How to plan for an epic Road trip in Gaspésie?
Looking for one of the most beautiful road trips in Canada? Then touring la Gaspésie is for you!
Scenic drive? The roads are windingly photogenic, you will not want to snooze in the car during the trip. It takes you through the start of the Appalachians mountains, the Saint Lawrence River and the Gulf. And of course, countless lighthouses.
Food? Amazing fresh seafood! After all, there is not such thing as too much lobster rolls! Plus, there are 16 microbreweries to visit and local gin is on the rise!
Things to do? The region has a combination of wildlife watching, great national parks and charming fishing villages.
Wildlife? You will see a ton of wildlife! Our highlights where whales, seals and Northern Gannets. If you are lucky you can also see the moose and bears.
What’s not to love about all that?
While this is one of the best-known road trips in Quebec, we didn't have a chance to do it earlier. For some reason, we kept prioritizing international travel. I can't believe it took us more than 10 years to visit this beautiful region! At times I felt transported back to Ushuaia.
Planning a road trip to Gaspésie can be a little intimidating because the distances are so big. But worry not, we got your back! We will give a complete itinerary and things to do in Gaspésie with foodie stops, hotels and tips. This is your ultimate and most complete travel guide to the region!
All about the region
The Gaspe Peninsula is 560 km from Montreal and 340 km from Quebec City by road.
This amazing tour takes you through the regions of Bas-Saint-Laurent & Gaspésie. There is one route to follow, Route 132 from the Kamouraska area to Gaspé which will take you along the stunning seaside.
La Gaspésie or the Gaspé Peninsula, is a region of eastern Quebec and it is very close geographically and, sometimes, culturally to the Atlantic provinces like its friendly neighbour, New Brunswick. The peninsula is surrounded by the St. Lawrence waterway as well as by the Bay of Chaleur.
French is the official language. English is spoken by most of the service staff, however, don’t expect that everyone will be fluent in English. Don’t worry if your French is a little rusty, however, people do appreciate if you go the extra mile to speak a little French. You don’t speak any French? No worries, you can at least learn a few words like Merci (thank you) and Bonjour (Hello).
The region is home of various cultures, Quebecker, Acadian, English and Mi'gmaq. You will pass by these different communities during your road trip. I always like visiting museums to get a deeper understanding of the place you are visiting. Even though it is in Quebec, Gaspésie and Montreal have widely different lifestyles. To get a deeper understanding of the region, I would suggest visiting the Musée de la Gaspésie (Gaspésie museum) which is the perfect place to discover the history of the Gaspé Peninsula. It takes you through the pre and colonial era to the arrival of the French to the Americas passing by the Canadian maritime history with its intense fishing era of the mid 19th century to today.
Must-dos for your Gaspesie road trip
Here are our personal highlights of the trip. This is one of those trips where you immediately fall in love with the wonders of nature.
Plan your perfect Gaspesie road trip
How Many Days Do You Need on your Gaspésie tour?
You will need at least 5 days to do the loop, but I would recommend extending it a few days, maybe 7 or 9 days will be best. It all depends on how long you want to drive per day and what you want to see and do. If you are coming from a buzzing city, it will take you some time to adjust to the slow, country pace. So, take your time and enjoy it!
This can be the perfect trip if you are doing a workcation or if you need to do remote work.
Best time to visit Gaspé peninsula?
I suggest going in summer since you have a lot of sea-related activities. From end of May to mid-October it will be the best timing so you can be sure to see the most of the wildlife (migratory birds and whales). However, keep in mind that everyone will be going there during the peak of summer. We went at the end of August and the first week of September to take advantage of the 3 day weekend for labour day and it was the best decision. Everyone had already left and we encountered very few people, which was great! Plus, the hotel prices are cheaper. I heard that during the month of July you get crazy traffic!
Winters in Quebec are difficult and the region is dead during that time. Maybe fall can be a good time also but you will not get to see many colours since most of the trees are evergreens plus, the Northern Gannet have already migrated south.
Pro tip: Even if you go in summer, bring a sweater and a light scarf as the whole region is very windy!
The ultimate Gaspesie Itinerary
As always, I will give you all the details and then give you a suggested itinerary, it will be up to you to pick and choose, mix and match what you want to do!
Lower Saint-Lawrence area
This will be your first and last stop of the trip since you will be doing a complete loop.
If you are coming from Montreal, then I would suggest that you stop at Kamouraska for lunch. It's around 4 hours away so it's a nice stop to stretch your legs and eat. Kamouraska is a tiny town that has a few gourmet options like the cafe-bistro Côté Est and the chocolate shop la Fée Gourmande.
