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National Parks and Natural Sites: 4 Experiences Not to Miss
  • Îles de la Madeleine
    Paddle Tales

National Parks and Natural Sites: 4 Experiences Not to Miss

Much to the delight of outdoor enthusiasts, the maritime regions of Québec are home to wide-open, unspoiled natural spaces, including 10 national parks and a wide variety of exceptional natural sites. Are you planning a trip to Bas-Saint-Laurent, Gaspésie, Côte-Nord and/or the Îles de la Madeleine? Here are four experiences you won’t want to miss!

Admiring 3000 species and varieties of plants in one place

During your vacation in Gaspésie, be sure to visit the Reford Gardens to admire and smell a multitude of plants and flowers in about a dozen historic gardens. Created between 1926 and 1958 by Elsie Reford, these gardens are now a national historic site of Canada and a Québec heritage site. Explore and marvel at the Long Walk, the Crabapple Garden, the Azalea Walk and the Alpine Garden! If you happen to be there between late June and mid-July, go and admire the Blue Poppy Glade, which features the site’s most famous flowers!

Practical info:

  • The Reford Gardens are in Grand-Métis, near the gateway to Gaspésie.
  • The gardens are open from June 1 to October 6, 2024. The restaurant in Estevan Lodge is open from June 11 to August 31, 2024.
  • Many accommodation options are available nearly, including in and around Rimouski, Sainte-Flavie and Mont-Joli.

What else to do: At the heart of the historic gardens, you’ll find the Estevan Lodge, a heritage building that now houses exhibition spaces and a restaurant where you can enjoy a unique culinary experience. Chef Frédérick Boucher creates seasonal dishes using edible plants from the gardens. Be sure to also visit the International Garden Festival, which features about 20 contemporary gardens and will celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2024!

Exploring the Islands from the sea

To make the most of your vacation in the Îles de la Madeleine, treat yourself to a stay at Auberge La Salicorne. This vacation resort offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including water excursions that will give you the opportunity to experience the archipelago in a completely new way! Enjoy a guided sea kayaking excursion along the red cliffs and beaches of Old Harry, during which you may even spot seals. Or would you like to try something really unique? Go on a cave excursion! Accompanied by a guide and wearing a wetsuit, helmet and safety jacket, you’ll let the waves carry you through these natural excavations carved out by the sea.

Practical info:

  • To get to the Islands, you can either fly there or drive, which includes a ferry ride from Souris (Prince Edward Island) to Cap-aux-Meules.
  • Auberge La Salicorne is in Grande-Entrée, on the island of the same name.
  • The vacation resort is open from May 10 to October 13, 2024.
  • Various lodging options are available on site: rooms in the inn, bubble tents and tent or RV campsites.

What else to do: Offering a range of accommodations, meals and activities, Auberge La Salicorne is a great place to stay for a hassle-free vacation in harmony with nature. In addition to water excursions, you can enjoy guided hikes in a unique ecosystem, softshell clam fishing and various guided tours of the archipelago. Inquire about the many packages on offer!

Visiting a site recommended by the New York Times

Did you know that the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve was named one of the 52 places to go in 2024 by the prestigious New York Times? Be sure to add this site to your itinerary if you’re planning a trip in Côte-Nord! You can go on a guided or self-guided hike on nine of the archipelago’s islands and admire mysterious limestone monoliths. Sculpted by the sea, they come in a variety of shapes, which you can have fun trying to identify. Your hike is also an opportunity to admire the plants and wildlife species found in this park reserve. Keep an eye out for seabirds and marine mammals!

Practical info:

  • The Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve is accessible by boat from Havre-Saint-Pierre or Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan.
  • Most of the maritime transport services recognized by Parks Canada are in operation from June to September. Contact the boat operators directly to confirm their operating hours when planning your stay.
  • Various camping and glamping options are available on the islands. Be sure to book early!
  • Other lodging options are also available on the mainland.

What else to do: Much to the delight of sea kayakers, the Mingan Archipelago provides access to over 100 km (60 mi.) of navigable waters. If you’re an enthusiast, you’ll want to opt for the Sea Kayaking Base Camp package to make the most of your visit! This package includes 3 nights in a prospector’s tent, 4 days of guided kayaking excursions, 10 meals as well as all the required equipment.

Paddling on the largest lake in Bas-Saint-Laurent

Stretching along the shores of Lake Témiscouata, which is the largest lake in Bas-Saint-Laurent, Parc national du Lac-Témiscouata is a popular destination for water sports enthusiasts. You’ll love exploring this majestic lake as well as Petit Lac Touladi and Grand Lac Touladi by kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard. This is also an opportunity to admire the surrounding forest and local birds in complete peace and quiet. For a sporting and cultural experience, go on a rabaska canoeing excursion with an interpreter guide and follow in the wake of a Wolastoqiyik family for a memorable journey back in time. To add a touch of magic to the experience, opt for a twilight excursion!

Practical info:

  • The park is accessible via the Squatec, Saint-Juste and Dégelis sectors.
  • In the summer, pedestrians and cyclists can board a water shuttle that will take them from Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac to Anse à William.
  • The park is open year-round, but the activities available vary depending on the time of year.
  • You can spend the night in the park, in a tent, RV or glamping unit.
  • You’ll also find various lodging options in the Témiscouata area.

What else to do: Many other activities are available in this park, including hiking on 35 km (22 mi.) of trails, biking, wildlife observation (you may even spot bald eagles!), various interpretive activities focused on First Nations heritage in the area, archaeological digs and more.

Are you ready to discover our national parks and natural sites? Start planning your trip to the maritime regions of Québec today!

Author Anne-Josée Pineau

Born in Bas-Saint-Laurent, Anne-Josée Pineau loves this region and is delighted to introduce others to it. Never far from the sea, she’s fascinated by lighthouses and could live on seafood alone! On this blog, she likes to write about our regions’ unusual attractions, make your mouth water by describing local delicacies, and pique your interest by revealing some of the hidden beauty found in Québec by the Sea. In other words, she wants to provide you with lots of ideas for an unforgettable vacation!

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