Are you dreaming about an amazing Gaspe Peninsula road trip vacation? Do you want to explore Gaspésie with your family and see all the beautiful places you’ve seen pictures of in magazines?
You are in the right spot. This article is your Gaspe Peninsula travel guide and trip plan you can follow step-by-step.
Later in this post, I’m going to give you a great road trip itinerary around the whole Gaspe Peninsula.
But first let’s have a look at all the information you need to know before travelling to the region for the first time such as driving instructions, maps and the best time to visit Gaspe Peninsula. Furthermore, you’ll learn about all the best things to see and do there, where to stay and what to eat.
ABOUT GASPE PENINSULA
IS GASPE PENINSULA WORTH VISITING?
Absolutely! Gaspe Peninsula, or Gaspésie, is a must-see destination in Canada. It’s a popular and picturesque peninsula offering amazing scenic drives, numerous amazing natural tourist attractions, a myriad of sporting activities as well as historic sites. If you choose the Gaspe Peninsula for your vacation, you won’t regret it. The geography of the area offers itself for an epic road trip whether with a family, with your partner, or a group of friends.
WHERE IS GASPE PENINSULA AND HOW TO GET THERE
Gaspe Peninsula is part of the Canadian province of Quebec and forms its south-east corner.
If you wonder how many kilometers (miles) you need to drive around the entire Gaspe Peninsula, the answer is approx. 930 km (578 miles) which can take 11:20 hours of driving.
Click on the map below to see the Gaspe Peninsula loop driving directions with the starting point from Quebec City.
To get an idea of the travel distances to the Gaspe Peninsula and time spent behind the wheel, see the following:
- Quebec City to Rivière-au-Renard (the northern tip of Gaspe Peninsula) -> 671 km (416 miles) & 7:27 hrs of driving time via highway 20 E and road QC-132
- Rivière-au-Renard to Gaspé town -> 30.6 km (19 miles) & 0:25 hrs of driving time via loop road QC-132
- Gaspé town to Percé village -> 61.7 km (38 miles) & 0:48 hrs of driving time via loop road QC-132
- Percé to Gesgapegiag -> 171 km (106 miles) & 2:13 hrs of driving time via loop road QC-132
- Gesgapegiag to Carleton-sur-mer -> 29.2 km (18 miles) & 0:25 hrs of driving time via loop road QC-132
- Carleton-sur-mer to Matapédia -> 64.4 km (40 miles) & 0:46 hrs of driving time via loop road QC-132
- Matapédia to Philomene Waterfall -> 73.8 km (46 miles) & 0:52 hrs of driving time via loop road QC-132
- Philomene Waterfall to Rivière-du-Loup -> 219 km (136 miles) & 2:31 hrs of driving time via loop road QC-132
- Rivière-du-Loup to Quebec City -> 209 km (130 miles) & 2:12 hrs of driving time via loop road QC-132 and Highway 20 West
If you travel to the Gaspe Peninsula from Montreal or Toronto, the additional distances are below:
- Montreal to Quebec City -> 254 km (130 miles) & 2:44 hrs of driving time via Trans-Canada Highway 20/Autoroute Jean-Lesage/road QC-132
- Toronto to Quebec City -> 910 km (566 miles) & 9:40 hrs of driving time via highway 401 East and Trans-Canada Highway 20/Autoroute Jean-Lesage/road QC-132
FERRY TO GASPE PENINSULA
St. Lawrence River washes the north Gaspésie shore and there are several points where you can cross the river on a ferry. Taking a ferry will save you time and the added bonus is a chance to see the whales on a nice boat trip.
- Saint-Siméon to Rivière-du-Loup -> Traverse Ferry departs 3 times a day (from Rivière-du-Loup at 8 am, 12 pm and 4 pm or 9:30 am, 2 pm and 5:30 pm from Saint-Siméon) and the one-way crossing takes 65 minutes. First-come-first-serve basis. Fees are $48/car, $20.20/adult, $18.40/senior and $13.50/kids 7-12. For more details and schedule, visit their website or call Rivière-du-Loup Terminal 418-862-5094 or St-Siméon Terminal 418-638-2856.
- Les Escoumins to Trois-Pistoles -> Please note that the crossings have been cancelled for the 2020 season. Normally, Traverse Ferry departs 2 times a day (from Les Escoumins at 7 am and 6:30 pm or 9 am and 8:30 pm from Trois-Pistoles) and the one-way crossing takes 90 minutes. Book in advance. Fees are $50.50/car, $22.75/adult, $21.25/senior and $14.75/kids 6-11. For more details and schedule, visit their website.
- Forestville to Rimouski -> Traverse Ferry departs 2 times a day (from Forestville at 10 am and 5 pm or 8 am and 3 pm from Rimouski) and the one-way crossing takes 60 minutes. Booking recommended. Fees are $50/car, $26/adult, $25/senior and $17/kids 6-11. For more details and schedule, visit their website or book by phone: 1 800 973-2725.
