Îles de la Madeleine, Que.

Canadian Geographic - - CANADA’S BEST ISLAND GETAWAYS - —James Lit­tle

WHEN JAC­QUES CARTIER vis­ited the Mag­dalens back in 1534, he noted in his diary that they were “very sandy.” Hap­pily, the Mag­gies are still very sandy, which is why this small ar­chi­pel­ago in the mid­dle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence re­mains a beach-lover’s dream, es­pe­cially if you pre­fer your sand with­out crowds. On my first visit, I walked for three bliss­ful hours along a 12-kilo­me­tre beach and barely saw an­other soul. But the beaches — and the jagged red coastal cliffs — are just part of the at­trac­tion. If you hop in a car (or on a bike), you will quickly dis­cover In­sta­gram-wor­thy light­houses, har­bours and vil­lages scat­tered through­out the six main in­ter­con­nected is­lands. You’ll also meet some of the 12,000 Madelinots, most of whom speak with an Aca­dian-in­fused French ac­cent heard nowhere else in Que­bec, and many of whom still make their liv­ing from the sea. On my fi­nal evening, I strolled to a wharf and watched ex­cited lo­cal fish­er­men un­load­ing huge slab-sided hal­ibut. Fan­tas­tique.

An ae­rial view of GrosseÎle, the north­ern end of Les Îles de la Madeleine.

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