Many may not have heard, but France is not just in Europe, there is also a piece of it in North America. This external part of France sits just a ferry ride off the coast of Canada. Saint Pierre and Miquelon is a very odd relic of the colonial period and is a self-governing territorial overseas collectivity of France. The residents here are all French citizens and have representation in the National Assembly in France.
One can go to France without leaving North America. Visiting Saint Pierre and Miquelon can be an excursion while exploring Canada's stunning Newfoundland with its famous architecture. Likewise, there is also a piece of France in the Amazon Rainforest. French Guiana in South America is an integral part of France and part of the European Union and one can visit.
A Tiny Vestige Of Once Great Possessions
Saint Pierre and Miquelon were first spotted in 1520 by the Portuguese and claimed for France in 1536 by Jacques Cartier. By 1670 there were 4 permanent inhabitants and 22 in 1691. By the 1700s they were uninhabited again due to conflict with the British and they were ceded to Britain as part of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.
- First Spotted: In 1520 By The Portuguese
- First Claimed: In 1536 By France
- Back and Forth: They Changed Hands Between The French and British Repeatedly
With the defeat of France in North America and the Treaty of Paris (1763) - which made Quebec British - there was at least one concession for the vanquished French. The British granted some fishing rights to France along the Newfoundland coast and so returned the islands to France to serve as a fishing base.
Although there would be more conflict with the British during the American War of Independence (the whole population of 2,000 were sent back to France).
- Ceded: Back To France So That They Would Have A Fishing Base
They are a reminder of how the European powers of Britain and France were in a competition to colonize North America. At one time, France controlled or claimed vast swathes of territory. New France was much of what is now eastern Canada and parts of the USA and was centered on Quebec.
- Vestige: It Is A Vestige of New France
Their Louisana territory laid claim to vast regions of central North America - it claimed the Mississippi basin west of the river (centered on New Orleans).
But in a generation, France had lost New France to the British in the French and Indian Wars and then sold off their now untenable Lousiana territory to the new-fledged United States.
And so the French were expelled from North America... But not fully. After a lot of back and forth between the British and the French, Saint Pierre and Miquelon ended up permanently French. They are the last tiny vestige of their former territory of New France.
What to Expect On Saint Pierre and Miquelon
These are tiny islands are located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. They are only 12 miles from Point May in Newfoundland and only 6 miles from the tiny Canadian Green Island.
Today their economy remains overwhelmingly fishing based and the settlements are something of fishing villages.
- Size: 242 km2 (93 sq miles)
- Population: 6,000
- Distance From Canada: 12 Miles (To The Newfoundland Mainland)
- Distance From France: 2,373 Miles
They are made up of 8 islands of which two are inhabited.
During Prohibition in the 1920s, they were heavily used by mobsters to smuggle alcohol into the United States. Even Al Capone used the islands and was a client of Hotel Robert, a hotel that still operates to this day.
Getting There and Visiting The Islands
These islands are rather barren but they are a taste of France just off the coast of North America.
Once one gets there, one will need to readjust one's watch. Their time zone is 30 minutes offset from Newfoundland. At noon in Newfoundland, it’s 12:30 P.M. in Saint-Pierre, 11:30 A.M. in Halifax, and 10:30 A.M. in Toronto.
- New Year: They Are The First Place In North America To Celebrate The New Year
There is a regular ferry service with daily crossings to Fortune (Newfoundland) and discovery tours of the coastline of the archipelago.
- Ferry: Departs From Fortune In Newfoundland
- When: Daily
- Cost: 45 Euros ($50) One Way Adult Fare
If one is planning on going, then be sure to plan in advance. There is only around 6,000 people calling these tiny islands home and limited accommodation options. It may be difficult to find space in the height of summer.
Before 1999 there was no direct flight access to France and one would need to come from Canada. Since 1999 the Saint-Pierre Aiport has been able to accommodate long-haul flights from France.