- Matane to Baie-Comeau and Godbout -> Ferry departs once a day (from Matane to Baie-Comeau at 8 am; from Matane to Godbout at 2:30 pm; Godbout to Matane at 6 am and Baie-Comeau to Matane at 11 am) and the one-way crossing takes 2:20 hrs. Booking compulsory. Fees are $48.80/car, $20/adult, $16.95/senior and $12.30/kids 6-15. For more details and schedule, visit their website or book by phone: 1 877-562-6560.
FLIGHTS TO GASPE PENINSULA
Two regional airports are serving the Gaspe Peninsula. One is in Mont-Joli (airport code: CYYY) and the other one in the town of Gaspé (airport code: CYGP). If you arrive by plane, rent a car and explore the Gaspe Peninsula on your own.
BEST TIME TO VISIT GASPE PENINSULA
Gaspésie region is perfect for trips and vacations all year round. If you are into snow sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling, winter is your best time. The snowfall is hefty and the climate windy, frosty, and cloudy.
Summer offers more activities as well as available services. Between June and August, you can enjoy pleasant coastal weather with temperatures above 20 °C. The hottest sunny days in summer can see the high twenties. In May and September, you can expect the highest average temperatures between 14 and 16 °C.
Another great time to explore Gaspésie is early fall. The spectacular views of colourful autumnal foliage will take your breath away.
FUN FACTS ABOUT GASPE PENINSULA
- Jacques Cartier sailed along the Gaspe Peninsula on all of his Canadian exploratory voyages in the 16th century.
- The region has four national parks: Gaspe Peninsula National Park, Forillon National Park, Bonaventure Island National Park, and Miguasha National Park.
- The International Appalachian Trail starts at Cap-Gaspé lighthouse and goes all the way to Springer Mountain, Georgia, USA.
- Bonaventure Island is home to the largest gannet colony on the North American continent.
- Rivière-au-Renard is the fishing capital of Quebec.
- Cap-des-Rosiers lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Canada. The tower is 34.1 metres (112 ft) tall.
- In 1904, Guglielmo Marconi installed the first maritime radio station in North America in Pointe-à-la-Renommée lighthouse.
- Matapedia River is the best salmon river in Quebec.
- Gaspésie region is home to two UNESCO sites: Miguasha National Park and Geopark in Percé.
TOP 9 THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN GASPE PENINSULA
With so many attractions and amazing things to see, it’s necessary to plan your trip in advance so you know what to do in Gaspe Peninsula when you get there. To spend your limited time-off wisely, chose activities that interest you the most. Here is a list of top Gaspe Peninsula highlights to help you organize an epic trip you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Most of the population lives along the coast and the interior part of the peninsula is covered by lush mountains. Naturally, hiking is one of the most prominent things to do in the Gaspe Peninsula. With four national parks, 25 tall peaks, Chic Choc Mountains, and 650 km of the Appalachian Trail stretching across the peninsula, you’ll have so many opportunities for hiking and walking that you’ll have to think hard which trails to pick for your oh-so-short vacation time in the region.
There are plenty of trails for all fitness levels and age groups. Avid hikers can go to the Gaspe National Park or Chic-Choc Mountains for longer and more advanced trails. Families with children and senior grandparents may prefer short scenic hikes close to their accommodation or along the coast, such as in Forillon National Park or Bonaventure Island. Don’t forget to bring a day trip backpack, a reusable water bottle, and a comfy pair of quality hiking shoes.
Water lovers and kayakers will find their bliss on days when the ocean is calm. Gaspésie is known for breathtaking high cliffs and stunning rock formations which are better to see from the water. Besides kayaking fun and cliffs, you can enjoy the company of sea birds and curious seals.
3. WHALE WATCHING
The top thing to do in the Gaspe Peninsula is whale watching during the summer months. Whales come to St. Lawrence River to feed and fatten up on abundant fish and crustaceans. It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll spot many whales on any whale watching boat trip you take.
But don’t have unrealistic expectations. Whales won’t be flip jumping out of the water and waving their tails for you. You would have to be extremely lucky or undertake dozens of boat trips for a chance to see that. Humpback whales are known as jumpers and tail-showers.
Furthermore, they’ll be further from your ship than you would like. What you can expect is seeing several whales around blowing out water and showing the top of their backs and dorsal fins. Some might come closer, most won’t.
Also, just to warn you, it’ll be challenging to photograph them. The boat is constantly rocking and there are 30+ other whale watchers on the boat so most of your photos will come out like the one below – a whale in the distance and a dozen human heads and backs in front of you. Some will annoyingly hold their hands with cell phones way too high to obstruct your view even more.
