Quebec's Îles-de-la-Madeleine (occasionally Magdalen Islands) are an island chain in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, off the coast of Prince Edward Island and the Gaspé Peninsula. Acadian culture is strong and vibrant in this mostly-francophone region.
All of the dozen islands of the archipelago of the Magdalen Islands are connected to each other by land with the exception of l'île d'Entrée. The population of the archipelago is about 12,600. Although part of Quebec, Acadian culture is very much alive in the Magdalen Islands. The Islanders are known for having retained their unique accent and for their warm hospitality.
There is one small town, Cap-aux-Meules, where most services are located; the rest of this isolated group of islands is rural, with a few tiny villages.
Accommodation is often in rented cabins, bed and breakfasts are also available and often cheaper for 2 persons. Camping is possible; however, exposure to wind (given the lack of trees and proximity to the ocean) can make this unpleasant.
Prices for excursions and various tourist activities are variable but generally expensive, something to consider for the budget traveller. During the high tourist season (July-August) lodging can be expensive and booked out. Early September would be a wonderful time to visit this region.
The Îles-de-la-Madeleine use the Atlantic time zone (UTC-4 in winter), an hour ahead of the rest of Québec but the same time zone as the three Maritime provinces.
If you have only one full day (and a car) you can easily drive from Cap-aux-Meules to each end of the islands and back, but it would be rushed, and wouldn't leave you much time for exploring the dunes or walking on the beaches. Two days will give you a much better experience. With a third day, you could take the ferry to Île d'Entrée to home its trails, or lie on the beach or spend more time exploring the dunes. The islands would be an ideal place to "get away from it all" for a week or months.
Municipalities and villagesThe amalgamated Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine municipality covers most of the archipelago. Created in 2002 by the fusion of all former municipalities on the archipelago, Cap-aux-Meules, Fatima, Grande-Entrée, Grosse-Île, Havre-aux-Maisons, L'Étang-du-Nord and L'Île-du-Havre-Aubert, it holds both "municipality" and "municipal regional county" status.
The municipality of Grosse-Île regained its independence in 2006, so Grosse-Île (or Grosse Isle in English) is the only municipality on the islands not part of "la municipalité des Îles-de-la-Madeleine".
Talk94% of residents are francophone and 6% anglophone. When visiting Îles-de-la-Madeleine, if you speak even just a little bit of French everyone will be a lot more friendly and go out of their way to help.
The anglophone communities are Grosse-Île, Old Harry and l'île d'Entrée.
Île d'EntréeThe only inhabited island in the archipelego that is not joined by land to the others.
Île du Havre AubertThe most isolated, largest (by area) and southernmost island of the archipelago is also the most wooded, as it has the only real forest on the Magdalen Islands. Two parallel sand dunes join the island to l'île du Cap aux Meules in the north; the Havre-aux-Basques dune (which carries Route 199) and the west dune. At the eastern end of the island, the Sandy Hook dune extends as a long beach toward l'île d'Entrée. This island, the first of the archipelago to be permanently inhabited, hosts two villages: Havre-Aubert and Bassin.
Île du Cap aux MeulesThe central and second largest island of the archipelago includes a hospital and other centralized services. The port of entry to the Magdalen Islands, it serves as the starting point for fishing boat trips, viewing the cliffs and visiting the three settlements on the island: Cap-aux-Meules, Fatima and L'Etang-du-Nord.
Île du Havre aux MaisonsIncludes three settlements: Cap-Rouge, Pointe-Basse and Dune-du-Sud. Hosts the only airport on the archipelago, as well as a maritime research centre (le Centre de recherche sur les milieux insulaires et maritimes) affiliated with the Université du Québec à Rimouski. Mytiliculture (mussel farming, "l'élevage de moules") is carried out here.
Île de la Pointe aux LoupsIncludes the village of Pointe-aux-Loups; this island is known for its huge beaches.
Île de Grosse ÎleThe only part of the archipelago that is not part of "la municipalité des Îles-de-la-Madeleine", this island contains the most important protected areas in the îles de la Madeleine.
Île de Grande EntréeThe last of the islands to be permanently inhabited, includes the anglophone community Old Harry and the larger neighbouring francophone community of Grande-Entrée. Designated as lobster capital of Québec (capitale québécoise du homard) in 1994.
Île BrionThe northernmost in the archipelago, most of this land was expropriated from its owners in the 1980s and is now an ecological reserve.
