Havre St Pierre is one of the most magical destinations on the north shore of Quebec. Here’s everything you need to know before you visit.
Imagine a colorful town looking out onto the vast waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. A place where whales frolic right off the shores and a series of islands laden with some of the most jaw-dropping landscapes and mesmerizing wildlife lie just a short boat ride away.
For over a decade, my wife, Christina, and I have been trying to visit the town of Havre St. Pierre. Our first attempt came in 2012. Our eldest son, C, was two, and Christina was eight months pregnant with our younger boy, D, when a mechanical issue caused us to miss this remote destination on our way to visit Perce Rock and Bonaventure Island in Gaspesie.
Two more times, we tried to visit. One trip was shelved when health issues struck a loved one, the other was canceled due to the pandemic in 2020 when we almost didn’t make it home from Egypt.
Finally, in 2022, when our kids were 8 & 11, we finally had our chance to visit. After a road trip from Halifax, Nova Scotia, through Gaspesie National Park, and across the St. Lawrence River, we arrived in Havre St. Pierre for four days of hiking, bird watching, camping, and whale watching.
About Havre St Pierre, Quebec
Havre St. Pierre is the launching point for some of the greatest landscapes and adventures in the province of Quebec. This quaint town sits near the abrupt end of the scenic, waterfall-lined RTE 138 that winds its way along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City to the Kegaska Island ferry terminal near Labrador.
For most visitors, Havre St. Pierre is best known as the muster point for Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve adventures. This enchanting collection of over 40 islands invites visitors to experience fascinating rock monoliths, endangered flora and fauna, spectacular seabirds, glorious hikes, and more whales and porpoises than most people can imagine.
The town has grown from a mix of Indigenous Innu peoples, Acadians, and Quebecers drawn to the picturesque shore, spectacular fishing, and endless outdoors that Quebec’s Cote Nord offers. The ample outdoors and sea access means that Havre St. Pierre is a paradise for foodies, road trippers, and outdoor lovers alike.
How To Get To Havre St. Pierre
Getting to Havre St Pierre and the Mingan Archipelago requires some commitment. This remote community is just 300 km west of where the easternmost highway on Quebec’s Cote Nord suddenly ends. In fact, it’s an epic ten-and-a-half-hour drive from Quebec City.
The route from Quebec City to Havre St. Pierre might not be short, but it’s one of Canada’s best road trips. The journey takes visitors along the “Whale Route” through beautiful towns such as Tadoussac and Baie Comeau.
The trip is a long one for sure, but you won’t have to worry about getting lost. The beautiful St. Lawrence River is a constant on the south side, and there are very few turns to the north off of RTE 138, once you pass Tadoussac and the Saguenay Fjord, with the exception of a few logging roads. These are for those with an adventurous spirit who might want to leave the asphalt behind to find some of the hidden waterfalls along the way.
Things To Do In Havre St Pierre
For a small town of fewer than 4,000 residents, there are a wealth of amazing things to do in Havre St. Pierre. But this shouldn’t surprise anyone who is looking into travel to this incredible region of Quebec. A quick search of your favorite social media program will turn up astounding photographs and mesmerizing videos showcasing the dramatic landscapes and drool-worthy wildlife experiences the town and surrounding region of Havre St. Pierre offers.
Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve
More than likely, if you are considering a drive to Havre St. Pierre, Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve is on your bucket list. This mind-blowing National Park in Canada consists of 20 large islands and a huge string of scenic islets that sit within easy reach of land.
Offering some of the most dramatic and magical landscapes in Eastern Canada, the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve is a must for any trip to the region. Join one of the local tours offered by Boreal Services Maritimes that jet visitors out by boat to the islands closest to Havre St. Pierre.
Some of the islands most popular among visitors to the town include Ile du Fantomes, where the morning mist parts to reveal countless stone monoliths carved out by thousands of years of ocean waves. Ile Niapiskau offers gorgeous hikes through salt marshes and ancient forests, and Grande Ile, where stunning coastal hikes are overshadowed only by the gorgeous and unique Parks Canada Oasis accommodations.