I strongly suggest you take a picture or two, then hide your cell phone in your pocket and just fully enjoy the ride and whales. If you stop wiggling and paying attention to your phone in an attempt to catch a whale, you’ll focus on the ocean surface and as a result, you’ll see more whales.
INSIDER TIP: When you photograph whales, be smarter than most people, and hold your cell phone horizontally. By holding your phone vertically, you reduce the frame width by 50% thus significantly lowering your chance of getting a whale into your frame.
4. BIRD WATCHING
Gaspe Peninsula is famous as a place to be for birders. Even if you aren’t too much into bird watching, Bonaventure Island will change your mind. The small island is just a short boat ride from the village of Percé and is home to the largest flock of birds you’ll ever see in your life. It’s a very special, must-see place.
Bonaventure Island, or L’Île-Bonaventure in French, is a national park and the largest nesting place of Atlantic seabirds, predominantly gannets (Morus bassanus). These beautiful blue-eyed birds nest on the top of the eastern cliffs of the Bonaventure Island. Every spring they come here to mate and bring up young ones. It takes a bit of a walk to reach them, but it’s so worth it because you’ll be unbelievably close to thousands of cackling goose-size birds. It’s an impressive sight because there are over 200 000 seabirds on the island out of which 110 000 are just gannets.
I suggest you plan one whole day for a boat trip to the island. Boats leave from Percé at regular intervals but take the first one at 9 am so you have enough time for a leisurely hike and bird watching. A day on Bonaventure Island might be the best day of your entire Gaspe vacation.
–> Read this detailed article about a boat trip to Bonaventure Island.
5. EXPLORING LIGHTHOUSES
With such a dramatic cliffy coast, Gaspe Peninsula without lighthouses would be a favourite place of shipwreck divers. But it’s not thanks to over 12 lighthouses that guard the shore and navigate passing ships.
Searching for lighthouses is a fun activity to add to your road trip. If you look at the map above, the grey ones are not active anymore. They still look great on photos so go ahead and search for them. Some are easy to spot thanks to their height or placement, but some are smaller and hidden among trees.
Gaspe Peninsula has three outstanding lighthouses you should aim for during your visit:
- Cap-des-Rosiers – because it’s the tallest lighthouse in Canada, it’s charmingly picturesque, the views from the cliff are amazing and it’s over 160 years old. Before they built it, many ships ended up wrecked on the cliffs.
- Pointe-à-la-Renommée – because this is the one in which Marconi installed the first maritime radio station on the North American continent way back in 1904.
- Cap-Gaspé – because it sits on top of a tall cliff that forms the very tip of the Gaspe Peninsula also known as Land’s End which is part of the Forillon National Park. To reach this lighthouse, you’ll have to walk over 8 km back-and-forth along an easy and very scenic coastal trail. Furthermore, Cap-Gaspé lighthouse is the starting/ending point of the International Appalachian Trail that crosses the Gaspésie, continues through New Brunswick to Mount Katahdin in Maine and goes south to Springer Mountain in Georgia.
Other easily reachable lighthouses are Cap d’Espoir, Phare de la Pointe Duthie and Bonaventure.
6. SEARCHING FOR HISTORIC RED WOODEN BRIDGES
Another fun thing to do on a Gaspe Peninsula road trip is to search for red wooden bridges. They are functional historic buildings, so typical for the North American continent. Gaspésie is home to several of them. Red bridges are a great photo op and break spot to add to your road trip itinerary. I have pinpointed several of them on this detailed road trip map.
7. PERCÉ ROCK
Whenever you see a picture from the region, you’ll most probably see a photo of the impressive Percé Rock and the surrounding shore. Percé Rock is one of the best-known rock formations in Canada thanks to its massive size, unusual shape, position, and its hole. The huge rock is located in the village of Percé, obviously. It’s where you need to go whenever you visit the Gaspe Peninsula. The quiet, sparsely inhabited village has tons to offer to keep you busy for several days. More about what to do in the village is below in the itinerary section.
Many visitors to Percé also want to walk directly to the Rock itself. It is possible but rather dangerous. I don’t recommend you go there, but if you do, this is my best advice.
Percé Rock is accessible from two beaches that meet under the cliff tip. It’s easier from the northern beach. Before you go, make sure you pick the best time which means the time of the lowest tide. (You can get the low tide times in the local tourist information office.) Dozens of tons of rocks slide down the Rock itself as well as from the cliffs that you must walk under if you want to reach the Rock. Watch out and be careful. Make sure you wear good shoes, not flip-flops. Even if the tide is low, there still will be seawater on the narrow shelf path that connects the land with the Rock. The waves will be strong and splashing from both sides. Also, the stones on the seabed are very sharp so don’t even think about going there barefoot.
If you choose not to go there, that’s a smart decision. You can get better photos of the Percé Rock from the viewing point on top of the cliff tip called Cap Mont Joli. The admission is $1 per person.
