The Magdalen Islands. 300 kilometers of beaches, red cliffs, fields of purple lupine flowers, lobster galore and the Magdalen Islanders we love.
Getting to the Magdalen Islands
By ferry to the Islands
You can reach the Magdalen Islands by sea or by air. The first method requires some preliminary steps because in order to get to Souris, where the ferry departs, you have to go through New Brunswick and of course Prince Edward Island. These provinces have set conditions for entry into their territory during a pandemic, whether you are on foot, by bicycle or by car. It takes about 12 hours by car from Montreal to get to Souris.
You must book your spot on the ferry to the Magdalen Islands and the sooner the better. It costs between $28.60 and $56.80 per one-way trip during the high season, depending on age. In addition, the cost of the vehicle varies according to its length. A bike will cost $20, a car $105.90. The rates are here.
As for the cruises, at the time of writing, they had not resumed their services.
By plane to the Islands
I flew with Air Canada on a DH-4 (Havilland Dash-8 400). One of the smallest in the company’s fleet. A propeller plane with 78 seats. The flight to the Islands takes about two hours.
I bought the tickets in December and paid for them with my AIR MILES Dreams at 1,190 miles and $123 tax each. I earned them with my BMO® AIR MILES® World Elite®* Mastercard®*.
I also spoke to other members, including Audreyanne, who used her Aeroplan points: 15,000 Aeroplan points and $86 in taxes per person. This is convenient when points were easily earned with one of the Aeroplan credit cards.
Pascan Aviation also offers the service.
Both companies charge between $700 and $900 in high season to take you to the Magdalen Islands if you don’t plan ahead. You will have to use the travel points of one of these credit cards.
On the Magdalen Islands
Instead, I thought I’d tell you about some of my favourites and opinions so that you can have a great vacation in the Magdalen Islands. Thanks to Caroline P. and Audreyanne P. C. who also gave me their opinions.
Don’t expect to find a good place to stay, sit in a restaurant or rent a car between June and September if you haven’t booked in advance. Unless you get lucky while camping. The Magdalen Islands are still small. Bookings for 2022 are already in full swing.
So we had made the agreements for the accommodation and the car in December 2020. And we had booked our meals at most of the restaurants before we even flew in July 2021. Please note that services vary between 1 hour and 2.5 hours for the meal depending on the location and whether it is for lunch or dinner.
We have seen several people who have had to turn back at simple coffee shops. However, one can turn to grocery stores or take-out. But you know, when it’s raining like crazy, a good homemade soup in a nice café, with some Norah Jones music, makes the trip more enjoyable.
Our favourites in the Magdalen Islands
Some places and products stand out in the Magdalen Islands. Others are, in my opinion, more of a tourist trap.
The Resto Quai 360
It is a place to celebrate something or someone, to have dinner with friends and family if the children are able to enjoy it. The seared scallops and lobster, fennel and bisque risotto tasted like heaven. For a hundred dollars with cocktail and wine.
The Resto Gourmande de nature, run by the former chef-owner of the renowned Table des Roy. It offers something for everyone, including vegan meals to take away or eat in. Let’s remember that the lunches allow us to enjoy the places and the flavours at a lower cost than the dinners.
For example, you could use the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card to pay your bill, which offers 5 points per dollar at restaurants.
For those cravings and takeaways in the Islands
The products of the Pied-de-Vent Cheese Factory from the Magdalen Islands stand out according to Caroline and Audreyanne who were there with their families. We can go and taste our find at the seaside under the tenderized look of the cows which graze.
The cannolis of the goat cheese factory Les Biquettes à l’air.
ALL the pastries from Hélène des îles
The seawater beer “Cale Sèche” drunk at the Café de la Grave as well as the lentil soup and the seafood pot which comforted us during this rainy day.
In the evening: the microbrewery À l’Abri de la tempête, whose beers are succulent. You can go and admire the sunset on the beach and see a wreck.
Activities in the islands
Outdoor activities in the Magdalen Islands can be booked according to the weather forecast a few days in advance. We did it for a cruise.
However, indoor events such as the popular shows at the Resto-Bar Aux pas perdus sell out well in advance.
However, here are the indoor tours that remain accessible:
Let’s not forget…
- harvours. From where fishermen, cruisers and ferries depart and arrive. It’s got action, I love it. The little street on the wharf that leads to the port of Havre-aux-Maisons has some nice shops and a bakery that you’re ready to line up for.
- the Anse à la Cabane lighthouse to see the seals.
- Anse-aux-Baleiniers Park in Fatima. (playground with inflatable trampoline, toilets, picnic areas).
- the purchase of a kite for example at the shop “Au Gré du Vent”.
- the Côte de demoiselles on foot or halfway by car for a great view.
And finally, kayaking and kite surfing, the latter a must with the wind on the Magdalen Islands. However, if you are a beginner, you should allow two days to learn how to control the beast.
The beaches of the Magdalen Islands
All beaches are nice.
Sandy Hook or Bout du Banc beach on Havre-Aubert Island. This is where the sandcastle competition takes place in August, attracting over 10,000 visitors. It is 12 km long. White sand as far as the eye can see. But be careful on the way there, the road is bumpy.
The beaches of the North, West and South Dunes are equally inviting. The latter is known for its red clay cliffs and caves dug by the sea. It is 22 km long. It is a sort of icon of the Magdalen Islands.
And one of the most beautiful: the Grande Échouerie, Named after the many seals that used to come here to rest (échouer, in French).
The "Madelinots", Magdalen Islanders
I’m going to tell you two little stories that made me join the Madelinots fan club. And thumbs up for the Sherbrooker!
- Each boat captain owns 273 lobster cages in the Magdalen Islands. No more, no less. The decision was made in a collegial manner after it became clear that the number of catches had to be reduced to ensure the long-term survival of the business. Lobster fishers did not take into account the age of the fishing licence to allocate more or fewer cages. They agreed to decrease the number of cages each year until all of them reached the target of 273. They made it this year. Bravo for this solidarity.
- During our vacation week, we hit a pothole that unhooked the mud flap of the rented car. It makes a hell of a noise in the seconds that follow. We pull the car over to the side of the road. Within 5 minutes, a Sherbrooke resident and two Magdalen Islanders stopped to lend us a hand. A piece of string here, a piece of rope there, the men reattach the part, we go back to the house and call the rental company who takes care of the rest. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
So much for my little stories.
"Not so good" decisions
Like everywhere else, there are some. Not so much, but you might as well know.
- The lobster guédille at $14. No, thank you. Didn’t taste like much. This is the recipe I was expecting.
- The nine-inch seafood pizza for $30. It wasn’t worth the cost or the effort but others liked it. Too much dough for me.
- The services of an unnamed popular inn. Lack of soundproofing in the rooms, uncomfortable mattresses, acceptable food, nothing more, and lack of activities when it rains. Caroline said she was disappointed.
- The sea museum with its queue and the absence of guides.
With the many opportunities to use our points and miles in the Magdalen Islands, the dream can become reality. Take the time to book in advance and enjoy all that the Magdalen Islands have to offer.
When to go to the Magdalen Islands?
Temperatures are quickly cool outside of summer. The most clement period is between June and September with maximum temperatures of up to 22 degrees. The water in the sea rises to 18 degrees in August.
What hotels are available in the Magdalen Islands?
No large group hotels such as the Marriott chain are available on the Islands but rather a variety of motels, cottages, maisonettes, inns and lodges. It is suggested to book early, at least 6 months in advance.