There is a place in Canada where the red sand from the rocks washes into the ocean and deposits white sand on the beach. Where the dunes are rich in salt and there are islands without trees. Where you can feel completely at home and like you are somewhere in an exotic far-off land at the same time. Somewhere in the St. Lawrence Bay between Prince Edward Island (PEI) and Newfoundland lie the seven islands with a rich history that make up Îles de la Madeleine.
There are a few ways to get to the islands: you can take a plane, catch the ferry from PEI, or cruise from Montreal. Travelling with two little ones and wanting to explore on our own, the best option for us was the five-hour ferry from Souris, PEI.
If you are looking for a Canadian destination that is completely off the beaten path, this is your place. Whether you are visiting as a family, a couple, or solo there are endless things to see and do. Are you an adventurer, nature lover, or in need of some downtime to relax? You will find it all on Îles de la Madeleine. Fair warning though: you can’t help but fall completely in love with Îles de la Madeleine – you’ll want to go back almost as soon as you leave. The accommodations range from Hotels, Inns, Auberge, Hostels, Ready-to-Camp sites, and traditional camping. There is something for every type of traveler and every budget.
Here a little day by day breakdown of our trip.
After taking the 5-hour ferry from PEI, we arrived on Cap aux Meules, one of the seven islands that make up Îles de la Madeleine and the unofficial gateway to the islands. We took the opportunity to explore the beach at Chateau Madelinot, the hotel we were staying at, and walked the on site trails. The kids loved that they have a little farm where they could see the animals.
I’ve often heard people say the cliffs along the water reminds them of Ireland & Norway, and you can see why. We started this hike at the Lighthouse on Île du Cap aux Meules
The contrast of the beautiful red sandbanks and the blue of the ocean is beyond captivating. We started out at Cap Herisse and then made our way over to Fatima and Cap-Vert. If you are there during their annual celebration, go! It’s free to the public and had the best food! We had the best clams and mussels in all our East Coast adventure here. It was a treat for the kids as well. They had bouncy castles, sand boxes, music, and treats.
We explored three islands in one day! Île du Havre-aux-Maisons, Grosse- Île and Grand-Entrée. On our way out of Havre-aux-Maisons, we stopped by the cheese factory, bakery, and smokehouse to grab items for lunch. I highly recommend stopping here; the cheese is amazing and it’s a great do it yourself lunch.
In the afternoon we stopped at the local brewery ( À l’abri de la Tempête) in L’Étang-du-Nord. We tried their local food, including seal meat, cheese, and of course hubby got a sample of all their locally produced beers.
The beach by the brewery is lovely for a long walk, and Mr Curious was gleeful when he spotted the shipwreck.
Île du Havre-aux-Maisons is one of the islands with a treeless landscape – something that is unusual in Canada and is a little shocking to see first hand. There used to be trees on the island, but extensive logging in the 18th and 19th centuries deforested the island. We checked in to our Bubble tent accommodations at Auberge la Salicorne for the night and watched the sunset at the Grand-Entrée harbour.
We started the day off on a guided hike with the kids while the adventurous one in our family went off to explore some of the caves on the island. Swimming up to caves and then crawling/swimming through them gives me the creeps, however, the adventurous one said they were amazing!
The kids and I got to learn all about the island, and they got to see a few carnivorous plants up close. I loved that La Salicorne has English & French speaking guides/groups. Our guide Rosie was amazing with the kids. They fell in love with her. She had a magnifying glass and showed the kids carnivorous plants that weren’t visible to the naked eye. She was also very knowledgeable about the island, and we learned a lot more than if we had gone exploring on our own.
After lunch we kayaked over to Île Boudreau, one of the small uninhabited islands for our yoga and mud bath by the sea activity. The kids had fun finding and collecting the special mud for our mud bath. After the mud dried off, it was time for a dip in the ocean to clean off.
In the evening, at low tide, we went to another beach for clam digging! This one was for the kids (or so we thought, we all loved the activity) and so much fun! After we caught our dinner, we cooked it up and had dinner on the beach. We spent our second night at La Salicorne in the inn. The kids preferred the bubble tent option but it was nice to have all the comforts that a traditional hotel room provided.
Day 5 was our relaxation day! Traveling with kids is awesome and the best way to keep it that way is always have a relaxing day planned in. We love doing things that are off the beaten path with our little ones, and we also understand that they are kids and they are going to want to just relax too. What I loved most about La Salicorne is that they incorporate everything into their packages. The kids got to go the kids club where they had a choice of crafts and games, activities like pedal boats, kayaking, and Stand up Paddleboarding (SUP). Our six year old decided he wanted to learn how to SUP and they were great with him.
In the morning we all went to Old Harry beach which according to National Geographic is one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. It’s gorgeous but with very strong riptides so be careful if you are not a strong swimmer. The kids had fun jumping in the waves and playing in the sand with the kids club staff, and we went off for a walk along the 8.5-kilometre beach.
In the afternoon Denys went on a kayaking excursion and I opted for a massage. The RMT here is great and I was totally zen afterwards.
In the evening we explored Ile de la Pointe aux Loups, a little township of 50 houses on the tiniest of the inhabited islands here.
In the morning we explored a new trail and a new beach on Havre aux Maisons. In the evening we went on a fishing excursion to catch our dinner then I cooked it up at our place in Parc du Gros Cap.
Îles de la Madeleine are like a magical paradise where while you may feel like it was all a dream, you can rejoice in knowing that it is real. Once you have discovered this hidden gem, you will want to keep returning again and again to experience the charm and beauty.
Accommodations and some activities were provided by Tourisme Iles de la Madeleine but as usual, all opinions are my own.