Percé

Located at its east end, Percé is the bustling tourist epicenter of the Gaspé Peninsula. Though it's a proud member of the Most Beautiful Villages in Quebec (Association des plus beaux villages du Québec), Percé may be off-putting at first: the crowds, tacky souvenir shops, endless roadside motels and gîtes, and miscellaneous tourist schlock is a jarring contrast to the majestic scenery along Route 132 that visitors have likely spent the past few hours or days drinking in. But there's a good reason for the brouhaha: Percé Rock (Rocher Percé), the arch-shaped offshore rock formation from which the town takes its name, is an awesome natural wonder that has become an iconic emblem of the Gaspé Peninsula, attracting thousands of visitors annually. It and the nearby Bonaventure Island (Île Bonaventure), a massive breeding colony for a variety of aquatic birds, make up Percé's (and the Gaspé Peninsula's) marquee attraction, Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock National Park (Parc national de l'Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé).

Understand

Percé Rock

In 1971, the boundaries of Percé were expanded to their present size when the surrounding villages of Barachois, Bridgeville, Cap-d'Espoir, and Saint-Pierre-de-la-Malbaie were amalgamated into the town. Locals still occasionally use the old names, but all attractions and other points of interest in these former localities are covered in this article.

Visitors should know that Percé is very much a seasonal destination. The tourist season runs roughly from the middle of June until the end of September, during which time the streets, shops, restaurants, and lodgings are often annoyingly busy. Most businesses and attractions are also open during the shoulder seasons of mid-May through mid-June and late September through mid-October, with reduced hours in some cases. However, offseason Percé can seem almost like a ghost town. If you find yourself in town during the winter, the website Holiday Destination Percé (see the "Visitor information" section below) has a full rundown of activities and services that remain open all year; these trend heavily toward winter sports such as snowmobiling, showshoeing, and dogsledding.

History

For eons, the Percé area was a fishing ground for the local Mi'kmaq people, and it was known to Europeans beginning in the 17th Century (explorer Samuel de Champlain sighted and named Percé Rock in 1603, and the area served as a stopover for ships headed to Quebec City). But it was not until the early 1800s that permanent settlement of the town kicked off. At first, Percé was a quiet fishing village like many of its neighbours on the Gaspé Peninsula, but after Percé Rock came onto travellers' radar screens in the early 20th Century, tourism began to gradually take over as the town's economic mainstay. As well, during World War II, the Royal Canadian Navy operated an important wireless intercept station at Percé which was responsible for detecting Nazi U-boats prowling in the waters off Canada's east coast. Presently, Percé boasts a population of about 3,300 clustered in a chain of villages splayed along the shoreline.

Visitor information

Holiday Destination Percé is the website of the Percé Tourist Information Centre (Bureau d'accueil touristique de Percé). It's a comprehensive resource for visitors to Percé, featuring the usual listings of attractions, hotels, restaurants, shops and bars—but also, notably, an events calendar, printable historic and architectural walking tours, a low tide schedule (useful for getting to Percé Rock without a boat), and up-to-date information on road construction and closures in the local area.

Percé's brick-and-mortar   Tourist Information Office is located right in the centre of town, at 142, rue de l'Église. It's open on a seasonal basis: daily from 8AM to 8PM in July and August, with shorter hours during the shoulder months of June and September.

Get in

By car

This is how the vast majority of visitors get to Percé. The town is located directly on Provincial Route 132, the main trunk road on the south shore of the St. Lawrence.

To get to Percé from Quebec City, take Autoroute 20 east to the end of the road in L'Isle-Verte, then continue eastward on Route 132. The total distance is about 750 kilometres (465 miles), so plan for about eight hours in the car, excluding stops. You can shave a few kilometres off that distance by turning off at L'Anse-Pleureuse and taking the inland shortcut through Murdochville via Provincial Route 198, but that comes at the expense of some of the majestic scenery you'll see along the shoreline route.

If you're coming from the Maritimes, Percé is about 245 kilometres (153 miles) from the New Brunswick border at Campbellton, via Route 132 East. The trip takes two-and-a-half to three hours.

