Nestled in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Magdalen Islands or Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, is one of the World’s best kept vacation secrets. Its soothing waves, breezes and beaches are a relaxing experience for all wanting to escape the stresses of daily life. From the beaches and nautical activities, to the fresh seafood and local music, the Magdalen Islands guarantees fun for everyone.
The Magdalen Islands is a place where time seems to stop, stresses dissipate and nature spoils you. The views are like nothing seen anywhere else in the world. Experience the natural beauty, warm salt water beaches, and friendly locals. The residents are known for their superior seafood recipes and their musical talents, which they are always happy and willing to share with visitors.
The following is a complete 3-day itinerary for travelers wishing to enjoy the vacation of a lifetime on the superb Magdalen Islands which consists of 8 major Islands – Entry Island, Havre Aubert Island, Cap aux Meules Island, Havre aux Maisons Island, Pointe aux Loups Island, Grosse Île Island, Grande Entrée Island and Brion Island. Route 199 connects all the Islands, except Entry Island and the uninhabited Brion Island.
Getting to the Island
You can reach Magdalen Islands
- by air from Gaspé, Quebec Cityand Montreal
- on MV CTMA Vacancier 8 day cruise from Montreal, or 5 hour ferry from Souris, PEI
- Bus with departures from St Foy, Quebec City that has stops at Riviere-du-Loup, Edmundston, Fredericton, Moncton and Charlottetown.
Day 1 on Magdelan Islands:
Start your trip by exploring the gateway to the Magdelan Islands, Cap-aux-Meules and the rural island of Havre aux Maisons dotted with marinas accentuated by red cliffs.
Join for guided tours and explore the Red Caves, Cliffs, and Oyster Bay:
Dress up in a wetsuit, life jacket and helmet and hop into the bay with your guide. Explore the red caverns and caves in security while being gently tossed around by the waves. There are also options for more adventurous visitors, who like a high-adrenaline experience. All equipment is provided for you. You may also opt for a kayak, canoe or pedal boat and tour Oyster Bay at your own pace.
Go where the road takes you:
When you arrive at the Island, visit the tourist information bureau and get the map and directions to interesting way points like historic churches, light houses and great view points that takes you through red cliffs, sand dunes, awe inspiring beaches (like Dune-du-Sud (South Dune) beach) and dedicate the day walking amidst exhilarating scenery of Havre-aux-Maisons and Cap-aux-Meules.[instagram url=https://www.instagram.com/p/BXye1JKg0FH/ hidecaption=true width=800]
While you explore the Island, make sure you do some of the following activities:
1. Learn a New Outdoor Sport.
Windsurfing and SUPing are extremely popular summer sports on the Magdalen Islands, and with good reason. The constant breezes and warm, shallow waters create ideal conditions for safely practicing water sports. You can learn SUP and kitesurf in a secure environment with private or semi-private lessons from the experienced guides at Aérosport Carrefour Aventure, located at 1390 Chemin Lavernière, in Étang-du-Nord, on the island of Cap-aux-Meules. All equipment is available on site, and may be rented or purchased. They even have the proper racks for your vehicle to safely transport your boards.
2. Construct and Fly Your Own Kite.
Kite building and flying is another wonderful family activity. Learn the techniques of flying kites with passionate, professional kite flyers at Au Gré du Vent, located at 499 Rue Boisville-Ouest, L’Étang-du-Nord. This exciting sport is open to family members of all ages. You can participate in a training session or just watch the kite demonstrations. There are kite building workshops for children every day.
Au Gré du Vent also has an on site boutique where you can buy mono line and stunt kites.
3. Enjoy a Cold Glass of Brew.
The Magdalen Islands is home to the microbrewery named À l’Abri de la Tempête (Shelter from the Storm). À l’Abri de la Tempête uses local raw materials, such as barley, fresh flowers, marine algae and herbs. They offer many full-flavoured, distinctive beers that you can enjoy in the pub or sip on the patio while taking in the amazing view of the beach. The microbrewery is kind of out of the way, at 286 rue Coulombe, L’Étang-du-Nord, however the detour is well worth your time. It has a boutique and guided tours are available.
