Sept-Iles, QC, Canada

Almost 400 miles northeast of Quebec City, Sept-Iles stands proud in the Côte-Nord region, where roads are scarce. It looks over the St. Lawrence River as it widens into the mighty Gulf of St. Lawrence.

While this corner of Canada may be better known for its endless landscapes of forests, lakes and mountains, there are in fact long stretches of sandy beach mere minutes from the center of town.

Early inhabitants here were the Innu people, who still reside in the area, and you can visit the Uashat region, whose name simply means bay. The Musée Shaputan offers an excellent insight into Innu nomadic culture, and the circular hall features four sections to represent each season, with examples of traditional dress and sculpture, as well as mythology.

Le Vieux Poste offers another glimpse into the past, in this instance a snapshot of life on a seventeenth-century fur-trading post, where the earliest French-speaking arrivals first encountered native hunters.

When these Europeans arrived, they named the place after the seven isles making up a small archipelago just offshore. Two of these are now bird sanctuaries, where razorbills, Atlantic puffins, auks and black guillemots are among the residents and regular visitors. Ile du Corossol in particular is one of the most important in Eastern Canada, due to the sheer diversity of species present there.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence is also a place to spot the ocean’s great mammals; where these waters once attracted hunters, they now attract visitors keen to set eyes on minke, humpback and killer whales, which are among the 13 common species spotted here.

Another place to head out on the water is the nearby Lac des Rapides. The surface of this serene lake often reflects the dark green pine forests and curved hills around its shores, creating a magnificent backdrop for kayaking, canoeing and cycling.