15min away there is the brewery Tête d'Allumette. This is a must stop! The beers are good and the brewery is in a beautiful setting nestled in a field with the river as a backdrop. Did I mention there are 16 breweries scattered around? Here is the complete list.
Île Verte - 2 nights ( 1 night on the island, 1 night in the region)
Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs (known as Île Verte) is a heavenly island in the Lower St. Lawrence region. This tiny island of around 15km long is only accessible by ferry during the summertime.
Words lack to describe this island. Maybe Idyllic landscape, charming, nature sanctuary will fit. The island has one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen! In this untouched rugged island, you can see whales, seals and other wild animals. Oh, and did I say that you can sleep in a lighthouse? The island lighthouse is Québec’s oldest lighthouse. Lightkeeper's and assistant lightkeeper’s houses have been turned into a B&B. This is where we slept. The B&B is charming and offers a one of a kind experience. Plus, the breakfast crepes are delicious!
The island is a nature heaven and it has very little human development, there are no grocery stores or gas station and it only has 3 restaurants that are only open during the high season. The best thing to do here is to explore the island either by foot, car or bike. Stay at the beach and see the animals pass by in the river. You can also do a picnic on the beach with smoked fish from the Colette fish shop. Seriously, best picnic spot and food ever!
Price of the ferry: $6.90 per adult and $53.90 for the car. You should do reservations for your round trip as the places are limited. Since the ferry only comes at odd hours you need to plan this well!
Since the ferry comes at odd hours (it is at the mercy of the tides), I would suggest staying at Riviere-du-Loup the following day. We stayed in this town twice, at the beginning of our tour and coming back. Riviere-du-Loup is widely known for its sunsets and all the talk is real, they are GORGEOUS!
Where to eat and sleep? Here you have the brewery the Fous Brassant. In the city, we stayed at Auberge de la Pointe. It was a nice hotel. Make sure you ask for a room with a view of the river, trust me, it is worth it! When we were finishing the trip, we also stayed at the Hotel Universel.
Bic parc National
This Sepaq park has capes, bays, coves, islands and mountains. It is also famous for the seals that come near the beach. The park has 25 km of hiking trails, 15 km of bike trails which will take you through numerous lookouts to admire the views. In the park, you can also do sea kayaking. We visited this park at the end of our trip, so we were looking for easy trails. We were recommended to do the trails Les Anses & île aux amours.
The entrance of the park is around $9, and it is 1h east of Riviere-du-Loup.
From here go to the Pointe-au-Père Maritime Historic Site. It has the second tallest lighthouse in Canada and one of the few to still have its prism. From the top, you can admire the fantastic view. Onsite you also have the Empress Museum which narrates the history of the Empress of Ireland shipwreck which is one of Canada’s worst marine disasters. It was a very similar ship to the Titanic that sank only 2 years earlier. There is also the Onondaga submarine where you can understand how life in a submarine works. You can also sleep in the submarine during specific dates of the year.
The park is $25 for the trio, you can also buy individual entrances.
This area will cover most of your road trip.
Carleton-sur-Mer - 1 night
Drive from Rivière-du-Loup to Carleton-sur-Mer (360 km – 4 h 15)
The next stop will be the Bay of Chaleur and more specifically Carleton-sur-Mer. The tiny town has a nice beach and you can go hiking Mont Saint-Joseph. The view of the bay is gorgeous from the top.
Where to eat and sleep? Here we stayed at Hostellerie Baie Bleue. This hotel has several types of accommodations like chalets, lofts and regular rooms. We stayed in a loft and it had a complete kitchen and a good living room. I think the loft was as big as our apartment (we live in a small apartment)! You need to eat and drink at Le Naufrageur Microbrewery. They have funky type of beers like beers made with seawater or chocolate and hot pepper. I would strongly recommend eating there, they have delicious food, I had a shrimp roll with a salad.
Pro tip: You will be so close to New Brunswick that some phones might be switching to Atlantic time. However, you will always stay in Eastern time.
The Bioparc de la Gaspésie is home of about 40 animal species indigenous to the region in a setting that resembles their natural habitat. Here you can see animals ranging from cute raccoons to the giant moose.
I must admit that I was very reluctant to visit and to add this stop in the article. since I don’t like Zoo. I think that animals should be able to wander around freely in nature. However, the park has an extensive educational and conservation program. Also, some of the animals are rescued so it provides them with a good life after they had an accident or if they were left orphan, meaning they could not survive in the wild. The park seems to respect the 5 freedom for captive animals.