You’ll find rare planets, gorgeous birds, boardwalks, picnic shelters, hiking trails, and much more throughout the islands. For those looking for something self-propelled, there are plenty of sea kayaks and SUP tours of the islands as well.
The park is home to more islands than you can visit on a weekend. I suggest at least three days in town to explore and an additional day or two in Longue Pointe de Mingan to access the western islands, including Ile Nue de Mingan and the lighthouse and puffins on Ile aux Perroquets.
Parc National d’Anticosti
Ile Anticosti is a unique place. The island was privately owned when it was separated from the county of Saguenay back in 1902 and never had a local government until years after it was put back under government jurisdiction in 1974.
The island was used as a hunting ground for Indigenous Peoples in Quebec, including the Innu, who called it Notiskuan (“where bears are hunted”), and the Mi’kmaq, who named the island Natigosteg, which translates to “forward land.”
Parc National d’Anticosti covers nearly 600 square kilometers of land throughout the island. The park, which falls under the provincial SEPAQ park system, similar to Lac Temiscouata rather than the Parks Canada national park system, offers gorgeous white cliffs, raw canyons, and towering waterfalls.
Spend several days exploring the massive cave system, fishing for salmon, and hiking through the 125 kilometers of trails past sunbathing seals and white-tailed deer.
Innu Cultural Centre
Just a short drive from Havre St. Pierre in the town of Mingan is the Maison de la Culture Innue. The small museum and cultural experience offer a glimpse into the lives and history of the local Innu community of Ekuanitshit (Mingan).
Explore the engaging exhibits, learn about the traditions of hunting and fishing, and the importance of the local wildlife and land to the fishing, hunting, and lifestyles of the Indigenous Peoples in Eastern Quebec.
Guests will learn about the ongoing negotiations between the Innu Peoples and the Canadian Government over the Mingan Archipelago and taste traditional bannock and berries (a dish we thoroughly enjoyed in the Wendat town of Wendake in Quebec City), and talk and hear from members of the local community.
Make sure to hit the gift shop for a great selection of hand-made Innu handicrafts and souvenirs. You can check out their website here.
It doesn’t take much effort to see whales in Havre St. Pierre. My family was in town for 15-minutes before we saw three Minke whales surfacing off the shores near the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve Visitors Centre.
Join a Quebec whale watching tour or book Services Maritimes Boreal for one of their Mingan Archipelago tours, where you’ll have a chance to see the many harbour porpoises and Minke whales that spend their summers here.
We saw plenty of Minke Whales right off the Havre St. Pierre and Right Whales shores from our Oasis campsite on Grande Ile.
Make the 45-minute drive to Longue Pointe de Mingan and join Famille Loiselle Excursions. This amazing family-run tour takes visitors out to Ile Nue de Mingan, where they can explore the incredible flowerpots and monoliths lining the seashore.
But the real treat of the trip is the journey across to Ile aux Perroquets, where you’ll visit the scenic cliff-top lighthouse. On this island, you’ll be dazzled by the multitude of seabirds, including razorbill, black guillemot, and black-legged kittiwake.
But the real stars of the island are the countless puffins who return to the islands at high tide laden with tiny fish stuffed into their colorful beaks. The puffins make their nests among the rocks and in holes along the cliffs.
L’Église de Rivière-au-Tonnerre
Stunningly perched above the Gulf of St. Lawrence between Sheldrake and Magpie, this wooden church, built in the early 20th century by a team of over 300 volunteers, is a stunning sight for those making the drive to or from Havre St. Pierre.
Visitors can take a self-guided audio tour of the church at no charge or simply walk among the towering pillars and picturesque interior on their own.
