AirSprint | Les Iles de la Madeleine

Jewels Of The Gulf

Kissed by the sea and caressed by Maritime winds, les Îles de la Madeleine are one of Canada's most unforgettable destination experiences.

Looking to get away to the islands?

You don’t have to leave Canada for a taste of authentic maritime living. Tucked away in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence lies a tiny archipelago that offers one of North America’s most unique destination experiences.

By Lisa Gordon

Les Îles de la Madeleine – known in English as The Magdalen Islands – are composed of eight main islands (seven are inhabited) totalling just over 200 square kilometres of land mass. Richly imbued with maritime culture, “The Maggies” are technically part of Quebec, although they are located closer to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. They are accessible by air via Îles de la Madeleine Airport or by ferry from PEI. 

The sea shapes these islands and the lives of the Madelinots, the roughly 12,500 locals who call this place home. It truly is a restful paradise, featuring more than 300 kilometres of white sand beaches juxtaposed against red sandstone cliffs. Picturesque lighthouses dot the landscape, six of which are open to the public. 

Whether your family has owned a cottage in the Magdalen Islands for generations or you’re planning your first visit, the Magdalen Islands have a lot to offer when it comes to nature, cuisine and culture.

If you’re looking for active, unforgettable experiences, The Maggies offer some of the world’s best kitesurfing, hydrofoil and wingfoil packages. Swim and kayak in centuries-old sea caves and grottos, ride a horse along a breathtaking beach, or rent a bicycle or e-bike and set off to explore the islands. Route 199 – the main road traversing the archipelago – is only 85 kilometres long! If marine life is your thing, try swimming with the seals and other sea creatures, or visit in early March when the harp seals flock to the ice floes around the islands to birth their young. 

There are things to do year-round. From May through June, you can find the islands’ freshest lobster rolls. The high season in the Magdalen Islands runs through July and August. After a busy day on the water, visitors can sit back to enjoy fresh lobster, as well as other seafood and fish. The islands are known for offering a palette of unique tastes, including local cheeses, smoked fish, microbrews and artisanal wines. With so much to offer, it’s no surprise that these islands have long been known as Quebec’s maritime playground! 

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the Magdalen Islands is that each island has its own unique culture, handed down from the earliest inhabitants and carefully preserved to this day. 

Grosse-Île, for instance, is inhabited mostly by English-speaking Madelinots of Scottish ancestry. Known as Quebec’s lobster capital since 1994, Grande-Entrée is home to more than 100 lobster boats and a vibrant fishing culture. Pointe-aux-Loups has only about 50 houses set amidst a spectacular sandy oasis, while the treeless Havre aux Maisons features red cliffs and colourfully painted homes. Cap aux Meules is the second-largest island and home to the greatest number of Madelinots, with a more urbanized flair. The first Acadians in the region settled on Havre-Aubert – the most forested island in the archipelago – and it retains their distinct culture. Finally, tiny Entry Island, with its population of 100, is accessible only via ferry. The eighth island, Île Brion, has been an uninhabited ecological reserve since 1988. 

Whether you’re there to sample the unique experiences, the tasty local cuisine or the distinctive culture, the Magdalen Islands are Canada’s best-kept seaside secret. These jewels in the Gulf of St. Lawrence might be tiny, but they’ll loom large in your memory of unforgettable vacations. Best of all, they’re right here at home. 

Discover an elevated experience with AirSprint.

Photos courtesy of Tourisme Îles de la Madeleine.

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