Nat Geo did a great article about how to do wildlife right. I would highly suggest reading it since you will be doing a lot of wildlife watching on the trip.
The entrance to the park is $24 per adult.
Percé - 2 nights
Drive from Carleton-sur-Mer to Percé (191 km – 2 h 30)
This is the icon of the region with its gigantic Percé rock dominating the landscape. While the rock and the town are charming, visiting the Bonaventure island was one of our highlights of the whole trip!
I would suggest staying here for 2 nights, so you don't feel rushed. Think that part of your first and last day will be spent driving.
What do in the town of Percé?
The small town has several restaurants, bars and boutiques, it has a lively vibe with all the tourists. This is the hotspot of the whole region so be prepared to have more people here.
Visit the Percé UNESCO Global Geopark, this is a museum combined with a park. If you are a geology buff, then this is your stop. If not, you can skip the museum and go do a nice hike through the woods, discover the hidden waterfall and of course admire the views from the glass platform or do a short zipline ride!
From here you can also do some whale watching excursions by boat.
Where to eat and sleep?
For drinks go to Pit Caribou, the famous Gaspesienne beer. The bar has a homey atmosphere and has tons of board games and sometimes live music shows. La Société Secrète is a gin distillery located in an old church. For $10 you can do a tasting of their products plus you get to keep the glass. Finding their products outside the region can be hard so if you like their products, buy them on-site.
For dinner, go to la Maison du pêcheur, this is the best restaurant in the region. I would highly recommend doing reservations since it is very popular! We took the delicious Table d’hôte. We also had a good lobster roll at the Resto du Village.
If you are a chocolate lover, you NEED to stop at Couleur Chocolat. They have one of the best chocolates we have ever tried. They are famous for their seaweed chocolate, but I felt for their Chic Choc one; it's a dark chocolate from Venezuela, it was just the right balance between bitterness and sweetness. We ended up buying a mix of 28 chocolates to bring back home. Don’t judge me, I’m a chocoholic.
We stayed at Riôtel Percé. Our room was super comfortable, and it had a great view of the rock. Plus, the included breakfast was very good. This area has also plenty of hostels if you are on a tight budget.
This is THE excursion that you are looking for! Hop on a boat and see thousands of birds! The tour will bring you closer to the pierced rock and it will then tour the island. The National Park of Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé is home of 200,000 seabirds, including 110,000 northern gannets. It is the world’s most accessible colony of these birds.
In the park, rangers can explore the island with you and talk to you about the island’s curious yearly visitors. I would highly suggest doing the guided visit with them! We learnt so much through our guided visit, they will explain to you the animal behaviour, why they nest here and the type of vegetation the island has. I feel like if we would not have done the visit with the guide, we would not have enjoyed it as much.
The whole island is a national park, so no one lives there anymore. There are some houses and they have been restored for historical purposes.
Pro tip: The suggested time to enjoy the island is 3 hours. Check at what time is the last boat so you don’t get trapped there!
The entrance of the park is around $9.
Forillon National Park - 1 night
Drive from Percé to Gaspé (80 km – 1 h)
This national park is one of the most beautiful parks we have ever visited. It marks the end of the long Appalachian mountain chain and it is at the easternmost point of the Gaspé Peninsula.
Before going to the National park, I would suggest stopping in the city of Gaspé. Here you can do groceries if you are camping in the park. I highly suggest staying overnight since one day is not enough to visit the park.
In the park, we did 3 trails of different lengths and level of difficulty. I loved the 3 of them so I highly suggest doing them!
La Chute (the drop) is a short trail that takes you to the woodlands to reach a 17-metre-high waterfall. Because who doesn't love waterfalls? This trail will take around 30mins to complete.
Mont-Saint-Alban: this trail is longer and more difficult to do, it will take you 3 to 4 hours to complete. However, the effort is worth investing since it will take you to an observatory tower where you can see breathtaking views of the sea, cliffs below and the boreal forest. I would suggest doing the complete trail, north and south Area. Cap-Bon-Ami was my favourite part.
Les Graves: this trail is divided into 2. The entire trail is around 4 to 5 hours to do and the last part is a trail of 2 to 3 hours. Cutting through the woods, you will pass by L'Anse-aux-Amérindiens. At Cap-Gaspé there is a lighthouse and you can admire where the Saint-Lawrence river meets the sea. This is a beautiful vista worth spending time there relaxing at one of the Parks Canada Muskoka red chairs or to do your picnic. Stay on the lookout for possible whales on the horizon! Follow the trail down to the bottom of the cliff until reaching the Land’s End sign.
