The Gaspé Peninsula (also known as Gaspesie) is one of Quebec’s most beautiful destinations. Head east along the St Lawrence River from Montreal and Quebec City, passing picturesque small towns along the way, and you’ll hit La Gaspesie: this is Atlantic Canada with a French Canadian twist. Filled with national parks, breathtaking beaches, and remote islands where you can truly get away from it all, there is so much to discover in the Gaspesie Peninsula.
If you’re thinking about planning a road trip to the Gaspésie region, don’t miss these tips and information to help you create the perfect itinerary for when it’s safe to travel again.
History of the Gaspésie
Gaspésie’s first inhabitants were the native Mi’gmaq. As the original residents of the Atlantic region, the Mi’gmaq nation had already been living in the area for more than 10,000 years before the Europeans arrived in the 16th century. Living peacefully along the St Lawrence gave them easy access to both the Mitis and Matapedia rivers, where they established intricate and sustainable fishing routes for salmon and eel.
In 1534, Jacques Cartier arrived from St Malo in France into Gaspesie’s Chaleur Bay, which became the first province of New France. Travellers to the Gaspesie region can see villages scattered across the peninsula which have been named by the Mi’gmaq, and a few thousand people of the nation still reside on the peninsula today.
Places to visit in the Gaspé Peninsula
The Gaspésie is home to beautiful mountains and rock formations. One of the best places to see them is at the Percé UNESCO Global Géopark or the Parc national de l’Ile-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher Percé. Its most famous formations is Pierced Rock (Rocher Percé in French). From a distance, this rock formation appears to be a boat in full sail.
During the summer months, the park becomes the nesting home to more than 200,000 northern gannets and 300+ other species! If you’re coming here for bird watching, be sure to add Rocher Percé to your Gaspésie Peninsula itinerary.
Forillon National Park
Forillon National Park is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Gaspé region of Quebec. It’s full of hiking trails perched along cliffs, forests full of wildlife, and scenic beaches with sandy and pebbled shores to walk along.
Travelling with your pets? This is the only national park in Québec with dog-friendly trails. The park is also home to Cap-des-Rosiers Lighthouse, which is the tallest lighthouse in Canada! Now a national historic site, this 34-metre (112 ft) tall building sits at the top of a cliff on the mouth of the St Lawrence River.
The Reford Gardens, known as the Jardins de Métis, are recognized as one of Canada’s outstanding horticultural attractions. You can see over 3,000 varieties of native and exotic plants displayed in 15 English-style gardens here. Situated along the banks of the St Lawrence River, the gardens are the perfect place to go for a relaxing walk.
Best time to visit: Every year, the Gardens host the International Garden Festival during the warmer months when the flowers are in full bloom. This year’s festival is scheduled for the end of June until October 3rd, 2021.
Parc national de la Gaspésie
The Chic-Choc Mountains in the Parc national de la Gaspésie offer some of the best hiking in Quebec. During the winter months, they’re also a popular destination for snowmobiling. These heavily eroded mountains run parallel to the St Lawrence River, are a continuation of the Appalachians, and are home to moose, elk, and other wildlife.
Best time to visit: While the national park is most accessible during the warmer months, outdoor enthusiasts prefer to snowmobile through the Chic-Choc mountains in the winter when they are covered with snow.
Îles de la Madeleine
Located in the middle of the Gulf of St Lawrence, the Îles de la Madeleine are an archipelago of seven small islands surrounded by white-sand beaches and red cliffs. They are the perfect place for a romantic getaway or for families looking to enjoy a quiet escape by the water. Each of the islands has its own features and attractions, but you can expect to find incredible seafood, warm hospitality, and stunning landscapes on them all. With so much accessibility to water, the islands are also a popular place for sea kayaking, windsurfing, and scuba.
Although the Îles de la Madeleine are part of the Gaspésie Peninsula and province of Quebec, they’re actually closer to the Maritime provinces of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. There’s even a ferry to the islands that leaves from Souris, Prince Edward Island if you’re visiting here from the east coast.
Other tourist attractions in Gaspésie
Festivals in the Gaspésie Peninsula
For a richer experience, plan your road trip to coincide with one of Gaspé’s festivals to learn more about the history and culture of this unique region.
