Getting Ready for the Roadtrip of a Lifetime in Gaspésie
There are some legendary road trips to take, like crossing Canada from Halifax to Vancouver, or taking Route 66 to California. There are those with no particular destination, just hitting the road for the sake of hitting the road. Then there are those road trips that turn out to be ‘the best,’ surpassing your expectations. And one of those, my road-tripping friends, is at the end of Highway 132—the Gaspé Peninsula.
The route is pretty easy: the 132 goes around the peninsula and that’s it, you can’t go wrong! The peninsula is divided into regions: Upper Gaspé, Land’s End and the Bay of Chaleur. Each has its own character, and it’s no surprise that the Gaspé Peninsula features regularly in National Geographic. So prepare your playlists and go!
The Upper Gaspé
This is where the landscapes are the wildest. After Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, the road winds around right next to the sea, then the 132 clings to the cliffs and plunges into valleys where tiny, colourful villages are nestled. Ruisseau-à-Rebours, L’Anse Pleureuse, Gros-Morne and not to mention the most delightful of all, Manche-d’Épée!
HI Ste-Anne-des-Monts, Auberge festive Sea Shack is an essential stop. You can stay in a cabin, yurt, teepee or camp in a tent. There are three musts here—a sunset walk on the beach, a drink at the tiki bar and a snooze in a hammock by the sea. But the magic of Sea Shack lies in the band of merry men always ready to party! Each evening is memorable, thanks to the Pit Caribou, a local beer. And after the ‘last call’ bell chimes, the night always ends with both feet in the sand and heads turned up looking at the stars.
There are three musts here: a sunset walk on the beach, a drink at the tiki bar and a snooze in a hammock by the sea.
At Parc de la Gaspésie, close to the Sea Shack, you can hike among the Chic-Choc Mountains, which are among the highest and oldest mountains in Quebec. Superlatives fail to describe the views from the top. But in the village of Mont-Saint-Pierre we can take this experience to another level and achieve a childhood dream—flying ! You start from the top of a mountain overlooking the sea and glide back down to earth, taking in the amazing views and enjoying an adrenaline rush!
Once you're back on terra firma, hit the road again and stop in the next village for a lunch break at the colorful cafe Auberge l'Amarré. Mont-Louis is also home to the famous fish shop Atkins et frères, where you can stock up on smoked mackerel, maple-candied salmon and other seafood delicacies.
This area is world renowned and home to the Forillon National Park. The park is open year round. Visitors can explore a network of nine trails to discover magnificent views of the sea and mountains and observe abundant wildlife: black bears, porcupines, beavers, black-legged kittiwakes, cormorants, guillemots, seals and sometimes whales.
Discover magnificent views of the sea and mountains and observe abundant wildlife
HI Anse-au-Griffon, Griffon Aventure is a little more than an intimate sea shack on top of a cliff. Accommodation is in chalets, tents and even a boat! The hostel is very simple and rustic. The hostel bar faces the open sea—the perfect setting for sharing your stories from your day’s adventure with fellow travellers. And where we can enjoy a few more Pit Caribou beers!
The guys at HI Anse-au-Griffon, Griffon Aventure run a canyoning tour, which is well worth doing. Spend five hours climbing cliffs, jumping into the water and sliding down waterfalls. Here we become the lost children of Neverland! They'll also take you out mackerel fishing.
Baie des Chaleurs
The landscape of this area is very different compared to the mountainous north side; the bay itself is ranked among the most beautiful in the world. You can pitch a tent at any campsite by the sea, and you must try the local specialty: chicken poutine. It's poutine topped with hot chicken, peas and coleslaw.
The Réserve faunique de Port-Daniel is a well-kept secret; you’ll find amazing hiking along the crystal clear salmon river. When it all gets a bit too warm, there is nothing more exhilarating than diving in on a hot summer afternoon.
You’ll find amazing hiking along the crystal clear salmon river.
Finally, here are some places to visit along Chaleur Bay: The Acadian Museum in the pretty village of Bonaventure. Visit the impressive cave of St. Elzear. New Carlisle, the birthplace of René Lévesque. The range of Carleton-sur-Mer. Also you must see the fossil fish and plants at Parc National de Miguasha.
The Percé Rock
One of the highlights of this area is the Percé Rock. No trip to the Gaspé is complete without taking your photo with this as the backdrop.
The most frequently asked questions…
Which way should I go to be in front of the Percé Rock? You must go to the Bay of Chaleur. It will emerge on top of a hill.
Seafood Lasagna at HI Griffon Aventure? Oh yes. Absolutely.
Shrimp must be divine in Matane? In fact, Matane shrimp are caught on the North Shore.
And if I want to see whales? Lay in a hammock at HI Sea Shack and keep a look out. Only in Gaspésie!
What is the best brewery in Gaspésie? Some Montrealers will go out of their way to get their hands on an Auval craft beer (Val d'Espoir). Pit Caribou (Anse-à-Beaufils), Le Naufrageur (Carleton-sur-Mer) and La Tête d'Allumette (Saint-André de Kamouraska) are also great contenders.
Where to sleep on the way
- HI Québec, Auberge internationale de Québec
- HI Rivière-du-Loup
- HI Ste-Anne-des-Monts, Sea Shack
- HI Anse-au-Griffon, Griffon Aventure