The Magdalen Islands have always been a bit of a mystery to me… I know they are there, I know that armour stone from my hometown in Belledune, NB is shipped there, but other than that I knew very little about the islands and all that they have to offer until meeting Véronique. Finding out about a place from someone who is from there is worth more than any travel guide can ever offer. Véronique and I are lucky to have boys the exact same age and now girls the exact same age. We have gotten to know each other through our boys’ friendship, our love of travel and our husbands’ love of sports.
In an effort to provide you the same appreciation and desire to visit the islands I now have, here is Véronique’s Hometown Hostess itinerary for an Active Family Friendly Summer Trip.
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Active Family Friendly Summer Trip
by Véronique Décoste
Why you love this place: Nothing is like being home! Even if I have had the opportunity to travel in many cities, villages, and regions, my hometown is for me and will always be the best place to spend holidays, especially in summer! “SEA, SEA, SEA” is what you get.
A little about Véronique as a host: I am the kind of host who loves to plan by highlighting all the beauties of my home region. I am very active in life and I am very motivated by tourism, travel… whatever better than being a tour organizer when the tour arrives! I also adapt according to the needs and interest of people and as you will learn to know me as a host, you may need to make choices.
In Magdalen Islands, everything is about the sea, the good food (especially delicious seafood), the wind, the welcoming of the Madelinots, the warm accent. Moreover, there is a proverb that says that in the islands, we do not know the time, we have time…
We will not hide it, summer time is THE tourist season and it is not for nothing. Although even being native of Magdalen Islands, I still have activities to discover at other seasons of the year especially in February, it is the season of the observation of whitecoats, a unique phenomenon in the world. Only a short annual season if conditions permit. I have not yet had the opportunity to live this experience but one day it will be a check on my to-do list.
Well, let’s go back to summer because it’s still at this time that everything happens!
I could give you a list of things to discover, do and savor for a summer! But more realistically I based my personal recommendations on a typical holiday week (or more!).
How to get to the Magdalen Islands
To begin, there are two options for getting to the Magdalen Islands: plane or ferry boat.
The first choice is appreciated for the aerial view of beautiful landscape with the demarcation of the sea, the cliffs along the islands, the small islands and houses distanced here and there, a show for the eyes itself!
The boat also has something exciting! Just when you arrive you see some “Madelinots” who come to welcome their loved ones at the end of the dock and appreciate the joy that binds on the lips of locals and holidaymakers. The boat leaves from Souris, Prince Edward Island. Clearly the most family friendly option. There is also a cruise ship type option that goes through various ports in Quebec, namely Montreal, Quebec City, Tadoussac. This formula is rather privileged for those who have shortened holidays, have time to visit different stops during the cruise, for older people, who prefer not to drive when they travel. This is without a doubt the least family friendly option. I never took this option personally.
Once you are there, here is the moment to enjoy and be inspired… gently by the wind and the sea! You may say that one week is not enough.
What to do on the islands
I will give you an overview of what to do but without any predetermined plans… Your organization will depend on the weather, the winds, etc. It is necessary to foresee but remain flexible at same time, one of the great qualities of the “Madelinots”.
Start of a typical first day: Get up in the morning, we put on our sports clothes, then go to run in Cap-aux-Meules on the walking trail just above the cliffs with fields of vision of the sea to infinity.
Then the day is just beginning! A great quick and local lunch option is to bring a seafood calzone with its inimitable fusilli salad from Pizza Patio.
At the beach, we relax on the sand, enjoy getting tanned, some take a beer, others play Frisbee, children enjoy bodysurfing and have fun with great joy. We often gather many of us with friends and family. I recommend particularly the Pointe-aux-Loups beach, definitely the most popular (however there is so much space that it’s easy to have your little private corner … nothing like the crowded beaches of the eastern US in comparison for example). Another beach called “Grande échouerie” in Old Harry is definitely one of the most beautiful on the island. The beach has an impressive stretch of sand for many miles, the currents are very strong for swimming so caution is required. This is true all around the islands, so do be careful.
On our way back home, if late afternoon / early evening we are lucky that the sea is calm, it’s time to go for on the boat with my parents in “Cap Vert” or at the Bay of Cap-aux-Meules. It must be said, when the sea is calm (it does not happen so often) you must take advantage of it! My father is already tired out from my 5 activities in a single day and he often says he finds me quite active, but he always follows me in my plans and does not seem to complain, haha! After all, my parents are used to the fact that when our little family visits we will not be idle in the Magdalen Islands!! If you’re interested ask around for directions, we would be happy to offer you a fishing ride on a quiet evening.
In the evening there are plenty of options too:
Long live the shows, I have not spoken to you yet about the showroom called Les pas perdus ?? They absolutely do at least go see a show visiting down there. For the artist, the discovery, the atmosphere, the good beer locally made on the Magdalen Islands, the conviviality of the place … there is a wicked skewer of Canadian artist and moreover that occur there all summer! Do not miss. Do not miss the local micro-brewery “Abri de la Tempête”!
