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November 17, 2011
Havre Saint-Pierre: A wealth of treasures waiting to be discovered
Although this port of call bears the name of the region’s main community, Havre Saint-Pierre, this stopover provides access to some ten or so villages spread out along 360 kilometres of coastline. Founded just over 150 years ago by settlers from Îles de la Madeleine, Havre Saint-Pierre is well known for attributes such as the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve of Canada and the latter’s interpretive centre.
Attracted by the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, home to the largest concentration of erosion monoliths in Canada, visitors are quickly charmed by the genuinely warm and welcoming ways of the regional inhabitants. Geographically situated at a point on Québec's north shore where the paved highway comes to an end, the region quickly leaves one with the sensation of being at the far end of the earth. Summer nights are short, with the long hours of sunshine creating an almost supernatural backdrop. Add a dazzling display of the northern lights (aurora borealis) against a star-studded sky and suddenly one's journey enters the realm of the extraordinary!
To fully appreciate the treasures of the region, its historic sties and the immensity of nature untouched, several stops along the coast are absolute musts. They include as follows:
- Galets de Natashquan: On this peninsula are found 12 of the 23 original buildings which house stores and shops built almost 150 years ago. At the time, these buildings were used to process fish and maintain fishing gear. They have since been classified as cultural properties given their heritage significance. It is here where the cod was salted and dried, and then loaded onto ships for transport over long distances to market.
- Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan : Founded in 1849 by Gaspesian fishers, this point of land sports vast stretches of sandy beach. The wooden boardwalk is the perfect land venue for observing whales and marine birds. Also located close by are the Mingan Research and Interpretive Centre, Mingan Islands Research Station, and Centre for Ornithology.
- Roland Jomphe Cultural Centre: This former Labrador Stores affiliate, a general store operated by the Clark family, was built in 1943. The Hudson’s Bay Company took it over in 1963 and used the building for commercial purposes through to 1969. Now dubbed the Roland Jomphe Cultural Centre, the building is a jewel of Acadian heritage. The centre’s permanent exhibition showcases the other side of the Acadian story with numerous objects and photographs relating the various stages in the history of Havre Saint Pierre. The centre was recently renovated to provide for enhanced visitor access to facilities.
The port has been welcoming cruise ships since 2004 and in 2011 posted a total of five stopovers. The year 2012 would appear equally promising. Cruiseshippers leaving Havre Saint-Pierre will long remember the warm, Acadian-style welcome. A tour of this dynamic community allows visitors to take the pulse of the region as they discover the wonders of the regional coastline. One of the region’s key attributes is the diversity of local products such as seafood and a local berry known as chicoutai which can be enjoyed in a number of ways. This small acidulous berry grows mainly in the peat bogs and forests of the North Shore region. Food lovers simply rave over it! With heartwarming memories brimming to overflowing, visitors bid farewell to their Acadian hosts, taking with them local delights such as chicoutai (cloudberry) jam to enjoy upon their return home as they recall to mind the fabulous coastal scenery in and around Havre Saint-Pierre.