A tour of a Canadian peninsula that’s thrilling and tranquil

Britons on holiday in France grumble that the only language they hear is English, spoken by other Brits. 

The solution to this lies 3,000 miles away – in the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec. 

In two weeks there, my wife Carolyn, son Daniel, 13, and I came across no other British tourists.

Water wonders: The Gaspesie National Park in Quebec boasts beautiful lakes

This was baffling, for Quebec is a place of beauty, diverse wildlife, and a rich culture which, while French-influenced, is definitively its own.

Our first stop, Montreal, revealed itself to be a city of universities, a virtual reality art gallery, excellent restaurants and, in the warren of streets known as Old Montreal, fine stone buildings.

We headed east from Montreal – driving along the St Lawrence River towards mountains, lakes and forests. 

We paused to visit the nautical museum at Rimouski, a memorial to ‘Canada’s Titanic’ – the Empress of Ireland, in which 1,012 people were entombed after it collided with a coal ship in 1914. 

Then we were into the mountains of the Gaspesie National Park, the granite spine of the Gaspé peninsula, a broad spit of land that juts out into the Gulf of St Lawrence.

We spent three days based at the Auberge Le Gite du Mont-Albert, a lodge in the shadow of the park’s rugged mountains that are criss-crossed by a network of well-marked trails, several of which we sampled. 

The Mail on Sunday's David Rose said he found  pristine lakes, pink granite crags and herds of elk lurking in the Gaspesie National Park

The Mail on Sunday’s David Rose said he found pristine lakes, pink granite crags and herds of elk lurking in the Gaspesie National Park

There are pristine lakes, pink granite crags and herds of elk, and from the ridge-tops, spectacular wilderness views.

Next stop was the Gaspé’s south coast – a more populous region of seaside villages, each with its church adorned with a wooden spire painted silver. At Percé, where a sandy bay is dominated by a huge offshore rock pierced by an arched sea cave, we were in foodie paradise: first at our hotel, the Riotel Percé, and on our second night, the outstanding Maison du Pecheur. 

Between meals, we visited Bonaventure island to see Canada’s largest colony of seabirds and, close by on the beach, fat, furry seals.

Having rounded the end of the peninsula, we took a ferry from Matane to the St Lawrence Cote Nord. We hoped to see whales, and we were not disappointed. 

Beak peek: Gannets on Bonaventure Island

Beak peek: Gannets on Bonaventure Island

From Cap de Bon Desir, we gazed for hours at minkes only yards away. Next day, we took a boat from the village where we stayed, Tadoussac, into the middle of the water, seeing not only more minkes, but pods of white belugas.

The character of our trip shifted, with two nights in the province’s capital, Quebec City. It’s vibrant and architecturally alluring, with – in summer – an outdoors, cafe society buzz.

We couldn’t leave eastern Canada without a trip to Niagara Falls, so we headed for Ontario. Niagara, sad to say, is tacky and amusement arcades by the falls do nothing to enhance them, extraordinary as they are. 

We took a helicopter ride and rode a jetboat through the rapids at the base: an exciting way to get soaked.

We flew home from Toronto, our clothes still damp from the jetboat. It had been a memorable trip.


Canada As You Like It (canadaasyoulikeit.com, 020 8742 8299) has a 21-night holiday from £5,880 for two adults and two children, including return flights, car hire, two nights in Montreal, one night in Riviere du Loop, three in Ste Annes-des-Monts, three in Percé, one in Matane, two in Tadoussac, one in Parc National des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie, one in Baie St Paul, two in Quebec City, two in Ottawa, one in Calabogie, one in Toronto and one in Niagara Falls.

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