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Percé. Photo : Simon Jodoin

Our Very Own Land’s End: a Slow Drive Around the Gaspé peninsula

Gaspésie, this mythical region where each kilometre covered beckons you onward, this immense and magnificent territory that feels like a country within a country, immediately evokes the thought of a road trip.

To “tour the Gaspé” has become a catchphrase that is now part of our collective imagination, and is no more or no less than an achievement that must be done at least once in a lifetime. For many Québécois, it also means travelling to their very own land’s end.

Route 132 vers Mont-Saint-Pierre
Route 132 to Mont-Saint-Pierre. Photo: Simon Jodoin

Gaspésie Tour

It would certainly be overly ambitious to try and describe in a single travelogue the many itineraries and places to discover on the peninsula. Each part of Gaspésie could be the subject of its own voluminous travel guide. In reality, it would take several weeks to “tour” the peninsula. Still, let’s head out with the simple goal of getting an idea about what is possible.

Gaspésie officially begins in Sainte-Flavie, about 30 kilometres east of Rimouski. And this is where your journey begins. After just a few kilometres, you’ll hear the call of the sea and will want to stop to breathe in the salty air. This is also where you’ll have to deal with a question that has no correct answer: which way should you go?

Naturally, the beautiful route through the Matapédia valley is very inviting, and it would certainly be understandable if you were tempted to set out in that direction. On the other hand, driving east on Route 132, along the sea, is one of the most beautiful driving experiences to be had. We’ll leave it to you to solve this dilemma. It’s one of the biggest questions related to Québec tourism, which can never be answered to everyone’s satisfaction!

La route 299 dans la vallée de la Cascapédia
Route 299 in the Cascapédia valley. Photo: Simon Jodoin

One thing is certain: Route 299, which crosses the peninsula through the Parc de la Gaspésie and continues southward along Rivière Cascapédia, between Sainte-Anne-des-Monts and New Richmond, is one of Québec’s most beautiful routes. For this trip, we’ll choose this slightly less typical circuit.

La grève de Sainte-Anne-des-Monts
Sainte-Anne-des-Monts. Photo: Simon Jodoin

The Coast and the Haute-Gaspésie

You’ll head, therefore, to Sainte-Anne-des-Monts. Along the way, a must-stop are the Reford Gardens, the first site to leave you in wonder, at the gateway to the Gaspé peninsula. Next, in Matane, take some time to get off the main road and stop for a while in the very charming downtown area, which you can’t see from Route 132. You could even spend the night and take the opportunity to savour some of the beer produced by the La Fabrique craft brewery.

Then, you’ll want to slowly travel through this entire area along the coast, taking the time to visit the villages, enjoy a meal by the waterfront, until you reach Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, where you’ll also need to get off Route 132 to drive slowly along 1st Avenue West in order to reach the town’s central area. This road follows the shoreline for more than four kilometres and brings you to the municipal wharf. In front of the wharf stands the Exploramer museum that, in addition to its exhibitions, gives you an opportunity to wade in the water or take a boat trip to discover the St. Lawrence River’s marine wildlife.

Leave Saint-Anne-des-Monts for an early morning arrival in Mont-Saint-Pierre, where you can enjoy exploring an area off the beaten track. As you drive over this magnificent stretch of Route 132 along the river, you’ll feel as if you’re being pulled by the ocean. It’s widely known to be one of the most beautiful routes in the world! In the village of Mont-Saint-Pierre, take Route Pierre-Godefroi-Coulombe toward the municipal campground, in the direction of the parc national de la Gaspésie, in the Mont-Jacques-Cartier area.

Route dans le parc national de la Gaspésie
Road in the parc national de la Gaspésie. Photo: Simon Jodoin

Route 299 and parc national de la Gaspésie

You’ll then find yourself on Chemin de ceinture des monts McGerrigle (Route 16 in the park). This will take you into the very beautiful forest area as you wind between the imposing Chic-Chocs mountains. Make a stop at the Ruisseau du Castor lookout to enjoy a stunning view of Mont Albert. It’s also a perfect spot for a picnic. You can then slowly head toward Route 299 and head down toward Baie-des-Chaleurs, in the direction of New Richmond.

