Côte-Nord: An Unforgettable 7-Day Road Trip

Kegaska fin de la route 138 - Tourisme Côte-Nord - Jeff Frenette Photography

The Côte-Nord region of Quebec is a true paradise for nature lovers and foodies. On this vast territory, you will find an abundance of forests, mountains and bays. This region has become a unique tourist destination that attracts more and more road trip enthusiasts. The Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve Of Canada is one of the most important natural areas in the country, consisting of approximately 1000 islands and islets. Also, for several years now, the culinary scene has been developing around a unique terroir, much to the delight of foodies. Join me on this unforgettable road trip on Route 138, between Sept-Îles and Kegaska, where I will show you breathtaking landscapes, a unique cuisine, as well as a wide variety of unique fauna and flora.

This article was created in collaboration with Bonjour Québec and Tourisme Côte-Nord as part of my role as a Bonjour Québec ambassador.

Day 1 on the Côte-Nord: Arrival in Sept-Îles by plane

Being a solo traveller on this trip, I opted for the plane, in order to cover more quickly the 900km that separate me from my first destination on the Côte-Nord: Sept-Îles. If you plan to take the road, I recommend a stop in Tadoussac and Les Escoumins.

Avion de Montréal à Sept-Îles - Tourisme Côte-Nord - Jeff Frenette Photography
Avion de Montréal à Sept-Îles – Tourisme Côte-Nord – All photos are under Copyright © 2022 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Sept-Îles is a large and busy port city that serves as a hub for the region’s fishing and mining industries. Its tourism offer is full of adventure possibilities: kayaking, whale watching and more! For several years now, the region has also offered an excellent food offer: gourmet addresses that will charm foodies, experiences with producers unique to the region, as well as several microbreweries and distilleries that have chosen to establish themselves in the area.

To start your day in Sept-Îles, I highly recommend two restaurants serving breakfast: Restaurant 560 and Clickafé. The 560 is a real institution in the region and you will find there typical American-style breakfasts. Clickafé offers a variety of coffee-based beverages and a nice selection of breakfasts including crepes, breakfast clubs and more. It’s also the place I recommend to pick up a meal if you are planning a picnic at one of the city’s many beaches. Special mention to the coffee used at Clickafé, the Quebec roaster from the Baie des Chaleurs in Gaspésie, Brûlerie du Quai.

→ 2 perfect beaches for a picnic in Sept-Îles: Plage Ferguson & Plage Lévesque

For lunch, head to the Sept-Îles Marina area to try the delicious dishes of the Casse-Croûte du Pêcheur. This restaurant has a great reputation and attracts many customers, both locals and tourists. To avoid the wait, I recommend you to order online in advance. For my part, I really enjoyed their scallop Po’ boy, their crab and Nordic shrimp guédille and their seafood poutine.

It is with a belly full of good food that we reach the Ferme Maricole Purmer, which offers excursions from the marina. It is on board a large inflatable boat that we go to Île Grosse Boule with a guide to learn more about mariculture and the different techniques of marine farming. By the way…

Did you know that a single mussel filters about 50 litres of water per 24 hours? A real natural filter for our water bodies!

Ferme maricole purmer

Just before going to dinner, you must visit Microbrasserie La Compagnie. Whether you’re a beer neophyte or a huge fan of malt, you’ll find something to suit you with their huge selection brewed on site. To accompany your beer tasting, they have developed a menu that goes perfectly with their beers. Opt for the Poissonnerie Soucy’s brined whelks or the beer cheese fondue and you definitely won’t be disappointed!

To end the first day on a high note, let’s go to the restaurant Le Bavard and L’Ivrogne, located a few steps away from La Compagnie microbrewery. At this restaurant, you will find an original and lively menu highlighting various local ingredients. I particularly appreciated the scallop and Nordic shrimp tartare as a starter, which includes chicoutai (also known as cloudberry), a tart berry found only in this region. For the main course, I opted for their seafood poutine — a completely decadent plate that can easily be shared with several people. In short, I love this place with its relaxed atmosphere, welcoming service and dishes that are bursting with flavour.

