Gaspesie Must Do: Rocher Percé and Bonaventure Island
As promised in my Gaspesie summary post, I plan on breaking up some of the experiences from our recent trip into multiple blog posts. I am starting off with the boat ride we took around Rocher Perce (Perce Rock) and to Bonaventure island. Once on the island, a short hike it all it took to be completely immersed in a colony of 100,000 Northern Gannetts.
We had spent the previous night camping on the Beach in Bonaventure, so after breaking down camp we drove to Perce, Quebec. It was about a 2 hour drive, which would have been easy if it wasn’t for two little kids. Luckily Gaspesie has a great deal of municipal rest stops along the way with public bathrooms, picnic areas, and frequently, lovely playgrounds.
I wasn’t prepared for how massive and incredible Rocher Perce is. As we came around a bend in the road we suddenly caught sight of the massive rock. It was jaw dropping. Pictures cannot do it justice. It rises out of the ocean 289 feet at its highest point with a 49 foot arch piercing its side.
Many of the local hotels and campgrounds have views of the rock, but we chose to stay at the Camping De La Baie De Perce so we could be in town and have easy access to the Geoparc trails and indoor attractions if it rained.
The campground is within walking distance of the primary tourist attractions including the touristic dock. This would be very useful in the height of tourist season when parking may be difficult or expensive.
We arrived in Perce about twenty minutes before one of the tour boats was set to leave. Two tour companies serve the Island. I picked the one that had the next boat in the schedule. I was told that they are generally good at working with each other to make sure everyone has a great experience and that they aren’t undercutting each other. Our tickets cost $35 per adult and our children were free (because they are under 5 years old).
Both my kids were very excited about the boat ride but were a little nervous about getting out on the decks. My husband and I took turns to go outside and observe the sights.
The tour starts with an up close view of the Rocher on both sides. It’s even more intimidating up close. Sheer cliffs of crumbling limestone do not make me want to go up to the base of the rock (despite the numerous fossils).
After the Rocher the boat toured the perimeter of Bonaventure Island. Like the Rocher, the island has soaring cliffs. It was amazing to see birds nesting in every nook and cranny on the cliffside. The star of the show may be the Northern Gannetts, but the variety made it more interesting. We even saw a few seals in the water.
As we planned to disembark on the Island, I had purchased my Parc national du Rocher Percé and isle Bonaventure access tickets on the mainland. If you don’t, you are made to pay at the gate after a brief orientation on the Island. It saves a few minutes.
The island has four trails across it and along the perimeter. The easiest trail (Les Colonies) is easy enough to travel with the stroller.
The best service the park offered was free stroller rental. My husband was able to go for a run while I pushed both kids up the stroller friendly trail. Note: stroller friendly trail is hard work with 75 lbs of kids in front of you.
And we got to see the birds. It’s the world’s largest accessible colony of Fou De Bassand (Northern Gannetts) and they were everywhere. The park even had observation towers and blinds of sorts to be able to view them. They make a racket. If you view the video I made be aware that it gets really loud very suddenly!
I was amazed, my kids were amazed. We probably spent an hour eating our picnic and observing the birds. We even saw a couple tiny newborn birds (less than a week old – they look like tiny gray rocks). Then we headed back along the easy trail. I may have amazed myself with what I had managed to push the stroller up.
We had a little time to spend visiting some of the historic buildings still on the island. The exhibits demonstrated what it was like to be a cod fisherman back in the day. Hard work with big rewards!
After a quick trip to the gift shop (my daughter just had to get her own Fou De Bassant to show her friends). We hopped back on a boat to head directly to the mainland. We then checked out the exhibits they have in the Mainland portion of the Parc National. Certainly worth learning more about the birds, whales in the area and the history of the place.
Of course if you are in Perce, you need to spend some time at the beach to understand the absolute wonders of the geology of the place.
Perce is a lovely little town and probably the touristic gem of the region. Although I’m a native French speaker I’m convinced we would have had no problems communicating with merchants if we only spoke English.
I have made a short video of the experience on the boat and the island. It can be viewed here.
I’ve also uploaded a few pictures on my SometimesSporty Facebook Page. Look for the album called Gaspesie 2017.