The Magdalen Islands have no public transit, so having a car and knowing how to drive yourself around is important.
Renting a Car: Where to Go
Because there aren’t many shuttles to get you into town, the ideal time to rent a car is as soon as you arrive at the airport.
This is the primary company, and they are who we used to rent from: Agence de Location des Îles. Leblanc Location d’Autos is another company that has a location at the airport. There are no major automobile rental firms in this area.
We strongly advise you to include car insurance when making your reservation.
Finally, if an SUV is available, consider purchasing it. A minivan isn’t a bad option, but a vehicle with high traction is essential for driving in deeper snow and on treacherous slopes.
Tips for Driving
To help you plan your journey, here are a few pointers on driving and the road conditions.
There are no messes left on the roads.
The main roads on the islands are always well-plowed, so driving was never a problem unless you were in the thick of a snowfall.
Some roads are closed to traffic.
Car rental insurance does not cover you if you get into an accident on a road that isn’t maintained in the winter. Google Maps may attempt to direct you along one of these roads. However, this is not always the case, as shown on Cap Alright Road, which has big pylons in front.
Filling in the blanks
Crevier is a full service gas station; other gas stations are self-serve (post-pay).
The cost of fuel is high.
Consider the high cost of gasoline on the island while planning your travels. . We spent $126 on gas over the course of six days.
You Won’t Be Able to Drive at the Speed You Think You Can
The speed limit on the main highway, 199, is unexpectedly high. The speed limit is 80 km/h in most places, but it can reach 90 km/h in some. Locals drive significantly faster than the posted limit, which is one thing. If you’re driving in a single lane, you’ll have to keep up with other traffic or risk being overtaken. If you’re not used to driving fast, don’t force yourself to do it.
Traps for Quickness
According to the inhabitants, there are no speed traps on the island. There was in fact no police presence on our tour.
Check Your Rental Car
Make a thorough inspection of your rental car at the time of pick-up. Keep in mind that when you return the vehicle, it will be thoroughly inspected as well.
Places to Park
There will be no paid parking spots. There will be many viewpoints, but not all of them will be plowed. Don’t risk getting caught in the parking lots that aren’t well-kept.
Automatic transmissions should be standard in all local rental vehicles.
During the Darkest Days of the Year
Even the auto rental counters at the airport are open for a short period of time. Agence de Location Îles Iles is closed on weekends and holidays during the winter. This means that you can’t just walk up at the desk on Saturday or Sunday to make a reservation.
Magdalen Islands Travel Advice for the Cold Season
If you’re planning a trip to the Magdalen Islands in the winter, you’ll want to know these practical travel recommendations.
In the winter, only a small number of businesses remain open.
Visiting the islands in the winter can be frustrating because many establishments close for the season and don’t reopen until the spring. If there is a huge influx of guests for the Harp Seal Observation, there are alternative attractions that may open.
Limited opening hours are likewise to be expected from enterprises. To give you an example, because we were always out and about, we were never able to make it to the famed Hélène Des Iles bakery in time for their closing at 5:30PM.
The Tourisme Îles de la Madeleine page is a fantastic place to start, but if you’re still hesitant, the Facebook page of the individual companies is a good place to go for up-to-date information.
Consider the fact that most of the information you’ll find online is for the summer while planning your trip.
Be Aware of the Time of Day
If possible, try to visit on a Tuesday or a Saturday if you can.
Almost every business is only open on specified days of the week, as you’ve probably seen. Check the off-season hours to make sure you’re prepared. Cafes and shops are among the many establishments that, as a general rule, remain closed on Sundays.
To get a beer at l’Abri de la tempête, for example, make sure you’re there on one of the two days they’re open (Tuesday and Friday).
Restaurants tend to be busier on Saturday and Sunday, so keep that in mind as well. Reservations are required on those days.
The Hospitality of the Residents
In the Magdalen Islands, everyone was incredibly welcoming. It’s one of those adorable characteristics that you’ll remember long after you return home.
We only learned about Cindy Hook Aventures and the foxes’ hiding place because islanders were eager to share their knowledge with us.
Get to know your fellow travelers by striking up a discussion. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about island life and to ask any questions you may have. If you need assistance with anything, they’ll figure it out.
Getting Past Linguistic Obstacles
The Magdalen Islands are predominantly French-speaking due to their location in Quebec, however as previously said, the hospitality of Madelinots and their readiness to converse with visitors who do not understand French make this a non-issue.
Locals will apologize for their bad English, but we found that they were able to speak well and we were able to understand them.
Most of the time, the people who couldn’t speak any English at all could be heard struggling to convey their thoughts by using the small portions of English that they had memorized to do so.
You’ll be able to get by just fine with English, in the end.
Cliff Edge Safety
The red cliffs that adorn much of the island’s coastline are a big draw. Belle-Anse, the Cap Alright Lighthouse, Borgot Lighthouse, and Old Harry Beach are included in this category.
In the winter, the mix of snow, ice, and erosion creates a deadly situation. It’s difficult to tell if the ground is solid or not when it’s covered in snow. As a result, there are unstable edges because of the constant erosion.
Stay away from the edges when investigating these locations, and use common sense at all times.
Next, we heard from the tourism board that you’re not allowed to go beyond the roped barriers in order to avoid violating the rules. Inconveniently, tourists may find the signage difficult to understand.
Two examples come to mind. There is a Belle Anse Trail (Sentier de la Belle Anse) that goes along the cliffs and winds through the neighboring woodland during the summer months. You can’t go beyond the parking lot fences in the winter, and you can’t stroll all the way out to the rocks that protrude into the ocean.
The lighthouse at Borgot is another good example. Yes, you’re permitted to trek up to the lighthouse itself but you are not allowed to continue walking out beyond the lighthouse along the rock.
People have died after falling from these cliffs, according to local lore, so we urge you to use extreme caution.