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Highway #132, Matane to Gaspe
The town of Matane lies at the gateway to the Gaspesie Region of Quebec - the Gaspe - one of the most scenic areas in Canada. Highway #132 which for the most part doesn’t deviate far from the shore, gives endless beautiful vistas over the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The route passes through some of the most charming villages on the eastern seaboard, all dominated by their church and architecture that is uniquely significant to Quebec.
There’s always a wind off the gulf, a fact which wasn’t lost on AXOR who operate windmill farms around Matane and Cap Chat. The company owned one of the largest concentrations of power generating windmills in Canada. Around Matane you begin to see on the horizon, high white towers sporting massive blades. The highest vertical axis windmill in the world is located at the company’s facility just west of Cap Chat. Tours are offered during the summer months. Watch carefully for roadside signs - Eole Cap Chat - Le Nordais.
Just down the road, to the east of Le Nordais complex, you can turn off the road again into Centre Vent et Mer - Centre of Wind and Sea - an attraction that includes a lighthouse, keeper’s house, café, garden walk, lookouts over the gulf and Interpretive Centre which presents a perspective on the area and wind turbine power generation.
Your next-see attraction, is Explorama, located in the town of Sainte-Anne-des Monts. This unique facility is geared to explaining life on the Gaspe and in the Gulf. Through interactive and hands-on displays that can take hours to see, visitors are given the opportunity to explore life as it was, and is, in the Gaspe. You are encouraged to take a trip by Zodiac into the Gulf to check out a number of locations that have been set up for visitors to experience. You might see whales, seals, rare sea birds. The centre’s gift shop is stocked with quality art and crafts made by Quebec artisans. Check out the unique fish bone pictures and jewellery.
The Musee des phares et balises, a complex devoted to telling the story of lighthouse beacons, is situated in the tiny village of La Martre. The still functioning light was built in 1906 and has been lovingly restored. You can climb to the top for a wonderful view up and down the coast, if you feel so inclined. If you are the least bit frightened of heights, don’t make the climb!
Continuing east along #132, each turn brings a different spectacular view, another vista that has to be photographed. Cliffs and headlands along the road near Mont Saint Pierre are shale, interspersed with veins of white quartz, an unusual combination that folds, rolls and swirls into all manner of startling rock murals, for want of a better name. As the shale is loose, visitors love to stop by the side of the road for a few samples. The rock is surprisingly heavy but makes a great conversation piece as a door stop.
At Riviere-la-Madaleine, the highway turns inlands and crosses a height of land. Look behind for spectacular views of the receding coastline then anticipate what you’ll see ahead! Be prepared to stop at the Information Centre on the heights above Grand Vallee for a magnificent view east toward Petite Vallee and for miles down the coast beyond. Village en Chanson, by the water in Petite Vallee, is devoted to preserving French Canadian song and music. Through an Interpretative centre with listening stations, visitors can trace its evolution through the 20th century. The complex consists of the Theatre of the Vieille Forge and is the site of the Festival of Song for Petite Vallee - Festival en Chanson de Petite Vallee - each summer. Camp Chanson, which is a summer facility guarantees that the traditions of French Canadian music and song are not forgotten.
La Maison LeBreux, a nice bed and breakfast facility located right next the interpretation centre, is a good place to spend the night and to practice your French. Madame LeBreux’s home is a great place to film sun rises and sunsets over the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
After the village of Petite Vallee, Highway #132 turns inland for a short time. Along the route, watch for signs indicating Fame Point and Pointe-a-la-Renommee, a lighthouse station that was home to Marconi’s first North American maritime radio station. It was in a small building by the lighthouse that Marconi set up his first wireless telegraph in 1904. If you’re athletic and want to stretch your legs, you can hike from Fame Point to a fishing camp at the shore.
Back at the coast, watch closely for signage indicating you’ve found the workshop of Jean Pierre Cote, a miniature boat builder whose small shop is chock-a-block full of models for sale. Murielle, Jean’s sister, helps run the shop. Jean’s Pierre’s sign is as understated as his work, a boat on a pole with one word “Artisanat”.
