Snow, moose and sunsets
I discovered the existence of the Gaspé peninsula, or Gaspésie, while I was translating some travel articles about Québec. The way the author described its landscapes caught my attention, I started googling images and after a few minutes I was sold.
The Gaspésie is a fairly small (for Canadian standards at least) peninsula overlooking the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, at the border with New Brunswick. Its name means “end of the world” in Mik’maq language and that’s where Jacques Cartier first landed in Canada in the 16th century. The train cuts through it from Rimouski to Campbellton, so the only options to get there are the Orleans Express, a couch service similar to Greyhound, or renting a car and going on a road trip.
Unless you decide to stick to the urban areas, which in my opinion defeats a bit the purpose, you will still need to rent a car to explore the national parks and have some freedom of movement.
I decided to focus on the Gaspé and Percé area, so I boarded the Orleans Express from Québec City and got off in Gaspé. The bus ride was one of the highlights of my trip. The landscape along the shore reminded me of those remote villages in Scandinavia that you see on National Geographic, with snow everywhere and colorful houses popping up here and there.
In April, there still were thick banks of snow on the shore together with green patches of grass. It was a mosaic of whites and greens and blues, with mountains and lush forests only a few meters away. And then lighthouses and churches, cobbles and grey sand, everything perfectly balanced like in a painting. Passing by at sunset made things even more beautiful and enchanting.
Gaspé & Percé
Gaspé is a little town with not much to see. I enjoyed visiting the Musée de la Gaspesie and walking on the Promenade de Jacques Cartier, which felt like being on the set of Titanic, but other than that the options are quite limited. Same thing for Percé: the village is really small and other than its main attraction there’s not much else to see.
The reason why Percé is somewhat famous is its Rocher, a giant rock in the water with a hole in the middle. I was really excited about this, but unfortunately I could barely see it across the thick layer of white fog. I’m sure it’s amazing on a sunny day though. In summer, it’s also possible to add something to the fun by exploring the Ile de Bonaventure, reachable by ferry.
Parc National de Forillon
The main attraction in the area is nature. There is a countless number of trails that cut into the forest or follow the shore, steep trails and easy family-friendly trails, scenic viewpoints and picnic areas. This, if you go in summer.
Being there at the end of April, I hadn’t even considered the possibility of mountains of snow blocking all the trails. Well, guess what? Most trails were closed because of the meters and meters of snow everywhere. As if my options hadn’t been crippled enough by the weather, two giant moose decided to block one of the few open roads.
Now, when you’re alone in the middle of nowhere on foot and you find two giant animals in front of you, you don’t really have a choice. You start walking backwards on the tip of your toes, hoping they won’t notice you and, once you’re out of sight, you start running to safety. Taken by surprise, I was shocked and fascinated at the same time. Between a selfie and my life, I chose my life and ran back to the car for good. In the end, the only real walk I was able to do was the one along the shore and up to the lighthouse.
I highly recommend visiting the Gaspésie in summer, when you can really enjoy all the available options. The Parc de Forillon as well as the Parc de la Gaspésie have so much to offer, for real. Driving around is by far the best option, so make it a road trip around the peninsula. You could get to Gaspé by bus and then rent a car in town.
Brush up your French, as most people around here don’t speak English.
Where to stay: there are not many hostel options, so you may want to consider an Airbnb for this destination. I stayed with a lovely yoga teacher and her boyfriend for about 25 CAD/night. She picked me up from the bus stop and drove me there the day I left. She also helped me a lot with the itinerary, recommending the best trails and viewpoints.
I’ll definitely go back to visit in the sunny season and you should too! There are not many tourists overall, so you’ll be able to enjoy nature at its best. Go and Explore!
Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them below! 🙂
And for more destinations, take a look here.