Besides the Percé Rock, there are other stunning rock formations and sea cliffs to explore, particularly in the Forillon National Park. They are best explored from a boat or a kayak.
8. GASPE BEACHES
With such a long shoreline, Gaspe Peninsula possesses some striking beaches. Long, flat, and peaceful beaches are mostly found in the western areas of the St. Lawrence River shore and along the Chaleur Bay.
The coast along the tip of the Gaspe Peninsula is mostly cliffy and dramatic. Between cliffs and high rock walls, there are some beautiful beaches and secluded coves as well. Most of the beaches are covered with pebbles, some are sandy or a combination of both. The most famous sandy beaches are Haldimand Beach in the town of Gaspé, Penouille Beach in Forillon National Park, Cap-d’Espoir Beach, and Beaubassin Beach in Bonaventure.
You’ll also love these pebble-and-sand beaches: Paspébiac Beach, Maria Beach, Horizons Park Beach in Carleton-sur-mer, and Percé Beach.
Romantic, rocky beaches without crowds can be found along the south shore of Land’s End Peninsula in Forillon National Park.
9. EXPLORING FOSSILS
The exhibition in the Miguasha National Park will fascinate all fossils lovers and ancient natural history enthusiasts. The park is divided into two sections: an indoor museum that houses 380 million-years-old natural artifacts and a 3.5 km outdoor loop trail that takes you along the Restigouche River and fossil-rich cliffs which are on the UNESCO Natural Heritage Site list.
If you go: You’ll need around 3-4 hours to explore the Museum and the hiking trail so plan accordingly. You can visit the two parts separately.
The above list is just a small selection of top activities and locations, but there are many more see-worthy and unique places you’ll love. They are all listed within the trip itinerary later in this article, so keep on reading.
BASIC FRENCH FOR TRAVELLING TO QUEBEC
Are you one of those anglophone Canadians who were too lazy to learn any French at school? I want an honest answer.
Don’t despair (Haha, ‘despair’ is a French word. You know more French than you think), les Québécois speak way better English than you speak French. Therefore, you won’t be lost when talking to people. But if all you know in French is merci, oui and bonjour, you can get lost while driving.
For instance, here are some French expressions that you’ll see on road signs, buildings, boards and banners. It’s helpful to know them.
interdit = forbidden, banned
arrêt = stop
demi-tour / demi-retour = U-turn
obligatoire = mandatory
fermé / fermée = closed
ouvert = open
sud = south
ouest = west
est = east
nord = north
stationnement = parking
poissonnerie = fish market (not a poison brewing company, haha)
hébergement = accommodation
gîte = lodging
plage = beach
salle de bain = washroom
anse = cove
chute = waterfall
randonnée = hiking
marée basse = low tide
havre = port
magasin = shop
marché d’alimentation = grocery store
WHAT TO EAT IN GASPE PENINSULA
Gaspe Peninsula prides itself on its exquisite fish, crab, seafood, and lobster dishes. Don’t leave without trying several of them.
Some foods you should take home from your Gaspésie trip are salted cod, smoked fish, dried mushrooms, beer, cheese, honey products, and wild berry preserves. They make perfect gifts or just buy them for yourself to prolong the pleasure of your Gaspe trip after you get home.
Besides the seafood and lobster, we loved the Gaspésien cheese, especially the twisted sticks.
To try out some local beer on a relaxing evening by a fire pit, we chose two different beer brands. We picked a sample from a famous local microbrewery called Pit Caribou and another from a Montreal brewery. The choice was random, based on a visual appeal of bottle labels.
The moment we tried it we knew we should have read the labels. By a bit of weird luck, we picked the worst samples of all.
Pit Caribou sample was their limited-edition beer Gose à la mangue. Sorry, Pit Caribou, but this is the worst beer I , as well as my two other trip companions, have ever tasted. Our tongues grew up in Central Europe where beer brewing has centuries-long traditions, so crazy flavour combos are not to our liking. The taste of Pit Caribou Gose à la mangue can be described as salty beer with a strange sour flavour of a spoilt mango.
Next time I am in Gaspésie, I give Pit Caribou another chance, but I’ll carefully pick a classic, full-bodied beer.
The other Quebecois beer brand we tried was a big disappointment, too. It’s a winner in the most bitter beer on Earth category.
So, my suggestion is: read the labels carefully and know exactly what type of beer you like. Otherwise you are in for surprises.
Now, let’s get to the road tripping part.
GASPÉ PENINSULA: 11-DAY FAMILY ROAD TRIP ITINERARY
Gaspe Peninsula is a perfect destination for a scenic loop road trip. Whether you travel in a motorhome, motorbike, or a regular car, this road trip itinerary will provide you with a day-by-day plan that includes all the highlights and top tourist attractions Gaspésie has to offer. You need 11 days of vacation to complete the whole route, but of course, you can adjust according to your needs.
