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November 7, 2016
Iles de la Madeleine, intimate
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A visit to the Iles-de-la-Madeleine (Magdelein Islands) is a one-of-a-kind experience and quite different from the other Saint Lawrence ports of call. First and foremost, the majority of ships drop anchor some distance out from the port at Cap-aux-Meules. Only smaller ships such as the Pearl Mist, CTMA Vacancier, National Geographic Explorer and others can dock in port. One of the primary differences lies in the fact that the destination comprises a chain of a dozen islands, half of which are joined by sand dunes. Although they are indeed islands, it would wrong to assume that you could tour them in a matter of a few hours given that they extend over an area of more than 200 km2.
Upon arriving in port at the Iles de la Madeleine, passengers are ushered into the Welcome Pavilion where they will find a team of travel information agents poised to provide a maximum of information and guide them in their exploration of the region.
To get an overview of the islands, we recommend an organized coach tour, particularly in light of the distance involved in journeying from one island to the next. Essential island highlights include as follows:
- La Grave: On the southern tip of the chain, on the island of Havre Aubert, lies La Grave renowned for a quaint offering of boutiques, cafés and craft shops. Formerly a prized commercial fishery location, La Grave is invested with a one-of-a-kind ambience and magnificent views of the marina. The sector is also home to the Museum of the Sea and Island Aquarium.
- La Côte: Located in the village adjacent to Cap-aux-Meules, La Côte includes a central area with several restaurants, and is the point of departure for several island hiking trails. Amateur photographers will delight in the bucolic yet mysterious aura of the surrounding islandscape.
- Local specialties: The Iles de la Madeleine are renowned for the quality of their local specialties. There is a fish smokehouse, cheese factory, craft brewery, specialty farms, and an abundance of seafood, most notably island lobster. Fine food enthusiasts will want to book an epicurean type excursion.
Visitors enjoy access to a range of additional activities, all of which are intended to help them discover the charms of the Magdalen Island region. Consult the list of packages offered by your favourite cruise line or check out the offerings onsite.
Individuals who have not prebooked tour packages may enjoy a stroll into the village at Cap aux Meules. From there, we suggest you head out along the promenade leading to the scenic Sommet du Cap lookout. Located only moments on foot from the Welcome Pavilion, the coastal trail (2 km), accessible via stairs leading to the lookout, provides hikers with phenomenal views of the region. Local island beaches are also readily accessible on foot and waiting to be discovered.
If you tend to be on the active side and would like to strike out on your own, consider renting a bicycle. Just bear in mind that you will doubtless face ever present island winds on your pedal-powered journey. That said, you will discover first-hand, as nature intended, the magic of the changing islandscape with its colourful houses, many lighthouses and red-coloured sand dunes. If you would prefer to get around by car or taxi, be certain to book ahead to maximize your island visit.