If I had to describe Gaspésie (the South-East part of Quebec in Canada) with just a word, it would be colours. The deep blue of the St. Lawrence and the sea, the infinite different kinds of green of the forest with touches of gold, orange and red as fall was coming, the yellow, pink and purple sky at perfect sunsets and the many different shades of the traditional wooden houses. I saw all of that and many more on a perfect road trip: 2,000kms driving from an amazing natural site to another and spotting an incredibly rich wildlife. Follow me for 8 days on the Canadian Route 132, one of the most beautiful roads in the world! And if you want to see more of my pictures, have a look at my gallery.
This great road trip begins in Quebec City, one of my favourite places in the world (I’ll tell you why in another article soon). Use the ferry to cross the St. Lawrence and have your first stop in Lévis: that’s where you have the best view over Quebec City and the wonderful Chateau Frontenac, right in front of you.
After taking a few pictures, keep on driving to the east (don’t take the highway) through nice villages like Notre-Dame-du-Portage, and after around 200kms you will reach Rivière-du-Loup. The Fall park just next to the center is a very nice place with quiet and beautiful walking paths, but what makes this area famous is its fabulous sunsets. A local legend says that National Geographic ranked them the second best in the world after Hawaii. I don’t know if it’s true, but even if it isn’t the sight is worth a visit. The best way to watch them is to go to the end of the pier, where the ferry to the other side of the St. Lawrence starts. Sit down and enjoy!
If you stay there for the sunset, you’ll probably spend the night in Rivière-du-Loup. If you do so, I highly recommend the Auberge Internationale for a good and cheap sleep. One of the best hostels I’ve ever been to, nice little dorms, huge kitchen and very good breakfast included. Perfect!
On the second day, drive about one hour from Rivière-du-Loup to the Bic National Park, a small but beautiful park with lots of possible hikes. I really enjoyed the walk to the summit of the Pic Champlain for a great view, as well as the “Baie du Ha! Ha!” (yes that’s the real name) and the Anse à l’orignal where you might be able to spot seals.
If you still have time, you can go to the Canyon des Portes de l’Enfer (Hell’s Gate Canyon), about 45 minutes away from the Bic National Park. There you’ll find the highest suspended bridge in Quebec: 63m above the ground! Very impressive, but the entrance is quite expensive sadly (14$). After that, Rimouski will be the best place to stay for the second night, but if you’re looking for something original…
…why not sleep in a submarine? Yes, for real! For that, go to the maritime historic site of Pointe-au-Père, just next to Rimouski. You’ll find there the submarine Onondaga, where it’s possible to spend the night. Go to their website for more information and booking.
Even if you chose a more traditional accommodation, visiting this place will be a nice way to add some culture to the third day of your road trip. It includes the previously mentioned submarine but also a great exhibition about the tragic sinking of the “Empress Of Ireland” in 1914 and the (free) visit of the lighthouse. Count three hours if you want to do everything.
After Rimouski, the Route 132 winds between the St. Lawrence on the left and cliffs on the right. It’s an extremely pleasant drive and the opportunities to stop for a picture will be legion! In Cap-Chat don’t miss Eole, the world’s tallest vertical axis wind turbine. You’ll feel very small staring at its 110m! For the night, the Sea Shack next to Sainte-Anne-des-Monts is apparently the place to be in Gaspésie; sadly I didn’t stay there but a lot of people told me about it afterwards. I only wish I heard about it before! So if you went there, share your experience in the comments.
Sainte-Anne-des-Monts is the entrance to the huge and beautiful Gaspésie National Park. If you like hiking, you will really enjoy visiting it and one full day will be the strict minimum.
Have you ever been in a place with absolutely no signs of human presence? No car noise, no plane trails in the sky, no other people around, nothing. It’s not so easy to find right? It happened to me a couple of times in the Gaspésie National Park; I felt like I was in the movie “Into The Wild”. That’s what you’ll find there: unspoiled wild nature, deep forest and if you’re lucky, you might even see moose and bald eagles. The most popular walk for experimented walkers is at the Mont-Albert: 12 to 17kms depending on the track you’re choosing. There are also shorter walks like at the Mont-Ernest-Laforce (4,5kms loop) or to the Lac-aux-Américains (2,6kms return). Just hope for good weather, because when I went there the view was quite obstructed from the very low clouds!