The first part of the trip focuses on the heart of Gaspésie. The second half of the trip plan includes various great spots along the road on our return way home. I suggest you follow the Gaspésie part and then add extra days as your schedule allows. The last 3-4 days are just nice additions that make this whole trip a lot more epic.
DAY 1: DRIVING TO QUEBEC CITY
Depending on where you are driving from, this day is reserved for travel time to Quebec City. If you live close, lucky you. If you live further, you might be driving all day to reach Quebec’s capital.
Book accommodation in Quebec City for 2 nights, if you follow our DAY 2 plan, or just for one night if you want to continue directly to Gaspésie.
DAY 2: ONE DAY IN QUEBEC CITY
You can skip this day if you are interested only in the Gaspe region. But if you are from far away and you don’t have many opportunities to visit Quebec City, then why not add this amazing city to your trip?
The plan for the day is to enjoy a walking tour of Old Quebec City. I suggest you book a walking tour because the guide will show you the best in the city and tells you the extra things you won’t find in the books.
If you just want to wander around on your own, don’t miss the Citadel, Champlain Quarter, Frontenac, harbour, the Parliament, and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Book accommodation for one night in or around Forillon National Park.
DAY 3: NORTHERN GASPE COAST
Day 3 is dedicated to driving from Quebec City to Forillon National Park which takes roughly 8 hours and covers the distance of 692.8 km via autoroute 20 E and 132 E.
I suggest you set out as early as possible because the driving time is long and there are several lovely places worth visiting along the way.
Suggested stops along the St. Lawrence River coast:
• Pointe-au-Père near Rimouski is home to three outstanding sites:
–> Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse is a national historic site and the second tallest lighthouse in Canada. You can explore the site on a guided tour. Unfortunately, for the year 2020, this site is closed, but plan to visit next year.
–> Onondaga Submarine – Right next to the lighthouse, you can visit the 90-metre-long submarine on a self-guided tour. Onondaga is the first submarine museum that opened in Canada. The site is closed for 2020 as well, but check it out next year.
–> Empress of Ireland Museum is located across the road from the lighthouse and documents the tragical sinking of the liner. Over a thousand people died in 14 minutes which makes the event the greatest Canadian maritime tragedy.
If you go: The museum is open between July 1, 2020 to September 7, 2020 from 10 am to 5 pm and the admission fees are $8 per adult, $5.20 for kids between 8 and 17 with tax included. Children under 8 enter for free.
• Grand-Métis is home to a unique botanical garden called Reford Gardens. These gardens are one of the few northernmost botanical gardens in North America.
If you go: Open daily between June 20 and October 4, 2020 from 8:30 am to 7 pm. Admission fees are $22 per adult, $19 for students, $11 for kids 14-18, and $0 for children under 13. Taxes are included.
• You can also check out the La Martre Lighthouse in the village of the same name.
If you go: The lighthouse museum is open between June and September from 9 am to 5 pm.
• Further along the way, Cap de la Madeleine Lighthouse is a nice photo opportunity with a lovely view.
If you go: the museum is open from June to early September between 9 am and 5 pm.
• In Grande Vallée, you can drive to the red covered bridge for a nice photo.
Tonight you are staying in or around Forillon National Park. Make sure you have booked accommodation for one night.
DAY 4: FORILLON NATIONAL PARK
The 4th day of your Quebec road tripping is dedicated to the exploration of the Forillon National Park, the tallest lighthouse in Canada and a whale-watching boat trip.
• Whale-watching cruise: I suggest you go on a whale-watching boat trip as early as possible so then you have the rest of the day for hiking and you don’t have to keep watching your watch for boat tour departure.
The whale watching tour departs from the pier in Grande-Grave. Come 45 minutes ahead to check-in, pick up your boarding pass, and use washrooms. The boat tour takes about 2.5 hours. You have to bring a rain jacket and a mask to be able to participate in the 2020 season. There are 4 tours a day, some have a bilingual guide, some are only in French. Check their dates and schedule.
If you go: Book 2 – 3 days in advance to secure the spots. Prices for cruises are $85 per adult and $55 for children between 3 and 15. You can also get a family ticket for 2 adults and 1 kid for $215 which saves you $10. Each additional child will cost you $40 which still saves you an extra $15. Taxes are included.
Furthermore, there is one more fee to pay – the national park entrance fee. You pay at the park entrance point.
• Hiking: After the whale-watching cruise, go and explore the beauties of the park by hiking one or two trails. You can choose from 10 diverse hiking trails that range between 0.5 km to 36.6 km in length. You’ll get the trail map at the park entrance, but I suggest the following trails:
–> La Chute trail – A short 1-km-long loop trail that takes you to a 17-metre-tall waterfall. The starting point is on road 132.
