Food and Drink in Gaspe
Of course you can get a nice, gooey dish of poutine; the signature Quebecoise dish of cheese curds and fries smothered in gravy is a staple at roadside food stalls and nearly every sit-down restaurant offers its own take. You also won't go wrong with the fresh local seafood. Locals recommend the mixed platter (typically fried) so you can sample it all; lobster, shrimp, crab and halibut are the usual suspects. In town, most of the action is centered on or around Rue de la Reine, the main drag in Gaspe. There aren't tons of choices in this small town, but what's here isn't bad. The village of Perce also has a few small cafes (lobster rolls and hamburgers are menu mainstays), located close to the ferry dock and near the spot where shore excursion buses park.
Brulerie Cafe des Artistes: Cold beer, whimsical art and a local following make Brulerie Cafe des Artistes a fun place to grab lunch in downtown Gaspe. An outdoor balcony overlooks the water here, where food is on the lighter side (or so it will seem if you've been cruising!), including salads, sandwiches and wraps. Desserts are made in-house, and nearly everyone (of appropriate age) orders a Pit-Caribou La Gaspesienne, a locally brewed porter. Bonus: free Wi-Fi. (135 Rue de la Reine, Gaspe, 418-368-3366; open daily from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.)
Bistro Le Brise-Bise: Shrimp poutine and maple syrup pie, oh my! Those, and the reasonable prices, will make you a fan of Bistro Le Brise-Bise. The main floor is home to a casual restaurant, while the basement is pub style. Either way you go, the menu will make you happy featuring French standards (think bouillabaisse and escargot) along with crowd-pleasers like fish-and-chips and heaping piles of mussels steamed in fragrant broth. Just try to get out of here without at least sharing a piece of maple syrup pie. (If not now, when?) (135 Rue de la Reine, Gaspe, 418-368-1456; open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.)
Don't Miss in Gaspe
Forillon National Park: Set at the tip of the Gaspe Peninsula, this is a wonderland of seascapes, cliffs, mountains and unusual rock formations. Set within the territory of the town of Gaspe, the park covers 94 square miles with 90 miles of saltwater coastline. Nine hiking trails lead to enchanting vistas and offer their own wild beauty; some of these are part of the IAT (International Appalachian Trail) that runs from Forillon National Park to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
Perce and Perce Rock: A twisty, 60-mile road with glimpses of bright blue bay leads to the fishing village of Perce (population 3,000), home to a collection of small shops and restaurants. Here, you can board a ferry for strikingly pretty Perce Rock, a monolith made of 5 million tons of limestone. Measuring about 1,420 feet long, 295 feet wide and 288 feet at its highest point, it is one of the largest natural arches in the world.
Bonaventure Island: Typically, the same ferry will also circumnavigate Bonaventure Island, aka I'lle-Bonaventure-et-du Rocher-Perce National Park, the largest migratory bird refuge in North America. Upon closer view, the little white specks that dot the island are Northern Gannets -- the second-largest colony of these birds in the world (up to 122,000 or so when nesting is at its peak). This ferry won't disembark the boat to explore the island, but you should be close enough to get some great shots of these large white seabirds with black-tipped wings. Also look for harbor seals; you'll see their heads bobbing nearby. For up-close sightings, find a boat that disembarks on the island and take one of the four hiking paths that take you to fantastic viewing spots.
International Appalachian Trail: Feel like doing some exploring? A hiking/biking trail begins right outside the marina and extends south about 10 miles to the beach at Haldimand. There's also a closer beach en route called Sandy Beach. The folks at the cruise port welcome desk have maps and details.
Fort Prevel Golf: Prefer to hit the links? Fort Prevel Golf, located about 20 miles south of the marina, is a beautiful 18-hole course with one hole (#2) with a par 6 and gorgeous bay views. (254 Boulevard De Douglas, Saint-Georges-de-Malbaie; 413-368-2281)