Gaspésie to discover


Gaspésie is at the same time, the sea and the mountain. Discover an itinerary that leads to the sea, red cliffs, dense coniferous forests and barren hilltops that interact within this vast peninsula located in Eastern Québec.


The History

Various peoples influenced the history of the Gaspésie. Micmac Basque and Breton fishermen, French, Acadians, Loyalists, English and Jersey Islanders ... all have transferred their rich cultural heritage and charming accents.


The Ecosystems

Discover the different ecosystems present in the Gaspésie and the rich fauna and diverse flora that inhabit them.


The Geology

Discover the history of the geology of the Gaspésie. Learn how the bedrock reveals the agitations of the Earth's crust and their influence on the construction of the landscapes of the region.


Gaspésie to discover

  • A Sea, Mountain and River Destination

    Enjoy a complete change of pace and scenery in Gaspésie, which offers spectacular sea and mountain landscapes as well as crystal-clear rivers.

    This vibrant region bustles with activities of all kinds, charms visitors with warm hospitality and delights the palate with tasty dishes featuring local ingredients from the land, sea and forest.

    Bordered by the salty waters of the St. Lawrence Estuary and Gulf, this immense panoramic peninsula has been recognized multiple times by prestigious publications as one of the world’s must-see destinations. Explore the backcountry, where the majestic Chic-Choc Mountains rise, then discover the splendours of the coast, where the sea, beaches and cliffs will take turns wowing you!

    As you travel from one community to the next, listen carefully to the many accents and expressions that originate from the different peoples who have marked this region’s history. First Nations, Vikings, Italian navigators, Basque and Breton fishermen, the French, Acadians, Loyalists, English, Jersey Islanders, Irish and Scots… All have left their mark on this region’s cultural heritage.

    Learn more about the history of local Indigenous people and pioneers in various museums, interpretation centres and historic sites throughout Gaspésie. Gaspesian culture is also expressed in other ways in the region’s many art galleries, studios, workshops, boutiques, shows, festivals and other cultural activities.

  • Surrounded by the sea

    An epic 885-km drive around the peninsula, the Gaspésie Tour is an unforgettable road trip in either direction.

    All along the shoreline, strikingly beautiful coastal landscapes will leave you breathless. The St. Lawrence as it widens into the sea in the Coast sector is a must-see as are the steep cliffs of Haute-Gaspésie and Land’s End as they plunge into the immense gulf.

    At the tip of the peninsula, Forillon National Park, which marks the end of the Appalachian Mountains, offers a variety of experiences between sea, cliffs and forest. The park features rich geological phenomena, fascinating history and diverse flora and fauna.

    Off Percé, you will be awed by the sight of Bonaventure Island and legendary Percé Rock, a massive limestone monolith that is Québec’s most iconic natural landmark. These major attractions dominate the landscape of Parc national de l’Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé, which offers a rich natural, historical and geological heritage. Bonaventure Island features magnificent cliffs and unique flora and fauna, including an impressive northern gannet colony, as well as numerous heritage buildings that bear witness to the lives of the local inhabitants in the 19th and 20th centuries. Nearby, the Percé UNESCO Global Geopark gives visitors the opportunity to discover 24 geosites, areas of great geological importance that also meet one or more exceptional criteria.

    Further south, Chaleur Bay enjoys a microclimate that warms its waters, making this the perfect place to enjoy a wide variety of water sports. Along the bay you will also find the beach and cliffs of Parc national de Miguasha, a fossil-rich site on the UNESCO World Heritage List that protects treasures dating back 380 million years. In the Matapédia Valley, which features a rich built heritage, a meandering road winds through the heart of a landscape of mountains and crystal-clear, salmon-filled rivers.

  • Mountains worth climbing

    The Chic-Choc Mountains, a huge natural playground, offer breathtaking landscapes and many opportunities to observe and learn about local plants and wildlife.