–> Les graves trail – You can choose between a longer or a shorter trail. They are both scenic because you hike along the coast, coves and pebble beaches. In both cases, you end at the Cap-Gaspé Lighthouse which offers a fantastic view from the cliff. If you look closely, you might see whales blowing the spray into the air.
Both trails are round trips. The shorter starts from the L’Anse-aux-Amérindiens parking lot and is 6.4 km long. The longer version starts in Grand-Grave and you’ll walk 15.2 km back and forth.
–> Mont-Saint-Alban trail – You can start from 3 different points: Grande-Grave, Cap-Bon-Ami, or Petit-Gaspé Beach. They all between 5 to 7 km in length and will offer you amazing panoramic views from the observation tower, not mentioning the epic ocean and cliff vistas. In my opinion, definitely worth the trouble of 280 m elevation gain.
• Cap-des-Rosiers Lighthouse: A great finish to the busy and active day is another too-beautiful view from the highest lighthouse in the country. Its light tower reaches 34 metres.
If you go: You can visit the site between June 24 and Labour Day in September. They are open between 8 am and 6 pm and you pay $3 per person. You can also take the guided tour of the lighthouse for $10/adult, $7 kids between 7 and 17. A family ticket costs $30 for 2 adults and 2 kids. Site entry fee included.
Tonight and the next 2 nights you’ll spend in Percé. Book accommodation for 3 nights in or near the village of Percé.
DAY 5: PERCÉ
Today you are going to explore the village of Percé. You’ll need hiking shoes and a backpack as well as beach stuff.
There is one thing you should know: The whole Percé area is enlisted as the UNESCO Global Geopark for its outstanding geology and landscape. And if it’s on the UNESCO list, it’s special. Currently, there are only five UNESCO Geoparks in Canada. Percé area is one of them, so observe, learn, and have fun while you’re there.
Percé is a cute little village that spreads around a towering cliff pointing to a colossal rock. Despite its sparse settlement, Percé is the top destination in this part of the world and gives you plenty of things to do. You should start your day as early as you can to squeeze in more fun. I suggest your day plan could look like this:
• Hiking: Mont Sainte-Anne and the surrounding mountains overlook Percé from the west and provide the village with another exceptional vantage point. Ask the local tourist office for a trail map and enjoy the morning in nature. There are over 18 kilometres of hiking trails with significant locations such as la Grotte, Trou sans fond (= bottomless hole), Crevasse, or Magic Forest.
The easiest trail for a short trip up the hill is the Sentier des Belvederes, or a Viewpoint Trail, which takes you from the Percé Church up to the Suspended Glass Viewing Platform and the Zipline stations. It takes around 40 minutes to walk up there.
The glass platform hangs some 200 m over the steep hillside. As you walk barefoot on the cold glass, your trust in errorless capabilities of engineers and builders deepens with the exhilarating panorama of the vast ocean and monumental Percé Rock.
If you go: Suspended Glass Viewing Platform admission fees are $9.25 for adults and $5.75 for children, taxes included. Zipline is closed for the 2020 season.
• Mont Joli Viewpoint: Besides the Suspended Glass Viewing Platform, Mont Joli Viewpoint is the best spot for viewing the Percé Rock from above. It costs $1 per person to go up there but it’s a small, symbolic price for the great view.
• Beach: The village has two beaches that go along both sides of the Mont Joli cliff. The beaches are covered in pebbles. The ocean water is cold and swarming with tiny shrimps which are fun to observe, especially for kids.
• Exploring the village: The next best thing is to check out the local gift stores, eateries, and pubs.
DAY 6: BONAVENTURE ISLAND
Day 6 is dedicated to a day trip to Bonaventure Island. This island off the coast of Percé is a very special place for its natural beauty, great hiking, and the largest gannet colony in North America. The sea birds’ nesting areas are easily accessible, and visitors can observe them from a very close distance. Gannets are literally just two steps away from the viewing platforms.
Gannets are fascinating to watch. They are beautiful birds: large with white feathers, pointy beaks, and light blue eyes. One gannet pair only raises one baby every season and both parents take care of the little one. They are very loud. The ocean waves and breeze muffle the crying and shrieking of the busy birds.
To make the most of the day, plan to leave for the island on the first boat at 9 am. The ride takes around 40 minutes one way. After your arrival, the park staff will inform you about the rules of the island and then set you free to explore.
If you go: The only way to get to Bonaventure Island is by boat. The two local cruise companies that service the route sell boat tickets in the building by the pier. You don’t need reservations, just come and buy tickets for the same day or the next day.
They operate from the end of May to early October between 9 am and 4/5 pm. Boat tickets cost $40 per adult and $20 per child, taxes included.
