Sometimes overlooked in a country abundant in scenic routes, Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula is a place where mountains meet sea, and where a five-day drive around the 800-kilometre peninsula loop allows you to experience some lovely towns and enticingly wild boreal spaces. Consider these highlights along the way. 

Go birdwatching 

The Percé Rock, which sits just offshore from the town of Percé, is a signature landmark of the route. A boat tour will take you up close to the limestone monolith, but also drop you off at nearby Bonaventure Island, where you can hike to within almost arm’s reach of the more than 100,000 northern gannets that inhabit the island from May to October.

Shop and eat in Kamouraska

A stop in the village of Kamouraska sets the tone for the brightly painted homes and steepled churches along the route. Shop for locally made art or gourmet staples and then let your appetite choose: Will it be pastries from Boulangerie Niemand or seasonally flavoured charcuterie from Côté Est?

Charcuterie from Côté Est, photo by Julie Houde-Audet

Take the lighthouse route

Dozens of lighthouses, many with unique backstories and places to picnic, line the highway. Stop at one, such as Pointe-à-la-Renommée, to get your classic red tower snaps and to learn about the lives of lightkeepers in a time when a beacon of light helped mariners find their way.

Go hiking in Forillon National Park

Explore Forillon National Park by water—sea kayaking, snorkelling or whale watching—and then view the same terrain from above, via a trail that takes you up to the Mont-Saint-Alban Lookout Tower. The reward for your exertion: broad vistas of the eastern end of the Appalachians as they spill down to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Hiking in Forillon National Park, photo by David L. Moore-CAN/Alamy

Tour Gaspé

In the town of Gaspé you can explore the region’s culture and history at the Musée de la Gaspésie, but you can also gain insight into the area’s first inhabitants at the nearby Micmac Interpretation Site of Gaspeg. Guides walk you through a village site set in the late 1600s to reveal the innovative ways the Mi’gmaq lived on the land.

Splurge on dining

Everything tastes good after a hike, but the Gîte du Mont-Albert raises the bar. Set in the mountainous beauty of Gaspésie National Park, this Quebec Parks lodge offers contemporary style and regionally sourced fine dining such as elk medallions with homemade bacon and cedar jelly. No dehydrated beef stroganoff required.

Getting there: WestJet flies to Quebec City seven times a day from Toronto and Montreal.

Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula is one of our must-visit destinations of 2018