Before heading to Château Arnaud for a restful night by the seaside, enjoy the sunset from the Promenade du Vieux Quai and take a walk along the bay of Sept-Îles to the hotel.

Day 2 on the North Shore: en route to Havre-Saint-Pierre

After a well-deserved rest, we start the second day of our journey with a breakfast at the hotel to regain some strength for the rest of the trip. Today, we go to Havre-Saint-Pierre, a small town in Quebec with a population of just over 3000, located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. It is located on Route 138 between Tadoussac and Kegaska and is the place to go if you want to visit several islands in the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve.

As we leave Sept-Îles, we can notice on the road that the landscapes change the further east we go. The taïga starts to show its face and we discover panoramas made up of wetlands strewn with pretty ponds and lichen as far as the eye can see.

→ A few interesting stops on the road between Sept-Îles and Havre-Saint-Pierre ←

Plage du Petit Cormoran
Chute Manitou
Village de Rivière-au-Tonnerre

As soon as you arrive in Havre-Saint-Pierre, it is essential to go and have lunch at the Poissonnerie du Havre. The quality and freshness of their products is simply incomparable. I was able to taste their coquille St. Jacques, their lobster sandwich, their Nordic shrimps as well as their crab meat and I can confirm that everything was absolutely delicious. While you’re in the area, make a quick stop at Boutique du Terroir Chez Julie — there you’ll find a wide variety of local products and good drinks that will go perfectly with your lunch from the fish market.

All aboard! It is now time to embark with Services Maritimes Boréale to begin our exploration of the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, starting with Île Niapiskau. This island is often recognized for its many limestone monoliths forged over time. This boat trip will also give you the opportunity to observe the neighbouring islands, notably Île du Fantôme. Flora lovers will be amazed by the great variety and richness of the flora present on the various islands. I was lucky enough to observe a wild orchid: Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens.

Good to know: Even if you don’t have time to go on excursions in the park itself, you can still see incredible things from the shore: whales swimming in the distance, seals frolicking on the rocks and birds soaring overhead will make this trip an unforgettable memory long after you return home!

Île Niapiskau - Havre-Saint-Pierre - Parcs Canada - Services Maritime Boréale - Tourisme Côte-Nord - Jeff Frenette Photography
Île Niapiskau – Havre-Saint-Pierre – Parcs Canada – Services Maritime Boréale – Tourisme Côte-Nord – All photos are under Copyright © 2022 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

In order to taste the local cuisine, I recommend a dinner at one of the best restaurants of Havre-Saint-Pierre, namely Restaurant Chez Julie. This true institution of the region, which has existed since 1977, literally invented the seafood pizza (shrimp, crab, scallop) as we know it today. They also serve a multitude of other fish and seafood dishes as well as the famous chicoutai pie, the famous fruit emblematic of the region.

For your first night in Havre-Saint-Pierre, I suggest you rent a lovely room at Motel du Vieux Townside. This accommodation, ideally located on the main street, will charm you with its vintage look and its modern facilities. What could be better than a motel where you can also get an ice cream?

As day 3 will start relatively early with a cruise, I strongly recommend getting breakfast from a local grocery shop the night before

Day 3 on the Côte-Nord: exploring Havre-Saint-Pierre and the surrounding area

When I was younger, my godmother visited the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve and brought me back a poster of a cute little puffin. Since that day I have been dreaming of the moment when I will be able to see them with my own eyes, and this morning, the moment has finally come! With the Famille Vibert, I’m going on a 3-hour excursion to discover Île aux Perroquets and Île Nue. To experience this, you must go to Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan, a village located 45 km west of Havre-Saint-Pierre. If, like me, you want to see Atlantic puffins, this excursion will certainly allow you to see them between May and August, since these small birds are nesting in this area at this time of year.

If you have one activity to choose from during your entire trip, I would really put my money on the Le Phare I cruise with the Vibert Family at Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan. The value for money is excellent and the experience will remain engraved in your memory forever. The scenery is unique and it is one of the only places in the world where you can see puffins and many other species up close.