Best for: families and history buffs
The Festival Acadien takes place each summer on Havre Aubert Island in the Îles de la Madeleine. In the late 1700s, the British expelled the Acadians from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Many of them settled as refugees in the Gaspésie region, and their descendants are still there today. This popular festival in Gaspésie celebrates Acadian cuisine, music, and culture with boat-building competitions and races.
This 2021 festival is scheduled from July 15th to August 15th. To stay close by choose a smaller bed & breakfast like Gîte La Maison Chez J.P.
Best for: couples and culture lovers
Les Percéides, or the International Festival of Cinema and Art of Percé, has been going strong for over a decade. It offers over $10,000 in prize money for young filmmakers and past editions have included films by Chilean, Japanese, and Spanish directors.
This year’s festival is scheduled for August 17-22. It’s located in the town of Percé, where there is a number of hotels, bed & breakfasts, and camping options for attendees.
Planning your Gaspésie Peninsula road trip
To get to the Gaspésie Peninsula, your best route would be to fly to Quebec City and rent a car to explore or to fly directly into Michel-Pouliot Gaspé. The Gaspé Peninsula is also a popular road trip from Montreal, so either cities are viable starting points. If you begin from Montreal, you’ll end up passing through Quebec City, so why not plan a day or two of sightseeing in Quebec’s capital city?
How long does it take to drive around the Gaspé Peninsula?
The scenic drive from Quebec City to the town of Gaspé at the tip of the peninsula is almost 700km, so you’ll want to break it into a few days of driving each way.
There’s only one route to follow for a Gaspé Peninsula road trip, which is Route 132. From Quebec City, it’s 350km to Sainte-Flavie, which is considered the gateway to the Gaspé. From here, the route splits to form an 885 loop called the Grand Tour Circuit. For the best views, follow the route north along the St Lawrence River all the way to Percé at the tip of the peninsula.
You will need at least five days to drive the loop, but most travellers spend a week exploring the region. Between the national parks, quaint small towns, and outdoor adventures, there’s no shortage of fun things to do in Gaspésie.
Gaspésie Peninsula itinerary
Day 1: Fly into Québec City or Montreal
Day 2: Quebec City to Sainte-Anne-des-Monts
Day 3: Sainte-Anne-des-Monts to Gaspé
Day 4: Gaspé (Forillon National Park)
Day 5: Gaspé to Percé (Rocher Percé)
Day 6: Percé to Mont-Joli (or another stop to break the drive to Québec City)
Day 7: Mont-Joli to Québec City
When is the best time to visit the Gaspé Peninsula?
The best time to plan a Gaspésie road trip is during the warmer months from the end of May to mid-October, when you can take advantage of water-related activities, fresh seafood, and good driving conditions. Summer is also the best time to see wildlife in the Gaspé Peninsula as this is when whales migrate here. But if you want to get away from the crowds, avoid booking your trip during the peak of summer during July and August. Instead, plan a trip during the shoulder months when you’ll still get the same benefits but fewer people and lower prices on hotels.
If you’re visiting the Gaspé Peninsula to see hundreds of species of birds that call this region home, you’ll be happy to know that the maritime climate and mild temperatures make for a long bird-watching season that starts in spring and goes on until November. Autumn can be a great chance to visit Gaspésie, as the fall foliage adds an entirely new element of beauty to the landscape.
Where to stay in the Gaspésie Peninsula
The Gaspé Peninsula has several boutique accommodations and bed & breakfasts to choose from. Check out these hotels to inspire your Gaspesie road trip:
- Hôtel & cie (Sainte-Anne-des-Monts)
- Auberge Sous Les Arbres (Gaspé)
- Auberge William Wakeham (Gaspé)
- Riotel Percé (Percé)
- Hotel Le Mirage (Percé)
Camping in Gaspésie
There are over 60 camping sites and locations to choose from throughout the Gaspé Peninsula. From rustic campgrounds to ready-to-camp cabins at Camping Baie de Percé, there are outdoor accommodation options for every level of camper. Within Forillon National Park, stay in on a campsite or reserve a oTENTik or micrOcube through Parks Canada for more of a glamping experience.
With its natural beauty, rich history, and commitment to the arts, the Gaspesie region has something for everyone. Rent a car, book your hotel stay, and start planning your trip to see this unmissable Quebec destination!
Please note: Before booking any type of travel, always make sure to check the local guidelines of the region. Our coronavirus travel advice has the latest updates on international and domestic travel for Canadians.
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