The entrance of the park is around $9.
Glamping at the Forillon Park
Like I said, spending only 1 day in this park is not nearly enough time to visit all! I would have stayed easily an extra half-day, minimum. So, to maximize your time in the park you can go camping or glamping.
We are not the camping type, at all! We were a little nervous about going glamping, especially since they told us that there were black bears in the park. But you cannot beat the view that we had and the ready to camp tent was great! It had everything we needed like beds, plates and the washrooms were less than 2min away. Plus, there were flushable toilets! You could take a shower and it had potable water. And you had electricity! You had a table, inside and outside with a heater if the nights were cold. I mean, this was camping to the next level! Here is the list of everything that is included in the tents. All you need to bring is a sleeping bag, pillows and food.
I only went camping once, back in Venezuela and I can say that both experiences could not have been more different. I would camp again in a heartbeat in the oTENTik tents!
We had taken the F2 tent at the Loop F and I think we had the best view of the sea and we were not too far from the bathroom, so I will recommend staying in this one. At the entrance, they will give you the instructions of where to park the car and how to protect your food from the bears. Don’t worry, the only animals we saw was a porcupine and a chipmunk. However, we think we heard a black bear roaming around the campsite at night.
A one night in a fully equipped tent is $120.
Sainte-Anne-des-Monts - 1 night
Drive from Forillon National Park towards Sainte-Anne-des-Monts via road 132 along the North Shore of the Gaspé Peninsula (220 km – 3 h)
The route from Forillon to Sainte-Anne-des-Monts will contour the Chic Choc mountains. Just at the edge of the park, your will pass by several picture opportunities for lighthouses. Who knew they were so photogenic! You will pass by at least 3 different ones. You need to pay to enter but you can admire them from afar.
Sainte-Anne-des-Monts is known for the Chic Choc mountains which are a continuation of the Appalachian Mountains. This is home of a wildlife reserve and the Gaspesie National park. It is recognized as a mecca for hiking in the province and where it is the easiest to spot the majestic moose. The most famous hiking trail is the Mont Albert. Unfortunately, we were too tired to hike after our stay at Forillon.
The small town is also home of Exploramer a museum/ aquarium that will explain everything you need to know about the marine life in the St. Lawrence. This is also the atelier for Couleur chocolat so if you did not have enough chocolate, this is your last chance.
Here we stayed in the boutique hotel, Hôtel & Cie. it was a modern and sleek hotel.
This will be your last stop before returning to the lower Saint-Laurent area.
Tips for planning your trip in Gaspesie
You will be doing a LOT of road, we did more than 2,000 km so be prepared to drive long distances. I would highly suggest extending your trip so you can drive fewer hours during the day which lets you more time to enjoy the activities. In short, don’t drive from Montreal to Percé in one shot, that is almost an 11-hour drive!
All road signalization is in French; however, we have standardized signals through North America so it will be easy for you to get by.
Brake for moose and other wildlife. Keep an eye out for wildlife, constantly you will see tons of signs regarding wildlife passing. However, if you see a moose, hit the breaks! Moose are gigantic animals and if you crash into them you will most likely have a deadly accident.
Gas, there are places that are a little remote and the gas stations might be distant from one another so keep an eye on this. However, for most of your trip, it will be fine. I was pleasantly surprised that there were a lot of electric car charging stations so you can do the tour with an electric car!
If there is a restaurant that catches your eye do a reservation, especially in high season! There are no countless places so I would highly recommend to have a plan.
There are 16 microbreweries in the region. That’s a lot! Obviously, we don’t recommend to drink and drive. If you want to try them all, you can buy most of them at the supermarket in the region. This will be a good souvenir to bring back! Same for the gin, we only talked about the Société Secrète distillery but there are more! Like Radoune that does gin with wild mushrooms or Saint-Laurent Gin that infuses its gin with seaweed. Check the SAQ for all the products of the region.
Bring a cooler with you, there are countless of artisanal fish shops and I would have loved to bring back home some smoked salmon or other local products. Don’t make the same mistake!
It goes without saying but be mindful of the environment and wild animals, don’t go pet them and leave your trash at the beach. Pick up after yourself!
Phew, that was a long post. Now that you have everything you need to know to plan your trip, what stops will you choose?
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Disclaimer: This wonderful trip was a press trip organized by Quebec Maritme. As always, all opinions are our own.
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