Grosse Isle, an island of the Isle-aux-Grues archipelago in the Chaudière-Appalaches region of Quebec, is in the St. Lawrence River opposite the south shore communities of Berthier-sur-Mer and Montmagny.


Celtic memorial cross

The 21-island Isle-aux-Grues archipelago is uninhabited, with the exception of one tiny community (Saint-Antoine-de-l'Isle-aux-Grues) on Île-aux-Grues itself. The region (Montmagny Regional County Municipality) is known for bird-watching, goose-hunting and cheeses.

Grosse Isle (Grosse-Île, "big island"), now a Canadian national historic site, was notorious for its role as disembarkation point for "coffin ships" — the overcrowded, disease-ridden immigrant vessels in which the starving Irish fled the Great Potato Famine of the 1840s. The island had been established as an 1832 quarantine station for inbound sea traffic to Québec City during an earlier cholera epidemic, but was clearly unprepared for and overwhelmed by the mass influx of potato famine refugees in 1847. Medical care was primitive and housing and sanitation clearly inadequate for the tens of thousands of arriving travellers.

Thousands died from typhoid fever at the quarantine station or at sea. An estimated five thousand Great Famine victims are buried on the island, the largest potato famine graveyard outside Ireland. Thousands more were buried at sea before their ships even reached the New World. Of 90000 who fled Ireland for Canada, an estimated 16000 succumbed to the typhus epidemic of 1847 at sea, at Grosse-Île or at a subsequent destination; among those who left Grosse-Île seemingly healthy, 6000 are buried at Windmill Point (Montréal) and thousands more succumbed in distant communities like Kingston, Bytown and Toronto. Partridge Island, as quarantine station for Saint John, New Brunswick, was in a similar position with nearly 1200 fatalities.

Grosse-Île is now uninhabited; the quarantine station, expanded with more adequate facilities for arriving ocean liners after Canada's 1867 confederation, closed in 1937 and is now a national historic site. Île-aux-Grues is inhabited as a tiny village (year-round population: 130); the closest school is in Montmagny and, once the seasonal ferry stops running, students must be transported by aircraft.

Get in

The Trans-Canada Highway from Montréal and Lévis passes through Berthier-sur-Mer and Montmagny on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River en route to Rivière-du-Loup. Access to the islands is by boat (seasonally) or by aircraft.

By boat
By air
Air Montmagny (+1 418-248-3545) operates on-demand charter flights year-round from Montmagny to the small landing strips on Île-aux-Grues and Grosse-Île.

Get around










Wi-fi is available at McDonald's (85 Boul Taché E, Montmagny)

Go next

Routes through Montmagny and Berthier-sur-Mer

Montreal Lévis  W  E  Rivière-du-Loup Rimouski
Drummondville Lévis  W  E  Rivière-du-Loup 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.