Île du Havre aux Maisons, photo credit Michel Julien
Distance: 85 km (52 mi.) of road from Havre-Aubert to Grande Entrée
You could go from Havre-Aubert to Grande-Entrée in just one day, but you’d miss the fishermen unloading their catch at the docks, and you wouldn’t have time to browse the art shops, see a lighthouse, or taste great seafood. And what about kayaking into those hidden caves in the rust-red cliffs or spending a sunny day at the beach? Really, meandering is the only way to go.
A. Île du Havre-Aubert. Located at the southern end of the archipelago, Havre-Aubert is the most forested island of the group. The first Acadians to arrive on the islands settled in Havre-Aubert, and their influence can still be seen in local architecture, business and fishing operations. The site historique de La Grave– “small shore” in English – was the place where the whole village and the fishermen met and traded. Classified as an historic site in 1983, this vibrant place is where painters, jewellery makers and potters have set up shop in charming boutiques.
Plage du Havre-Aubert. Accessible by Chemin du Sable from Havre-Aubert. This highly popular beach is home to an annual sandcastle competition. You can walk for several kilometres along the sandy shore to the point at Bout du Banc, where you’ll get a fabulous view of Entry Island.
B. Île Cap-aux-Meules. The second largest island in the Archipelago (after Havre-Aubert), is where the ferry from the mainland docks. The main districts are Cap-aux-Meules, Fatima and L’Étang-du-Nord, where thrill seekers come for great kite surfing, power kiting and buggying.
C. L’Étang-du-Nord. At Parc de Gros-Cap, the shoreline of red sandstone carved by the sea is a delight to behold and to explore by kayak. As for the Site de la Côte, it’s a popular place by the fishing harbour where Madelinots like to stroll. Of interest is the Centre d’interpretation sur la mariculture; the part of aquaculture that involves the cultivation of marine organisms. The Figurative Painting Symposium takes place here at the end of July.
Entry Island, photo credit Michel Julien
D. Entry Island. This small island populated by 130 English-speakers (who call the archipelago the Magdalen Islands) is the only one not connected to the rest of the archipelago by dunes. You can get there by ferry, kayak or Zodiac from Cap-aux-Meules. You’ll see wild horses and domestic animals grazing in common areas. Big Hill, the highest point of the archipelago, offers a superb view.
E. Île du Havre aux Maisons. Like Entry Island, this one is also treeless. Although home to the islands’ airport, it remains an unspoiled flat landscape with winding roads and scattered colourful houses.
F. Chemin de la Pointe-Basse. Bike to Chemin de la Pointe-Basse to enjoy the magnificent views along the way. In between beautiful traditional homes, you’ll come across the Pied-de-Vent cheese factory and the Fumoir d’Antan—Économusée du poisson fumé, where you can see old-fashioned herring smoking. When you reach Chemin des Échoueries at the end of the road, stop at the Cap-Alright lighthouse. Then follow Chemin des Montants to the other side of Butte Ronde (Round Hill) to see a stunningly beautiful valley.
Centrale des Îles-de-la-Madeleine. Take a free guided tour of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine Generating Station to learn all about how power is supplied to the islands!
G. Île aux Loups, Pointe-aux-Loups. Another find is the artisan boutiques in Pointe-aux-Loups for crafts, pastels, watercolours, oil paintings, jewellery, sculptures, handwoven textiles, leather and seal fur.
H. East Point National Wildlife Reserve, Île de la Grande Entrée. This National Wildlife Area, administered by Environment Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service, preserves and protects the remains of an ecosystem unlike any other in the province. There are two nature interpretation trails, Les Marais Salés and L’Échouerie, accessible from route 199 after Grosse-Île and before Old Harry. Access to the reserve is free, and a guided tour is available.
Rochers-aux-Oiseaux (Bird Rock). This high rocky islet is located 32 km northeast of Grosse-Île. It serves as a refuge for colonies of aquatic birds such as petrels, northern gannets, razorbills, murres and gulls.
Pointe-aux-Loups, photo credit Michel Julien
I. Île Brion Ecological Réserve. This reserve protects the Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystems. You can reach the reserve via ecotourism outfitters Vert et Mer, who provide interpretation on the trails. However, to ensure no footprints are left behind, only a few visitors are allowed at a time. You can also take Zodiac tours of Île Brion (excluding the reserve).
J. Cave explorations at Auberge La Salicorne. Adventure seekers will love diving out to see these caves for an awe-inspiring and thrilling experience.