By the end of the 19th century, Métis and Carleton had become…

Beaches and Watersports in Gaspésie from Yesterday to Today

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Five women pose on the beach in Carleton in 1960. Angèle Degarie, in the middle, is surrounded by Rachel and Fabienne Allard and two other friends. Photo: Charles-Eugène Bernard

Beaches and Watersports in Gaspésie from Yesterday to Today

By the end of the 19th century, Métis and Carleton had become prime seaside resorts in Québec. Today, all along the coast of Gaspésie, many establishments welcome tourists looking for beaches and watersports.

Métis and Carleton: Seaside resorts for over a century

In the 1800s, many Scottish colonists settled in Métis (now Métis-sur-Mer), where their descendants, who saw the area’s tourist potential, built villas and hotels in the second half of the 19th century. Métis then became a popular seaside resort for wealthy English-speaking Montréal merchants.

In the late 19th century, many middle-class families spent their summer vacations in hotels or privately owned villas in Carleton (now Carleton-sur-Mer). A 1903 publication praised the beaches of the area as well as Chaleur Bay, while deploring the lack of hotels and beach cabins. Soon after, villas and hotels would be built along the coast in this area.

The road around the peninsula, which was completed in 1929, helped to make Gaspésie an even more popular destination since you could now drive all the way around the region. In the 1930s, about 400 summer visitors from the city stayed in Carleton. In many cases, they spent weeks or months in the area.

During the 1960s, mass tourism developed in Gaspésie, and many people visited the Chaleur Bay area, stopping in Carleton to go to the beach. Postcards sold to tourists were used to promote Gaspésie as a vacation destination. Photographer Charles-Eugène Bernard, who took the period photo found in this post, owned a studio in Carleton. He was one of the few people in the region taking pictures for tourists, to whom he sold thousands of postcards every year.

Over the years, several hotels were built along the seaside throughout Gaspésie. Two businesses were also launched to introduce people to the therapeutic properties of the sea: Aqua-Mer, North America’s first thalassotherapy centre, opened in Carleton in 1985, followed by Auberge du Parc in Paspébiac in 1986.

The beach in Carleton-sur-Mer attracts locals and visitors alike during the summer. Chaleur Bay is ideal for swimming and watersports, including sailing and stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). Photo: Roger St-Laurent

Beaches and watersports throughout the region

Métis-sur-Mer and its beaches still welcome many tourists today. The same is true of Carleton-sur-Mer, which is a booming destination for watersports. Sailboats, catamarans, paddleboards, kayaks, kitesurf boards and other watercraft now ply the waters of magnificent Chaleur Bay, which are particularly calm and safe. The bay is also bordered by several other beaches where you can enjoy playing in the water, in Maria, Taylor’s Point Park in New Richmond, Caplan, Saint-Siméon, Bonaventure and Paspébiac.

Further east, the St. Lawrence widens into the sea, offering beautiful beaches as well as access to a wide variety of watersports. For example, a sea kayaking excursion will give you the opportunity to admire the coasts of Percé and Forillon en kayak, ou encor. You can also participate in a sea excursion to observe whales and other marine mammals. A short cruise from Percé will allow you to admire legendary Percé Rock up close; you can also go scuba diving and see colourful corals and various marine species.

As for beaches, some favourites are Îlots Beaux Sables in Newport, Coin-du-Banc, Haldimand, Gaspé and the Penouille sandspit in Forillon, all of which offer great sand and scenery!

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

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