This summer I’ve had the opportunity to visit almost every canadian province, and I feel blessed for all these great projects. I ended up late August on Prince Edward Island and decided to stay a few more days to enjoy the beaches and eat even more seafood. I then realized I was one ferry ride away from the Magdalen islands, this unique archipelago part of Quebec I’ve been dreaming to visit for a long time. Thank you to this #vanlife flexible schedule, after a few phone calls I was on the CTMA boat with my friend and photographer Ari which would take us 5 hours later to Cap-Aux-Meules, the biggest island of the archipelago. The ferry is already a special experience straight out of the 80’s with a few bars, a game room, restaurants, and always surrounded by a breathtaking view.
Historically, the Magdalen islands were added to Quebec by the Quebec Act in 1774 after a long period of fighting between France and Great Britain. You should definitely read more about this story full of Acadian families, Micmacs and walrus hunting. This is especially true if you’re from Quebec and that you don’t understand why it is part of la Belle Province instead of one of the two Atlantic provinces nearby and that 15 hour drive separating Montreal from Cap-Aux-Meules!
Late August or September is the best time to visit the archipelago when they’re less tourists. Driving around the islands with your van is truly perfect, as you can drive from the west end to the eastern point in just over 60 minutes. Well this is if you close your eyes (please don’t do that if you drive) because you’ll want to stop every 10 minutes along the way to take a picture. And even if you’ve already been to a place, this same exact scenery would not look the same in different weather conditions or time of the day. The wind dictates pretty much your way on the islands. Talking about wind, you can imagine this place is a sailsports mecca! This picture was taken at one of my favorite beaches called La Martinique where you can see many kitesurfers if the wind is up. The water is also warmer in the lagoon because it’s really shallow.
This might sound weird, but please don’t boondock. You’ll find many amazing spots, but you should really respect the inhabitants and stay in campgrounds. First to help their economy, and second because the ecosystem is really fragile around the sand dunes. So here are 3 campgrounds we’ve stayed at that were all great and cheap.
Camping Belle-Plage: Right on the beach, on the western part of the archipelago. Near la Grave, Corfu island and the Sandy Hook.
Camping Le Barachois: In Fatima, about 30 minutes from anywhere you’ll want to go on the islands. Near Belle-Anse and chemin des Caps and Anse-aux-Baleiniers.
Camping Gros-Cap: A unique spot with several beaches around. “Take a kayak” tour or bring your paddleboard to see the caves and the cliffs around the cape. When the weather allows it, this yoga studio gives their class on the beach.
There is so much to see, but these stops you do not want to miss! And don’t forget time has a different meaning over there, the inhabitants are saying that no one has the exact time, but they all have Time.
Entry Island (full day activity without your vehicle, small ferry ride)
Cape-Vert (Fun hangout by the lagoon and you’ll appreciate a little run on the boardwalk between the dunes at sunset)
Cape du Phare / Belle-Anse
Anse-aux-Baleiniers (Unless it rains, the sand is hard enough so you can drive on it. You can see seals early in the day).
Sandy Hook (The long walk is worth it)
Île-Boudreau (secret beach and a really pleasant walk, you might see friendly foxes around)