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Mingan Archipelago National Park/Canada

Introducing Mingan Archipelago National Park

By far the region's main attraction, this park is a protected string of 40 main offshore islands stretching more than 85km from Longue Pointe de Mingan to 40km east of Havre St Pierre. The islands' distinguishing characteristics are the odd, erosion-shaped stratified limestone formations along the shores. They're dubbed 'flowerpots' for the lichen and small vegetation that grow on top. Perched there might be the goofy puffin (macareux moine in French), a striking cross between a parrot and penguin and one of some 200 bird species here.

The Reception & Interpretation Centre has a lot of information. In the same building is the nonprofit Cetacean Interpretation Centre, which gives as much of an insight into the science of studying whales as it does the mysterious mammals themselves.

Half a dozen tour companies leave from Havre St Pierre and Longue Pointe de Mingan. In general, the smaller the boat, the better the experience. Trips last between three and five hours and cost $38 to $60.

The archipelago is one of the country's best sea-kayaking destinations, with exceptional topography, flora and fauna. Agaguk and Odysée Minganie run kayak tours, suitable for inexperienced paddlers, from Havre St Pierre and Longue Pointe de Mingan respectively. Agaguk also rents out equipment.

Camping is allowed on some of the islands, but you must register at the Reception & Interpretation Center or the Havre St Pierre tourist information office.