The Magdalen Islands: Charm and Awe, Part 2

Our second day on the Magdalen Islands was all about working off that incredibly decadent seafood risotto and maple syrup souffle we had at La Table des Roy the night before.  And work it off we did.

Our first stop of the day was to explore the beautiful red cliff views at Le Gros Cap (you can never have too many cliff views).

IMG_0997

After that we drove down to the other end of highway 199.  We strolled around the marina among the quaint shops and cafes at the historical site of La Grave.


We then hiked to the top of the hill at Butte Les Desmoiselles for a panaromic view of the area.  It was starting to cloud over at that point.  Then back down the hill for lunch at the quirky and charming Cafe de la Grave.


IMG_1008

We needed a little rest after all this exploring so we made our way back to our room at the Auberge Madeli.  The Auberge Madeli is a very comfortable and modern hotel with a great location, almost a stone’s throw from the CTMA ferry terminal.  It’s located on Cap aux Meules, the most populated island in the archipelago and was a great home base for us on our travels around the islands.

After a little rest, we checked out Parc des Buck but as these are mostly forest trails and didn’t really have the sea views we were craving we quickly jumped in the car and ended south again, this time in search of the very southern tip of the island, Sandy Hook. We parked the car, climbed over the sand dunes and stood in awe of the miles of white sand beach that lay in front of us.  We started out, determined to make it to the end of Sandy Hook, where the islands meet the sea.  We walked for what seemed like forever.  I hate to say that there is such a thing as too much of a beach walk but I think we found it. After walking 6km we finally made it to the end of the sand dunes.  There is a nice view of Entry Island from here, as this is the closest point to it from the archipelago.
  
IMG_1011

After hiking the 6km back to the car, we were hungry and tired and really quite sandy so we booted back to Cap aux Meules and settled on Les Pas Perdus for dinner, which seems like a hot spot for locals and tourists alike.  I was really happy because I got to have a gluten free burger, hard to come by on the islands.  And after almost 20km(!) of walking that day, a burger and fries was well deserved.

That pretty much wrapped up our trip to the Magdalen Islands.  After dinner, it was time to return to the hotel and pack up for an early call at the ferry terminal the next morning.  If we had had more time on the islands, I would have made the short ferry trip over to Entry Island.  I would have loved to hike Big Hill and see Sandy Hook from that perspective.  There are some other things we would have liked to do as well, like the stairs at the Cap aux Meules port.  I don’t mind leaving a few things undone however, I feel it encourages a return trip.  And the Maggies are definitely worth a return trip.

A few parting thoughts on our trip:

  • We didn’t have to pay an entrance fee to any of the parks, beaches or attractions that we visited.  I absolutely love that and think other provinces should take note.  It encourages visitors to explore the islands freely and at their own pace.
  • Speaking a least some french is helpful but not required.  Most Madelinots speak at least a little english and are very friendly and welcoming.  Thankfully my husband’s french is very good, so we got along just fine.
  • The Maggies are the kind of place that encourages you to go further – we were determined to venture to the furthest edges of the archipelago that we could reach.  It’s a wonderful place for those with an adventurous spirit.
  • If you haven’t made a trip to the Magdalen Islands yet, what are you waiting for?  I would encourage anyone from the Maritimes and beyond to visit this paradise-like gem a least once.  You won’t believe the surreal landscape you find yourself in, and you won’t ever want to leave.  Thank you to everyone who made our trip such an memorable experience.
A keepsake of our trip by artist Marie Marto
Advertisements

The Magdalen Islands: Charm and Awe, Part 1

Yes, I’m aware that the Magdalen Islands (also known by its proper french name: Iles de la Madeleine) is not part of the Maritime provinces.  Geographically located in the Maritimes but technically part of Quebec, this little hidden gem of an archipelago is close enough for me.  The powers that be in Quebec seem to think so too, because the islands are classified as part of their Quebec Maritime region.

The Maggies charm and awe from the very first moment you glimpse Entry Island from the CTMA ferry: with those treeless, grassy hills, those towering red cliffs and those tiny, colourful houses dotting the countryside.  It sets the tone for the rest of the islands.

First glimpse of Entry Island. The only island in the archipelago not connected.
Those cliffs and grassy knolls…
Coming into the Cap aux Meules harbour
Our arrival is so well timed at sunset.

With our home base on Cap Aux Meules, we decided to take our first day to drive east on highway 199, which stretches from tip to tip of the archipelago.  It was an incredible drive. Between each towering, green island lay kilometres of sandy dunes, with white sand beaches and crashing waves just beyond.  I wanted to stop the car every other minute to get out and take pictures.  It was a wonder we made it to the end at all.

Lots of long, flat stretches between islands.
Colourful houses.

We drove all the way to the east end of the 199, finding most restaurants closed for the season. However, local artisan Marie Marto was still open and we bought a couple of her pieces to take home.

We also hiked across the (very windy) beach to Boudreau Island (actually more of a peninsula) where we trekked through wildflower meadows and stood cliff side, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in all its ferocity.  The views were certainly worth the struggle crossing the beach against the wind.  A benefit of coming in September is that we had the whole island to ourselves.  I didn’t want to leave that place.

IMG_0965-0
Entering Boudreau Island.
IMG_0966-0
Hiking across wildflower meadows.
IMG_0967-0
Lots of cliffs.
IMG_0979-0
A WOW moment.
IMG_0983
A place to take a break…and never leave.
IMG_0986
Lots of great views on this hike.
IMG_0987-0
The wind fought us all the way across this beach but it was worth it.

A great first day was capped off with drinks at local microbrewery A l’abri de la Tempete and a delicious meal at La Table des Roy.  We can’t wait to see what the Maggies have in store for us today.