- Ferry from Souris, PEI, via CTMA, reservation required
- Weekly boat from Montréal, Québec and Chandler, Québec, via CTMA, reservation required
- Flights from Québec City, Montreal, and other cities (Air Canada Express)
Îles-de-la-Madeleine Airportaddress: on l'île du Havre aux MaisonsThe only airport on the archipelago. Classed as a port of entry by Canada Border Services.
phone: +1 450-443-0500Bonaventure, Mont-Joli, Montréal (Saint-Hubert), Québec City
phone: +1 418-986-3278A cruise on the N.M. Madeleine completes the five-hour crossing between Souris, PEI, and Cap-aux-Meules in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine daily. The ship offers services including a cafétéria, dining room, cinema, a kindergarden, cabins and a show. 3-11 crossings a week, depending on the season. Arrive at least one hour before departure.
phone: +1 902-892-6760Passenger shuttle between Charlottetown and the Îles-de-la-Madeleine ferry that leaves from Souris, PEI.
phone: +1 418-986-3886Highway coach leaving Québec City every Thursday night (mid-June to mid-Sept), returning from Îles-de-la-Madeleine every Wednesday morning via the ferry to PEI. Service in May-June is on a modified schedule. The route (from Québec City) includes flag stops in Rivière-du-Loup, Edmundston, Fredericton, Moncton and Charlottetown.
Gasoline is expensive: about 18¢/litre more than in PEI (May 2017), so you may want to fill up before you leave Souris.
phone: +1 418-986-6565address: 357 chemin Principal, Cap-aux-MeulesMotorcycle rental, hire cars (Hertz Îles-de-la-Madeleine), instruction (École de Conduite des Îles) and roadside assistance (Service Routier Léon Lapierre).
phone: +1 418-986-2555address: 239 Ch de la Pointe-Basse, Havre-aux-MaisonsLocal taxi, enquire at bike shop for taxi delivery of rental bicycles (Veli-Vélo, Le Pédalier).
phone: +1 418-986-6050Buses have bike rack (no additional costs). Three routes connect the main villages of the islands, but each route may be served only once per day in each direction. Check the schedule, and as the vehicle approaches, gesture with your hand and make sure to get the driver's attention.
address: La Grave, Havre-AubertThe first community on the island began as a fisheries village where the fish was dried, salted and packed. It was largely deserted by the 1960s and many buildings were abandoned as economic activity shifted to Cap-aux-Meules. Preservation efforts began in the 1980s. The historic district was restored to house a collection of artisans, boutiques and a marina. The former general store is now the Café de la Grave.
phone: +1 418-937-5711address: 1023 chemin de la Grâve, Havre-AubertPermanent exhibition on the « Laboureurs du Golfe », temporary exhibits on different themes, works of local artists, genealogical documentation.
- Beaches: Several long sand dune beaches connect the islands; swim. sunbathe, walk and explore. Water temperature reaches 18°C (64°F) by mid-August.
- Birdwatching: Excursions are available, for example by boat to nearby Ile Brion.
- Windsurfing, kitesurfing equipment rental and lessons are available.
- Sea kayaking: Explore coastal cliffs, bays, and tunnels. Aerosport, Istorlet and Parc du Gros Cap provide equipment rental.
- Cycling. Some roads have a paved shoulder and bikes may be rented, but local wind speed typically varies from 17 to 40 km/h (9 to 22 knots).
- Hiking along the shore. If hiking near cliff-lined areas of the coast, the cliff edges are often eroded, dangerous and can collapse.
- In winter, a popular activity is to observe young seals on the ice floes.
phone: +1 418-986-6677address: 1390 chemin Lavernière, Étang-du-nordKitesurfing, mountain biking, sea kayak, snow kite, buggy and equipment rental.
phone: +1 418-986-3301address: 380 chemin Principal, Cap-aux-MeulesThe one local cinéma, all films shown in French. A&W (hamburgers) and Subway (sandwiches) with Wi-Fi in the same building.
phone: +1 418-986-4745address: (Marina) 265, chemin du Quai, Cap-aux-MeulesMarine excursions to Entry Island, Brion Island and Bird Rock. Caves and cliffs, lagoon and seals, fishing trips and expeditions.
phone: +1 418-937-5266address: 100, chemin de l'Istorlet, Havre-AubertKayak instruction and rentals, kids camp and French-language immersion, bird and seal watching. Rooms and campsites for rent, cafeteria.
phone: +1 418-937-1620Kitesurfing lessons.
phone: +1 418-986-2965address: 545 ch. principal, Cap-aux-MeulesBicycle rental, clothing and accessories, activities.
phone: +1 418-986-2003address: 365, chemin Principal, Cap-aux-MeulesBicycle shop, rentals from $25/day, repair shop and accessories, open daily Apr-Oct.
La Grave, Village de NoëlLa Grave historic village is illuminated and transformed for Christmas.