4. Climb the Stairs to the Lookout Over the Harbor.
On the main island of Cap-aux-Meules, you will notice a long stairway leading up the hill at the harbor. At the top is a belvedere, providing an amazing lookout point over the marina and the fishing wharf.
On a clear day, several of the islands can been seen from this point. It is an amazing place to take photos.
The stairs are accessible at the base of the hill, from the Chemin du Quai Road.
5. Snack on the Locally Made Soft Curd Cheese.
The unique cheese made at the Pied de Vent factory is nothing like you have ever tasted before. The soft cheese curds are so fresh that they squeak between your teeth when you eat them! The cheese is perfectly salted and can be enjoyed alone as a snack, on baguette bread or crackers, or placed on top of fries with gravy, in a traditional, delicious dish called ‘poutine’. You can also visit the Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent cheese factory for guided tour and demonstration. It is located at 149 Chemin de la Pointe Basse, on the island of Havre-aux-Maisons.
6. Admire Unique Blown Glass Art.
The Verrerie La Méduse is an upscale art gallery, glass blowing workshop and boutique. They specialize in unique, colorful glass decorations, lamps and other pieces of glass artwork. You can watch the glass blower in action through the large window, browse the beautiful pieces of glass art, and admire the gallery paintings and creations. The unique glass products make wonderful gifts! The Verrerie La Méduse is located on the island of Havre-aux-Maisons, at 638 Route 199.
7. Taste the Locally Made “Bagosse”.
Head over to Le Barbocheux, a local company that grows its own fruit to make and bottle their special alcoholic beverages. There are 2 types of bagosse that you can try: strawberry and raspberry (13%), and cranberry and dandelion (13.5%). They will give you a free sample of each if you like. They also sell a port-type drink with blueberries and cranberries (19%), as well as a raspberry liqueur (22%).
8. Watch “Tante Emma” Perform Live.
The Aunt Emma persona, played by Island resident Odette Leblanc, is a hilarious live show about a typical Island lady. She exaggerates all of the stereotypical Island behaviors, dialect and expressions, of course, in this lively musical performance.
Tante Emma has special invited guests and always offers her audience members her famous homemade brown sugar fudge. You don’t want to miss this show, which runs all summer at the Civic Center on the island of Cap-aux-Meules.
9. Savor Some Fresh Lobster.
The Magdalen Islands are renowned for the quality and freshness of their seafood. The lobster season usually runs for 9 weeks, from early May until early July. This is peak season for seafood lovers! Fishermen must comply with size regulations and please be aware that lobster fishing is absolutely prohibited without a license and offenders are subject to severe penalties.
Buy your lobster live and cook it yourself, or have it served to you on a platter at the Bistro de la Capitaine, located at 14 Rue de La Pointe on Havre-aux-Maisons Island. The Island lobsters’ sweet taste will be sure to please your taste buds!
Day 2 in Magdelan Islands:
Explore Havre-Aubert Island, the oldest settled island of the archipelago. Download the audio guide so that you can learn more about the history in the course of the day.
Start Your Day With a Delicious Breakfast.
Make sure to put this quaint, rustic little café on your bucket list, and enjoy a delicious breakfast at “Le Four à Pain” (The Bread Oven). Located at 995 Rue de la Grave, in a small, historic fishing village, they offer a variety of delicious morning options. They specialize in quality, home-style breads & pastries.
Be prepared to wait for a table, however, since this café-style restaurant is quite small and very popular. Rest assured that it’s well-worth the wait!
Take a Walk or Jog Along the Beach.
What better way to digest a great breakfast than to take a relaxing stroll along the beach? While you are at the historic site at La Grave, head over to the nearby Sandy Hook beach on the Chemin du Sable road.
One of the most famous beaches on the Islands and home to the famous sandcastle competition, the 7.5 mile-long beach provides you with ample time and space to enjoy the sand, waves and beautiful views of Entry Island, the only inhabited island that is not connected to the others.