    Located at the heart of these mountains, Parc national de la Gaspésie is a popular hiking destination in Québec with more than 25 peaks over 1 000 m high, including Mount Albert and Mount Jacques-Cartier. Woodland caribou are the emblem of this park, which is home to the only herd found south of the St. Lawrence.

    The International Appalachian Trail runs through the Chic-Chocs for over 650 km, from Matapédia all the way to Forillon. You will also find two wildlife reserves in these mountains: the Réserve faunique de Matane, which has a high moose density (over 4 000 moose in a territory of 1 275 km2), and the Réserve faunique des Chic-Chocs, which features dramatic bare peaks, including Blanche-Lamontagne and Hog’s Back.

  • Regional Features

    Gaspésie is a paradise for foodies: the region is renowned for its culinary offerings from the land, sea and forest.

    Numerous small-scale food companies are open to the public and allow visitors to meet local artisans. In addition, many businesses and restaurants sell or serve expertly prepared regional products and dishes.

    In Grand-Métis, magnificent English-style floral displays extend over nearly 100 hectares at the world-renowned Reford Gardens. Some 3 000 species and varieties of plants are found at this site, which also offers a cuisine based on edible plants from the gardens’ horticultural collection.

    Known for their waters that are among the clearest in the world, the 22 salmon rivers in Gaspésie meander across a rich and varied wilderness environment with also offer the opportunity to enjoy a wide variety of water sports (including canoeing, kayaking, canyoning and rafting). Some of them are crossed by beautifully preserved covered wooden bridges that are worth a visit!

    Lighthouses and wharves are two strong symbols of the maritime culture of Gaspésie. The Lighthouse Trail will give you the opportunity to discover proud witnesses to the region’s history, and you can also visit wharves to fish with the locals or watch commercial fishing boats unload their catches.

    In the winter, the thick blanket of snow covering the Gaspé Peninsula is a sight to behold! A popular destination for backcountry skiing east of the Rockies, this region is also a true paradise for snowmobilers and other winter sports enthusiasts.

  • The first Gaspesians

    The history of the Gaspésie began with the native Micmacs, one of the Algonquin nations, known as the "Maritime Indians".

    When the first European settlers landed in Canada, the Micmacs had already been here on the peninsula for over 2,500 years. These people enjoyed a subsistence economy based on hunting and fishing. The sea was the Micmac nation's primary source of food. In the summer, groups would set up camp along the seashore, near the mouths of fish-rich rivers. But during the winter, they would have to make their way inland to hunt caribou and the other big game native to the peninsula.

  • The Arrival of Jacques Cartier

    In 1534, two French vessels commanded by the St. Malo sailor Jacques Cartier, set out across the Atlantic Ocean to explore the recently visited lands on the other side, and rapidly took possession of them on behalf of François I, the King of France.

    After sailing along the Newfoundland coast in May, and near the southern shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Jacques Cartier finally sailed into Chaleur Bay in the extreme heat of the July dog days (inspiring the present name of Chaleur (warm) Bay).

    He touched land at several places along the shore of the bay to communicate with the Micmacs and establish trade relations before finally landing in Gaspé Bay. On July 24, 1534, he had erected a cross bearing the French royal coat of arms to take possession of this land on behalf of the King. This highly symbolic act marked the beginning of the French presence in North America and allowed the St. Malo explorer to appropriate the title of "Discoverer of New France".

  • At the time of the seasonal fishing

    European settlement did not begin immediately however, since France was then simultaneously deeply involved in war with Spain, and internal political and religious conflict.

    During this period, the first sailors from Normandy, Brittany, Basque Spain and La Rochelle started to fish the Gaspésie cod banks.

    In the early 17th century, there were five major summer fishing posts. Matane was then one of the young colony's fur trading posts established further west along the shores of the St. Lawrence by Champlain. From that time on, trade with the native nations primarily involved the sale of furs to the French.