By plane

The nearest airports with scheduled passenger service are Michel Pouliot Gaspé Airport (Aéroport Michel-Pouliot de Gaspé) (IATA: YGP) in Gaspé and Bonaventure Airport (Aéroport de Bonaventure) (IATA: YVB) in Bonaventure, which, between the two of them. serve eight destinations in Quebec, New Brunswick, and Labrador. Those who are arriving from further afield should first fly into Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (Aéroport international Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau) (IATA: YUL) in Montreal or perhaps Jean Lesage International Airport (Aéroport international Jean-Lesage) (IATA: YQB) in Quebec City; you can catch a connecting flight to YGP from either of these airports via Air Canada Express.

Both Gaspé and Bonaventure airports have car rental facilities onsite or nearby (Budget, National, Sauvageau, and Thrifty in the former; Thrifty in the latter) where you can continue your journey into Percé.

By train

The   Percé Train Station is located south of the town centre, at 44, route de l'Anse-à-Beaufils. Before September 2013, when VIA Rail service in the Gaspé Peninsula east of Matapédia was suspended indefinitely due to malfunctioning signals and the poor condition of the track, trains left Montreal Central Station every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evening at 6:55PM, arriving in Percé at 11:58AM the following morning. There's currently no timetable for the resumption of full railway service to Percé, and rumours are flying that it will soon be eliminated outright.

In the northern outskirts of town, VIA Rail also served the   Barachois Train Station, at 1154, route 132. VIA currently lists the station as a "sign post", indicating the station itself as closed permanently with no ticket agent.

If you're coming from Gaspé, a novel way of getting to Percé is via the L'Amiral tourist train (see below), which usually stops at the purpose-built   Coin-du-Banc Train Station.

Lined with all the roadside tourist trappings you could want, Route 132 cuts right through the heart of the action in Percé's town centre.

By bus

Get around

To get from place to place within Percé's city centre, walking is a fine option; if you're going further afield, a car is pretty much an absolute necessity. Taxi service is available, though it's pricey.

By bus

RéGÎM, the Gaspé Peninsula's rural public transit network, has two routes that serve Percé. Route 31 is a seasonal service that makes two daily departures Monday through Friday from central Percé south to Chandler, at 7:00AM and 12:00 noon, with return trips arriving back in Percé at 11:55AM and 4:55PM, and plenty of intermediate stops. Meanwhile, Route 22 runs year-round, bypassing Percé town centre on its run between Chandler and Gaspé via the inland route between L'Anse-à-Beaufils and Coin-du-Banc. Gaspé-bound buses arrive at L'Anse-à-Beaufils and Coin-du-Banc Monday through Friday at 6:49AM and 7:00AM, respectively, while trips bound for Chandler stop at 6:13PM in Coin-du-Banc and 6:25PM in L'Anse-à-Beaufils. Tickets cost $2.50 apiece and are available in books of ten from participating retailers or directly from the bus drivers.

In a pinch, you could also buy a ticket for a few dollars on the Orléans Express bus to one of Percé's outer precincts (there are stops in Barachois, Bridgeville, L'Anse-à-Beaufils, and Cap-d'Espoir); drivers sometimes even agree to pull over on the side of the road directly at your destination, but it may be awhile before another bus comes by to take you back to Percé.

See

Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock National Park

Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock National Park is located entirely within the city of Percé, and you have it to thank for all the gift shops, cutesy gîtes, and crowds of tourists here. The trickle of wealthy folks who started coming to see Percé Rock around the turn of the century became a steady stream after World War II, and in 1971, Bonaventure Island was purchased by the Quebec government and turned into a national park. Percé Rock was added on three years later. Today, upwards of 60,000 people visit the park each year.

Aside from the two titular components that are described in more detail below, Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock National Park also includes the Charles Robin Sector (secteur Charles-Robin), composed of a handful of meticulously restored 19th-century warehouses next to the dock that were built by Charles Robin, an entrepreneur from Jersey and founding father of Percé whose vast fishing company was a major player in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence cod fishery. Today, these buildings house the park's Discovery Centre, Le Chafaud Museum (see below), and La Saline, a meeting hall where special events are held by park staff.