Browse the Local Artisan Shops.
There are many souvenir and local craft shops on the Magdalen Islands that sell unique, local products, from clothing and soap, to jewelry, pottery and sand sculptures.
A favorite place to shop is walking along the historic fishing site at La Grave, on the island of Havre-Aubert. Here, you will find several tiny, interesting shops that sell beautiful, quality products. Make sure to buy some fresh Island-grown herbs or infused olive oils from l’Anse aux Herbes (1002 Chemin de la Grave) and a unique sand sculpture from the Artisans du Sable (907 Chemin de la Grave).
Build a Boat and Race It!
Visiting in August? Every year during the first week of August, the Acadian Festival takes place. One of the most popular activities, the Small Boat-Building Competition, takes place at the historic site of La Grave, on Havre-Aubert Island.
Teamed competitors have 4 hours to creatively construct a small boat that will float and can be propelled by either the wind or oars. A race then ensues across the bay. Whether you decide to build a boat, or just watch, you won’t want to miss this fun and hilarious activity that is appreciated by the entire family!
Since parking is limited at La Grave, a free shuttle service operates all day bringing you back and forth from various pick-up sites.
Learn Local History at le Musée de la Mer Museum.
Visit the Museum of the Sea to discover the history of the insular peoples who have inhabited the Magdalen Islands. Learn about shipwrecks and local culture while admiring the vast array of collections and artifacts.
Beautifully located on a hilltop at 1023 Route 199, the museum offers a panoramic view of the harbor and the historic site at La Grave.
The museum also has a boutique selling clothing, artwork and local crafts.
Drive or Bike the West Coast of Havre-Aubert.
After your visit of La Grave, bike or take a short drive along the west coast of the Island that takes you through route lined with typical Island houses and magnificient coastal scenery. See the oldest lighthouse atop red cliffs, the Havre-Aubert Island lighthouse at Anse-à-la-Cabane that was built in 1870 and 1871, the historic wooden church of Bassin and enjoy yet another beach time and sunset at De l’Ouest Beach as you ponder over the imposing rock, Corps Mort that rises above the horizon.
Evening on the Island
Enjoy a Sunset Serenade.
Every evening at sunset, the owners of the restaurant, Le Vent du Large, Isabelle and François, invite their guests out to the patio and on the lawn for a sunset serenade. Blankets are available in case the evening breeze is cool. Sit and enjoy the amazing view as François plays Bach on his cello. When the sun has sunk out of site, return inside for more lively music and refreshments. A truly romantic experience awaits you at this superb tapas restaurant.
Listen to Traditional Live Music
On the Magdalen Islands, the French residents have an Acadian background, which still greatly influences their culture and the music they play. The guitar, fiddle and accordion are traditional instruments that are commonly played on the Islands.
You can listen to a lively show by visiting the Petit Mondrain, an adorable little pub located on the waterfront, at 983 Chemin de la Grave on the island of Havre-Aubert. A variety of local artists share their amazing musical talents here every weekend.
Day 3 in Magdalen Islands
Head on down to the Easternmost tip of the Islands to discover the Islands of Grande-Entrée and Grosse-Ile. You will be driving via Pointe-aux-Loups which is home to two beaches that stretch from Fatima to Grosse-Île.
Walk Along Boudreau Island.
L’Île Boudreau, located slightly south of Grande Entrée, is 23 hectares of natural beauty. Enjoy the breathtaking views, fresh air, unique landscaping and fresh berries that grow there.
There is a path that takes you from one end of the island to the other, a bit over a mile away.
Boudreau Island can be accessed from the Chemin du Bassin Ouest road and the Plage de la Bluff, or at low tide along the Bassin Est Beach.
Visit the Historic Little Red Schoolhouse.
Driving along Route 199 from Grande-Entrée towards Grosse-Ile, you will come to the village of Old Harry. An old, red school house will catch your eye. Built in 1921, this charming building is now home to a historical exhibit created by C.A.M.I., the Council for Anglophone Magdalen Islanders.
