The Québec maritime Blog

Coastal National Parks and Natural Sites Worth Visiting in Eastern Québec
  • Forillon National Park
    Mathieu Dupuis

Coastal National Parks and Natural Sites Worth Visiting in Eastern Québec

The maritime regions of Québec live in tune with the ever-present sea. Not surprisingly, many national parks and natural sites provide stunning views of the St. Lawrence Estuary and Gulf. Here is a sample of some beautiful locations where you can soak up these views!

Bas-Saint-Laurent

Renowned for its rugged shoreline consisting of small coves, large bays and prominent headlands, Parc national du Bic offers a varied and unique geography. This diversity of landscapes adds to the charm of this park and allows you to admire the majestic St. Lawrence from a different angle at every turn. Once you’re here, why not go on a sea kayaking excursion to enjoy a front-row view of this beautiful scenery!

Even though it’s only a few kilometres from downtown Rimouski, Saint-Barnabé Island gives you the feeling of getting away from it all. Once you’re there, explore the network of hiking trails as well as the theme rest areas presenting various chapters of the island’s history—some of which are likely to surprise you! Above all, soak up the area’s serene tranquility as you stroll along the shore or admire a stunning sunset over the water from your campsite.

Further upstream, Société Duvetnor protects a group of islands off Rivière-du-Loup, including Pot à l’Eau-de-Vie (Brandy Pot) Island and Île aux Lièvres (Hare Island). The St. Lawrence is narrower at this point, which means these islands offer amazing views of both coasts. If you’re lucky, you may see whales emerging from the water near the shoreline.

To see some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world, visit Parc de la Pointe in Rivière-du-Loup. Located along the St. Lawrence, this enchanting site offers a walking path, a bike path, lookouts and play modules. Keep an eye out for the painted “Indian Head,” a popular work of art that has stood watch over the shoreline for five decades!

Gaspésie

Located at the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, Forillon National Park is one of those places that gives you the impression of being at the edge of the world. This exceptional site is bordered by the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Gaspé Bay: you can admire both of these bodies of water throughout the park from various angles, including from the top of the Mont-Saint-Alban tower, which offers a spectacular 360-degree view.

Further south along the gulf lies Parc national de l’Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé. Bonaventure Island is criss-crossed by hiking trails that have fabulous surprises in store for you: watch from up close an impressive northern gannet colony (the most accessible in the world!) and soak up stunning views of the open sea, majestic Percé Rock and the steep cliffs along the coast. The Percé UNESCO Global Geopark reveals many of the secrets of these 500-million-year-old cliffs. Discover this remarkable geology during a guided activity or a hike on your own. Plan to stop at the lookouts along the trails to appreciate the amazing scenery all around you. And be sure to venture out onto the geopark’s suspended glass platform, which juts out of the side of a cliff at an altitude of 200 metres (660 feet)!

The Chaleur Bay area also offers lots of views of the sea. The most spectacular is undoubtedly from the top of Mt. Saint-Joseph. Closer to sea level, Parc national de Miguasha offers hiking trails along the estuary of the Restigouche River. This is one of the few places in the world where you can examine a fossil-rich site during a hike!

A must see for anyone visiting Gaspésie, the Reford Gardens are one of the largest gardens in North America. This national historic site is home to over 3000 species and varieties of plants, including the famous Himalayan blue poppy, which flourishes in the cool and humid climate of the St. Lawrence Estuary. After your tour of the gardens, relax on the grounds of the Estevan Lodge in a lovely setting overlooking the sea.

Côte-Nord

Did you know that one of the best places in the world to go whale watching is found in our regions? From May to October, porpoises, minke whales and humpbacks can be seen in the waters of the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park. You can watch them in their natural environment during a guided sea excursion or even from the shore, particularly from the Cap-de-Bon-Désir Interpretation and Observation Centre and the Marine Environment Discovery Centre.

Bordering the marine park, Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay will delight sea kayaking enthusiasts. Sitting in a kayak just above the water level gives you a unique view of the high cliffs along the Saguenay Fjord and of the impressive mouth of the wide Saguenay River where it meets the St. Lawrence. Primitive campsites designed for kayakers (and in some cases only accessible from the water) are set in fabulous surroundings that are particularly magical as night falls.

At the other end of Route 138, the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve protects the outstanding environment of a string of islands and islets that stretches over nearly 100 km (60 mi.) in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Marked trails on some of these islands make their exploration a little easier, whether you go on a self-guided hike or take part in a guided activity. Experience a complete change of scenery in this unique archipelago dotted with monoliths sculpted by the wind and water over millions of years, with the immensity of the sea in the background.

Anticosti Island is another unique place with a larger-than-life setting. Discover its many and varied attractions during a self-guided hike in Parc national d’Anticosti, including breathtaking waterfalls as well as high cliffs offering magnificent views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

From the city of Sept-Îles, hop in a Zodiac or sea kayak to explore the Sept Îles Archipelago or go hiking on Grande Basque Island to discover local wildlife and plants while breathing in the invigorating sea air.

Parc Nature de Pointe-aux-Outardes is known for its many different ecosystems, which range from the boreal forest to sand flats and include a beach and sand dunes. This nature park is also home to the second-largest saltmarsh in Québec. This magnificent site attracts a rich wildlife (including 255 species of birds), which you can observe while exploring a network of trails in a stunning location along the St. Lawrence.

Îles de la Madeleine

Like many island environments, the Îles de la Madeleine form a world of their own because of their unique geography, among other reasons. Admire stunning views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, particularly from Big Hill on Entry Island and the lookout over the fishing harbour in Cap-aux-Meules. In a sea kayak, explore the spectacular red sandstone cliffs in Fatima and Gros-Cap, where the elements have carved unusually shaped caves and arches. And don’t miss the beautiful sunsets over the sea from the La Pointe area, in Havre-aux-Maisons!

From the water in a kayak or from an island, mountaintop or clifftop, the St. Lawrence offers unique settings that change with the seasons, the light and the elements, all of which will wow you. Come and see them for yourself!

Author Jean-Pascal Côté

A certified translator and avid outdoorsman, Jean-Pascal Côté works as a freelance writer and translator in Bas-Saint-Laurent, the region where he was born. He regularly escapes his daily life by going road biking, cycle touring or cyclocross racing, skiing in the mountains of Bas-Saint-Laurent or Western Canada, or sea kayaking on the St. Lawrence River. He is constantly dreaming up new travel plans. He also blogs (on an admittedly irregular basis) about his cycle touring adventures.

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