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This photo, which was sold as a postcard, was taken in the 1930s near Ruisseau Castor, in Haute-Gaspésie, shortly after it became possible to drive all around the Gaspé Peninsula. Photo: Hedley V. enderson

The Gaspésie Tour Is 90 Years Old!

As early as the mid-19th century, wealthy members of the political and financial elite of Canada, the U.S. and England travelled to Gaspésie by train or boat. In 1929, with the completion of Route 132, which made the Gaspé Peninsula accessible by car, the region became a popular tourist destination. Today, hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Gaspésie every year.

Gaspésie by boat, by train… and then by car

Gaspésie is described in travel books and journals as early as the 19th century. Passengers departing from Montréal and Québec City travelled to Gaspé on Gulf Ports Steamship Company ships. At the time, since only some of the region was accessible by car, visitors had to travel from village to village by boat.

Once the Intercolonial Railway reaches the Matapédia Valley, it brought a stream of passengers to the gateway of Gaspésie on daily trains from Montréal and Halifax. Extended to Paspébiac in 1902, then Gaspé in 1911, the railway transported an increasing number of tourists to coastal villages, which led to the building of hotels. In 1926, there were 36 hotels in Gaspésie, with at least as many boarding houses. Affordable cabins also started appearing along the coast.

Hotel owners were the first to promote the region. An estimated 100 tourists visited Gaspésie in 1925, while about 3500 visited in 1928, when the road linking Sainte-Anne-des-Monts to the Matapédia Valley was completed. Once the road around the peninsula was finished in 1929, the province of Québec took over promoting the region.

As one of the first regions of Québec to have a modern road network, Gaspésie benefitted from the growing popularity of road trips. It even became one of North America’s major road destinations. Fleeing the city during summer months, visitors chose to visit the Gaspé Peninsula because of the region’s natural beauty and fresh air. Gaspésie stood out by offering them not only a vacation destination, but also an 885-km coastal loop drive featuring spectacular sea and mountain scenery.

Every year until 1945, 20,000 to 50,000 summer visitors drove the road around the Gaspé Peninsula. In the 1950s, those numbers jumped to 80,000 to 100,000 visitors travelling by car, by bus or with a trailer. Nearly 50% of these tourists came from the six New England states and the state of New York, while 40% came from Québec and 10% from Ontario. Many couples or friends embarked on a tour of Gaspésie in the 1960s to 1980s, and more and more people were hitchhiking around the peninsula.

Haute-Gaspésie offers breathtaking landscapes featuring winding roads and cliffs that plunge into the sea. In recent years, this area has expanded the number of outdoor activities on offer. Photo: Roger St-Laurent

A vacation destination for Quebecers

Currently, over 700,000 tourists visit Gaspésie every year. Of these, 80% are from Québec. Over the years, the road leading to the Gaspé Peninsula and Route 132, which runs around it, have undergone several improvements, making them even more pleasant to drive. Now, whether you are travelling by car, RV, motorcycle or bicycle, this scenic drive with amazing views is an experience in itself!

However, Gaspésie is much more than a road. It is also a region of friendly and welcoming people who have developed, over time, a wide variety of attractions. Three major assets—the sea, mountains and rivers—give visitors many opportunities to enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities. These include boat tours, kayaking, canoeing, diving, hang-gliding, rafting, fishing and hiking (in the Chic-Choc Mountains and Forillon, among others). Gaspésie also offers inviting beaches, various festivals and sporting events as well as several sites that evoke the region’s history and heritage. The region is also teeming with restaurants, pubs, microbreweries, cafés and other gourmet sites that showcase delicious regional ingredients and products, including fish and seafood.

The Gaspésie Tour, which takes 7 days to drive, is a great way to fully enjoy everything that this region has to offer. From Mont-Joli (via Highway 20) or Sainte-Flavie (via Route 132), this loop drive is about 885 km and can be explored either clockwise or counterclockwise. In addition to the “Grand Tour,” Gaspésie also offers several shorter drives that can be adapted to suit your interests and the time you have.

To be in the loop and find out more about the Gaspésie Tour and other scenic routes, visit tourisme-gaspesie.com and plan your trip today! #gaspesie

Source: Jean-Marc Fallu, “Le fameux Tour de la Gaspésie,” Magazine Gaspésie (Le Tour de la Gaspésie), December 2017-March 2018

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© 2017 Association touristique régionale de la Gaspésie