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seal at the aquarium
seal at the aquarium in Grave les demoiseles
looking west toward Les Demoiseles

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The majority of photos used in this website were taken in June and July of 2007. We endeavour to replace and update photos as formations change, but cannot always do so. Note that the formations may have changed since these images were taken.

Havre-Aubert: Where History Meets the Sea

Historical Grave, a Sea Arch, Verdant Hills & other features

Havre-Aubert has a lot to offer. It's a large island with quite a few business and tourist activities, yet it is surprisingly quiet and mostly rural. The map immediately below and the contents of this web page focus only on the extreme eastern edge of Havre-Aubert; be assured that this island is much larger and with lots more to offer. We're working on a web page to describe the rest of Havre-Aubert; we hope to provide a link to that shortly.

Les Demoiseles

Translates to "young ladies." These "scenic hills" indicated in the map above dominate the eastern half of Havre-Aubert. Beautiful to look at, they provide spectacular views if you drive or hike up to the viewpoint. Be warned that many Americans will find the route steep and narrow; it is a much different grade than most of us are used to driving and it doesn't look like a road. But be assured it can generally be handled by any common car. You kind of have to find your way, there are no huge signs saying "this way to the viewpoint." At some points it looks almost as if you are driving across somebody's yard. Also, be advised that at some times of the year the insects at the summit are positively unbelievable; have bug spray ready.

The photo above was taken just a short walk from the viewpoint on Les Demoiseles. The focus in the center of the photo is the historical district of Grave, pronounced "Grahh" or something like that. I don't speak French, so I don't really try. I must say that the Madelinots are quite accommodating of us Americans; 1. they speak English a heck of a lot better than we speak French. 2. They generally do everything they can to try and help us communicate. 3. They are patient with us. 4. They don't act insulted when we attempt to speak French and positively sound like idiots. This website dwells a lot on the sights and wonders of Iles Madeleine...I have to add that the Madelinots themselves are one of the great attractions of these islands. Patient, pleasant, polite people.

Above, a view of Île d'Entrée rising from the mist; photo taken from Les Demoiseles. The narrow strip of land in the middle of the frame is Dune Sandy Hook, a beautiful beach that extends off the east end of Havre Aubert.
Here's a view to the west, from Les Demoiseles. The community of Portage du Cap is seen below, Baie du Bassin is visible in the left side of the photo. Baie du Bassin is a protected compound of brackish water that is ideal for kayaking and other water sports. The long beach and highway connection to Cap-aux-Meules stretches off to the right. In Portage du Cap you'll find some small grocery stores, a gas station, bakery, and some other services.

Historic Grave

While Les Demoiseles are the island's most visually striking feature, the star attraction on Havre Aubert is the historical fishing village of Grave, Site historique de La Grave. While it doesn't look at all like the busy port it once was, it features many of the original structures and still carries the spirit of the small community. It's just that these days, it's overrun by tourists like us. La Grave features quaint bistros, bars that are sometimes raucous, clothing and jewelry boutiques, and a bunch of shoppes that sell art and touristy bric-a-brac. There's an aquarium/museum that is rather small, but more than overcomes its size by providing an excellent "hands-on" tank and some extremely interesting displays. We strongly recommend it. There's also a bright, airy, artsy type cooperative at the west end of la Grave, on the north side of the road. This is worth exploring as well.
Above: looking back at La Grave from the east. At this end of the strip, notice a small parking area in the foreground. We recommend parking here, and walking back up and down the street. It isn't far from end to end, and you'll see subtleties you'd otherwise miss.

Natural Arch

The easiest to find sea arch on Havre-Aubert is at Pointe Shea on Cap Gridley, which is the large rise at the east end of Grave. Cap Gridley is also the location of the maritime museum, so this location is easy to find. Accessing and viewing this arch from land depends on your willingness and ability to clambor around rocky Pointe Shea to see it. The location is indicated below:
At the east end of Grave there is a red restaurant slightly up hill that has a spectacular view of Grave, the bay, and Les Demoiseles in the distance. A pathway leads along the shoreline in front of this restaurant; follow it. Eventually the path gives out and you have to walk around on the rocks to get around the headwall. My guess is that this was once a scenic pathway leading to a viewpoint, but the sea has reclaimed most of it. When you do get around the base of the headland, the arch won't completely reveal itself at first, so keep going. As you continue to move beyond the "nose" of Pointe Shea, you'll see the arch:
Although this arch is still in the formative stages, it is quite striking and beautiful to look at. It is surprising that 99.9% of the visitors to La Grave are unaware of this attractive sight just around the corner.
Above, rounding Pointe Shea, these ladies can almost see the arch. Notice that the rock here is a bit different from the red sandstone that dominates most of the Madeleines. This is an argillaceous mineral with a greenish tint (argillaceous means that there's a lot of clay in the mix). It's a harder, less friable formation than the sandstone, so hopefully this arch will be well preserved and long lived.

Horseback Riding & a Terrific Sand Beach

The horse riding establishment in this photo is right off Rt. 199 and indicated on the map at the top of the page. Americans should be warned that this is not a poke-along-ride-old-paint tourist trail ride like we know and love in the USA. Notice the utter lack of helmets.
Remember, this is Quebec. They haven't forgotten what risk and fun and freedom are all about. The ride begins calmly enough in a breezy field. Soon the ride leader says, "OK, are wee readee to gallop?" Americans tend to laugh as if she's kidding.
She's not.
You're warned -- the horses move -- it's a very brisk gallop. It's also exhilirating. The ride soon reaches the beach, so be prepared to jump if your mount decides to roll in the sand.
If you like horseback riding, this is a must-do activity on Havre-Aubert.
The beach is fantastic. It's also accessible by car, simply follow Chemin du Sable to a large public parking lot. You can explore this beach for miles and miles.

Etc.

Believe it or not there have been quite a few books published about the Magdalen Islands. Unfortunately, most of them are rather dry tomes about geology...you can find a study on oil exploration, even a lengthy tome on the gypsum found here. Books about naturalist subjects, such as birds and plants, tend to have been written prior to 1900. Not the sort of stuff that makes for exciting reading in advance of a trip to the Madeleines. Most travel publishers tend to lump the archipeligo in with books about the Maritime Provinces, then fail to say much of anything about Iles de la Madeleine other than "nice beaches, friendly islands, blah blah blah..." In fact the best book on the subject has been out of print since 1995. It's called The Adventurer's Guide to the Magdalen Islands (Maritime Travel Guides) and was written by George Fischer. Although it's out-of-print, the text is still excellent and the overall "guide" aspect of it is the best available. Out-of-print doesn't mean it's obsolete, just that it's hard to find. So anyway, if you click here:The Adventurer's Guide to the Magdalen Islands (Maritime Travel Guides) you may find a copy on Amazon.com. At anything less than $40, it's well worth it to help with planning your trip and to gain a better insight into the numerous recreational opportunities on these islands. As I said, the link goes to Amazon.com, and you're probably looking at used copies or bookstore cast-offs, but again, well worth it.

-- Rick