The Québec maritime Blog
In Côte-Nord, Route 138 is considered an attraction in its own right. This is especially true in Minganie, an area that stretches from Rivière-au-Tonnerre to Natashquan. This segment of the Whale Route will take you from village to village all the way to the end of the road, at the edge of the Lower North Shore. Here are five good reasons to follow Route 138 across the Minganie area!
1. Discover natural wonders in Rivière-au-Tonnerre
Rivière-au-Tonnerre (which literally means “thunder river”) owes its name to the noise of Manitou Falls, which are located about 30 km (20 mi.) outside the village. Once on site, follow the walking trail to admire the 35-metre (115-foot) high waterfall. In the village, be sure to visit the wooden church, which you can’t miss! Built in the Norman style at the turn of the 20th century by 300 volunteers, this church has an impressive 8-metre (26-foot) vault that is decorated with hand-carved motifs. To sample local products and learn more about cloudberries, visit the Maison de la Chicoutai (Cloudberry House) and stock up on gourmet treats made with this wild berry: butter, jam, jelly, herbal teas, etc. They make tasty souvenirs of your stop in Rivière-au-Tonnerre!
2. Explore the Mingan Archipelago
One of the gems of this region, the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve is sure to impress you! Hop on a boat that will take you to the islands, departing from Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan or Havre-Saint-Pierre. There are so many exciting things to see and do in the park reserve: hiking, sea kayaking, sea excursions, lighthouses, bird watching (thousands of seabirds nest on the islands, including the famous Atlantic puffin) and more. The archipelago is home to many different natural habitats—shoreline, barrens, boreal forest, salt marsh, peat bogs, etc.—which contribute to the biodiversity found here. One of the highlights of your visit will be seeing the archipelago’s unusual limestone monoliths. Discover these natural sculptures on Île Nue de Mingan as well as Quarry and Niapiskau islands—and try to find those in the shape of an owl, woman or eagle!
3. Plunge into the history of Baie-Johan-Beetz
Baie-Johan-Beetz is a village of fewer than 100 inhabitants that was named after a Belgian aristocrat. Beetz was a naturalist and businessman who also studied medicine; he is credited with saving the lives of many of the villagers during the 1918 Spanish influenza outbreak. Today, his house is a designated historic monument that serves as the village’s memory bank. Located on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence, at the mouth of the Piashti River, the building draws the eye with its Second Empire-style architecture and bright colours. You can even spend the night here since the house has been turned into a lodge by the Pourvoirie Baie-Johan-Beetz outfitter. Explore the village by strolling along the boardwalks and imagine life as it was here before the road was built in 1996. As you walk, keep an eye out for the interpretation panels that share fascinating anecdotes about this charming village.
4. Visit the birthplace of Gilles Vigneault
Perhaps Minganie’s most famous native son, Gilles Vigneault is a legendary Québec poet and singer-songwriter who was born in Natashquan. His village and the region of Côte-Nord inspired many of his songs, which put these places on the world map. To get a feel for what Natashquan used to be like, visit the Les Galets heritage site, which is made up of small red and white wooden buildings that once stored salted cod. Take advantage of your visit to stroll along the boardwalk and bask in the sun on the exceptionally beautiful beach. And whether you’re a long-time fan or just discovering Gilles Vigneault’s songs for the first time, this is the perfect moment to listen to them!
5. Drive to the end of Route 138
How exciting is it to reach the end of the road? After driving hundreds of kilometres to Kegaska (which is about 40 km, or 25 mi., east of Natashquan), stop and admire the famous “138 FIN” sign that marks the end of the road. Capture this bittersweet moment with a photo that will remind you of your incredible trip: the amazing scenery that unfolded before your eyes and all the great people you met along the way. While Kegaska is the farthest flung destination on your road trip, your push east doesn’t have to end: you can continue your adventure by hopping on a boat and setting off to explore the villages of the Lower North Shore all the way to Blanc-Sablon!
Does this last leg of the Whale Route appeal to the explorer in you? Be sure to visit these attractions in Minganie and enjoy discovering the Côte-Nord region!