Circuit arts visuels et métiers d'art des Îles-de-la-MadeleineGroups 17 local artists, artisans and galleries. Signage identifies the individual vendors and work as locally-made.
phone: +1 418-937-2917address: La Grave, 907 route 199, Havre-AubertCreations from the sea since 1981; various artisanal and artistic objects created with the sand of the Islands and other materials, workshops.
phone: +1 418-986-6650address: 4-184, chemin Principal, Cap-aux-MeulesStorefront promoting a group of thirty local food and agricultural producers; various local foods sold in souvenir, assortment or "gift box" packaging. A music listening station promotes local Madelinot musicians in collaboration with la Corporation Arrimage, who run the local "Circuit arts..." promotion.
phone: +1 418-969-9292address: 149, chemin Pointe-Basse, Havre-aux-MaisonsLocal cheese factory. A 90-minute guided tour (10:30-12:00, $15/person, kids $5, maximum 15 people) is offered most days from mid-June to end-September; visit a dairy farm, stop by the factory to learn how the cheese is made and sample the finished product.
Centre commercial Place des Îlesaddress: 1011, rue de La Vernière, L'Étang-du-NordSmall shopping centre with a few shops, a Hart discount department store, and a grocery store.
- Fresh lobster is available in early summer (June-July).
- Smoked fish: herring, scallops, mackerel.
- Pot-en-pot: seafood pie.
- Loup-marin: seal (very strong tasting, similar to liver or wild game).
phone: +1 418-986-3409address: 355, ch. Peittpas, Cap-aux-MeulesBakery
Resto chez Maguyphone: +1 418-985-2997address: 426 Rte 199, Grande-Entrée
phone: +1 418-986-3004address: 1188 Chemin de la Vernière, L'Étang-du-NordUpscale restaurant with wi-fi.
Le Sablierphone: +1 418 969-9299address: 257 QC-199, Havre-aux-MaisonsSeafood,
phone: +1 418-986-5005address: 286, chemin Coulombe, L'Étang-du-NordMicrobrewery and brew pub, patio and dining room. Beer is bottled here for sale in most restaurants, grocers and corner stores throughout the islands. Their beers, made from local ingredients, are very good: rousse (red), blonde (pale), blanche (wheat beer), noire (milk stout) and some special brews. "Belle Saison" is a lager flavoured with herbs and flowers from the islands.
Their local beers are on tap at these establishments, which also serve food:
phone: +1 418-986-5151address: 169, chemin Principal, Cap-aux-MeulesPopular restaurant-café-bar, good food, service variable. Bistro near the port in Cap-aux-Meules. Dine, buy a drink or a coffee and watch live entertainment.
phone: +1 418-937-5765address: 969, route 199, La Grave, Havre-AubertReasonable, laid back, superb little café-bar in the historic port of La Grave in Havre-Aubert. Warm atmosphere, taste great food or just go for a coffee or a beer in the afternoon.
phone: +1 418-969-2233address: 292, route 199, Havre-aux-MaisonsLe Moulière restaurant, Chez Gaspard event space and bar. Twelve-room hotel with Wi-Fi, breakfast, in-room fridge. Dining hall for 105 people, meeting facility for up to 200.
phone: +1 418-969-4114address: 14 chemin de la pointe, Havre-aux-MaisonsRestaurant-bistro at the Havre-aux-Maisons marina.
phone: +1 450-474-7447address: 205, chemin Principal, Cap-aux-Meules, île du Cap aux MeulesFour rooms in the inn and eight motel rooms with kitchenette, 1km from la plage de l'Hôpital. Continental breakfast included. 2 stars.
Château Madelinotaddress: 323, chemin Principal, Fatima, île du Cap aux Meules120-room hotel on the sea, 3 km from la plage de l'Hôpital. Isle Margaulx restaurant on site, meeting rooms, accessible for disabled people, full breakfast included. 3 stars. Various packages offered, including the observation of whitecoat baby seals.
phone: +1 418-937-5675address: 1197, chemin du Bassin, Bassin, île du Havre AubertEight bedrooms and three studios. Located 0.1 km from the beach (la plage de l'Ouest). Full breakfast included. 3 stars. One September package includes spa and sauna access; rates from $120 in shoulder season and $110 off-season.
Bed and breakfast
Maison d'Éva-Annephone: +1 418-969-4053address: 326 Chemin de la Pointe-Basse, Havre-Aux-MaisonsSeasonal (Jul-Aug). Four rooms, two with private bath. Bicycle rental ($20/day), guided and unguided bike tours. Substantial penalties for reservation cancellations.
phone: +1 418-986-4505address: 74 chemin du CampingCampground, cabins, hostel (formerly HI-Îles-de-la-Madeleine). Beachfront park, sailing, sea kayaking, equipment rental. Wi-fi, continental breakfast. Extra charge for laundry. June 1-mid Sept.
Do not walk near the edges of cliffs as they are subject to erosion and collapse.
Certain beaches can have strong and dangerous currents which may pull you away from shore.