logoMont-Louis in Gaspesie

Gaspésie - the Gaspé Peninsula

Quebec, to the south of the Saint Lawrence

An incomplete guide to discovering Quebec

The spectacular eastern tip of Quebec

Key: Main points of interest -   Click markers for more detail

With its dramatic 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 of the 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.
   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 French-speaking area on the Atlantic coast of continental America.
   But 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 total 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 of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Gaspésie coast road
The Gaspésie coastal highway - right on the water's edge 
 It's no surprise therefore that Gaspésie, a land of 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.

  Essentially, Gaspésie offers two kinds of  opportunity; on the one hand 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 environment.

   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 destination 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.
Gaspésie lighthouse
Phare de la Martre, one of Gaspésie's many iconic lighthouses
  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 peninsula.
  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 at Gaspé, it continues to hug the coast, looping round the southern shores of the Gaspé peninsula and back across the peninsula to reconnect with itself on the northern coast, at Sainte Flavie. Thus you can, if you want, do a tour of Gaspésie by just following the 132 from Sainte Flavie, and round back to Sainte Flavie.
   Landing in Gaspésie on the ferry to Matane means that you start your tour about 50 miles northeast of Sainte Flavie.
   From Matane, highway 132 just follows the coastline; and in this case, "following the coastline" means driving with the sea on one side of the road, and the hills or cliffs on the other.  Stop anywhere 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.

   There's not really a great choice of routes when it comes to visiting Gaspésie. Most visitors will want to drive round the coast following Quebec Route 132 . An alternative is to cut south across the peninsula from Saint-Anne des Monts, taking in the wild and uninhabited mountains of the Gaspé National Park.
   The full coastal circuit from Rimouski to Gaspé and back is a distance of 925 kilometres, or 575 miles, with most of the route except the last 100 miles hugging the shoreline - a spectacular journey if ever there was one.
   This is one of Canada's iconic road trips, with superb views and miles of unspoilt shoreline. Gaspé, the small town at the western end of the peninsula, is a place whose historic significance goes back almost 500 years, as it was here on July 24, 1534, that French navigator Jacques Cartier declared "New France" as a possession of King François I.  South of Gaspé is the most popular area of the coastline, around the spectacular Percé rock and Bonaventure Island.
Rocher percé
Where Gaspesie ends..... Rocher Percé 

Continuing south and west after Percé, the 132 follows the coast of the Baie des Chaleurs, or Bay of warmth. The south-facing beaches along this part of the coast are popular with visitors, but in spite of the name, the water is not always warm. Sea swimming is possible for a few weeks in the year, especially at the western end of the bay, with the areas of Caplan and Carleton sur Mer reportedly having  some of the warmest ocean water temperatures in Canada.

On the southern shore of the Saint Lawrence, Gaspésie offers small places to remember, and breathtaking scenery

Cap des Rosiers lighthouse, the tallest in Canada

  More pages on About-Quebec.com:

Hotels in Gaspésie

Check out best online rates from Booking.com for hotels, motels and guest-houses :
No pre-payment on many bookings; pay when you stay; no cancellation fees.
Hotels in Gaspésie
Hotels in Gaspé
About-Quebec.com is an independent  user-supported travel information website,  partnered with relevant travel service providers. External links are  provided for information purposes.  About-Quebec.com  may receive commission on bookings made through partner sites , but this has no effect on the prices.

Gaspesie wind farm
Wind is one of the Gaspésie coast's natural resources

Gaspesie sunset
Gaspésie sunset

Discover other countries...

About France - the connoisseur's guide to France. Over 200 pages of information for visitors and students.

About Britain - New; a thematic introduction to Britain

About Spain  - discover the real Spain - an incomplete guide to Spain on and off the beaten track

Angleterre.org.uk - Le guide de l'Angleterre, en  français

Top photo by Jules Mim.
Cap des Rosiers lighthouse by Adrien A.
Creative commons 3.0 licence.

Rocher Percé by A Picardier

Text and other photos on this page © About-Quebec.com

About-Quebec.com respects your privacy and does not collect data from users. Cookies are used solely to log anonymous audience statistics and to enable essential page functions. To remove this message, click   or otherwise learn more about setting cookie preferences