The Saint Lawrence as an Agritourism Destination - Part 3

April 22, 2024


We’re all looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint, and opting to move away from fast tourism, to slow down and to look for authentic, local experiences is one way to do so. In our agritourism series, we explore some of the best places to visit along the Saint Lawrence River. Read how to plan a great stopover in Gaspé, Havre-Saint-Pierre or Îles-de-la-Madeleine and get ready to meet talented artisans, to taste amazing food and to enjoy fun activities. 

In this article, you will learn all about:

  • Îles-de-la-Madeleine’s traditional smokehouse
  • Gaspé’s lobster season
  • Havre-Saint-Pierre’s award-winning gin

Holy smoke!

Thinking that smoking fish is only done in Scandinavia? Think again! This craft is a long-standing tradition in Québec. Old smokehouses are still found throughout the province, and Îles-de-la-Madeleine is the perfect spot to set up such an operation. Something the owners of the Fumoir d’antan understood very early on!

This traditional smoking site has been in operation since 1942, and is considered the benchmark in the smoking of herring for Atlantic Canada.

Visitors can tour the smokehouse. Here, the herring is left to bathe, after which it is dried with smoke, a process which takes several months altogether. Want to know more about this fascinating craft? Take a walk around the Économusée and discover the history of smokehouses while marvelling at the sight of thousands of fish suspended for smoking.

Salivating yet? Wait until you taste some of the smoked and marinated produce on offer here!

Find out who caught your Gaspé lobster!

The opening of the lobster season in Gaspé has to be experienced once: there is something magical about the sight of the local residents gathering on the pier around 4 a.m. in pitch darkness to bid the fishers good luck on their maiden voyage. And while the harvesters throw their cages in the bay’s waters, celebrations continue onshore with a big communal meal. Lobster season is short, but it is serious business in Québec: it is closely regulated, and must follow strict sustainability practices designed to protect the lobster population of the Saint Lawrence River. In fact, every lobster caught in Gaspé wears a traceability tag. Enter the code on the tag and you can view a video of the captain who caught it. How neat is that!

Few will be lucky enough to visit Gaspé on the day of opening season, but while the lobster season is short, some of the most amazing seafood in Québec is available here throughout the summer months.

Visitors can take a stroll through the fish market, meet with local fishers or purchase pre-cooked lobster sustainably caught.

A taste of the North Shore

Is it possible to distill a whole region down into a single sip? Distillerie Puyjalon has managed just that with its award-winning Betchwan gin. Made with a variety of local herbs and berries, including north-coastal juniper, Labrador tea and cloudberry, this spirit smells and tastes just like the boreal forest. Mixed with a bit of coastal sea air, of course! But don’t just take our word for it. Head to Havre-Saint-Pierre for a 45-minute tour of the distillery, followed by a tasting of some of their best products, which also include local microbrews.

Distillerie Puyjalon also doubles up as a pub with a beautiful terrace, great music and a good view of the equipment used for distilling or brewing. Have a chat with the staff to learn all there is to know about Henri de Puyjalon, an explorer and scientist who even became the lighthouse keeper of Parrot Island on the Mingan Archipelago.

Each one of our nine ports of call is unique, and we are constantly amazed at how local artisans manage to create products that perfectly encapsulates the very essence of their hometown. With these unique experiences on the list, guests are bound to have a trip they’ll remember for an entire lifetime.

To continue on your agritourism journey, have a look at the next articles focussing on Montréal, Trois-Rivières & Québec City, as well as Baie-Comeau, Sept-Îles & Saguenay.

Find out more about the Cruise the Saint Lawrence sustainable development guidelines on our sustainability page.