  • First settlements

    The first attempts to establish permanent settlements were made in the mid-17th century.

    Nicolas Denys, Pierre Denys and Denis Riverin were then granted the first seigneuries. The first permanent fishing and trading posts were set up at Percé and Mont-Louis where the fishing industry became so well developed that it was able to supply products to both New France and the mother country.

    However, a number of obstacles hindered the development of the French fishery in the Gaspésie. Primary constraints included the chronic underfinancing of businesses and it was hard to attract colonists to such a harsh climate, particularly since English raids were increasing at that time. English started sending marauding vessels from their wealthy New England colonies to attack the French posts along the Gaspé shores. Attacks by Kirke in 1628, and the destruction of Percé in 1689, were devastating.

  • Peace and War

    Due to France's chronic lack of interest in its North American colonies and the difficulties it encountered in Europe owing to the Seven Years' War, the English managed to expel their rivals once and for all from North America.

    In 1758, following the fall of Louisbourg, the English were again able to raid the Gaspé coast before General Wolfe's troops seized Québec City in 1759. Cut off from the capital, Montréal was in such desperate straits that the following year, a fleet of ships set sail from Bordeaux to bring supplies and ammunition to the colony. Unfortunately, it was too late to beat the English ships that had set out to head off this last-minute salvage attempt.

    The French ships took refuge in the Ristigouche estuary at the back of Chaleur Bay where they met a number of Acadians also fleeing for their lives. This did not stop the English forces from surprising them and, after several days of violent combat, sinking the two principal ships.

  • The development of the cod fishery

    After the Conquest, the fishing industry was able to develop.

    New posts were established and the former seigneuries were sold to merchants to serve as fishing posts. At the time, cod was the main catch. Fishers aboard small boats used individual lines to catch the cod when it approached the shore from June to September.

    Other activities, dependent on the fishery, gradually came into being and, over a short period of time, a series of shipyards were set up to build small boats, and fish salting warehouses were built. Whale fishing, in Gaspé Bay, and salmon fishing by Micmacs in Chaleur Bay's added to the expansion of this new industry that was just starting to structure itself. Nevertheless, the fishers' living conditions generally remained harsh.

  • Dried cod, driving the economy

    In 1767, Charles Robin, a native of Jersey, arrived in Gaspésie to set up a fishing establishment at Paspébiac that was to process Gulf cod.

    During the 1780s, Robin would build a virtual monopoly. Ships laden with salt cod would sail for Québec City, the United States and Europe.

    At that time, the Gaspésie was almost entirely self-sufficient. In 1763, it officially became a part of the "Province of Québec". However, in practice, it remained isolated, it was hard to sail up the St. Lawrence River estuary and by land, travellers had to make their way through the back-country where only canoe routes and portage trails existed.

    Eventually, in response to the ever-present American threat, the government decided to build a military land link between Québec and Halifax, cutting through virgin Gaspé forests. Finished in 1832, the Kempt road linked the Métis region, on the shores of the St. Lawrence, to Chaleur Bay by way of the Matapédia Valley. This road would open the way to the region's development.

  • New Gaspesians

    Towards the end of the French regime, the Gaspésie had only a few hundred inhabitants. Following the end of hostilities, the Chaleur Bay shoreline was colonized by the Acadians, expelled from their lands in 1755 who had taken refuge at Restigouche.

    In the 1780s, they witnessed the arrival of the Loyalists, English Americans who had remained loyal to the British crown after the 13 American colonies gained their independence.

    The Micmacs, Acadians, and Loyalists already in place were joined by Québecers, mostly from Québec City and the Bas-Saint-Laurent, and a handful of Irish, Scots, and Channel Islanders. Around 1850, all these communities together counted a population of less than 20,000, of whom almost half were English-speaking. The population was primarily located along Chaleur Bay, with inland areas and the north shore of the peninsula remaining almost uninhabited.

