3 DAYS IN THE ÎLES DE LA MADELEINE
THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN THE ÎLES DE LA MADELEINEThe Îles de la Madeleine have a unique culture influenced both by the nearby Maritimes and the Quebecois population. The area is part of the Mi'kmaw Nation, who know it as Menagoesenog — “islands swept by the surf.”
There are eight major islands to explore, but it can easily be done in three days. Are you ready for quaint towns, friendly locals, ocean views and to-die-for seafood? On y va!
DAY 1 – SEE THE SEAThe ocean is important to the islands’ culture, so what better way to kick off your trip than by finding your sea legs? There are tons of excursions to choose from. On the central island Cap-aux-Meules, choose a boat tour or rent a kayak to paddle alongside the iconic red cliffs. Refuel with a coffee and fresh pastry from Boulangerie Madelon, or opt for an early lunch of famous lobster poutine at La Cantine.
Head south and spend the rest of the day on Havre-Aubert. Drive to L'Anse-à-la Cabane lighthouse for unforgettable views of the cove. Finish the afternoon with a visit to the maritime museum, Musée de la Mer, to explore the region’s nautical history. Here you’ll learn about the over 500 Magdalen Islands shipwrecks that haunt the surrounding waters.
Do dinner at Café de la Grave, a restaurant inside the historic general store and an island institution. Get the pot-en-pot with shrimp, lobster and scallops. Or gather on the patio at Vent du Large for live local music and tapas.
DAY 2 – GET A TASTE OF HISTORYContinue to fill your mind and your belly on day two, with visits to significant spots and more east coast eats.
For your one-stop history lesson, Le Site D'Autrefois is where you’ll learn everything you need to know about the islands’ past. Then scoot to La Grave, the only official heritage site in the region, where the first Acadians to arrive settled. Although the eerie name might pique the interest of true crime aficionados, the area gets its name from the rocky beaches — la grève translates into “pebble beach.”
This afternoon is a deep dive into Madelinot food and drink. Hit up À l'abri de la Tempête for a brew (or two). These creative craft beers are inspired and infused by local flavours, including herbs native to the islands and sea salt. If you’re more into wine, try Le Barbocheux for an artisanal tasting. The wild cranberry and dandelion wine is something special.
Afterwards, visit Le Fumoir d'Antan market for a bite. Fish here is traditionally prepared in a smokehouse, where it cooks over maple logs for up to 90 days. Grab a jar of marinated and smoked haddock as a souvenir or a snack (it pairs nicely with that wine).
DAY 3 – THE WILD SIDESpend your last day drifting between the dunes of the northern islands. Take a ferry to the most secluded and uninhabited island, Entry Island, where you’ll be alone with nature as you hike and picnic. Be sure to bring the goodies you got yesterday.
Calling all bird nerds, the islands offer some of the best birdwatching in Canada. Rocher aux Oiseaux and Brion Island are a trek to get to, but home to hundreds of species including cormorants, puffins and the endangered piping plovers. For more wildlife, check out Pointe-De-L’Est Refuge or visit the Seal Interpretive Center.
Spend your last evening on Grande-Entrée Island, where you’ll see brightly coloured fishing boats docked in the harbour. For dinner, Bistro Plongée Alpha is a great spot for lobster rolls and razor clams topped with the famous regional cheese, Pied-de-Vent. The owner is a deep-sea diver, so you’ll enjoy tales and photos of underwater adventures while you dine.