It's important to note that Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock National Park is not a Canadian national park—despite its name, it's run by the Quebec provincial park service. Therefore, your Parks Canada Discovery Pass is no good here, but if you have an Annual Parks Quebec Network Card, your admission is free. (If you don't have one, and you're planning on visiting other parts of Quebec, it may be a wise investment: Parks Quebec's network includes dozens of parks, wildlife reserves and other attractions located in all parts of the province.)

For those without an annual pass, admission is $7.50 for adults and $3.25 for children between the ages of 6 and 17. Those 5 and under get in free. Discounted rates for families are available as well ($10.75 for one adult and children; $15 for two adults and children). Parking is $10 for cars and RVs and $6 for motorcycles, and is not covered by the Parks Quebec Network Card. Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock National Park is closed from mid-October through the end of May.

Restored 19th-century fishermen's cottages at L'Anse à Butler, Bonaventure Island.

Town centre and around

  •   The Grotto (La Grotte) (1.4 kilometres [0.9 miles] past the trailhead, via chemin de la Grotte). Its name isn't exactly accurate, but it's lovely all the same: this is not a grotto but a lovely little waterfall nestled in the niche between Mont Sainte-Anne and Mont Blanc, where a mountain stream tumbles over a wall of red rock into a shallow pool. All this takes place inside a semicircular natural amphitheatre where—in keeping with the history of these mountains as a Catholic pilgrimage site (see below)—statues of the Virgin Mary and other religious baubles abound.
Mont Sainte-Anne looms over Percé's town centre in this view from the harbour, near Percé Rock.
  •   Mont Sainte-Anne (1.8 kilometres [1.1 miles] past the trailhead via chemin de la Grotte; turn left at chemin du Mont-Sainte-Anne and continue to the end of the trail). Known in the 17th Century as "Roland's Table" (La Table à Roland) due to its flat top, Mont Sainte-Anne's breathtaking majesty has made it a religious site for centuries of Gaspesians: from the Mi'kmaq who took their tribe's newborn babies here to present them to the sun god, to 19th- and early 20th-century Québécois devotees of St. Anne who would make pilgrimages there every July 26. Today, hikers can follow in their footsteps and enjoy great views over the town and out to L'Anse-à-Beaufils, Percé Rock, and Bonaventure Island.
  •   Mont Blanc (4.7 kilometres [2.9 miles] past the trailhead via chemin de la Grotte, chemin du Mont-Ste-Anne, sentier des Sources, sentier des Pieds-Croches, and sentier de la Crevasse). It's a longer hike to Mont Blanc than either The Grotto or Mont Sainte-Anne, but it's worthwhile: the Sentier de la Crevasse trail takes you alongside a deep crevice in the side of the mountain which, at a height of some 300 metres (1,000 feet) straight down, makes for a dizzying experience. Mont Blanc itself is a bit taller than Mont Sainte-Anne; its summit is accessible via a steep dirt track that begins at the end of sentier de la Crevasse and affords beautiful views over the Gaspesian coast north of Percé and out to the open ocean.

L'Anse-à-Beaufils

L'Anse-à-Beaufils is a little village 10 kilometres (6 miles) south of Percé's town centre, named for a French nobleman who was rumoured to be the half-brother of King Louis XIV. It became part of Percé in 1971. Today, you'll find a pair of historic attractions clustered around the harbour at the mouth of the L'Anse-à-Beaufils River.

Val-d'Espoir

Do

On the water

Percé takes full advantage of its scenic seaside location, with a host of aquatic activities awaiting visitors during the busy summer months.

Whale watching

The St. Lawrence estuary and its vicinity teems with whales during the warm months, and in Percé there are a pair of whale-watching outfits that afford you the chance of seeing a variety of species including fin, minke, humpback, and even the endangered blue whale, as well as white-sided dolphins and harbour seals. Both tours depart from the   Tourist Wharf (Quai de tourisme) in the town centre. The season runs from May through October, with whales most numerous in July and August.

