Home .. Email .. Articles .. Simply .. Links
Highway #132 - L’Islet to Matane
Planning a vacation in Quebec? Have an appetite for great food and a desire to meet interesting, friendly people? Head for the province’s Highway #132 corridor. This historic route begins on the south shore west of Quebec City and ends at the New Brunswick border, passing through some of the most spectacular scenery in Canada. It’s best to drive the route from west to east, saving the best for almost last.
Route #132 is called the Navigator’s Route, the Route of the Sea and for good reason. The highway parallels the St. Lawrence River, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Gaspe Bay and the Bay of Chaleurs. It passes through small villages where the church can be seen for miles and Norman style habitations that have endured several hundred years of weather and wear sit by the roadside. One of the charms of driving the route is that you never know what treasures are to be discovered in the next village, over the next hill or around the bend.
Colours of the St. Lawrence basin are enchanting, even during threatening weather when an eye feast of blues, greys and the palest yellow greet you as the sun tries to shine. The hills on the north shore of the river are barely visible while islands hunker, dark on the water. Every season and situation presents different river moods, different colours. The river and its maritime history are very much a part of Quebec’s history.
First stop should be at the Musee Maritime du Quebec, at L’Islet. It’s outdoor displays include anchors, and boats, one a fine example of an early hydrofoil. The museum complex has excellent nautical exhibits, a master boat builder plying his trade, ocean interpretation centre and a number of hands-on activities suitable for the entire family. From the museum you can snap good pictures of the village and church. That’s what driving #132 is all about too, getting great pictures!
To the east of l’lslet, the area is known as the wood sculpture capital of North America. The route is lined with shops that display the work of talented artisans and sell a variety of carvings. The Saint-Jean-Port-Joli area is most famous for carvings and boasts the Musee des Anciens Canadiens, one of the best wood carving museums in Canada. Works of some of the greatest artisans are beautifully displayed at the Museum, a definite must-see. Along this particular stretch of highway you’ll also find traditional Quebec bake ovens, an old mill and dam and lots of those gorgeous vistas of the river.
History can only be understood through artifacts and the written word. La Pocatiere has an excellent museum that visitors should see. Drop into the Information Centre just off the highway in La Pocatiere to ask for directions to the attraction that is housed in a four storey former school building. Spend some time enjoying the view from the Centre over the river. It’s spectacular when the river is in one of its moods!
The museum has an impressive collection on display and is so well set up few questions need to be asked. To be more specific about the collection, the display of Quebec-made horse drawn sleighs is excellent as are their individual period rooms.
Just down the road, in the tiny village of Saint-Denis-de-la-Bouteillerie, a huge white wooden house with red roof beckons. The home which is open to the general public belonged to Jean-Charles Chapais, one of Canada’s Fathers of Confederation. The last Chapais to live in the building was Thomas, an historian and author. The house and furnishings represent more than 150 years of occupation and is well worth a visit. It’s best to take the tour with a guide. The house sits right next to the village church with its impressive twin spires.
Next stop should be in Kamouraska at the old Palace of Justice building where each year at the end of the summer, an international art festival, Kamouraska en Coleurs, is held. On the same weekend the community holds a Medieval Festival so if planning to visit during the latter part of August, early September, book accommodation in advance. You should also check out the Musee de Kamouraska on Avenue Morel for local artifacts.
Kamouraska is famous for its plums, plum jam and rock cliffs. People travel from around the world to the hulking granite headlands which give plenty rock climbing opportunities. There are climbs to challenge all levels of skill and difficulty. The area is also known for eels. If your visit is timed for September or October, you’ll see nets stretched across the bay to catch fat St. Lawrence eels.
Visitors like to stay at Auberge La Solaillerie in St. Andre-de-Kamouraska. The house erected in 1892, has its own chapel attached to the main house. One of its more eccentric attractions is a huge safe in one of the dining rooms. Speaking of dining, reservations begin at 6:00 p.m. during high season and award winning cuisine is featured. Their duck as prepared by the chef, is excellent as is the shrimp appetizer which has just a hint of orange in the sauce. Apple tart is a must for dessert. The inn has a number of rooms to rent. Ask for the one that features two bathtubs!
Plan to spend at least one day exploring Riviere-du-loop, Trois Pistoles and the small villages in-between, including Cacouna and L’Isle-Verte. The tiny village of Notre Dame des Sept-Douleurs on the western tip of Verte Ile can be reached by ferry from L’Isle Verte on the south shore. All have interesting attractions and diverse landscape.
