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Jul 25, 2012 08:43 AM

Gaspé trip 2012

We just toured the Gaspé peninsula and here are a few highlights of the trip

Quebec's Gaspe peninsula is huge (the complete loop of the peninsula starting/ending in Mont Joli is 1400 kilometres with around 100 villages and towns. Luckily there is a blue fork (forchette bleu) identification scheme to locate restaurants that feature locally-sourced seafood cuisine.

The "Gaspesie Gourmande" food-tourisme magazine was essential to getting the most of the trip.

Low budget delights generally are the casse-croute style fooderies offering shrimp and lobster rolls, called guidilles (guidilles aux Homard (lobster) or Crevettes (shrimp). We liked the ones in the harbours of Riviere au Renard (fishery capital of the gaspesie) and Chloridorme. La Presse newspaper had a Gaspé tourism guide in their travel section in early july and they liked the guidille au homard in Ste-Flavie.

The poissonnerie (fish store) in Riviere au Renard is amazing, and the "cup of shrimp" for $2.25 is one of the bargains of the whole trip. Forchette Blue seafood items were identified. Prices here were very good and the shrimp ultra fresh. And we didn't even have to peel a single shrimp ourselves. One product we found excellent for picnicing/travel food are packages of bite-sized pieces of smoked fish.

Lovers of Atkins seafood products at marché Jean Talon will enjoy the excellent prices at the hometown store of the company in the village of Mont St-Louis. There were several other poissonneries we didn't visit, and Mont-St-Louis has another big one that we didn't visit, having just stocked up at Atkins. .

We had some nice meals at Café de l'Anse in L'Anse au Griffon (our home base for a week) (note: Anse means cove). The best seafood soup of the trip was here. We also did tea-room snacking in the nearby historic Maison Le Boutillier.

In town of Gaspé we ate at Café des Artistes for lunch and and Brise-Bise (famous for their shrimp poutine) for supper.

After Forillion we ate supper at the Auberge International in Cap a l'Os. (Cap=Cape).

Cafeteria cuisine in the 4 national (provincial and federal) provincial parks was ok, and local micro-brew beer is available in the provincial ones.

In Percé we had lunch at restaurant on Ile Bonaventure (part of the national park located here) and an expensive supper at gaspé classique La Maison du Pêcheur.

On the Baie de Chaleur we ate a terroir supper at Ferme paquet in St-Simeon, a farm that is expanding big on the terroir farm-food-in-season movement. They offer a food boutique, transformed products, and a fancy restaurant.

In Cap Chat we ate a nice sunset seafood supper at Le Valmont. This was our first night in the Gaspé and Le Valmont did a nice job of setting a good vibe for the vacation, and is a nice full-day's drive from Montreal.

Les Jardins de Metis (aka Reford Gardens) has a tea room and fancy resto in the original mansion, and a resto in the entrance complex. The garden competition part of the Jardins also has what I think is the worlds biggest picnic table as one of the garden competition entries. Because of time constraints, we only snacked here. This is an essential not-to-be-missed stop on your tour.

In Ste-Flavie we ate supper at the "unique" Centre d'Art Marcel Gagnon which has nice sunset views and will put a big pile of shrimp on any meal for an extra 3.50.

We happened across a agro-artist festival in Shigawake. This was unique with local food and produce (including yak!). The quebec government's official tourism guide for the gaspé (available in english and french) is a good source for many of these local festivals, but keeping your eyes peeled for road side attractions and not being constrained by rigid schedules is your ticket to enjoying these sometimes not widely publicized attractions.

We picnic'ed at a number of fine beaches using assorted fresh and smoked seafood available at the many poissonneries, and useful also was an excellent (and virtually encyclopaedic) guidebook to all the gaspé beaches and shores we picked up. Also, every village had multiple picnic tables, gazebos and parks for roadside/beachside/shoreside picnicing.

Overall we found the entire gaspé region very well-developed for food tourism to go along with the truly spectacular maritime / coastal scenery. This was a great trip, and we probably shouldn't have waited 40 years since our childhood visit before finally returning this summer. It seemed more popular with europeans than the montreal crowd, since we met large numbers of europeans vacationing here. It deserves to be on Montrealers radar - and despite the long drive to arrive in the gaspé region (which officially starts at Mont Joli) it is a great foodie tourism destination.

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    1. Wow, thanks for a great report! I had family coming to visit in September and I am keen for some new ideas for short trips away! It sounds like you did a lot, may I ask how long where you in the region for?

      Thanks again!