Hike To Red Falls at Cap Ferre
One of the least-visited things to do in Havre St. Pierre is the hike at Cap Ferre. This beautiful waterfront hike can be accessed at the end of a long dirt road around mile marker 1,232. Here, a 5-km dirt road will lead to a small parking lot that gives you access to the 3-km waterfront trail.
Along Cap Ferre, you’ll find evidence of what the islands of the Mingan Archipelago looked like before erosion shaped the dramatic monoliths. Here you can see the ridged squares that the tides are slowly carving out as well.
Follow the water west (from the parking lot, turn right at the waterfront) past tidepools filled with crabs, starfish, and bright green algae until you reach the small but beautiful Red Falls. This idyllic waterfall might not be massive, but the bright colors make it one of the top things to see in Havre St. Pierre.
Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) Visitor Centre
Another Havre St. Pierre attraction that is located in Longue Pointe to Mingan is the Mingan Island Cetacean Study or MICS.
This whale museum is covertly located at RTE 138 and Rue de Borde de la Mer. The small museum is run by Parks Canada and features exhibits on the history of the landscapes and landscapes of the Mingan Archipelago as well as a fabulous display and video presentation focused on the marine mammals that call this part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence home.
You’ll learn all about the intense research that the program helps fund and gaze upon whale skeletons and the brilliant murals and artwork hung throughout.
I had a chance to chat with Richard Sears, who founded MICS in 1979 and learn about some of the dramatic changes that will be coming to the centre over the next few years. And it sounds like they will offer quite a bit more interactive and digital exhibits that will thrill those who love hands-on learning.
Where To Eat In Havre St. Pierre
One of the things that I recognized once I arrived in Havre St. Pierre was that this is a destination that foodies will love.
There may not be many restaurants in Havre St. Pierre, and the ones that are there tend to be quite busy in the high season, but if you find a seat, you’ll be treated to an absolutely fabulous meal. Along with these great restaurants, the town also has a few fast food joints, including a Subway and a Tim Hortons.
Chez Julie is the go-to Havre St. Pierre restaurant. Although, because there are two completely different locations, it’s easy to get confused as to which one you should visit.
The most obvious location in Havre St. Pierre is located across from the Maritime Boreal Services office near the Havre St. Pierre marina. This is actually a small coffee shop that not only serves up some of the best coffee in Havre St. Pierre. Chez Julie Cafe also sells a great selection of local treats and condiments. They even have tastings of local jams, including the signature cloudberry jam.
Chez Julie restaurant is located right behind Hotel du Havre on Rue Dulcinee. They serve a huge variety of foods, including hamburgers and pizza. But those in the know visit Chez Julie for their wildly delicious seafood dishes.
Expect dishes that are absolutely packed with lobster, fish, shrimp, and scallops. Make sure to stay for a slice of their signature cloudberry pie. This amber-colored fruit is native to the Boreal Forest and is one of the signature treats of the region.
You can find the operating hours of both Chez Julie restaurants here.
Where Restaurant Chez Julie is inconspicuously tucked away behind a hotel, Restaurant Le Promenade is situated along the picturesque waterfront of Havre St. Pierre. The location, right across from the town’s wide, sandy beach, offers a brilliant view of the nearby islands paired with an enormous selection of food, once again specializing in seafood.
You’ll find very generous portions, and their seafood pizza and lobster club sandwich are local favorites. For those looking for more standard fare, you can also find pasta, burgers, and one of the best Havre St. Pierre breakfasts as well.
You can find the menu for Restaurant Le Promenade here.
La Molle Ice Cream Shop
This small ice cream shop is located right on Bd de Escale as you get close to the waterfront. La Molle serves up a great range of ice cream flavors and features a nice outdoor terrace. You can enjoy either soft-serve or traditional ice cream.
Where To Stay In Havre St. Pierre
If you’re looking for great accommodations in Havre St. Pierre, be warned that they book up very quickly. This is a boutique destination. The town is in the process of growing the infrastructure to support the influx of visitors now that word has gotten out about all of the incredible things to do in Havre St. Pierre.
Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve
For those looking for a deeper connection to the Mingan Archipelago, Parks Canada offers a number of camping and ready-to-camp options on the Mingan Archipelago. This includes their classic oTENTik soft-sided glamping that sleeps six.
They also have incredible OASIS stilt-mounted glamping experiences on Grande Ile (which is where we stayed when we slept on the island). These beautiful and unique accommodations are small but packed with a table that converts to a bed and a hammock sleeping area for children above.
For those looking for even more adventure, you can experience wild camping on several of the islands, where you’ll be treated to epic night skies and the sounds of whales blowing their spouts off-shore.
You can find out more about Mingan Archipelago camping here.
Hotel du Havre
This was the Havre St. Pierre hotel that my family stayed at during our visit. Although the hotel is a bit dated, it’s clean, offers a small breakfast, and is located close to the marina and many of the Havre St. Pierre attractions.
Hotel du Havre is a family-run hotel with free WiFi and an in-room fridge. It’s also conveniently located right next to restaurant Chez Julie, so we were able to drag our full-bellies home after dinner.
You can check the availability of this hotel here.
This small gite located near the marina in Havre St. Pierre is a small, family-run establishment with clean rooms and comfortable amenities. The couple that runs this small hotel is known to be very friendly and can offer great tips for exploring the town and the nearby islands.
You can connect with Auberge Boreale here.
Camping du Mingan RV Rentals
If you’re planning on visiting both Havre St. Pierre and Longue Pointe de Mingan to see both ends of the archipelago, it may make sense to stay in Longue Pointe de Mingan instead of Havre St. Pierre.
La Famille Loiselle, the same family that ran our tour out to the puffins, run Camping de Mingan, which rents out well-equipped RVs and trailers perched spectacularly on the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
We absolutely loved our stay here and would have gladly stuck around for a few more days just for the relaxation and epic views. Enjoy a campfire by the water and enjoy a meal cooked right there in your trailer.
You can connect with them here.
Our Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve Video
Interested in getting a deeper look at Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve? Check out our YouTube video, where explore six of the Mingan Archipelago islands, including Ile Fantomes, Ile Quarry, Ile Nue de Mingan, Grande Ile, and Ile aux Perroquets.
Tips For Visiting Havre St. Pierre, Quebec
Havre St. Pierre blew away my family’s expectations. Our visit came mid-way through an epic three-week road trip through the Maritimes and stood out as the biggest highlight of an adventure-filled journey. We simply could not get enough of the people, the food, and the absolutely jaw-dropping views.
- Bring your own music or audiobooks – The route between Godbout and Havre St. Pierre is very remote, and there’s a good chance that there will be at least a few hours where you won’t even be able to access a radio station. We always have a few audiobooks from Audible on hand to fill in the silence.
- Prepare for the weather – Havre St. Pierre has a unique sub-Arctic climate. While the summer weather is generally pleasant, there can be quite a bit of rain, and mornings are often foggy. Make sure to pack a rain jacket (this is our favorite for women and this is our favorite for men).
- Bring binoculars – The marine wildlife is one of the biggest reasons to visit Havre St. Pierre. Make sure that you pack some binoculars so that you can get a good look.
- Book ahead – While Havre St. Pierre is remote, the word is getting out about how out-of-this-world it is. If you’re planning on visiting, make sure to book ahead of time so that you’re assured of the accommodations and tours that you’re dreaming of.
Are You Ready To Explore Havre St. Pierre?
We had an absolutely incredible time during our time in Havre St. Pierre. The town blew away our expectations and showed us that there is so much more to Havre St. Pierre than we had ever imagined. It’s a family-friendly destination with an incredible range of attractions and amazing restaurants that took us by surprise.
If you’re looking for what to do in Havre St. Pierre, Quebec, you’ll have your hands full. and that’s a good problem to have!
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Disclosure: We were guests of Quebec Maritime and Parks Canada during our visit. As always, our opinions remain our own.
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