Eastern Canada’s Little Known Island Destination

I spent a Family Island Hack Islands and Prince Edward Island, Canada. I have extended family in Nova Scotia Canada and driving my own vehicle with my father to Nova Scotia from Southern Ontario, we had a chance to take a little diversion on our way back.

The Magdalen islands, also known as “isles de la Madelaine” are a part of the province of Quebec and are probably one of the best kept secrets in eastern Canada. Located about 100km north of Prince Edward island in the mouth of the St Lawrence and comprised of 9 main islands making up roughly 200 square kilometers of land, the islands are relatively small. Most people would never notice them on a map or on a globe and they arent over developed or over populated like you may think based on their size. The best time to visit the islands is in the warm summer months to fall, ocean temperatures peak around early August. Considering that the islands are quite far north the mid summer is the best time for aquatic activities but bare in mind the fall is very mild and runs late.

The Magdalen Islands are rugged and quaint at the same time. A stunning mix of rocky hills, sloaps and cliffs, perfectly white sand dunes and beaches contrasting with red clay and deep ocean blues. Antique looking fishing houses of every color dot the landscape, many perched on the hills overlooking the main city of Grindstone (Cap Aux Meules). There is definitely no place like this in Canada, you will know it when you arrive!

The best way to access the islands are by ferry this way you get a real voyage feel to your trip and it only takes about 5 hours from eastern Prince Edward Island. If you have never been far by boat or ship and have never been to PEI, this is definitely the way to go. There is also an airport in the central town of “Havre-aux-Maisons” this tends to work well for less adventurous travellers and I would imagine (as I took the ferry) that the view would be nothing short of amazing.

Once you get to the islands you will almost immediately begin to feel a bit more relaxed, a bit more laid back- these islands will do that. I recommend spending a bit of time around the main town of grindstone (cap aux meules), there are lots of pubs and great seafood restaurants as well as museums and antique shops. From here I would suggest that you take highway 199 south to Ile du Havre Aubert at the south east end of the island chain, you can loop around whats known as the basin of the islands. Here is interesting terrain with surprisingly large pine forests, hills and stunning views. From this point you can take highway 199 (which is the only hiway in the islands and links almost everything) north back past grindstone and along the dunes of the central part of the islands. This is probably the most breath taking part of the island chain, its like driving along a giant sand dune in the middle of the ocean- simply amazing! Keep going north till you reach the remote northern islands and pointe de L’est National Wild Life Area, you will notice trees, giant cliffs and hills, rock peaks and beautiful ocean vistas. Loop down to the English speaking town of “Grand Entree” for a bite to eat at an authentic seafood restaurant and then you can make your way back up and then down to grindstone. The loop trip from one end of the islands to the other and back to grindstone takes less than a few hours.

Some interesting facts are that Jaques Cartier was the first European to visit the islands in 1534. Many people living on the islands are descendants of the over 400 shipwrecks in its history and the islands are home to some of Quebecs oldest settlements. The northern section of the islands is mainly English and the more populated central to southern section is primarily French.

The Magdalen islands are home to the best wind surfing, kite surfing and sailing in Canada. The islands are also renowned for great mountain biking, hiking and atving. Swimming is great in the summer months and for something completely new and different try kite boarding on the dunes or take a ride in a dune buggy!

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