  • The 20th Century

    Moreover, port facilities were improved and a rail link was built from the coast to Chaleur Bay by way of the Matapédia Valley.

    It was now possible to travel by train all the way to Gaspé. In the late 1920s, the road was finally completed from Sainte-Anne-des-Monts to Gaspé, encircling the entire peninsula and opening it to traffic.

    During this period, however, the cod fishing industry began to decline; the businesses founded by Jersey Islanders Robin, LeBoutillier, Fruing and others faced a crisis. Traditional processing methods continued to be used, but buyers tastes were changing radically.

    They increasingly preferred fresh or frozen products delivered by train from Nova Scotia to the Gaspé's salted, dried fish. At the same time, the fishing industry started to diversify, with the development of the lobster and herring fishery. Fishers were travelling further north to harvest their catch.

    A number of Gaspesians then turned inland, taking up farming which had remained a marginal activity until then because of the harsh climate and the distance separating the Gaspé from the main trade markets. In response to Québec's rapidly growing population - families were large - agricultural communities were set up inland in areas like the Matapédia Valley.

  • Agriculture and forestry

    However, arable land was limited. Only narrow strips along Chaleur Bay, in the Matapédia Valley, and in the Métis and Matane areas were economically suitable.

    Because of the lack of markets, farming served to meet only local needs. At the turn of the century, a new industry appeared : Forestry. Until then, the forest had only provided raw material for small local shipyards, but this period saw the establishment of the lumber industry.

    The wood cut in winter, in the back-country, was floated downstream in springtime log drives to sawmills located at the river mouths. The Price Company- one of the two firms that would later become the international conglomerate, Abitibi-Price - then set up a mill in the Métis region. However, most of the wood was processed in sawmills in New Brunswick or the United States.

  • The nation's defense

    The Gaspésie had survived peacefully for over 200 years when the Second World War interrupted its serenity with a number of German U-boats (submarines) arriving to sink merchant marine vessels in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as they headed towards England.

    In 1941, the Defense Ministry built a naval base in Gaspé, HMCS Fort Ramsay. This place housed 3000 men of the army, navy and the Canadian aviation. The mission of this naval base was to patrol the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to protect Allied shipping against German submarines. A powerful underwater metal net was in the way providing access between the two peninsulas of Sandy Beach and Penouille. Cannons were erected at Fort Peninsula and Prével.

  • The beginning of tourism

    From the early days of European settlement until the great upheavals of the 1960s, the population grew rapidly.

    Despite the diversified local economy, job creation failed to keep the growing labour force occupied. No longer able to count on the arrival of immigrants after the close of the 18th century, the number of English-speaking people in the Gaspésie began to decline. Today, some people, most of them French-speaking, live in the Gaspésie.

    However, the exodus continues in some areas because of the lack of jobs. So the Gaspésie economy remains limited to activities involving its natural resources. The government has nevertheless made a number of economic and social interventions since the 1960s in the hope of restructuring Gaspésie society and overcoming the chronic unemployment that prevails in the region.

    Since the mid-1900s, tourism has increasingly played a greater role in the life of the Gaspésie. During the summer, a "trip around the Gaspé" is now a popular destination for Québecers, Europeans and Americans who, in recent years, have begun to discover the charm and beauty of the Gaspésie landscape.

    Reference : Histoire de la Gaspésie. Jules Bélanger, Marc Desjardins, Yves Frenette. 1981. Boréal Express.

  • The Climate

    The natural surroundings of the Gaspésie are spread in three large areas following the altitude and the relief: the boreal area (from the level of the sea up to 2,000 feet), the subarctic and subalpine area (2,000 to 3,000 feet) and the alpine area (over 3,000 feet).

    These three area each have their own flora and wildlife. The boreal area countains a littoral sector, the most important and the most diversified; cliffs, promontories, salt-marshes, flat bottom valleys and hills with gentle slopes.The subarctic area only has one plateau where the trees are small and far apart. The alpine area is the summits of the the Chic-Chocs where we find the tundra.