Even more to do
Add to your list of activities to visit the caves at Grande-Entrée. In isothermal clothing (provided) you swim and surf the waves only by the flow of your body following the movement of the sea. A must-do for adventurous people (not suitable for young children though, must-have 14 years and over). Why not enjoy the spot to visit Boudreau Island by kayak, pedal boat or canoe next?
Planning a day on the Entry Island is really one of my favorites. You can take a boat trip or a zodiac ride with “Excursions en mer” and go on an adventure with hair in the wind! On the island the means of locomotion is walking, you will come across quads in larger quantities than cars. Plan a few hours to climb the Big Hill, the highest peak of the Islands (beginner-intermediate level) to admire the 360 degree view of the sea, memorable experience!
Wind lovers, this is the perfect opportunity to learn or practice kite-surfing and windsurfing. Several companies offer rental and courses. The stand up paddle also became a must in the rough sea or on a calm sea at sunset.
If a duller day comes up, it’s time to go for a ride to Le Havre (commonly known as Havre-Aubert). You can have a coffee or a drink, eat a bite, stroll on the bank, and shop in small boutiques more interesting than the others; my favorite Le “Portique” which is full of craftsmen products made in Quebec. Stop for coffee and a bite at Café de la Grave, or a dessert or the famous bread rolls from the “Four a pain”.
Look for the festivals of the area, there are some all summer-long, you will not regret to participate … A classic but oh that is worth it: the sandcastle contest in August.
Among my classics to bring back home from holidays: typical cartoons of the Islands, a little souvenir of the Artisans du Sable, caramel with “fleur de sel” at Helene’s bakery in Havre aux Maisons, local craft beer, olive oil flavored with herbs from L’Anse aux herbes, spices “Mer et terre”, products of Gourmande de nature (which are also found in a few shops here and there in New Brunswick, GREAT).
What to eat
On the side of food we also have our classics “made by mom” and our classics of restaurants and takeaway orders. Even a “chiard” with salted meat from the Boucherie – this is a very local lunchtime recipe to try (call them to see which day of the week for that specific menu, as it varies every day).
My mom’s classics: clam soup, “pot-au-pot” with seafood, or lobster, just delicious fresh lobster in its shell! There are many restaurants to enjoy. At the “Vieux Couvent”, “Quai 360”, “Vent du Large”, “Café de la Grave” just to name a few of our classics. A must-have lunch: go to “Gourmande de nature” try the “poke” full of crab and lobster, it is delicious! Take the opportunity also to buy small local products… Take a tour at the Fromagerie Pied-de-vent (I’ll let you guess their specialty). A good meal can end with a little tour on the coast to enjoy one of the delicious ice cream at La Crèmerie du Port. The “dipped in chocolate” melts in the mouth and is my favourite.
Did you know? LA Pêcherie, LA Renaissance, a must-have fishmonger in the Magdalen Islands located in Gros-Cap, opened a few years ago a snack in its buildings with fresh products coming out of the ponds! A must: The lobster poutine … Did you know that the same recipe with the real lobster from the Islands and its secret sauce was the choice of the food truck La Homard Mobile in Caraquet (New Brunswick)? For the insatiable like me it’s often a good reason to go for a drive 🙂
Also ask the locals or go to pick up hulls! These molluscs that are picked at low tide both feet in the water with our hands, and for some, a toilet plunger. It helps keep his hands less damaged 😉 In the evening boil them 15 minutes in a high pot with a base filled with water, it’s so good and not expensive!
Where to stay
There are all kinds of possibilities for the most adventurous, those who seek tranquility, not to worry about making bed or cooking… My recommendations are good for those in all interest groups:
Gros-Cap Campground: if sleeping in a tent, a trailer or even renting a cottage by sharing the facilities on the campground sounds good to you, this place is quite appropriate. It is located on a point and offers access to the sea on both sides. Near all the facilities of the center of the island.
Cottage Rentals: the Magdalen Islands tourism website is the best place to look at for rental. Another option if you know people from the Islands (or people who know people, you see) is to look via social media. The modern day word of mouth.
Hotel / hostels: once again the website tourismilesdelamadeleine.com is quite dedicated. The options are all as interesting as each other and adapted to everyone’s tastes. I have often heard good things about the Auberge de la Petite Baie, with of course a view on the Bay, but also the sea to infinity just on the other side of the street. More suitable for a couple than a family.
Personally when my friends come to visit us and in Active Family Friendly Summer Trip mode, I recommend them renting a cottage (much in advance for availability reason!). Some are very well located, you can enjoy having your own little home and enjoying everything around you, buying good local produce for cooking, etc.
I was not sponsored by the companies mentioned in my hostess story! It’s just the traveling soul of a “Madelinienne” who speaks from the heart recommending all of my favourites of home.
Oh and finally, do not forget the Islands are one of the most popular holiday destinations in Quebec in the summer season … that said it is better to book as soon as possible for transportation and accommodation at a minimum. The rest can be planned on site according to the sound of the wind 🙂
If you would like to become a Hometown Hostess and give us a tour of your hometown (or adopted hometown), filled with local flavor and the “real suggestions” of what to do, contact Jenna at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Hometown Hostess” in the subject line.
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