A tour of the Gaspésie will allow you to discover the world’s most accessible colony of Northern gannets, moose, whales and towering mountains reaching over 1,000 m (3,280 ft.) in height. Topped off by a rich maritime heritage, lobster (yum!) and legendary hospitality.
How to get there
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To be discovered absolutely
The Gaspésie Tour (Tour de la Gaspésie) is a legendary scenic drive culminating at Percé rock and Bonaventure Island, where thousands of Northern gannets nest.
Percé and its magnificent rock
In 1603, Samuel de Champlain came upon an islet consisting of a huge sheer rock formation with a natural arch, which he baptized “Isle Percée” (pierced island). With time, both the town and the rock took on the name of Percé. Today, only one arch remains on the giant monolith, which loses 300 tonnes of rocks each year. Too much erosion to allow for anyone to get close to the site. But that’s okay because you actually have a better view from an excursion boat.
It will take you to the Parc national de l’Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé, where you can explore the trails on the island, which is the sanctuary of the largest colony of Northern gannets in the world. Nearly 116,000 of these elegant white birds nest there from April to October. You just need to listen: the distant cackling becomes an assault of raucous calls when you come within a few metres of these winged creatures that are the delight of photographers.
This 5-million-tonne monolith is 385 million years old.
Gaspésie Tour (Tour de la Gaspésie)
The Gaspésie Tour (Tour de la Gaspésie) is a legendary scenic drive, and probably the first introduction to the area for many vacationing families. It stretches for 885 km (550 mi.) along the peninsula, tucked in between the sea and the mountains. Want to know a secret? The best way to admire the landscape is to do the tour from south to north. From Sainte-Flavie, cut immediately through the Matapédia Valley and head to Chaleur Bay, south of the peninsula.
From Matapédia, heading toward Percé, the sea will always be on your right (perfect for pulling over and snapping some photos without having to cross the road). You’ll have lots to keep you busy: Northern gannets, Percé rock, the Forillon cliffs, lighthouses, heritage sites, delicious lobster meals and much more―equalled only by the local warm hospitality. It’s no surprise that the Lonely Planet travel guide has named the Gaspésie Tour one of the top five coastal road trips in the world that you should absolutely not miss.
In 1534, Jacques Cartier erected a cross in Gaspé on behalf of France.
Observing the Northern gannets
Visitors from all over come to the Gaspésie region to observe the most accessible colony of Northern gannets in the world. Each year, 200,000 breeding birds belonging to 11 different species, including nearly 116,000 Northern gannets, travel to nest on the cliffs of Bonaventure Island, in the Parc national de l’Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé, North America’s largest migratory bird sanctuary. From Percé, take a boat or kayak excursion to the island, where you can stroll around.
The Gaspésie region also has an impressive moose population, the only caribou herd south of the St. Lawrence River, seven species of whales, bears and numerous other forest wildlife. Always have your binoculars handy!
Gaspésie is home to the only caribou population south of the St. Lawrence River.
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