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 rhythm with the ever-present sea. Many national parks and natural sites provide stunning views of the St. Lawrence Estuary and Gulf. Here is a sample of some beautiful locations to make the most of these views!

Bas-Saint-Laurent

Well-known for its rugged shoreline consisting of small coves, large bays and prominent headlands, Parc national du Bic stands out for its diversified geography. It’s this variety of landscapes that makes the area so unique. It also allows you to see the majestic St. Lawrence under different angles at every turn. Once you are there, take the time to go on a sea kayaking outing to enjoy a front-row view of this beautiful scenery.

Even though it’s located only a few kilometres from downtown Rimouski, Saint-Barnabé Island gives you a feeling of getting away from it all. Explore the island’s network of hiking trails and theme rest areas presenting various chapters – some quite surprising – of its history. But above all, enjoy the area’s serene tranquility while wandering along the shore or admiring 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, offering amazing views of both shores. If you’re lucky, you might see whales emerging from the water near the shoreline.

Gaspésie

Located at the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, Forillon National Park is one of those places where you’ll feel like you’re at the edge of the world. The Gulf of St. Lawrence and Gaspé Bay border this exceptional site and you can admire 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, like the opportunity to watch from up close an impressive colony of northern gannets (the most accessible colony of its kind in the world!) and many stunning viewpoints of the open sea that include impressive 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 don’t miss the suspended glass platform perched on a cliff at an altitude of 200 metres (660 feet)!

The Chaleur Bay area also has its fair share of viewpoints of the sea. The most spectacular one is undoubtedly from the summit of Mt. Saint-Joseph. Closer to sea level, Parc national de Miguasha has hiking trails along the Restigouche River Estuary. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can have a look at a fossil-rich site during a hike.

A must see for anyone visiting the Gaspésie region, the Reford Gardens are one of the largest gardens in North America. This national historic site boasts more than 3000 species and varieties of plants, including the famous Himalayan blue poppy that flourishes in the cool and humid climate of the St. Lawrence Estuary. After your visit of the gardens, relax on the grounds of 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 excursion at sea or even from the shore, especially 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 point of view on the high cliffs along the fjord and on 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 offer a fairy-tale atmosphere in the evening light.

At the other end of Route 138, the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve protects the outstanding environment of this string of islands and islets that stretch 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 one-of-a-kind environment dotted with monoliths sculpted by the wind and the 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 numerous and diversified attractions during a self-guided hike in Parc national d’Anticosti, including breathtaking waterfalls and 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, from the boreal forest to sand flats as well as beaches and sand dunes. It also boasts the second-largest salt marsh in Québec. This magnificent site attracts a rich wildlife – including 255 bird species – that you can observe throughout 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, or from 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 caves and arches of various shapes. And don’t miss the beautiful sunsets over the sea from the La Pointe area, in Havre-aux-Maisons!

From an island, a mountaintop or a clifftop, or from the water in a kayak, 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 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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