When is the best time to visit the Gaspé?
It is a question I often hear, mostly from those with flexible schedules. My answer is always the same, it depends on your interests! I can tell you I usually recommend August to my friends but each month has pros and cons. I tried to compile a few for you.
The plusses: We open as soon as we can, as soon as the ground has thawed enough to allow water pipes to flow. The opening date usually falls between the second and fourth week of May. Tourists traveling at that time of year will at times have the whole campground to themselves. Since there can still be snow in the forest, animals flock to opened areas that have already melted and are therefore more visible. Interesting observations are possible, mostly in the South Area where many porcupines line the roadside.
The minusses: You must be ready for colder temperatures, even close to freezing temps during the night. Some touristic sites will not yet be opened.
The plusses: In my humble opinion, primetime for wildlife lovers (whales, marine birds, land mammals) is around the end of June. At our campground during this month we always enjoy at least one period where Humpback whales come close to the shore (easily explained by the presence of capelin, a small fish approaching the shore to spawn). Fans of birdwatching will appreciate the activity generated by the nesting of thousands of marine birds in the cliffs of the National Park. Lobster and crab are in season.
The minusses: Those traveling in early June must prepare for weather colder than what you might find in more southern areas of Québec. As a point of reference, know that our lilac trees bloom about a month later than Montréal’s (late June vs late May). Spring lingers on… Some touristic attractions will not open before the end of school term.
The plusses: The first half of July is certainly less busy than the second half, since the second part falls in the ‘vacances de la construction’ (for those unaware of the concept, in Québec everyone working in the construction industry gets the same time-off dates. This creates a strong demand in the tourism industry). Weather tends to get warmer as the month goes by. Marine birds are still present but their number will start declining as the month ends, a great portion of them starting to migrate again. The local lobster is available in the first part of the month, then the fishing zones close successively. There are many cultural activities on offer. .
The minusses: July is on average a bit cooler than August. The snow crab season will already be over.
The plusses: August fields are colored by fireweed and it really feels like summer. It is usually the month I recommend to out-of-town friends who want to visit. The biggest event of the summer, the music festival (Musique du bout du monde) occurs in the second week.
The minusses: Maybe you are thinking that you will avoid all crowds by coming in August but be aware that for the past few years, we are often busier late August than we were late July. We have steady high occupancy until almost the end of the month. The local lobster will not be available at this time of year.
The plusses: Fall is the quietest but most stunning season. The Fall colors in the Gaspé peninsula are breathtaking, with the peak being at the very end of the month. This is also proper time for migrating birdwatching.
The minusses: Some attractions and services shut down early September. Nights will be chillier.
What do you think? What is your own favorite time of year to visit the Gaspé peninsula? Share your thoughts in the comments below!