Please note that Bonaventure Island is a national park and as such requires an entry fee. This fee is not included in the boat ticket and you must buy it separately. You can do so online in advance or from the office on the island when you arrive. It costs $8.90 per adult including the tax. Kids under 17 are free.
DAY 7: SOUTHERN GASPE COAST
Today we are leaving Percé and exploring the southern Gaspésie coast. To finish the road-tripping loop, you’ll drive from Percé to Rivière-du-Loup. I suggest you set out as early as possible because the driving time is 6.5 hours (550 km) and there are several lovely places worth visiting along the way.
Suggested stops along the Chaleur Bay coast and Matapedia River:
• Cap-d’Espoir Lighthouse: Located on top of a tall cliff, just 15 km from Percé, the lighthouse offers great panoramic views of the Gaspe coast as well as Bonaventure Island.
• Bonaventure Point Lighthouse: A nice pit stop by a cute little lighthouse on a long beach.
• Pointe-Duthie Lighthouse: Hidden among tall trees away from the main road, you can find the Duthie Point Lighthouse easier if you follow the local road signs, not the GPS.
• Gesgapegiag: Further along the road, you’ll reach the village of Gesgapegiag. It’s a First Nation territory with three interesting sites:
–> Kateri Tekakwitha Church: The church of Sainte Kateri Tekakwitha is a unique Christian church built in the form of a huge teepee. There aren’t many teepee-shaped churches in the world and this one in Gesgapegiag is the most beautiful of them. It has all the elements of a typical Christian church but is decorated with beautiful Micmac art. If you are interested in attending a service, call for schedule: 418-759-3406.
–> Gesgapegiag First Nation Ceremonial Pow-Wow Grounds: A short drive further, you can see the Mawiomi Pow Wow Grounds directly from the road 132. At the end of July, you can join them to celebrate the Annual Gesgapegiag Pow Wow. Attending a Pow Wow is one of the most authentic Canadian cultural experiences. If you have never experienced Native American dancing, singing, drumming, or tried their dishes, plan your Gaspésie visit for mid-summer so you can incorporate the Gesgapegiag Pow Wow into your trip itinerary. This Pow Wow is open to the public and everybody is welcome.
–> You might like to read more about Pow Wows in Ontario.
–> La Grande Hermine: One of the rental cottages of Chalets de l’Anse Ste-Hélène is a replica of one of the three ships on which Jacques Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence River. You can rent it for a fun experience and a great Chaleur Bay view.
• Beach in Maria: Check out the western part of the beach in the village of Maria. It’s a fun photo opportunity with a colossal picture frame on the background of the Chaleur Bay.
• Miguasha National Park: If you are into fossils and ancient history of the Earth, stop by at the Miguasha National Park which is a listed UNESCO Fossil Site. You need around 3 hours to visit the museum and the nearby fossil-rich cliffs.
• Matapédia: As you reach the village of Matapédia, you’ll see two salmon-rich rivers joining into one before flowing into Chaleur Bay. If you want a better view of the countryside, climb up to the Belvédère des Deux-Rivières. It’s a viewpoint with a modern-architecture twist. The arm of the viewing platform is enveloped in a geometric wooden structure. If you are into modern art and buildings, you’ll like it.
• Routhierville Covered Bridge: Great view of this historic wooden bridge is right from the rest area by the river.
• Philomene Waterfall: Just before you reach Amqui, follow the signs for Chute à Philomène and turn right uphill to go to the Philomene Waterfall. Not too tall but charming, Philomene Waterfall is hidden off the main road. The spacious parking lot is just a few steps from the glass-floor viewing platform that hangs over the valley. After you check out the waterfall from the top, make sure you take a short walk down the marked trail. The waterfall looks nicer from the ground. No admission fee and no parking fee.
Tonight you are staying in Rivière-du-Loup. Book accommodation for one night in Rivière-du-Loup.
Day 7 closes the Gaspe road trip loop and you have three options:
- cross the St. Lawrence River to Saint Simeon and explore the Beaupré coast up to Quebec City
- continue along the road QC-132 and highway 20 E to Quebec City
- drive home
This itinerary continues with option 1 for the Day 8, but you can skip it and continue with the itinerary on Day 9. From now on the itinerary is flexible and you can continue or drop any of the days. Days 8, 9, and 10 are just lovely additions to maximize the road-tripping experience in this part of Quebec. If you rarely come to this area, follow the trip plan. If Quebec is not too far, you may choose to visit the big cities on another trip.
For the next night, book a hotel for one night in Montreal. Get the best deals for Montreal hotels.
DAY 8: ST. LAWRENCE RIVER AND BEAUPRÉ COAST
Another amazing day in front of you. The plan is to cross St. Lawrence River and continue on the other side. You’ll need to get up early because the ferry from Rivière-du-Loup to Saint- Siméon leaves at 8 am. Get more information in the first part of this article in the section Ferry to the Gaspe Peninsula. To save time, it’s smart to book a hotel night as close to the ferry terminal as possible.