After this cruise, which will probably have worked up your appetite, I recommend that you go and have your lunch at the Bar laitier chez Marina and Cantine chez Nat in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan. Seafood lovers, you will love the Nordic shrimp guédille which is rather classic but very well seasoned. For dessert, you must try one of their homemade ice creams with local berries. For my part, I opted for the red seed or berry flavour, a local red berry, part of the cranberry family — yes, it’s the fruit that’s in the jelly served with the IKEA meatballs!

→ A few things to do in Havre-Saint-Pierre ←

Light hike at Cap Ferré
Gin tasting at Distillerie Puyjalon
Rent a stand up paddleboard at Les Vagues

Day 4 on the Côte-Nord: en route to Natashquan

This morning, we take the road to Natashquan from Havre-Saint-Pierre. It will take you about 1h45 to 2h to get there.

→ Essential stops on the road between Havre-Saint-Pierre and Natashquan ←

Visit Baie-Johan-Beetz, a picturesque village in the heart of the taiga
Shop at Les Choix de Marguerite, especially their home-grown vegetables!
Lounging in the sun at Plage de la rivière Aguanish
Product tasting at Fumoir Le Goynish

When you arrive in Natashquan, head to the Café L’Échouerie where you can have a beer from the local brewery, La Mouche, while admiring the sunset from the terrace directly on the beach. Take the opportunity to have a look at the famous little fishermen’s houses, Les Galets, which look fabulous when the sun goes down.

In order to regain strength for the next day, I recommend an overnight stay in the cozy beds of the Auberge Le Port d’Attache. This inn located directly on the waterfront will seduce you with its comfortable rooms and lovely common areas that will make you feel at home.

Day 5 on the Côte-Nord: exploring Natasquan and Kegaska

Today, the goal is to get to the end of Route 138, to the village of Kegaska. This is the last place where it is possible to get to on the Côte-Nord without having to use a boat. The destination has become popular with road trippers over the years, as it is where the famous sign indicating the end of the road is found. But the very first activity on the agenda is a breakfast at Café L’Échouerie. They serve the best coffee in Natashquan and what about their selection of breakfasts and pastries? Simply delicious! See for yourself with these pictures…

After driving about fifty kilometres on an unpaved road between Natashquan and Kegaska, you will finally find the famous “end of the road” sign and be able to take your selfie. While you’re in the area, make a quick stop on Kegaska Island. At this place, it really feels like you’re at the end of the world, in another country. While you’re there, I recommend that you take the time to have a little picnic near the shipwreck Le Brion.

→ The road is accessible to all types of vehicles. However, allow a little more time if you are on a motorbike or if you are carrying bicycles on your vehicle, as the small stones can quickly damage your paintwork if you drive too fast.

After this long day on the road, it is a good idea to return to your accommodation in Natashquan for a rest before setting off again tomorrow.

Day 6 on the Côte-Nord: back to Havre-Saint-Pierre

Today, we return to Havre-Saint-Pierre. Take your time on the road, admire the scenery and add the stops you didn’t have time to make on the way to Natashquan.

→ For your last evening on the Côte-Nord, I recommend going back to Chez Julie for dinner or relaxing on the terrace of La Promenade restaurant with a seafood feast!

Day 7 on the Côte-Nord: on the way to Sept-Îles and flying back to Montréal

For the very last day on the Côte-Nord, we return to the starting point of our journey, Sept-Îles. Near Sept-Îles, you’ll find the Innu community of Uashat and that’s where we’re going for our last stop. At Atikuss, a boutique/workshop that makes moccasins, boots and other Native objects, it is possible to take a craft workshop given by a local artist. During my visit, I had the opportunity to learn how to make a dream catcher with Sophia. This activity was such a beautiful passing on of knowledge and a real exercise in patience for me.

Just before heading out on the road (or plane) I recommend a last stop at Clickafé to pick up a good sandwich and salad combo for your journey back home.

This is the end of our journey on the Côte-Nord. Hopefully it has inspired you to visit the region. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Continue your discovery and enjoyment in other nearby regions of the Côte-Nord

This article was created in collaboration with Bonjour Québec and Tourisme Côte-Nord as part of my role as a Bonjour Québec ambassador.

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