  • The Sea

    The sea's fish-rich waters shelter species such as cod, haddock, redfish, herring, mackerel, bluefin tuna and salmon.

    The shoreline, the area where sea and land come together, it teems with a host of other life forms. In addition to the many species of algae, crustaceans and molluscs that live there in abundance, this area also provides a home for barnacles, razor clams, common crabs, starfish and blue mussels.

    From May to October, different species of whales (blue whale, humpback whale, minke whale and fin whale) can be sighted off the coast at Percé, Bonaventure Island and in Forillon National Park. By travelling along the coast, you might see the powerful spray of these mammals as they surface for oxygen. If you wish to get a better view, you can take a whale-watching cruise. At the same time of year, look out for grey and harbor seals as they bask in the sun on the large flat rocks along the shore.

    To consult the tides tables… visit the Service hydrographique du Canada Web site:

  • The Barachois

    The word "barachois" comes from the French "barre à choir" meaning "landing stage" and referred to the sandy bar that borders the lagoon where fishers would land their boats.

    Generally, a salt marsh develops at the mouth of a river, built up by the sediment carried along by the current and dropped when river waters reach the open sea.

    A "free-trade" zone where salt and fresh water mingle, the salt marsh is an ecosystem where aquatic plant colonies shelter large numbers of zooplankton. Composed mainly of copepods and invertebrate eggs, zooplankton plays a major role in ensuring the survival of benthic fauna, including gasteropods, phychetes and others fish living in the salt marsh are often small and able to withstand variations in temperature and salinity.

    Most common are the stickleback and the mummichog, salmon, trout, eel, smelt and sandlance can also be found here. The salt marsh also shelters birds, including the Double-crested Cormorant, the Great Blue Heron, the American Black Duck, geese and tern.

  • The River

    This ecosystem, crystal-clear and fish-rich, provides a home for an impressive number of animal and plant species. They include, notably, the river otter, and birds such as the Harlequin Duck, the Common Merganser, and the Osprey.

    Among the fish include rainbow smelt, the Atlantic salmon and brook trout. The many rivers Gaspé are the guardians of an amazing colony of salmon and trout that are the delight of fishermen when the summer begins to dawn, heralding the season of the run.

  • The Forest

    The forest is a highly rich and diversified ecosystem where a number of small mammals live discrete, secretive lives.

    These include rodents such as chipmunks, muskrats, and porcupines. A number of small insect-eating mammals also make their homes here including shrews and moles.

    Moreover, the forest shelters carnivores such as the Eastern Cougar, the Coyote, the Red Fox, and the Fisher. The primary amphibians are the Green Frog and the American Toad. Further inland, the Woodland Caribou, the White-tailed Deer and the Moose inhabit the Gaspé's forest together with the Coyote and the Black Bear.

  • The Tundra

    The tundra has particularly developed in Parc national de la Gaspésie where Mont Albert and Jacques-Cartier are located.

    This climate, comparable to that of Hudson Bay, has lead to the development of an easily recognizable tundra with its vegetation of mosses, lichens, heather and other typical herbaceous plants: dwarfed willows, several varieties of rhododendrons, cladonia, stands of fir mixed with yellow birch, white birch, black spruce, armeria labradorica (statice), campions, starworts and saxifrages.

  • History of the geology

    The Gaspésie is a peninsula, roughly elliptical in shape, projecting 260 kilometers into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, at the south-east extremity of Québec. It is positioned between 64° 22 and 67° 42 west longitude, and 47° 49 and 49° 15 north latitude.