      2 Replies
      1. re: unlaced

        um, you probably need to be aware that the Gaspé region of Quebec is really is the opposite of a "short trip" away. It is 6+ hours and 567 kilometres to Mont Joli where the Gaspé region "officially" starts (and after the bas st-laurent region ends at Rimouski) and 924 km to the town of Gaspé. Quebec is a really big place (like texas or alaska big for the american comparison) but the roads to get there are generally excellent.

        Our "gaspé gourmande" trip was 11 days in all, two days along the south shore of the st-laurence river/estuary/gulf (which is the north coast of the Gaspé peninsula) to get to our destination in l'anse au griffon, seven days in the ocean area around the Gaspé peninsula's point (for us this was roughly Grand Vallée to Percé), and three days to come back via the baie de chaleur, Matepedia valley, and the Rimouski/Ste-Flavie/Grand Metis areas.

        Good food was available in all areas (the Gaspé Gourmande magazine was an essential resource for this achievement).

        1. re: Lowe Arthorbit

          Thanks for the information, I appreciate it! I, and my visiting family, am Australian, so we are used to long distances :)

      2. great report, thanks a lot. I'm going to the Gaspe for a week at the end of August, will come in handy. A few quick questions

        Is the hard copy of the Gaspasie Gourmande easy to find in the region or should i try and pick one up in Montreal?

        Also, did you need reservations for any of the restaurants you visited?


        1 Reply
        1. re: tdiddy23

          The magazine was available sporadically in the region, but the big tourism info places usually had it. We picked up a copy beforehand. It definitely helped in the trip planning department and made the trip a much better experience overall.

          We did not have reservations, but also we were not there at the busiest time of the tourist season.

          Enjoy the trip!

        2. so i got back last week from our trip to the Gaspe. Thanks for all the tips, we ended up at a lot of the same places.

          First of all I should say we had a great time, the scenery was gorgeous. We did a backpacking trip through parts of Parc Gaspasie, and spent a few days in Forillon, also stopped in Redford gardens and parc du bic. These are really wonderful parks, not overcrowded, with lots of wildlife (got right up close with a herd of caribou, and a little too close for comfort with a black bear).

          In terms of food, our experience was not so positive. Highlights included the stop at Atkins. There were several other poisonnaries, that did smoked fish well also. The smoked salmon in the region is really amazing. The local microbrew, petit caribou, was fantastic, as were a few local jams available at IGA there. Cafe des Artists makes great coffee.
          In parc Gaspasie we tried the restaurant in gite du Mont-Albert (the one you see in all the SEPAQ adds). Local products were nice, not really put together well, desserts dreadful. Best wine list of the trip. We ate at Café de l'Anse, was probably my favourite restaurant in the region, honest cooking with local produce, what more restaurants in the region should have been like. In Gaspe we tried to dine in a few restaurants mentioned in the Gaspe Gourmande journal, however, they were either empty of closed (on a friday night). So we ended up in Brise-Bise, the poutine was good, the rest of the meal was fairly dreadful. Dined in Maison du pecher, at the recommendation of our inn (and just about every guidebook), it seemed well past its prime. They have an extensive menu, including pizza and pasta!? (as did most restaurants in Gaspe, does anyone have an explanation for this?) Perhaps they should cut down their menu and focus on the core dishes a bit more. The sauce they made on my main was so full of clumps it barely looked edible. On the way home we stopped for lunch at Restaurant de l'Auberge La Coulée Douce, had a nice fish soup, a bland shrimp salad and a good sugar pie. A few other places that didn't really stand out good/bad (i'll add them if i can remember)

          I was disappointed with gaspasie gourmande. When you look at the magazine, it all seems very impressive, akin to the flavour trial in Charlevoix, but the experience does not match it. I think partly it is a factor of the vast distances between the locations. Many places were closed despite the hours listed in GG. Also, there are too many restaurants that probably should not be included. I’m sure we missed a few better places, perhaps if they had shortened their list so its not so hit/miss it would make the guide more useful.

          Overall, the restaurants simply were not impressive. We've been to many other martime travel destinations, including Brittany, Amalfi, Maine, Nova Scotia, Vancouver island etc, and honestly I would have to say that Gaspe is very near the bottom in term of dining. I guess this is probably a factor of the relatively small population density. Still, I would think that there would be a market for at least 1 proper high end restaurant where they can actually prepare the excellent seafood available in the region. Or atleast more places like Café de l’anse. Based on our trip, I would not recommend the Gaspe as a food destination, especially considering the travel time from Montreal. Definitely go for the scenery and outdoors, just don’t set your hopes too high for dining.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tdiddy23

            I also went in Gaspesie this august. There's one place I really enjoyed, in Carleton, bistro Pic-Assiette. Aside from Atkins also, whose products I discovered at Pic assiette. For the rest, I was also dissapointed.