowds – it doesn't. This is too much of a far-flung
to attract the hordes, too remote, too far from any big city or from
any international airport apart from Quebec. Gaspésie is a
destination for conoisseurs, those who have done their homework, those
who a ready to seek out the beautiful parts that others have not found.
And those who make the journy are duly rewarded.
For travellers starting from Quebec, the most interesting
way to reach Gaspésie is to take Highway 138
along the north shore of the Saint Lawrence to Baie Comeau, then take
the ferry across the 50-km wide Saint Lawrence to Matane. Matane is one
of the small fishing ports along the Gaspésie coast, with a
cluster of hotels, mostly on the water's edge, and a fine place to join
highway 132 for the journey along to the tip of the Gaspé
Gaspésie's many iconic lighthouses
Highway 132 follows an amazing route; it actually
starts at the Vermont border southwest of Montreal, and follows the
south bank of the Saint Lawrence all the way to Gaspé; and
Gaspé, it continues to hug the coast, looping round the
shores of the Gaspé peninsula and back across the peninsula
reconnect with itself on the northern coast, at Sainte Flavie. Thus you
can, if you want, do a tour of Gaspésie by just following
132 from Sainte Flavie, and round back to Sainte Flavie.
Landing in Gaspésie on the ferry to Matane means
start your tour about 50 miles northeast of Sainte Flavie.
From Matane, highway 132 just follows the coastline; and in
case, "following the coastline" means driving with the sea on one side
of the road, and the hills or cliffs on the other. Stop
you want, to wander along deserted beaches, watch the birds, visit a
lighthouse, or discover another small fishing village. There is no
prescribed list of places to stop, just a succession of views and
vistas, landscapes and seascapes.
The largest towns are
small, places like Sainte Anne des Monts with another cluster of hotels
and a few restaurants. Sainte Anne also has a marine discovery centre,
with aquariums and boat trips on the Saint Lawrence.