Although it technically belongs to the Bas St. Laurent region, Kamouraska’s burgeoning food scene and small-town charm make it a worthwhile night’s stay on your way up the coast. La Boulangerie Niemand, a family-run bakery located in a Victorian cottage on the main road, will lure you in with its lush flower garden and nourish you with its hearty German loafs.
Stay: Motel Le Gaspésiana
Just 300 kilometres north of Quebec City and two kilometres from Mont-Joli airport , the 1960s-era Motel Le Gaspésiana in Sainte-Flavie offers riverside views at the Gaspé’s doorstep.
The no-frills restaurant at Le Gaspésiana is serious about its seafood, with signature dishes like Gaspesian bouillabaisse (fish stew) and morue à la meunière (cod fillet sauteed in a brown butter, lemon and parsley sauce) bringing in locals and tourists alike. Wash it all down with a glass of white from Vignoble Carpinteri just up the road.
Day 2: Gaspésie National Park
Get up early to enjoy the panoramic drive up the coast and take a hike in Gaspésie National Park, where you’ll find Quebec’s tallest Appalachian peaks (known as the Chic-Chocs), scores of lumbering moose and Canada’s only caribou population south of the St. Lawrence.
Stay: Gîte du Mont-Albert
There’s only one hotel in the park, but not to worry: With its picture perfect views of the park and its cozy, chalet-style dining room, the stately hunting and ski lodge Gîte du Mont-Albert is one of the Gaspé’s finest.
The Gîte’s executive chef, Guillaume Charbonneau, leans heavily on sustainable seafood farmed from the St. Lawrence and carnivore-baiting terroir staples. The menu is always changing, but the shredded bison flank ravioli and locally sourced garlic and pesto haddock helped us refuel after a day on the trails.
Day 3: The Gaspé
Do: Picnic lunch
Take your time driving over the hump of the peninsula, enjoying the steep cliffs, historic lighthouses and windmills on one side of the road and the sprawling river on the other. Stop in the tiny village of Mont-Louis to procure some house-smoked mackerel, mussels or “salmonsciutto” – cured salmon sliced à la Parma – from Atkins et Frères , whose gourmet creations are best enjoyed as a picnic lunch by the waterfall just up the road. Spend the night in Gaspé town, imbibing an artisanal pint from Pit Caribou before turning in. The six-year-old microbrewery churns out German-style ales and weissbiers using Québécois ingredients.
Stay: Auberge William Wakeham
Located in the heart of town, Auberge William Wakeham offers posh Downton-esque suites in a 150-year old mansion.
The Auberge’s restaurant serves up a cosmopolitan twist on traditional Gaspesian fare. Try the linguini with Matane shrimp, orange peppers and a tangy-and-sweet lemon garlic sauce.
Day 4: Percé
Do: Bonaventure Island
Percé Rock may be Quebec’s most famous natural wonder, but the real gem is Bonaventure Island, just a 15-minute ferry ride away. Once a British-run cod-fishing outpost with a population in the hundreds, it’s now a rural island paradise, whose towering cliffs boast one of the world’s largest colonies of gannets. These yellow-headed migratory seabirds return to the exact same spot – and mate – every spring and you can observe them in the thousands from just metres away.
Stay: Le Fleur de Lys
Le Fleur de Lys, with its wraparound terrace and bright blue roof, offers a front-row view of Percé Rock.
Taste: La Maison du Pêcheur
La Maison du Pêcheur serves crispy brick-oven pizza in a former boîte-à-chanson (1960s-era coffeehouse) at the river’s edge. If you still need your seafood fix, you can top your pizza with shrimps, scallops and lobster meat.
Day 5: Paspébiac/Shigawake
When you begin to spot the Acadian flags dangling from roadside canteens, you know you’re approaching the sandy beaches of the Baie des Chaleurs , and the last leg of your Gaspé roadtrip. If you’re there in August, head down the road to Shigawake at night. The tiny Anglophone farming community boasts Gaspé’s oldest country fair and, for the past several years, an impressive music festival headlined by some of Montreal’s biggest indie music artists, including Socalled, Katie Moore and the Barr Brothers (the drummer is married to a local daughter).
Stay: Auberge du Parc Inn
At the Auberge du Parc Inn in Paspébiac, treat yourself to an Old World thalassotherapy treatment, where you’ll be rejuvenated by a regimen of algae wraps, saltwater baths and hydraulic massages.
The friendly restaurant at Auberge du Parc Inn serves excellent – what else? – seafood (their shredded crab salad with grapefruit, gouda and yogurt was worth the stay), but the two-dollar hamburgers and heaping poutine at the Shigawake fair are hard to beat.
Originally published in enRoute magazine .
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