I’VE WANTED TO DISCOVER THE MAGDALEN ISLANDS FOR AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER, SO I WAS THRILLED TO HAVE BEEN RECENTLY INVITED. THE MINUTE I ARRIVED, I FELL TOTALLY IN LOVE.
Of course, the archipelago is charming as ever, starting with that heady ocean smell and glorious views everywhere you look. There are great stretches of untamed landscape, punctuated by vividly coloured houses—downright adorable. No wonder the islands have become a haven for artists moved by their beauty. Somehow, time seems to have come to a standstill here. The beauty of the sunset is profoundly moving—a nightly spectacle of flamboyant colours.
The archipelago consists of 12 islands, eight of which are inhabited by a grand total of 12,000 souls. Nearly all the inhabitants are descended from the survivors of more than 500 shipwrecks, and many houses have been built from driftwood. The main islands are Île d’Entrée, Havre-Aubert, Cap-aux-Meules, Havre-aux-Maisons, Pointe-aux-Loups, Grande-Entrée and Île Brion. Wherever you meet them, you’ll be charmed to find that the “Madelinots” live up to their reputation for giving visitors a warm welcome.
THE BEACHES, LARGELY DESERTED, STRETCH FOR MILES AND MILES. FINE SAND, AND HILLS OF RED EARTH AND CONTRASTING COLOURS MAKE LONG WALKS IRRERISTIBLE.
What to do on your visit? Start your day with a coffee on the patio at Café de la Grave and check out the intriguing boutiques in the area. Foodies won’t want to miss the Fumoir d’Antan (a smokehouse), the Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent and Les Biquettes à l’air (two cheese shops), the boucherie Aucoin des sangliers (wild boar), Miel en mer (honey) … you can even taste the different kinds of moonshine at Barbocheux. Take a culinary workshop with Johanne Vigneault, chef of the famous La Table des Roy, and discover the great Gourmande de nature boutique.
The beaches, largely deserted, stretch for miles and miles. Fine sand, and hills of red earth and contrasting colours make long walks irresistible. Watch the kite surfers and go to the beach at Bout du Banc, where the currents meet, one of my favourite picnic spots. When my friends Josie and Louis, who live in one of the loveliest houses on the island, invited me to dinner, I had the pleasure of meeting Lynn Albert, the entrepreneur profiled in our Business column.
There are all sorts of activities all summer long. The small boat race is highly amusing to watch, especially as the teams are expected to build their boats on a strict budget before launching them. Don’t be surprised to see some of the boats capsize before they reach the shore. Or you can watch the sand castle competition—the results can be quite impressive!
A trip to the Islands? Yes, we will be back!
Air Canada Express offers daily non-stop service between Montreal and the Magdalen Islands
for Spring and Summer, and twice daily service from Gaspé.