What to do in Gaspé

The Gaspé peninsula is a road-trip holiday. There’s no public transportation to speak of and the distances between towns are significant. You’re here for the scenery, which is free. But in between magnificent vistas there are some worthwhile fee-based attractions. In this last Gaspé blog, I share what stoked my family.

Percé Rock in Percé

This is the raison d’être for our road trip. Over 1,000 feet long and 300 feet high and wide, the rock is a monolith jutting out from the ocean. It made its way to Quebec from Africa in prehistoric times. It’s imposing and impressive and it will take your breath away. A boat tour is the best way to see Percé Rock up close. You can walk out to the rock in low tide but expect to get very wet. Also, chunks of the rock are falling into the ocean so it’s dangerous to wade out to the rock just to touch it. Signs warn of falling rocks.

Julien Cloutier boat tour in Percé

My husband, teenage son and I took two boat trips on the same day in August. Both trips were okay.

The first, was the trip to Bonaventure Island. Good commentary on the island and on Percé Rock. The captain took the boat around the rock and the Island. We didn’t get off on the island. It was a cool, cloudy day and it was fresh at sea. No coffee or refreshments on board.

The second trip was the 1 p.m. whale watching tour. We were gone 2-and-a-half hrs. on choppy seas and saw two harbor porpoises and one Minke whale (barely and briefly). So, the second trip was a bust. It cost $240 for the three of us.

Apparently, chips, water and the like were offered on board but an announcement was never made. Thankfully, info on life-vests and how to use them and where to find them, was presented in English and French.

Julien Cloutier is the only tour-boat operator in Percé. You have to drive to the town of Gaspé for a competitor. I just wish we had better luck.

GeoParc in Percé

We had run out of things to do in town and were waiting for the whale watching boat tour when we stumbled upon this gem. It’s behind businesses on the main road, near a camp ground. Easy to miss but worth it.

We were not sure what the attraction was about and had to ask at the front desk. It’s a presentation of Percé’s geological history. It’s designed to capture your attention and imagination.

You’re given what looks like Tarot cards at the entrance to the exhibit. You’ll need to insert the cards into individual stations to active the station. Each symbol on the card is representative of that station’s information. The first station looks like a carnival fortune-teller stand. Sure enough, a crystal ball illuminates and an audio track kicks off the ‘mystical and magic’ history of how Percé Rock came to be.

It’s very dark inside and very young children may be frightened. There are three video presentations. Nothing ordinary about the videos. It’s all Industrial Light and Magic stuff!
The stations incorporate audio tracks, video, and for lack of better words, trick lighting. At one point you appear to be walking through a brook, with babbling water and all. Yet, you remain perfectly dry. The second floor has information boards designed in glass. Beautiful.

Expensive. 15$ per adult. Lasts one hour. There’s also a kids’ jungle gym/climbing room across the hall. We saw young adults climbing the day we were here!

Metis Gardens/Reford Gardens in Grand Métis

We stopped at the gardens en route to Gaspé National Park. It was pouring rain and we thought twice about it and I’m glad we went.

Our inn-keeper gave us coupons for 15 per cent off the entrance fee, which made the detour even sweeter. The staff had a supply of enormous umbrellas at the entrance, which we were thankful for. It would have been impossible to see the gardens without them.

Despite the rain, we visited for over an hour. Elsie Reford is the woman behind the gardens and she dedicated herself to creating an English garden setting in the wilds of Quebec.
The gardens are lush, rich and colourful. The setting is natural, wooded, hilly and rocky in places. There’s a natural stream running through a portion of the gardens. A naturalist’s dream. Thanks to a micro-climate, she cultivated gardens where there were only trees and rocks. Reford introduced species of flowers new to Quebec.

At the end of the garden is a lodge, which was Reford’s summer home. It’s open to the public as a museum of what life was like at the home in the early 1900s. Fascinating.
Even our teen didn’t seem to mind walking around flower beds and touring the lodge. Must see.

Gaspé National Park in Ste. Anne des Monts

This national park is actually a provincial one but that’s Quebec for you. The Chic-Choc and McGerrigle Mountains cross the park. Some of the highest peaks in Quebec are found in these mountain ranges. Between the mountains are valleys with streams, forests and lakes where depending on the season, you can hike, swim, boat, fish, cycle, ski and snowshoe.

A visitors’ centre in the middle of the park provides information as well as supplies and equipment rentals. And, the service here is bilingual.

Accommodations in the park range from upscale hotel rooms in the Gîte Mont. Albert to un-serviced camp grounds in the woods. We stayed in a ready-to-camp huttopia. There are also isolated wood cabins and comfortably furnished cottages and bungalows near the Gîte, which are ideal for large groups.

We stayed a couple of days but honestly, you could spend a week here.

 

 

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