The most scenic aspect of the peninsula's nominal capital is its view of Forillon. However, it has two interesting attractions and is a better place than touristy Percé to adjust to civilization after a few days in the park. This was where Jacques Cartier first landed in July 1534.
The people barely outnumber the lakes in the over 65,140 sq km here. But despite the shortage of humans, this sparsely populated area occupies a special place in the Québécois imagination. The last area to be settled and developed on a major scale, it stands as a symbol of dreams and hardships.
Founded by Acadians in 1791, Bonaventure is a nondescript, spread-out town, but it's worth a stop to learn about the Acadians' 'Great Upheaval' or to drift up the Rivière Bonaventure, one of Québec's cleanest. The small Musée Acadien houses artistic interpretations of the Acadian plight with bilingual explanations.
Lac Brome is the name of seven amalgamated towns orbiting the eponymous lake, with Knowlton on the southern shore being the largest and most attractive. Although there is evidence of early habitation by Abenaki peoples, the area was first formally settled by Loyalists in 1802 and the town still retains an upmarket British flair and numerous 19th-century buildings.
The gateway to Gaspé is also one of the peninsula's most touristy towns. Nonetheless, it's a relaxing place to pause before tackling the rocky landscape that soon rises above Rte 132. The 19th-century windmill Vieux Moulin offers tastings of Shakespeare's favorite tipple, mead, and has a small museum containing colonial and prehistoric aboriginal artifacts.
Driving through the Matapédia Valley, you'll get a taste of the terrain that challenges walkers on the International Appalachian Trail. The trees covering the hillsides only stop for rivers, cliffs and lines of huge pylons charging through the wilderness. If it's raining, the mist-swathed forests look like the highlands of a Southeast Asian country.
Gatineau is as much a twin city to Ottawa as it is a separate town. This urban continuation has more of an industrial feel than its Ontarian neighbor. In late 2001, 'Hull' was changed to 'Gatineau' as part of an administrative reshuffling, although the locals on both sides of the river still call the city by its old moniker.
L’Anse St Jean
Heading west up the Saguenay is a fine drive on either side of the fjord. There are more good stops on the south side and there's more access to the river, but the north shore is memorable for its rugged topography and little lakes strung along the roadside. First stop on the south side is L'Anse-St-Jean, a little village with a lot going on in its ateliers.
Sutton is a little Loyalist town with a pretty main street where you can shop to your heart's content or let your hair down during après-ski partying in the many bars. Sutton is surrounded by the Sutton Mountains, a string of velvety, round hills whose highest peak (Sommet Rond) rises to 968m.
St Jean Port Joli
St-Jean became known as a center of craftsmanship in the 1930s, a reputation it works hard to keep. Riverside Parc des Trois Berets, named after the three beret-wearing brothers who launched the town as a woodcarving capital, is the venue for an international sculpture festival in June.