Boat tours

The boat tours to the national park are operated by the same two outfits that handle the whale-watching cruises. These cruises usually buzz by Percé Rock on their way to and/or from Bonaventure Island; keep in mind that if you disembark on the island you're required to pay the park entry fee which is not included in the prices quoted below. Tours generally last between one and two hours and run from mid-May through the end of October. Departures for both of these companies are from the Tourist Wharf.

Guided sea kayak tours are also offered.

Fishing

The waters in and around Percé teem with fish and marine life of diverse descriptions. If you're casting from one of the various docks and marinas around town, you'll probably have the best luck catching mackerel in July and August. As well, trout and salmon are abundant in the interior rivers, but unlike the former scenario, provincial permits are required (they're easily available in a number of places around town) and subject to seasonal restrictions.

Diving

The beach

When you want to take a break from adventuring and spend a day lazing on the beach, you have two options,   Coin-du-Banc Beach and   Cap-d'Espoir Beach, located north and south of the town centre respectively. Cap-d'Espoir is the smaller of the two, but it gets quite crowded in the summer; it's the site of the annual Festi-Plage music festival and also offers picnic benches and changing rooms. Meanwhile, at the long, sandy strand of Coin-du-Banc it's oftentimes just you, the crashing waves, and the breathtaking seaside landscape.

Hiking

From the windswept fields and weather-beaten forests of Bonaventure Island to the craggy mountains inland, the Percé area features a variety of landscapes for hikers.

Percé Rock, Bonaventure Island, and Percé town centre as seen from Mont Sainte-Anne.
  • the Mountain Trail (Sentier des montagnes), which is the shorter but more difficult of the two: it runs for 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) from the   Auberge de Gargantua, where it links with the Route des Failles and the Mont Sainte-Anne/Mont Blanc trail network, to the fishing harbour at L'Anse-à-Beaufils, with several steep ascents and descents along the way. Those who liked the magnificent alpine vistas of the Route des Failles will find more of the same here: the scenic lookouts and photo opportunities come fast and furious as you make your way from peak to peak, with breathtaking views over the craggy mountains and pristine coast. For the grand finale, the trail descends the Côte de la Fourche and follows a babbling brook southward toward the coast, where it ends at...
  • the River Trail (Sentier des rivières), 27 kilometres (16.7 miles) of easy-to-intermediate hiking that leads north to Coin-du-Banc. First, you straddle the peaceful valley of the L'Anse-à-Beaufils River (crossing over it repeatedly on five lovely rope bridges) as you make your way north to Val-d'Espoir. Then, you cross over some comparatively easy-to-traverse hills, follow a pair of bucolic mountain streams, and pass by a beautiful waterfall on the charmingly and aptly named Emerald River (Rivière aux émeraudes) before ending up at a parking area a few hundred metres (about a third of a mile) from Route 132.

If you're visiting Percé in autumn and plan to hike, please note that hunting season runs from late September through mid-November. During those times, it is essential to wear bright-coloured clothing and take other sensible precautions. This doesn't apply on Bonaventure Island, where hunting is prohibited per the regulations of the national park.

Train excursions

Birdwatching

Bird life is abundant in Percé—especially on Bonaventure Island, home of the world's largest colony of northern gannets.

Aside from the obvious answer (Bonaventure Island), there are a number of other places around Percé where an abundance of bird life can be found, such as Cap-d'Espoir, Pointe-Saint-Pierre, and the Malbaie Lagoon (Barachois de Malbaie) in Coin-du-Banc. In addition to the famous northern gannets, Percé is home to a number of different types of migratory birds including puffins, red-necked grebes, and various species of scoters, guillemots, mockingbirds, and warblers.

With a mission of promoting the awareness and conservation of bird life in the region, the Gaspé Birdwatchers' Club (Club des ornithologues de la Gaspésie) (website in French only) is an exhaustive source of information and organizer of activities for birders in Percé and all over the area. The club frequently hosts birdwatching excursions at sites throughout the Gaspé Peninsula, and their website contains a comprehensive list of migratory species that frequent the area and their usual times of arrival, as well as information for winter birdwatchers. Membership is open to all.