Coucher de soleil à Bonaventure
Sunset in Bonaventure. Photo: Simon Jodoin

Chaleur Bay

It’s better not to be in a hurry when you arrive at the bay, as this part of the Gaspé peninsula should be much more than a simple stopover along the way. In fact, you could even spend your entire vacation there. From exploring the parc national de Miguasha to gently descending the crystal-clear Rivière Bonaventure, under the care of Cime Aventures, to taking naps and walks on beautiful beaches, swimming in the Malin rapids and visiting the Paspébiac National Historic Site, there should be lots to interest you for several days.

Perhaps this is why it’s a good idea to tour the Gaspé peninsula in this direction, because Baie-des-Chaleurs gives you many reasons for taking your time. After having explored all its nooks and crannies, you can then set out for Percé, telling yourself that there’s no need to rush.

Quai de Percé
Percé wharf. Photo: Simon Jodoin

On the way to Percé

Once again, you’ll want to go slowly, in small stretches, and not hesitate to take some detours. There’s no hurry. There are 136 kilometres between Bonaventure and Percé, and there’s no point in covering the entire distance in one shot. Take every opportunity to leave the main road in order to discover peaceful seaside havens, like Chandler. From Route 132, you can’t make out the charming hamlet tucked away in Baie du Grand Pabos. As you continue to gradually make your way forward, you’ll eventually pass Cap Espoir from where, off in the distance, you’ll see Île Bonaventure.

There’s so much to say about Percé. A whole travel guide could be written just about this small village, which is a hub of tourist frenzy in high season. There is, of course, the rock, which remains the signature landscape of Québec and the subject of countless postcards. And yet it’s hard not to fall in love with the village itself at land’s end, with its beautifully restored wharf, where it’s enjoyable to go for a stroll.

Le rocher Percé vu du chemin des Failles
The Percé Rock from chemin des Failles. Photo: Simon Jodoin

One of the nicest ways to enter the village is to take Route Lemieux, in L’Anse-à-Beaufils, and then take Chemin d’Irlande, which goes inland to Route des Failles. This will allow you to see Île Bonaventure in the distance and, at the last bend in the road, Percé rock will appear before you.

In fact, that’s what you should always remember to do in Percé: explore the surrounding countryside. It would be a pity to drive all the way there and then to not go and admire the hinterland landscapes. To do this, take Route 132 back to Grande-Rivière. Take the opportunity to stop at the La Société Secrète distillery, between L’Anse-à-Beaufils and Cap-Espoir. Then, head to Saint-Isidore-de-Gaspé and Val-d’Espoir, where you can visit the Auval microbrewery, whose brews are the envy of all beer connoisseurs in Québec.

Continuing along the country roads, you can once again reach Route 132 in Coin-du-Banc, another beautiful place with direct access to the sea. You may also want to visit the hamlet of Barachois-Nord, just behind Barachois. From there as well you’ll see the rock, which from a distance seems even more mysterious.

Vue de l'île Bonaventure.
View on the Bonaventure island. Photo: Simon Jodoin

Nevertheless, among the most striking landscapes, the most stunning are those that can be admired from Île Bonaventure. It’s pretty much the highlight when, after walking near the gannet colonies, you stroll along the coast to see from afar the small village set on such an impressive site, which appears to be so calm and sheltered from the turmoil of the world.

Plage Haldimand, Gaspé
Haldimand Beach, Gaspé. Photo: Simon Jodoin

On the way to Gaspé and Forillon National Park

After visiting Percé and the surrounding area, you’ll head off toward the Gaspé coast, being sure to stop from time to time along the way. In Douglastown, for example, explore the point that juts out into the mouth of Rivière Saint-Jean. On your way to Gaspé, take the longest circuit by staying on Route 132 that runs along the shore. You’ll come to the splendid Haldimand beach, a long stretch of fine sand, perfect for a walk and a rest.