The museum displays many interesting artifacts, photos and memorabilia in a historical look at the English-speaking Island community. The guide will be happy to show you around!
Take a Tour of the Veterans Museum.
After leaving the Little Red School, take a stroll across the field and stop at the Veterans Museum.
Part of the C.A.M.I. Historical Complex, the guide of the Veterans Museum will take you back to wartime, to learn the stories of Islanders who were deployed overseas.
Entrance is free for children 11 and under, and $5 for adults for access to both museums.
Live outdoor music is often offered by local musicians free of charge on site at the C.A.M.I. Historical Complex.
Play in the Sand and the Waves.
The Magdalen Islands are home to over 186 miles of white sand beaches, many of which are easy to access. You will be sure to find a quiet spot where you can relax without any others around.
Many people’s favorite is Old Harry Beach. It offers a huge parking lot, toilets and showers, a shop, as well as a beautiful boardwalk leading out to the vast beach.
Although it is busier than the other beaches, Old Harry Beach is a must-see. Old Harry Beach seems endless, as if it goes on forever. It is the ideal place to take a long walk or relax in the sand, while the kids play and splash in the waves.
A word of caution here: Old harry Beach has very strong currents, so please be careful!
Take a Refreshing Nature Walk.
Breathe the fresh air and take in the amazing sites while walking through the trails of East Point.
This National Wildlife Reserve, located on the island of Grosse-Île, is 684 hectares of natural beauty. From its rolling sand dunes and blowing beach grass, to its fresh berries and ponds, East Point is a nature lover’s dream.
Bring a picnic lunch and your binoculars and camera; you are sure come across some unique species of birds and plants.
Visit the Holy Trinity Church.
The small Anglican church situated on the island of Grosse- Île, at 541 Principal Road, was built in 1925. It is adorned with beautiful stained-glass windows. The 3 large windows depict Jesus in a fishing scene, as he says, ‘Come with me and I will make you fishers of men.’ Visitors are welcome so stop in, sign the guest book, and take a look around.
Enjoy a Mouth-Watering Meal from BJ Casse-Croute.
This small, canteen style restaurant(10 Chemin Principal, Grosse-Île )features some of the juiciest burgers and best seafood platters on the Islands.
They offer a vast menu with everything from spaghetti and lobster rice, to mozza burgers, chicken wings, garlic fingers and poutine! There is something to please everyone’s palate.
Be sure to say hello to the owner and cook, Beth!
Where to Stay:
Magdalen Islanders are famous for their hospitality. Get the true island experience by staying in a locally owned and operated bed and breakfast offering home-cooked fare in the morning.
There are many, many to choose from, but two that are highly recommend on Havre-Aubert island are Chez Denis à François, located at 404 Chemin d’en Haut, and the Auberge Havre-sur-Mer, located at 1197 Chemin du Bassin. You will be greeted and spoiled by the gracious owners and hosts who will cater to your every need to ensure you a pleasurable, comfortable stay.
For a more private, homey experience, you have the option of choosing from the many houses for rent during the summer months.
Homes can be rented for a few days or on a weekly basis, and are fully-equipped with everything you will need during your stay. Many also have a barbecue, patio table, and washing machine for you to use.
Contact the local tourist bureau at 1-877-624-4437 and they will help you choose the right home in the right location. All you need to bring are your clothes and your groceries!
If you enjoy being closer to nature, consider the campgrounds for accommodations on the Magdalen Islands. One of visitors’ favorites is Camping des Sillons located on the island of Havre-aux-Maisons.
This 4-star campground is conveniently located on the amazing Dune-du-Sud (South Dune) beach and offers camping for people with tents or trailers, or you can choose to rent a cozy cottage by the sea!
The views at this campground are absolutely breathtaking. Look out over white sands and red cliffs as the relaxing sounds of the waves wash your troubles away.The Magdalen Islands has much to offer its visitors. From unique outdoor sports, and great food and music, to amazing beaches and views, the Islands has something for everyone. The Islands’ charm will tempt you to extend your stay beyond three days! P.S – There’s still Entry Island and more to explore!