In the winter

Though the Gaspé Peninsula has been recognized in the pages of National Geographic magazine as one of the top winter destinations in North America, Percé in particular is very much a seasonal town that largely shuts down after the end of October. If you're in town during the cold-weather months, the website Holiday Destination Percé has a comprehensive list of the handful of attractions, lodgings and services that do remain open in the offseason.

Buy

There's something about Percé that inflames the creative spirit—actually, it's not hard to figure out why; the magnificent landscapes and the allure of the sea are full of infectious enchantment. At any rate, the work of local artists and artisans figures heavily into the stock of Percé's many souvenir stores. Handmade jewelry is another frequent find, often made with semiprecious stones found on local beaches, such as agate, jasper, onyx, and (if you're lucky) gaspeite, a rare greenish mineral unique to the Gaspé Peninsula.

Town centre and around

L'Anse-à-Beaufils

Barachois

Eat

Eating in Percé is all about separating the wheat from the chaff. Sure, by and large the restaurants here serve the kind of overpriced, lackluster fare typical of tourist towns. But a little bit of searching—especially outside the town centre—will turn up some really nice dining experiences. When in doubt, ask a local.

Also, if you're a fan of seafood, you're in luck: that's all anyone seems to eat here, and it's an experience not to be missed. The cod, salmon, scallops, lobster, and other fruits de mer served up in Percé's restaurants are almost unanimously locally sourced, fresh and delicious.

Town centre and around

Bonaventure Island

L'Anse-à-Beaufils

Barachois

Drink

Percé doesn't have a bar scene to speak of. If you're looking to kick back with a tall cold one after a long day of sightseeing and you don't want to do so at a restaurant or your hotel's lounge, you're limited to a pair of options located in the town centre.

Luckily for craft beer fans, though, one of those options is the official outlet for Pit Caribou (website in French only), a microbrewery headquartered in L'Anse-à-Beaufils that turns out about two or three dozen beers sold throughout Quebec and beyond—including the award-winning "Étoile du Brasseur" American brown ale.

Sleep

Accommodation is definitely something that Percé is not lacking. There's a huge variety of hotels, motels, campgrounds, and vacation homes to choose from, but for a true Gaspesian experience, it's best to stay at one of the town's charming gîtes (see below).

Hotels and motels

Percé's hotels are clustered mostly on the northern and southern outskirts of the town centre, and with the exception of the Riôtel and a few others, they tend toward the small and the quaint. Most properties offer rooms with a view of Percé Rock, but it pays to request one in advance as, understandably, those tend to sell out the fastest. On the other hand, for budget travellers it's handy to know that rooms without ocean views often come at a discount.

Gîtes

The concept of the gîte du passant, or simply gîte, roughly equates to what is known in the Anglosphere as a bed & breakfast. However, the gîte seems to be proportionally a more common form of accommodation in Quebec, and nowhere is that truer than in Percé, where they outnumber standard-style hotels by a wide margin. If you're looking for a truly distinctive lodging experience—charmingly decorated rooms with antique furniture and a peaceful ambience, hearty meals each morning, and attentive hosts that take pride in helping their guests make the most of their stay—a gîte may be the option for you. However, if you're a solo traveller or just looking for a place to lay your head for the night, you may feel out of place: gîtes tend to be geared toward romantic couples' getaways or occasionally families with children, and guests may be subject to a minimum length of stay. It pays to call ahead.

Youth hostels

Campgrounds

Contact

Percé, along with the rest of the Gaspé Peninsula, is served by area codes 418 and 581. Ten-digit dialing is mandatory for local calls, so to reach a number within Percé or the immediate vicinity, it's still necessary to dial the area code first. To call long-distance within Canada or to the United States, dial 1, then the area code, then the number. For international calls, dial 011, then the country code, then the city code (if applicable), then the number.

The   Percé Post Office is located in the town centre at 147, route 132, in a large, modernist-style office building that also contains the courthouse and city hall. There are also post offices in Barachois, Cap-d'Espoir, Saint-Georges-de-Malbaie, and Val-d'Espoir.

Go next

Routes through Percé

Rimouski Chandler  W  E  Gaspé END
Rimouski Gaspé  W  E  Chandler Rimouski


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, December 12, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.