During our Maritimes adventure, we spent time in four Canadian provinces and the first of these was of course Quebec. Sometime last summer I had my interest sparked in going to the Gaspe by this article in the Globe and Mail. The funny part is that the article really doesn’t cover anything that we actually did in the Gaspe but the inspiration did manage to get us there.
One thing we found out about the Gaspe during the first couple of days is that it is a LONG way out there. To get to Forillon National Park, our first destination of the trip, took us about fourteen hours of driving with two distinct components. Until Riviere-du-Loup, it is an easy drive flying along four-lane highway but after that it moves to more tedious, but much more interesting and beautiful, driving along rising and falling two-lane highways with limited passing lanes until reaching the tip of the Gaspe peninsula where Forillon lies.
This drive really peaked my interest in returning to the area, there are so many beautiful scenes along the St. Lawrence Seaway and tiny towns that could be explored. One thing that started to strike me as we drove is how isolated this area of Canada could be, particularly before the Internet and during the winter. We stopped for groceries about two and a half hours from our campground and it was the last grocery store of any size that we saw.
We arrived around dinner time to Forillon National Park and everyone’s eyes lit up when they realized I had booked an Otentik rather than sleeping in our own tent. This counts as luxury on an adventure like this!
Our four-season canvas tent could not have had a more beautiful view, looking out toward the Gulf of St. Lawrence from our front porch. We really enjoyed our two nights at Forillon – there were very few people and the facilities at the National Park were excellent. The weather was pretty funny – it changed constantly, from hot and sunny to rainy and windy and back again in a matter of minutes as different systems blew in off the ocean.
Our campground provided a rocky beach, a playground overlooking the ocean, and excellent facilities to make it a very comfortable experience.
We did the eight-kilometre Les Graves trail to the lighthouse at Cape Gaspe – this was a fun hike although it did make us come to the realization that our kids are probably still more suited to six kilometre long hikes…
On the way back to the campsite, after spotting a seal and some foxes earlier, we also saw a black bear which brought traffic to a halt and let E check another animal off her list for the trip.
The next day, from Forillon, we drove west on the south side of the Gaspe Peninsula, passing by the famous Perce Rock and other beautiful scenery. We stopped at a nameless beach for an hour or so and the lack of people in this wonderful landscape continued to amaze us. The only place we saw any people was in Perce, which actually seemed like sort of an aberration as we arrived to a town that was packed with tourists. We made that a very short stop and as soon as we were on our way, the crowds disappeared once again.
Our last night in the Gaspe was spent in Carleton-sur-Mer at the Manoir Belle Plage. This small town again provided nice views over the water and although we didn’t have a lot of time to spend, we enjoyed some excellent coffee the next morning from La Brulerie du Quai while the kids explored one of the largest playgrounds that we saw all trip along with its 200-foot zipline.
From Carleton, it was only about an hour until we were into New Brunswick, ending our Gaspe portion of the trip. I think we would all welcome going back to the Gaspe – there were so many idyllic little towns that we sailed through because of a lack of time but each one we stopped in provided an interesting glimpse into the history and culture of this isolated part of Canada.