An incredible trip to maritime Quebec

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Natural wonders fill Parc national De L’ile-Bonaventure-Et-Du-Rocher Percé, Parc national De Miguasha and Parc national Forillon

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My hotel room was comfortable, but I didn’t sleep long on my first night in Percé, Quebec. I got up early to watch the sun rise over the iconic Percé Rock.

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Rising dramatically out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, this huge vaulted stone sits right on the windswept coastline.

It has become the symbol of maritime Quebec and a permanent reminder that the Gasp̩ is unlike any other place on the planet. It is a region filled with natural wonders Рbeaches, forests, mountains, cliffs, wildlife and birds Рso many birds. You could spend a lifetime exploring, but if you only have a few days, check out these three amazing parks.

BONAVENTURE-ET-DU-ROCHER PERCÉ NATIONAL PARK

In French, “Rocher Percé” means “pierced rock”. The name refers to the 15 meter high and 30 meter wide arch located at the sea end of this massive stone monolith.

Formerly connected to the mainland, the Percé rock alone measures 433 meters long, 90 meters wide and 88 meters high.

As well as serving as a symbol for the region, the limestone rock is home to many species of birds and is a breeding site for cormorants and kittiwakes.

A boat trip is the best way to see Percé Rock up close and to visit nearby Bonaventure Island. Many species of birds and a variety of marine life can be observed from the boat.

At Bonaventure Island, you can hop off and hike the trails, explore historic buildings, and see birds and wildlife.

Bonaventure Island is a bird watching paradise. Over 200,000 birds nest on the 4.16 square kilometer island, including 110,000 northern gannets. Visitors can get up close and personal with the Northern Gannet Colony, which is by far the most accessible colony in the world and the real highlight of the park.

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Four hiking trails lead visitors through fields, meadows and forests to the northern gannet colony. The colony park rangers are also naturalists and can answer questions about birds and other wildlife. They also run various interpretation activities on Bonaventure Island.

If you are not a bird lover before visiting this unique park, you will be when you leave. The observation of northern gannets, emblematic animal of the park, is a fascinating experience.

MIGUASHA NATIONAL PARK

With a total area of ​​just 0.8 square kilometers, this park is the smallest in Quebec’s network of national parks, but it packs a punch. It has been recognized by UNESCO as the world’s most remarkable illustration of the Devonian period.

A 380-million-year-old fossil-rich cliff known as the Escuminac Formation is the focal point.

Visiting the cliff, which is a working fossil excavation site, is an absolute must. You can visit the cliff on your own or on a guided tour with a park interpreter. The guided experience provides more information about the geology of the area and how fossils are extracted from the site. Over 14,000 specimens of fish, plants and invertebrates have been retrieved from this site.

In the on-site Natural History Museum you will find magnificent permanent exhibits of fossils.

The museum’s most important exhibit, Origins of a Quest, contains the only fully intact specimen of Elpistostege watsoni ever found in the world. Preliminary research on this fossil fish suggests it may be the closest relative of tetrapods – legged vertebrates. Nicknamed Elpi, this fossil is a centerpiece of the evolutionary biology puzzle.

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There are kid-friendly interpretive programs and hands-on exhibits, including an outdoor sandbox where kids can pretend to be paleontologists mining fossils of Miguasha fish.

After visiting the fossil cliffs, take a walk along the 3.5-kilometer Life Evolution Interpretive Trail loop that passes through a wooded area along the top of the cliff. Interpretive panels provide information on the evolution of life on earth and the trail offers beautiful views of the Restigouche River estuary.

FORILLON NATIONAL PARK

The Mi’kmaq called the farthest point of land on the peninsula that juts out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence “Gespeg”, which means “where the land ends”.

Today, Land’s End is one of the most beautiful places in Forillon National Park – a place where the ocean view is breathtaking. The sheer cliffs of Forillon offer a breathtaking vantage point and are important habitat for tens of thousands of seabirds, including the largest colony of kittiwakes in eastern Canada.

Located in the far northeast of the Gaspé in Quebec, the 244 square kilometer park preserves a wide range of habitats.

The waters surrounding the peninsula are teeming with life and the park includes a narrow strip of marine area that runs along the coast. It is common to see seals, dolphins and whales, including endangered species like the harbor porpoise, fin whale and blue whale. Forillon offers a protected habitat to many species. Some 246 species of birds, including 125 breeding varieties, have been spotted in the park.

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Forty-three species of mammals are found in the park.

Five fascinating heritage sites within the park allow you to step back in time to the days when commercial cod fishing was the region’s main industry. At the underground fortifications of Fort Peninsula, you can visit a fully preserved WWII coastal battery and learn about the Battle of the St. Lawrence.

There is a lot to love about Forillon National Park. On my last day in Gaspé, I (watched) the sun rise over Cap Bon-Ami at the eastern end of the peninsula. It is an experience that has remained with me.

– Debbie Olsen is an award-winning writer and photographer and a national best-selling author. Follow her on wanderwoman.ca.

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