Quebec's Magdalen Islands are often referred to as hidden gems, as they're accessible only via boat or plane. These islands, located just off the mainland in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, are quiet havens for those seeking an escape. While they're considered to be somewhat of an offshore paradise, there's plenty to do here besides relax, and there's also plenty for travelers to see once they've arrived.
On average, a trip to the islands is a five-to-seven-day excursion. This is for those who wish to see the islands in their entirety and trust us, it's worth it!
Here's a breakdown of what visitors can expect.
What You Can Do On The Magdalen Islands
The location of these islands is pretty telling when it comes to the scenery that one might expect. With New Brunswick to one side and Nova Scotia just south, there's no shortage of waterfront views to be had upon arrival. The more that visitors explore the Magdalen Islands, the more its seaside landscape will enchant and delight - and there are plenty of scenic things to do and see during a week's long trip.
Each island is connected via a roadway that spans from end to end, taking roughly 90 minutes to traverse. This is where visitors can find some of the island's most stunning views and overlooks, and also serves as a great starting point for anyone who happens to have a car. The islands are home to vibrantly colored homes in shades of red, orange, blue, green, and yellow, and many of them are beachfront properties. Between the scenic views and the seaside cliffs that flank the road, it's worth taking a minute just to appreciate the beauty of these islands.
Magdalen Islands Lighthouses
Along the way, visitors should keep an eye out for multiple lighthouses - six, to be exact! The most popular for visiting are:
- Lighthouse Cape Alright: This lighthouse can be found on Havre-aux-Maisons, which is believed to be the most beautiful island of the two thanks to its colorful architecture. The lighthouse itself is high on a seaside cliff overlooking the Gulf, standing at a height of 27 feet. It's also the most recent lighthouse addition to the islands and was built in 1928.
- Phare de l'Île-d'Entrée: This lighthouse is located on Entry Island, and it's also the first one that visitors will see as they reach the islands by ferry. It sits on the highest point of the archipelago - Big Hill - which is what makes it such a recognizable landmark. The island itself is not connected to the archipelago and the lighthouse was built in 1873 after Scottish settlers inhabited the land.
- Anse-à-la-Cabane Lighthouse: The oldest of all the Magdalen Islands lighthouses, it also provides free entry to those who visit. Construction began on this lighthouse in 1870, and it's the last of its hexagonal type that was built in Canada.
- Cape Lighthouse: An island nicknamed Dead Man's Island emerges from the sea to reveal this lighthouse, which was built in 1874. Legend tells of a ghost ship that would sail from this island and lighthouse to find shipwrecks (of which there have been more than 700!) and lead the ghost crews back to Dead Man's Island. The lighthouse itself is classic in its features and stands alone on the island.
Appreciate The Beaches On The Magdalen Islands
Arguably the most tranquil spot on the archipelago, Dune du Sud is the perfect place to experience the beachside nature that the islands have to offer. When translated, Dune du Sud means 'South Beach,' which is accurate; its south-facing cliffs offer a red wall along which blankets can be set up to soak up the sun's rays. The water is also fairly calm on this side of the island, making for the perfect swimming spot. Dune du Sud is also home to several cliff caves along its sea-facing volcanic rock, so these are worth exploring, as well.
Experience The Islands' Small-Town Life
Another spot to take in the scenery of the islands is La Grave. This location is also quite historic, as there are many features that date back to the discovery of the islands by the Acadians. They arrived during the 1700s, and La Grave has since been designated a historic site. Additionally, this is the location of what would be considered the 'town square' or the Magdalen Islands, so there are plenty of places in town to stroll around and shop. For those seeking even more history regarding the islands, a stop at Musée de la Mer is a must.
Visiting these foodie stops is a must, as well:
- À l’Abri de la Tempête (microbrewery)
- Auberge chez Denis à François (casual-dining restaurant)
- La table des Roy (high-end, award-winning restaurant)
- Le Sablier (restaurant with waterfront views)
- Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent (gourmet cheese shop)
For those seeking an escape within Quebec, the Magdalen Islands are still very much one of its best-kept secrets.