Crossing St. Lawrence River is not only fun experience, but also saves driving time because it takes only 65 minutes to get to the other side. Furthermore, you’ll have another chance to see the whales.
As you disembark, drive for 135 km (= 1 hour and 35 min) towards Quebec City. The following stops along the Beaupré coast are worthwhile.
• Canyon Sainte-Anne: St. Anne Canyon is directly on the road 138 and is a lovely pit stop in nature. Reserve 2-3 hours of your time for a pleasant and easy-to-moderate stroll along the dramatic river gorge. The canyon is a perfect place to get some fresh air into your lungs as well as stretch your legs after hours of driving. You’ll cross three suspended bridges and marvel at 74-metre-deep waterfall. Climbers can try out the Via Ferrata along the cliffs or perhaps the air cannon that will shoot you across the gorge at 50 km/h.
If you go: The canyon is open from May to October and the admission fees are $14.50 for adults, $11 for teenagers 13-17, and $8 for kids 6-12, taxes are included. Air canon costs extra.
• Sainte-Anne de Beaupré: This small village is famous for the beautiful cathedral of impressive size that houses three relics of St. Anne. As one of the five national shrines located in the province of Quebec, St. Anne de Beaupre Basilica is a pilgrimage site with half a million visitors a year. It’s well-known for the healing miracles of sick and disabled.
If you go: The basilica is open Monday to Friday between 10 am to 5 pm and on Sundays between 9 am to 5 pm.
• Montmorency Falls: Just outside of Quebec City, majestic Montmorency Waterfall is a perfect road trip stop. The waterfall is 30 metres taller than the Niagara Falls. Plan to spend 2-3 hours here to walk around the parkland site, cross the suspension bridge to the other side, and descend to the lower viewing platform. If you dare to take 487 steps down and then up again.
If you go: Park your car at the parking lot on the western side of the waterfall on Boulevard des Chutes. The admission fees to the park are $6.96 per adult, $6.31 per senior above 65. Kids under 18 are free if accompanied by a paying adult. The car or motorcycle fee is $3.48 per vehicle.
After the Montmorency Waterfall, you can continue to Montreal and book accommodation there for one night. It’s 254 km from Quebec City to Montreal which takes around 2:45 hours of driving via Trans-Canada Highway 20/Autoroute Jean-Lesage/road QC-132.
For the following two nights, book a hotel for two nights in Ottawa.
DAY 9: ONE DAY IN MONTREAL
Today you are exploring the biggest city of Quebec province. One day is barely enough to get a glimpse of this charming city, so we’ll concentrate on the prettiest part – Old Montreal city centre.
The best way to see a new place is by walking and getting lost. But since we only have one day, we’ll make the most of it by taking a guided walking tour of Old Montreal. A former guide myself, I can assure you guided walks are the thing to do in any new place in the shortest time you have there. You don’t have to read and search for information about the place and the guide will show you the very best and the most important places in the city. The local guides’ brains are packed with insider information and will tell you the extra things you won’t find in the books. You can book your Montreal City tours ahead of time.
If you prefer unprepared location exploration and just wander around on your own, don’t miss these places: Place Jacques-Cartier, Bonsecours Market, City Hall, Champs de Mars, Clock Tower on the Quay, port, Place d’Armes, Notre-Dame basilica of Montreal.
When you have more time, you should check out Montreal Botanical Garden, Biodome, Olympic Stadium Tower and St. Joseph’s Oratory.
After the Montreal city tour, head west to Ottawa via Trans Canada Highway 417 W which takes about two hours and 199 km.
Tonight and tomorrow, the last two nights of this trip, you’ll be staying in Ottawa. Make sure you have two nights booked there.
DAY 10: ONE DAY IN OTTAWA
Day 10 we spend in the Canadian capital city of Ottawa and explore the old city centre. The easiest plan would be to do a guided walking tour in the morning and have lunch somewhere around the Byward Market. In the afternoon, stroll around, explore shops, or perhaps visit one of the museums. Ottawa has several great museums that will satisfy adults and kids, too.
Absolute must-see attractions in Ottawa are the Parliament buildings, Rideau Canal Locks, Bytown Museum, Fairmont Hotel, Byward Market, Notre-Dame Basilica, National Gallery of Canada, Canadian Museum of History. You might like to learn about making coins in the Royal Canadian Mint. I also highly recommend the Canada Science and Technology Museum, especially for families with school-aged kids.
DAY 11: DRIVING HOME
The fun is over and today we conclude our amazing Gaspe Peninsula road trip by a long drive home. Lucky are those who live within 2-3 hours.
I hope you like this Gaspésie road trip plan and even more I am looking forward to reading your comments you drop me here below after you return home from this epic trip.
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