Gaspe, QC, Canada

Welcome to the 'cradle of French America'. As you cruise into Gaspé, you’ll see Perce Rock, one of the largest natural arches in the world. It rises from the Gulf of St. Lawrence in superb splendor.

To think that the simple battering of the waves created the Perce Rock masterpiece. Spanning 48 feet at its center, this is the metaphorical and physical gateway to your exploration of Canada.

The area enjoys worldwide fame for its bird colonies and the island of Bonaventure houses a huge colony of Northern gannets. Do not forget to bring your binoculars when you visit this area of such outstanding natural beauty. The sight of 120,000 sea birds will live in your memory forever.

When you touch dry land, the Welcome Pavilion provides spectacular views of both the stunning coastline and downtown Gaspésie. Historically a small fishing village, the town has developed into an important tourist destination though sea fishing is still important to the economy.

The area falls within Forillon National Park. The park’s stunning, steep cliffs provide shelter for thousands of sea birds while the coastal shores are a haven for seal colonies. If relaxation is on your agenda, the beaches are sandy and the sea is the warmest in the area, so you can at least get your feet wet if you are not brave enough for a bracing swim. For those who prefer to stretch their legs, the park offers hiking trails of varying duration and difficulty. Most are board-walked and a stroll to ‘La Chute’ only takes 30 minutes. Winding through peaceful woodlands to a little valley, it culminates in a breathtakingly beautiful 57 foot high waterfall.

The region’s museum, ‘Musée de la Gaspésie’ offers a fascinating introduction to the history, art, heritage and culture of the province and its people. There are seasonal changes to the exhibits to ensure the experience is fresh and stimulating. The building itself is a spectacle – with a facade of wood and glass the massive structure sits in perfect harmony with its verdant surroundings.

Local cuisine

From the very tip of the peninsular the region offers an impressive variety of restaurants. Many specialize in seafood, which is not surprising given its fishing heritage. Guidilles –shrimp and lobster rolls – and dressed white crabs are local specialties. There is a blue fork (fourchette bleu) identification scheme to help you locate restaurants specializing in locally sourced seafood. The scheme was set up to support sustainability and variety in local fish stocks and has been in operation since 2009.

Food in the wider Quebec area is strongly influenced by French, Irish and some traditional Aboriginal foods so if you do not fancy fish then try the Poutine. This is a typical dish of French fries topped with curd cheeses and covered in gravy – it may sound strange but it is delicious.