The fifth day of this road trip will be mostly driving, but the more or less 200kms from Sainte-Anne-des-Monts to Cap-aux-Os next to the Forillon National Park are the best part of the Route 132. Trust me, you will want to stop everywhere!
Among the most beautiful sites on your way, don’t miss the lovely red lighthouse of La Martre (the nicest of Gaspésie in my opinion!) and the one from Cap-des-Rosiers, the tallest in Canada with its 34m. Once you’ll reach Cap-aux-Os, it will probably be too late for a long hike (save them for the next day) but between the North and South entrance of the Forillon National Park, go to the short path “le Castor” (the beaver) at the end of the afternoon. It’s easy to see a beaver very close on the lake and if you’re lucky you might also see a moose. Finally there are also two good hostels just near the park entrance. Don’t go to Gaspé because it’s quite far away from the park and you’ll have to wake up very early in the next morning…
…because the best way to enjoy the incredible view over the cliffs from the Forillon National Park is to be at Cap Bon-Ami at sunrise. The sight of the first rays of sun coloring the coast in red is something you won’t forget before long! You’ll also absolutely need to climb to the platform of Mont-Saint-Alban as well; it’s a very steep walk but the 360° view from the top is breathtaking. If the weather is clear, you’ll even see the Percé Rock (your next destination!) on the horizon.
To complete your visit of the Forillon National Park, drive through the South entrance until the “Anse-aux-Amérindiens”. From there, the walk to the extremity of Cap Gaspé is very pleasant, and the sight at “Land’s End” is beautiful. Be careful though, apparently bears are quite common in this section of the park, especially if you go there in the early morning.
You can spend a second night in Cap-aux-Os but I would recommend to drive to Percé and watch the sunset over the Percé Rock instead; it’s just one hour drive, and it will be worth it.
The excursion on day 7 was my personal favourite from this road trip. From Percé, take one of the boats cruising to Bonaventure Island. They will first sail to both sides of the Percé Rock (giving you much better pictures options of the famous arch than from the land), then loop around the island. Get prepared to see hundreds of seals just next to the boat and thousands of birds above your head: Bonaventure Island shelters one of the biggest northern gannet’s colonies in the world. Another warning: before seeing the colony, you will smell it…
Once you’ll be on the island, I’d recommend to not walking straight to the birds like most of the people do. The island by itself is really beautiful, so if you have time prefer to do the longer path, you’ll enjoy it much more and you’ll have the wildlife just for yourself, like this fox if you’re lucky.
Standing next to the northern gannet’s colony is something unforgettable. It’s hard to describe; the noise, the smell, the thousands of birds just next to you… You could easily spend hours watching their very aggressive behavior, that the guides from the park will take delight in explaining to you. But don’t forget that the last boat is at 5pm!
Don’t have too much regrets to leave this incredible place behind you as the walk back to the pier will give you breathtaking views over the Percé Rock.
After so many emotions, the Baie-des-Chaleurs will seem quite disappointing. The Route 132 here is still very nice but nothing compared to what you saw in the previous days. I chose to drive until Carleton-sur-Mer where I stayed in a lovely B&B, but you can stop closer from Percé and add one more day to that road trip if you want.
The last day already! There’s not so much left to see on your way back to Quebec City. At the end of the Baie-des-Chaleurs, next to Matapedia, you’ll have some lookouts over the Matapedia or the Ristigouche River, like the “Horizon de Rêve” (dream’s horizon). Fun fact: there are a few luxurious fishing camps next to the Ristigouche River where rich Americans like to come for fishing salmon. A friend of mine who grew up in the small town of Saint-Alexis-de-Matapedia told me that he once bumped into Tom Cruise himself in the only shop of the village!
After that the road doesn’t have so much interest in my opinion. Have a break at the Lake Matapedia after Amqui, and once you’ll see the St. Lawrence, take the highway and drive back to Quebec City. Unless you’d like to add another night and enjoy one more breathtaking sunset in Rivière-du-Loup.
I hope you’ll enjoy this road trip as much as I did myself! And if you know Gaspésie and have more suggestions, share them in the comments!