Percé: Popular since the Early 20th Century
Attracted by iconic Percé Rock, the first tourists travelled to Percé in the early 20th century. From then on, this destination gained in popularity year after year. Today, several thousand people visit Percé every year to discover Parc national de l’Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé, the Percé UNESCO Global Geopark and the many other attractions that are now found in this area.
A cultural centre and an iconic rock
A popular tourist destination, Percé also became a cultural hub for the area with the creation of an arts centre founded by Suzanne Guité and Alberto Tommi in 1956. This centre, which drew many of Québec’s top artists over the years, housed an exhibition room, a small theatre, a movie theatre and rooms for workshops.
By the 1960s and 1970s, it had become very popular for tourists to visit Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock. At the time, Percé did not yet have a wharf, so boat tours were launched from the beach. This meant that visitors might get their feet wet as they boarded. To avoid this, some excursion providers were gentlemanly enough to offer to carry ladies to their boats!
The Government of Québec acquired Bonaventure Island in 1971 and Percé Rock in 1974 and turned both into nature reserves. In 1985, these attractions were grouped together into a conservation park to preserve the fauna, flora and vestiges of island life found there. Trails were built in the park, which began to offer interpretive activities and showcase the built heritage of Bonaventure Island.
Over the years, Percé Rock’s status as an iconic landmark has only been strengthened. In fact, it is one of the few natural landmarks in Canada that is recognized worldwide. Although visitors have been required to stay at least 500 metres away from this major attraction since 2009 due to the risk of erosion, it is still possible to admire Percé Rock from various angles during a boat tour.
Sustainable development of Percé
Home to many art galleries, Percé still attracts arts and crafts enthusiasts today. At the heart of the village, you will also find many boutiques, restaurants and cafés, as well as new infrastructures developed in 2018 to rehabilitate the Percé shoreline and protect it from coastal erosion and marine storms. These include a boardwalk, beach, municipal park and recreational tourism facilities. Percé also offers an observation tower, children’s games, swings, lounge chairs, shaded areas and the Pavillon des Grandes Marées, which houses the Club nautique (a yacht club).
Parc de l’Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé now offers even more attractions. The Discovery and Visitors Centre, located in the Le Chafaud building at the heart of Percé, welcomes visitors who want to plan an excursion to Bonaventure Island. It also offers two exhibitions: one on the history, fauna, flora and geology of the park, and the other on the presence of French fishermen in Percé in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Private companies in Percé offer safe boat tours to get a closer look at Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock. On board, a park warden/naturalist is available to provide information to passengers on the species and attractions they will observe. During the sea excursion, seals, seabirds and sometimes even whales are part of the landscape! Bypassing Percé Rock, the boat will land on Bonaventure Island where you can explore four intermediate trails (varying in length from 5.6 km to 9.4 km), discover local flora and visit the world’s most accessible northern gannet colony (116,000 birds). Many interpretive activities focused on the park’s fauna, flora, history and heritage are also offered (in French only).
Finally, Percé received significant recognition in 2016. The area’s many geological features and treasures have earned it the UNESCO Global Geopark label. New infrastructures have been set up to better enhance this distinctive territory, which includes 23 geosites of geological and scientific importance that meet one or more exceptional criteria. The Percé UNESCO Global Geopark offers several facilities and activities (including a glass platform suspended on a mountainside, a zipline, a multimedia experience, trails, etc.) that allow visitors to discover this exceptional area.
To be in the loop and find out more about the attractions of Percé, visit tourisme-gaspesie.com and plan your trip today! #gaspesie
Source: Portrait of the Park, Sépaq (www.sepaq.com)
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