Sailing to the Iles de la Madeleine

François Guay also owner of Vent du Large Restaurant fiddling at Millerand Harbour on Havre Aubert Island

Sculpted out of sandstone, the remote Iles de la Madeleine are situated in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and are home to unique fishing communities.

Europeans first discovered these islands in the mid 15th century, but it is thought that indigenous Mi’kmaqs have been visiting for centuries to hunt walrus and whales.

Quebecois and Arcadian culture runs strongly through the towns and villages of the islands, through local cuisine, craft and language.

We arrived in the morning and anchored off the southernmost point and took tenders into the shore at Anse a la Cabane on Havre Aubert Island. François Guay welcomed us ashore with his fiddle.

We drove from island to island past beautifully maintained waterfront houses and boats, flowing grassy plains and sculpted sandstone shorelines.

Eight of the seven islands of the chain are linked together by sand dune causeways and the occasional bridge and the highway that connects top to bottom spans 65 miles.

In addition to the traditional fishing and sealing culture, there is a wide diversity of bird life along the beaches and lagoons.

We stopped at a Fromagerie where they make and sell cheese using the milk from their own herd of organically raised Canadian breed cattle.

Smoking herring at Le Fumoir d'Antan on Havre-aux-Maisons Island

From here we drove to Le Fumoir d’Antan on Havre-aux-Maisons Island a traditional smoker where in years gone by they smoked millions and millions of Herring for export to the islands in the northern Caribbean.

Today these now treeless islands have not only got to import the maple and spruce wood used to smoke the fish they also have to import the herring given that the seal has devoured the fish stocks that used to surround the island.

Buying French style baguette to go with our cheese and smoked produce we headed for the beach and an improvised picnic washed down with beer from the local micro brewery. Quite delicious.

We are grateful to Destination Canada, Air Canada and ship operators One Ocean Expeditions for kindly hosting us on this trip