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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Road Trip Along Quebec’s North Shore: What’s to Do in Natashquan?

Des Galets, Natashquan
Photo by Kate Tompkins
Natashquan may be a small town, but it has a very good tourist office (I think it’s run by the municipality rather than being a provincial government facility). They have lots of brochures and the lady behind the desk is very happy to tell you what’s going on, albeit in French only. They also have wifi access, if you’re looking to get caught up with the outside world.

There are at least three historic sites with guided visits so it’s a good idea to check in with the office to see when they are actually open. One building had a musician/story teller, one was an old schoolhouse, and the one we managed to fit into our schedule (we had to drive to Kegaska and the end of the road, after all!) was the former general store and shrine to locally born Quebec folk singer Gilles Vigneault. While I didn’t personally find the short documentary on his life interesting, I did enjoy looking around the store/post office, which had lots of information on how people used to live. Seems the main sources of income were to be cod fishing and berry picking, the results of which would be sold to the store in exchange for groceries and other supplies. We saw people out berrying along the roadside on the way to Kegaska.

What I didn’t see on offer, and had hoped to find, was 4x4 tours into the bush. There is apparently a hiking trail along the river, if you want to try your own trek into the woods, but at 16 kilometres one way, we weren’t particularly tempted, especially after one of the locals said they’d been on it the other day and the bugs were really bad.

Besides being the (former) end of the road, Natashquan is probably most famous for “des Galets,” a group of old fishing shacks built on a large rocky area jutting out from the beach. They used to be used for processing cod. Now they’re an official historic site which you can wander around (you can’t enter the buildings). Do take your camera, they’re quite picturesque. There are a few plaques at the site explaining their historical significance.

Speaking of the beach, it’s beautiful for walking on. We needed jackets the day we were there (late in August) so I don’t know how it is for sunbathing or swimming. Like most of the North Shore, there were very few shells to be seen, though holes in the sand indicated the presence of clams.

There’s one restaurant on the beach, and another plus a café somewhere in town, but don’t count on them for meals, especially in the off season. I never saw the restaurant in town open. We did eat at the one on the beach (I recommend it) but it was the last week it was going to be open that year. However, as long as you have access to a barbeque or a microwave, the grocery store is well-stocked.


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