Quebec’s Remote Island Haven

Mj 618_348_quebecs remote island haven
Yves Marcoux / Getty Images

Civilization goes on hiatus on the wild and stony shore of Quebec’s Gulf of St. Lawrence, where islands are scattered across waters riotous with porpoises and whales. Coastal Route 138 peters out at the village of Natashquan, north of which 16 communities connected only by ferry and air service stretch across a 230-mile wilderness. Only the most determined visitors make it all the way to Harrington Harbour, population 300, a cluster of pastel-colored houses perched above grey water.

Settled in 1871 by fishermen from Newfoundland, Harrington has been left largely untouched due to its isolation, but over the last decade, Montreal’s intelligentsia has gravitated towards the hamlet’s solitude and natural beauty. Though there are no roads on the island, a system of wooden boardwalks connects the town’s buildings and serves as a stomping ground for local guides, who discuss the area’s singular history – Harrington is also known as Hospital Island because it used to serve as the medical hub for the region – and lore. The local visitors’ bureau offers guided hikes over the tundra to points of interest, including Margaret’s Cave, where a 16th-century castaway survived for two years before her eventual rescue by passing fishermen.

One of only two lodging options in town is with Amy Evans’s two-story, seven-room bed and breakfast overlooking the water. Come weekend evenings, the local commercial fishermen crack crab claws and swap fish tales at the nearby Harbourside Bar and Restaurant. Harrington Harbour’s protected setting amid an archipelago of seven small islands makes it ideal for exploration by sea kayak. Bring your own craft aboard the ferry or do a custom paddling trip up the coast from Natashquan with Expédition Agaguk.

More information: The Relais Nordik ferry leaves on Thursday morning each week from Natashquan.

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