At L’anse-au-Griffon, the Manoir LeBoutillier stands brilliant yellow against the sky. Mr. LeBoutillier was a compatriot to the fathers of Confederation and was also heavily involved in the dry and salted cod industry which played a major part in the economy of the Gaspe. His restored house with bell-cast roof is a fine example of c1850's regional architecture. And yes, the colour is correct for the time frame in Quebec. This is a great place to enjoy dessert and coffee in surrounding that are steeped in the history of the past.
When most people think of the Appalachians, they think of the eastern U.S.A. where the famous trail is known, and used, by thousands of people. In fact the Appalachians end in Forillon National Park where spectacular headlands in the north sector mark where the range finally runs into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. As views from various park lookouts are unparalleled on the eastern seaboard many visitors make the Park a stop on their trip round the Gaspe.
Just outside the entrance to Forillon National Park, a wayside monument honours 87 Irish people who were lost on April 28, 1847 when the ship Carrick of Whitehaven out of Sligo, Ireland floundered off-shore. The generosity and kindness of Quebec people was extended to children from this wreck, raised by local families who insisted on them keeping their Irish names.
Forillon National Park has a good Interpretive Centre. Amenities include more than three hundred campsites. It is best known for its sheltered coves, pebbled beaches, soaring cliffs, the fishing village of Grand Grave and the preservation of the exteriors a number of homes whose architecture is indicative of that in Quebec fishing villages. Hyman’s General Store has been accurately restored and is one of the best examples of early commercial enterprise in Canada as is the homestead of a fisherman at Anse Blanchette. Intrepreters make the visit enjoyable. The house is one of the most photographed in Quebec.
After leaving Forillon, it’s a pleasant drive west, along the north shore of the Bay of Gaspe to the causeway over the Dartmouth River where it flows into the bay. This area of the Gaspe is most historic and known as the cradle of Canada. On July 24, 1534, Jacques Cartier erected a cross on the shore of the Bay entering into a new era of settlement in the new world.
There’s a bridge across the water just past Saint-Majorique but you need to drive to the end of the bay so as not to miss a marvelous attraction, Gespeg, an Interpretation Centre that recreates MicMac life as it was during the late 1600's, both pre and post white contact.
First on the agenda at Gespeg should be to view the video and visit the museum that sets the stage for what you’ll see. A knowledgeable guide will then take you through the four seasons in a c1675 MicMac outdoor village setting. Give lots of time to fully absorb this first class attraction, one of the best in the Gaspe and a real salute to the MicMac peoples who are willing to share their knowledge and history.
Leaving Gespeg, your next destination isn’t far and the drive is spectacular. Watch for The Rock off Perce that under certain weather conditions, seems to float on the water on the far horizon. This area is known as Land’s End and for good reason. The world famous Rock, the village of Perce and Bonaventure Island - the Parc de I’lle-Bonaventure et du Rocher-Perce seem to be tucked into their own little gorgeous world.
Reservations should be made in Perce well in advance during high season. One of the nicest places to stay is Motel La Mirage a Perce. Ask for a room overlooking the village and The Rock. La Maison Du Pecheur Restaurant, near the wharf, is one of the best places for seafood. Be prepared to thoroughly enjoy a leisurely, well-prepared meal. Plan to spend several days in Perce in order to enjoy all its amenities and world class attractions.
IF YOU GO:
Petite-Vallee, Quebec G0E 1Y0
Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, Quebec G0E 2G0
Petite-Vallee, Quebec G0E 1Y0
La Martre, Quebec G0E 2H0
L'anse-au-Griffon, Quebec GX4 6A4
P.O. Box 69
Fontenelle, Quebec G4X 6V2
Gaspe, Quebec G4X 1A9
Sainte-Flavie, Quebec G0J 2L0
Perce, Quebec G0C 2L0
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