Undoubtedly one of the most whimsical routes Eric and I have ever navigated, the Gaspé Peninsula is a legendary scenic drive along the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River in Québec made up of a surreal blue-on-blue palette. Amid an abundance of historic lighthouses, misty cliffs and truculent shorelines dominate the peninsula. These picturesque sights became so common along the way that we eventually stopped pulling over to take pictures of them. It seemed as though around every bend and curve, there was yet another breathtaking view specifically designed by nature’s hand waiting to completely blow us away.
Our first stop was Québec City, the province’s second-largest city after Montréal and one of North America’s oldest European settlements. If it’s your first time visiting, I strongly recommend an overnight stay as the city truly merits more than a few hours of sight-seeing.
Located in the heart of historical Old Québec, le Capitole de Québec goes beyond the quintessential dine-and-stay experience. You can enjoy a show in their 1,400-seat concert hall offering different types of cabaret-style productions. In addition, this charming Beaux Arts-style theatre and hotel overlooks Parc de l’Artillerie, where the French built defence structures in the 17th and 18th centuries — a site of great strategic importance to the history of Québec City.
Québec City has a lot to offer: whether it’s a culinary tour, a historical park, a gourmet café, an outdoor festival, the district of Petit Champlain, or even Château Frontenac, you can spend a whole weekend in the province’s capital and still have a great deal of things to do!
285km² of agricultural and forested land and 50km² of urban territory, Rimouski offers a serene setting with all the attractions of a larger city. A great place to start is Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse, the second tallest lighthouse in eastern Canada standing at 108 feet. Its divergent shape is built around eight concrete buttresses to support a slender central cylinder.
Looking to spend the evening in downtown Rimouski? Its core is full of little cafés, endearing boutiques, lively bars, and local restaurants of all kinds. You can browse shops, have a delicious meal, and then head to the boardwalk that runs along the Saint Lawrence River for a lovely evening stroll. Book a room at Hôtel Rimouski and treat yourself to a spectacular view of the river before hitting the pillow.
Situated on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River atop a steep cliff, Cap-des-Rosiers Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Canada, standing at a colossal 112 feet. This dramatic historical site is found near the entrance of Forillon National Park, a nature reserve encompassing dense forests, sand dunes, precipitous cliffs, salt marshes, sea coast, and the eastern end of the Appalachians.
Due to our little camping mishap in Forillon National Park (I will probably talk more about this in a later blog post), we drove straight through to Gaspé that evening. We ended up falling asleep in our car in front of the most beautiful range of mountains, coupled with low-level clouds that emitted this eerie atmosphere. Unplanned and unexpected, it was one of the best nights of our road trip.
Gaspé, made up of 17 coastal villages with a population of about 15,000, is a quaint city that borders a beautiful basin of water and the St. Lawrence River. As soon as you reach the heart of Gaspé, you will fall completely and utterly in love. Spine-tingling views can be seen from anywhere in the city.
Our most anticipated stop was Percé. We had heard many good things about this place, and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. A small city with some of the friendliest locals in Canada near the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, it is a tourist location well-known for the Rocher Percé and Île Bonaventure, as well as its idyllic seaside village.
An absolute must-see is the summer nesting home of over 200,000 northern gannets on Île Bonaventure, the continent’s largest colony of gannet seabirds. You can take a boat excursion with Bateliers de Percé, which will take you to both sides of the Rocher Percé before heading to the island. The captain provides excellent narration on the history of the region as well as wildlife in both official languages. If you’re lucky, you might even get to witness some humpback whales!
If you’re planning on staying in a hotel when visiting this pristine little town, I strongly suggest reserving a deluxe suite at Riotel Percé for an unobstructed view of the famous rock. For more inspiring views of the Rocher Percé, a pebble beach is accessible directly from the hotel. You can also try Paqbo Restaurant for great maritime cuisine, and Oblivio Spa if you’re looking to give your body a break by the sea.
Due to the copious amount of activities Percé has to offer, spending 2 to 3 nights here is ideal to truly experience the sea’s vibration.
Every stop on this road trip was beyond incredible — it’s no wonder it is one of Québec’s most popular tourism regions. If you’re looking for a dreamy seaside getaway, the Gaspé Peninsula is made for you.