Stop at the official information centres - Trois Pistoles’ is right by the Police station - for a copy of driving and historical tours. While in Riviere-du-Loop be sure to see the Musee de Bateaux Miniatures, where more than 130 miniature boats are in display. Make arrangements with Safari Maritime in Riviere-du-Loop to take a tour on the St. Lawrence- the Fleuve Stain Laurent - for an opportunity to see whales and other sea mammals and birds. Visit museums and pretty gardens. Spend time people watching over coffee in a small café. In Trois Pistoles sure to pick up a copy of their self-guided driving tour, Legends of the Area.
With the river on one side and highlands and headlands on the other, you’re never bored driving Highway #132. Villages are strung along the route in the rural French Canadian tradition, making for an interesting drive. Each deserves time for exploration and discovery. Each has ambience, charm and architectural integrity.
If traveling between May lst and October 15th, don’t miss the opportunity to stay in, and have dinner, at Auberge du Mange Grenouille in Le Bic. The name means Inn of the Hungry Frog and there’s a wonderful ambience about the place through the use of theatrical touches in public and bed rooms. Fresh flowers, large houseplants, rich drapery, unusual furniture and interesting stage-lighting embellish the interior of the early 1800's building. Sympathetically renovated, the building’s Norman-style exterior has been left intact but painted a bright red giving just a hint of what one might expect inside. Dinner is excellent too. Reservations are recommended.
You’ll drive through villages like Saint-Simon and Saint Fabien before reaching Rimouski where those interested in architecture should stop at the historic Lamontagne House. The building is one of only three half timbered houses left in Canada. The property dates to 1750 and stands on its original site. The attraction is dedicated to telling the story of architectural styles in Quebec.
Hungry, stop in Saint Flavie at Captain Homard Restaurant for fresh fish. Try their shrimp sandwich and lobster roll. If camping, pick up some fresh fish too. The restaurant has a good collection of miniature boats and is stuffed with things nautical. On a clear day the opposite bank of the St. Lawrence River can be seen, even though it is almost a mile away. Saint Flavie is known as the entrance to the Gaspe region of Quebec.
Highway #132 splits at Saint Flavie one arm swinging south to go through Amqui to Matapedia and the New Brunswick border. You want to continue to drive along #132 east, on your circle tour, toward Grand Metis and Metis-sur-Mer to Matane.
The Musee de la Mare at Pointe-au-Pere, the Museum of the Sea, is located on the grounds of an 108 foot high lighthouse which was built during the early 1900's. The second highest lighthouse in Canada has a unique concrete construction with eight flying buttress supports that surround a central column. The Museum complex consists of the Lightkeeper’s house, Engineer’s House, Workshop, Fog Horn Shed, and the architecturally unique Empress of Ireland display Pavilion.
This ill-fated ship, owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway, went to the bottom of the St. Lawrence River off Pointe-au-Pere on May 29, 1914. Of 1477 passengers and crew, only 465 survived. The wreck was found in 1964. The last survivor died in 1965. The most exciting part of the complex is a twenty minute 3D presentation on the Empress of Ireland that will leave the hair standing up on the back of your neck! The show is very emotional for some in the audience. Well done!
Reford Gardens, Jardins de Metis, are located at Grand Metis. The extensive holdings were begun by Elsie Reford in 1925 who worked passionately until 1959 to create a series of gardens on the family estate overlooking the St. Lawrence River. The property began as a fishing camp for Elsie’s uncle, Lord Mount Stephen, founder of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Although the province owned the gardens at one time, by the mid 1990's they became a non-profit attraction and national historic site. The gardens overlook two rivers and have more than 3,000 species of plants and flowers, a restaurant and excellent museum.
After a full day of exploration, the Riotel Matane, in Matane is a good place to spend a night. The Riotel is located on the shore of the river and at the beginning of the Gaspesie, the Gaspe or Land’s End, area of the province. As it’s one of a number of accommodations owned by the Riotel group in Quebec, you can make reservations in advance for the next leg of your holiday. Want to rent an historic home for a longer vacation in la belle province? Try Riotel.
IF YOU GO:
Riviere-du-Loop, Quebec G5R 5C4
L’Islet sur Mer, Quebec G0R 2B0
La Pocatiere, Quebec G0R 1Z0
Saint-Andre-de-Kamouraski, Quebec G0L 2H0
Le Bic, Quebec G0L 1B0
Rimouski, Quebec G0L 4B5
Grand-Metis, Quebec G0J 1Z0
Matane, Quebec, G4W 3N4
Copyright © 2005 Mestern.Net All rights reserved.