Windswept islands that resemble the shape of a hook are one of Canada’s best-kept mysteries. While it may appear as a dot on a map, this tiny island community in the St. Lawrence River delta offers visitors the chance to experience adventure, friendly locals and a rich tradition while also enjoying a bounty of fresh seafood and other delicacies.
The Magdalen Islands are the name given to this group of islands.
Snow, wonderful light, and cute animals all come together during the winter months, making it a magical time of year for visitors. Magdalen Islands in the wintertime is a great place to go for a vacation. After this discussion, you’ll be arranging your trip here because it’s a lot easier than it appears!
Magdalen Islands information
Magdalen Islands are a component of the Quebec marine region, which itself is part of Quebec province. The archipelago is closer to the provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland than it is to Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, as may be seen on a map of its location.
We’ll refer to the islands as the Magdalen Islands, but in French they’re known as Îles de la Madeleine or Les Îles. For the sake of uniformity, we’ll refer to it by its English name throughout this tutorial.
There are eight major islands in this archipelago, with sand dunes connecting six of them. Magnificent beaches, red cliffs, rolling green hills, and a kaleidoscope of housing colors characterize the Magdelen Islnads.
There were indigenous Mi’kmaq people who called the island “Menagoesenog” which means “islands swept by grass” long before the arrival of Europeans like as Samuel de Champlain.
It’s intriguing to learn about the island’s history. Many shipwreck survivors, French-speaking Acadian walrus hunters, and the changing control of the British colony in Newfoundland before becoming part of Québec in 1774 are all part of the island’s rich history.
The islands, which are also known as Madelinots, are home to around 13,000 people as of today.
People in the area are known for their welcoming nature and pride in their Acadian background.
The Best Winter Activities on the Magdalen Islands
Summers on the Magdalen Islands are crowded, but winters on the islands are magical. If you’re brave enough to face the cold, the snow and ice provide a wealth of hidden treasures.
We’ve compiled a list of our favorite spots from our recent trip to the islands in the guide below. The Magdalen Islands have a lot to offer during the winter months.
Observation of a Baby Harp Seal
Château Madelinot’s 2022 Harp Seal Expedition was canceled, so we had to Improvise.
Only in the Magdalen Islands can you get up up and personal with baby harp seals, with their fluffy white fur and delicate whiskers and wide-open eyes.
There are ice floes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence where harp seals come to give birth to their pups every year.
Harp seal trips at Château Madelinot include helicopter rides to an ice floe where you may view pups being cared for by their moms, get as close to them as possible, take as many images as your memory card can hold.
It’s not just the adorable newborn seals that make the Château Madelinot Harp Seal Expedition one of the greatest tours to take in 2020, but also how swiftly global warming is affecting this crucial stage of the seals’ lifecycle..
Ice floes that are thick enough to allow helicopters to land have led to the cancellation of the past two seasons (2021 and 2022) since the ice is becoming less predictable.
Take a Trip to a Lighthouse
The Magdalen Islands have six total lighthouses, but only three are located on the main connecting islands. Every single one of them is a must-see, no matter where you find it on the archipelago.
Located on the island of Havre aux Maisons to the east is the Cap Alright Lighthouse. Built in 1928, it was the archipelago’s final lighthouse and is now privately owned. Its 8.3-meter height places it near the sea’s edge on a red sandstone cliff.
The Cap aux Meules Island’s Borgot
Lighthouse is located to the west. The lighthouse sits on a cliff at 11.5 meters above sea level, providing stunning views of the cliffs that lead to Belle-Anse, a popular summer destination.
Also on Havre-Aubert Island is the Anse à la Cabane Lighthouse. This is, in reality, the world’s oldest operational lighthouse. This remarkable hexagonal structure, which measures 17.1 meters high and faces south, is likely the last of its kind in the country.
Photographers love the white lighthouses with their crimson tops that stand sentinels in the snow during the winter.
Awakening The Tempest With Craft Beers
The local watering hole, l’Abri de la Tempête, remains a favorite destination even during the winter months in the Magdalen Islands.
Local Madelinots meet on Tuesday and Friday to socialize and catch up at their character-filled brewpub.
Don’t be deceived by the size of the islands! Traditional and limited-edition beers from this microbrewery use locally sourced ingredients like as malted barley, sea salts, herbs and flowers from the island, and even smoked malt from the Fumoir d’Antan smokehouse.
Find Red Foxes in the Snow
On the islands, it’s not just the baby harp seals who steal the show. The red fox is one of the few land mammals that are native to the island.
This is an amazing sight to watch these red foxes in the wild. Against the stark white of the arctic, their crimson coats, fluffy white tails, and pointed ears stand out.
To catch a glimpse of them, head out at the crack of dawn or dusk, when they’re on the prowl for dinner.
Magdalen Islands red fox sightings are impossible to predict because the foxes don’t have a specific home range. It’s at this point that you need to rely on the knowledge of the locals. As long as you’re polite, Madelinots are more than happy to help!
Maritime-Inspired Art and Design
In the Magdalen Islands, there is always something new to discover. Atelier Côtier is a one-of-a-kind studio located on the southern island of Havre Aubert, where the sand meets the sea.
She and her team of artisans have transformed her family business from sculpting sand to embracing a variety of materials and styles of art, graphic and industrial design into their repertoire. Every piece in their workshop reflects their enthusiasm for capturing the essence of the islands.
Aside from that, it’s not merely a workshop. A gallery, shop, scientific center, and children’s play area are all contained within the same building.
The little sand playground for children, interactive sand installations, sand collections from all over the world, exhibitions on sand grains, and outstanding sand art all provide hours of entertainment.
Hand-made items such as screen-printed shirts, gorgeous artwork, jewelry, and one-of-a-kind decor will be available in addition to the usual beachy fare.
Atelier Côtier is a must-see for everyone who enjoys making things.
Drive From Island To Island
When visiting the Magdalen Islands, don’t plan on staying put for long periods of time. It was made for exploration!
If you recall, Magdalen Islands comprises of six main islands that are connected by sand dunes to each other (and now bridges). We strongly propose that you rent a car and spend your time on the islands after you arrive at the airport. Regardless of how you approach it, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
As we discovered from the inhabitants, each has a different size, topography, coastline composition, and language. The French accent on the islands is slightly different from the rest of the country. Since they weren’t always connected, each island grew in a unique way.
It’s hard to beat the dunes on either side of the road on the lengthy, winding stretch of road between Pointe-aux-Loups and Gross-Île-Nord.