    Its physical appearance is tremendously varied. Along the estuary, from Sainte-Flavie to Cap-Gaspé, the coast traces a large curve. The second part (from Mont Saint-Pierre), the tip of the Gaspesian plateau, falls abruptly into the sea. Perpendicular to the mountainous foldings, the gulf coast is very irregular. In National Forillon Park we can see the sedimentary layers that were tipped over by the tectonic forces. This deformation is also visible at Percé where the limestone was lifted vertically, Percé Rock is an example. At the southern part of the peninsula, a narrow coastal plain made of red sandstone winds along the Chaleur Bay. At a distance from the coast, is a succession of erosion-rounded mountains.

  • Cambrian

    (600 million years)

    The rocks that make up the Gaspésie are Precambrian, the Earth's oldest. The same rocks also make up the Canadian Shield from the Canadian Prairies to Labrador. During the whole of the Cambrian period (600 million years ago), the Gaspé Peninsula was part of a vast glaciated trench, the Appalachian geosyncline.

  • Ordovician

    (500 million years)

    During the Ordovician period (500 million years ago), the future Gaspésie was being formed by the accumulation of sediments at the bottom of the sea trench.

    The Earth's crust at the bottom of this basin underwent a series of uprisings and subsidences and, towards the end of the period, a series of intense foldings lifted up the region to form a range of very high mountains. These produced the rocks that form a large part of the peninsula's north coast. This vast mountain-creating (tectonic), also known as the "St. Lawrence Fault", produced one anticline (in the shape of a n) in the north part of the Gaspésie and another further south, in an area west of present day New Brunswick. Between these two ridges a smaller glaciated valley remained - the geosyncline of Gaspé (in the shape of a u).

  • Devonian

    (400 million years)

    For tens of millions of years, during the Silurian and a good part of the Devonian (400 million years ago), the new peaks supplied erosion fragments that gradually filled the basin. Towards the end of the inferior Devonian period (395 million years ago), the basin rose.

    During the middle Devonian (375 million years ago), the Acadian orogenesis fractured the Gaspé geosyncline and lifted it up. That is the way the second part of the Gaspésie was born, situated as it is now between the mountains to the north and the Chaleur Bay.

    With the help of volcanic activity, this orogenesis lifted up the central massif (the Chic-Chocs) further and its sediments trapped the remains and traces of various marine life (corals, brachiopods, worms, trilobites and fish).

  • Carboniferous

    (345 million years)

    By the Carboniferous period (345 million years ago), the Gaspésie had completely emerged. Sedimentation continued to be at the eastern end of the peninsula, as evidenced by the rock Percé and Bonaventure Island.

  • Permian

    (230 million years)

    At the end of the Permian (230 million years ago), new orogenic thrusts lifted up a continuous range of mountains along the eastern flank of today's United States: the great Appalachian Chain.

  • Quaternary

    (last million years)

    During the Quaternary (last million years ago), our planet experienced four major periods of glaciation. The last one, which began 70,000 years ago and ended 10,000 years ago, left clear marks of its passing. In its movements, the glaciers brought with them everything that covers the bed-rock. They planed down the landscape and gouged out huge valleys. The glaciers melted and all that water transported, sorted and collected vast amounts of debris. River and ocean water settled in the valleys, and has been remodeling the landscape ever since.

    Reference: Parc national du Canada Forillon. Maxime St-Amour. 1988. Environnement Canada, Service canadien des parcs.

  • Natural Works

    Percé Rock

    Located 200 meters from the shore, it is older than 385 million years and consists of limestone with calcite veins. The hole measures 20 meters high and the obelisk is 45 meters high. The rock weighs over 5 million tonnes and loses 300 tons of rock per year. It includes 150 species of fossils: brachiopods, trilobites, dalminite percéen, marine worms, corals, and others. He changed appearance several times. Champlain mentioned that in 1603, there was only one ark. In 1760, a British officer drew the Rock with two arches. One of these arches collapsed in 1845.

    Bonaventure Island

    This island is located 2 kilometers from the coast, is 3.5 kilometers wide and is older than 310 million years. It is composed of conglomerate sandstone, shale and limestone.