After making your way around Gaspé Bay, you’ll come to an immense playground, Forillon National Park, where, once again, you’ll want to stop for a few days to hike along its trails through the beaches and capes all the way to Cap Gaspé, known colloquially as “land’s end.” This is as far as you can go, unless you leave the mainland and go to sea!

Pointe-à-la-Renommée. Photo: Simon Jodoin

After your pilgrimage to this vast part of the country, which is savoured bit by bit, Route 132 will take you back toward the west through the breathtaking landscapes of the Haute-Gaspésie. At this point in your trip, you won’t want to go home too quickly. You’ll find yourself pressing lightly on the gas as you continue on your way. Whether it’s sunny or raining, whether the sky is grey or clear, you’ll want to take as much time as you need to slowly cover the remaining kilometres, without missing an opportunity to make many stops along the way. That’s how it is on the Gaspé peninsula. It’s beautiful even in the rain, and after reaching land’s end, the journey has perhaps only just begun …

Manche-d’Épée. Photo: Simon Jodoin

Other stops on your road trip through Gaspésie
Recommended by Tourisme Gaspésie

Le Ketch
Photo: Le Ketch – Microbrasserie du Littoral

Le Ketch – Microbrasserie du Littoral, Sainte-Flavie

Le Ketch is a new microbrewery located by the sea in the village of Sainte-Flavie, at the gateway to the Gaspé peninsula. Its magnificent patio offers a breathtaking view of the St. Lawrence River. A perfect spot for savouring Gaspesian beers and admiring the sunsets! The microbrewery serves up a varied menu featuring many regional products, including cod accras and shrimp poutine, in a warm atmosphere.

Extrême Chic-Chocs Safari.
Extrême Chic-Chocs Safari. Photo: CHOK Images

Extrême Chic-Choc – Safari, Sainte-Anne-des-Monts

Go on a jeep safari in the Gaspé peninsula’s hinterland for a unique experience! Accompanied by a professional guide, you’ll get to safely explore, for four to eight hours, the true nature of the Gaspé peninsula, either as a co-driver or a passenger in superb four-wheel drive vehicles adapted for off-roading. This is a chance to admire the wildlife and plant life in beautiful panoramic landscapes of the mountains and sea. It’s a unique way to discover the most undisturbed parts of the region!

Avolo plein air.
Kayaking with Avolo plein air (Le Nordet). Photo: Roger St-Laurent

Le Nordet, Saint-Georges-de-Malbaie (Percé)

Located halfway between Gaspé and Percé, the Nordet offers lodging, a café-bistro and guided sea kayaking excursions. Don’t miss the Le tour de l’Alizée excursion, featuring seabirds, a cave and marine wildlife and plant life! From this unique site, you have a view of Île Plate and the majestic Gulf of St. Lawrence, as well as a view of a more wooded area at the back of the property. The owners have set out to reinvent the motel experience, so popular in the past, while respecting more environmentally conscious principles. A unique initiative to discover!

Fraises de la Ferme Bourdages Tradition.
Strawberries from the Bourdages Tradition Farm. Photo: Gaspésie Gourmande

Ferme Bourdages Tradition, Saint-Siméon

The Bourdages, who have been living on the same land since 1821, represent seven generations of passionate farmers who, over the years, have developed an impressive agritourism business. The Ferme Bourdages tradition specializing in growing and processing strawberries, offers visitors an authentic country experience based on learning, tasting and enjoying. Savour their delicious fresh and processed products, such as their strawberry wine, visit the beautiful fields overlooking the sea and learn all the secrets of making strawberry wine.

Blog post written by Simon Jodoin

To make sure you savour every moment, plan your stay at! #gaspesie

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