The enchanted isles of the St. LawrencePearls of the river
Whether anchored in mid-stream or a stone’s throw from the shore, the islands of the St. Lawrence are fascinating destinations, full of surprising discoveries for natural and local history buffs alike. Easily accessed by boat for the most part, the islands, dotted with lighthouses, are a sanctuary for seabirds and seals—and provide peaceful havens for their human residents, too. Each island proudly cultivates its own uniqueness, knowing perfectly well that one visit is never enough.
A string of discoveries
Not far from the island of Montréal, the Parc national des Îles-de-Boucherville gives city dwellers a welcome opportunity for a little fresh-air fun: walking, cycling, kayaking or, in wintertime, cross‑country skiing. Further downstream, midway between Montréal and Trois-Rivières, a major bird sanctuary is harboured on the Lac Saint-Pierre archipelago: over a hundred islands separated by narrow channels teeming with life that beg to be explored by boat.
Historic Île d’Orléans, within sight of the ramparts of Old Québec, has long been cherished by poets and artists and is renowned for its local products. Continuing eastwards along the river, Grosse Île plunges visitors back into the 19th century and honours the memory of the countless Irish immigrants who, fleeing the ravages of the famine, were quarantined here during the typhus epidemic. Neighbouring Île aux Grues is a destination of choice for summer visitors seeking a relaxed getaway, as well as bird-watchers of every feather! Further downstream, pastoral Île aux Coudres with its picturesque windmills nestles at the foot of the rugged Charlevoix massifs. Eastwards still, a number of lovely islands lying across from Rivière-du-Loup are a nature lover’s paradise, including the charmingly named Îles du Pot à l’Eau-de-Vie (“brandy pot islands”).
En-gulfed with delightsThe astounding monoliths of the
Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve of Canadaare a jaw dropping delight for anyone who appreciates nature’s artistry. Nearby Anticosti, at nearly the size of Corsica, has fewer than 300 residents but over 100,000 white-tailed deer! Ecotourists can rejoice in the island’s national park, which offers up some of the loveliest pristine natural settings to be found on the river.
The Îles-de-la-Madeleine adorn the Gulf of St. Lawrence with their gracious lagoons fringed with fine sand beaches and their famous red sandstone cliffs. Fishing and tourism flourish in perfect harmony on these islands where the sea rules every aspect of life. At the end of winter, visitors can witness a touching spectacle as the seals give birth to their young on the ice floes.
Île Bonaventure at the extreme tip of the Gaspé Peninsula is home to the largest colony of northern gannets in North America. The island, along with the celebrated Percé rock and the Percé interpretation centre, is part of a glorious national park renowned among vacationers the world over.