After being home most of the summer, we overcompensated by taking an unresearched driving trip through the Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec. We circumnavigated the Peninsula on Route 132, stopping at lighthouses, historical monuments and scenic views.
The Long Drive
You may wonder why we decided to drive from Georgia all the way up to easternmost Quebec. It was basically an unplanned trip. The first part of the summer was taken up with a family member’s doctor’s appointments and ongoing medical care. We had a family reunion right in the middle of the summer, and we needed to be back in Georgia by the beginning of the school year. Shortly before the family reunion at the beach, I became an invalid due to a painful knee. Even with a cortisone shot it was still swollen and painful. We were itching to get out of town, but my condition was one step above being in a wheelchair. We decided to do a driving tour to one of my bucket list location–the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec. We set off with no guidebooks or internet research for the northeast.
Spectacular Scenery in the Gaspe Peninsula
We took our time getting up there, but we spent a lot of time camping and sightseeing in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We also made a last minute detour through New Brunswick. But we finally arrived to cooler weather and spectacular views as we did the circumnavigation of the Gaspe Peninsula. Some of the private campgrounds in Quebec are spectacularly sited. In the photo above we are setting up our tent right on a sea cliff that overlooks the famous Perce Rock.
We weren’t sure of what to expect in the Gaspe, but we had anticipated that it would be a remote area with wild scenery. There are some spectacular views on the coast; however, there are miles of coastal roads with house after house on either side of the highway. I did not take pictures of these! It takes a long time to drive out to the Gaspe from Montreal or Quebec City, but apparently that’s what a lot of people were doing. It seemed everyone in Quebec was taking their vacation at the same time, and they were all going to the Gaspe! Gas stations, grocery stores, and campgrounds are easy to find. It was beautiful but in a more settled way than I expected. The feeling was more Cape Cod than Cape Horn.
Forillon and Gaspe National Parks
There are two national parks in the Gaspe. Forillon is at the easternmost tip and is the smallest park. There are many places to stop and see how people lived and worked in the Gaspe when it was first settled. Historical fish camps, farms, and stores have been restored and are open for visiting. There is a hike/bike trail to the lighthouse at the very end of the peninsula with great views. I was able to see most everything in the park even with my bad knee.
Gaspe National Park is inland near the north shore of the peninsula. It is much larger that Forillon. People come here to hike and see some unique ecosystems and scenery. The only caribou south of the St. Lawrence river are found here. It was cloudy and drizzly when we camped here, so we didn’t see the great views. I couldn’t hike the longer trails so we only stayed here one day/night.
Camping in the Canadian National Parks is very similar to national park camping in the US. The campsites are spread out and basic, but they are convenient for seeing the sights and hiking the trails. Children are admitted free to the parks, but all adults are charged a daily fee and there are no senior discount. If you stay in the park extra days, you are charged additional fees for those days. One day’s admission and a primitive campsite cost us $42 at Forillon and $50 at Gaspesie ($50 Canadian is about $40 US.) One trick to save money is to arrive at the park early in the day, and go directly to the campground. You’ll pay the entrance fee at the same time as you pay the camping fee. You’ll have park admittance for two days–the day of your arrival, and the whole next day as well.
We Stopped at Every Lighthouse
We seemed to be in a constant time crunch on this trip. We spent too much time driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and we made the last minute detour through New Brunswick. We also stopped to tour EVERY LIGHTHOUSE that we encountered on our drive. Each one was different and interesting and it was time well spent. But it did slow us down and prevent us from making planned stops in Saguenay and Montreal.
Metis Botanical Gardens
Early in our last day in the Gaspe, we came to Metis-sur-Mer, the site of the Metis Botanical Gardens. Its position on the St. Lawrence Seaway gives it a unique microclimate that allows species to grow here that otherwise wouldn’t grow this far north. B. and Boppo had no interest in visiting the Gardens so they played in a grassy area adjacent to the parking lot while I made a quick tour. I was graciously allowed a 1 1/2 hour visit before I had to return to the car. The plantings are wonderful and can be enjoyed within that time frame.
There are several natural areas that are to me, more sublime than the plantings. The Metis Gardens has thriving specimens of the rare blue Himalayan poppy.
The Metis Gardens Installations
In my travels around the world, I have come to loath the presence of “installations” which are often jarringly placed amidst cultural and natural sites. In the Metis Gardens, they were placed on the very edge of the gardens in a separate exhibition area. There was an ongoing contest of about 20 installations, and visitors were asked to vote on their favorites. I ended up spending as much time here as I did among the plantings.
I decided that the above work was my favorite. I wish I had taken more photos from several different perspectives. It is genius in its simplicity– only two light green Plexiglas panels that meet at an angle.
Choose Good Traveling Companions On a Long Drive
My husband B. is at his best on a long trip. We also enjoyed the company of our oldest grandson, Boppo, who has the makings of being a great traveler. He kept himself busy in his car seat with his cars and trains, and by making movies of himself on B.’s IPad.