The biggest island in the province of Quebec with its 222 kilometers in length (138 miles) is also the flagship of the Gulf of the Saint-Lawrence, where it rests since a time long-forgotten. Most Quebecers don’t know much about Anticosti Island, but it really is the jewel of the Saint-Lawrence.
While both the funniest and the creepiest stories took place on Anticosti, its reputation speaks of its marvellous domain, and of being the “Cemetery of the Gulf”; the island environment is exceptional, with its woods, its caves, rivers, canyons, fossils, but it is also dangerous for incoming ships with its surrounding capes and reefs.
What to do with this 8,000 km2 (over 3,000 square miles) monument that seems to be waiting just off the North Shore?
Henri Menier, famous French chocolate maker, made the island his own personal kingdom in America: haven of peace, hunting and fishing, where he welcomed his guests, but also a land controlled and restricted for the inhabitants, Menier’s rules being strictly enforced by his intendant, Georges Martin-Zédé.
That story began in 1895, and ended in 1926, when the island was sold. Twelve years later, shortly before the start of the Second World War, German “businessmen” offered to buy the island “for its natural resources”. We now know the Reich was looking to control the Saint-Lawrence river via this outpost. Eventually, German submarines would sail in the Saint-Lawrence estuary, where merchant ships were torpedoed.
Today, after the amazing development from a century ago, after the wood harvesting from several companies, like the Consolidated Bathurst (who also burned down Menier’s castle), Anticosti Island remains largely untouched by man; around 160,000 white-tailed deers can be seen everywhere around the island (in the village, alongside the roads, in the fields, in the woods…), a result of Menier’s project to make the island a hunter’s paradise.
Although it is now a coveted land due to the presence of oil and shale gas on the island, it is still considered the jewel of the Saint-Lawrence by many people in the province of Quebec, who think it should be preserved.
Where some people see the presence of so many deers on the island as actual poetry, others argue that the species is preventing the trees from regenerating properly. But trees are still aplenty, and more are being cut today! However, departing from the ways of the old industries, wood is now being cut in a sustainable manner, by a cooperative. Several exclosures (the opposite of an enclosure) were built to protect tree sprouts and allow them to grow into fully grown pines, spruces and firs.
The Sépaq (Société des établissements de plein-air du Québec), manages 572 km2 (220 sq. mi.) of the island, and there are two additional nature preserves. Whether camping, cottage or inn is more to your liking – there are even old lighthouse keeper houses – you will find what you’re looking for to turn your stay into an experience, in the heart of an amazing natural environment. Several days are needed if you wish to see it from East to West, but a week won’t feel too long if you really want to enjoy everything Anticosti has to offer.
Long-thought to be nothing more than a wealthy hunter and fisher’s paradise, Anticosti Island is also affordable, and accessible to tourists looking to stay for a few nights. In the summer, anyone can experience, in many ways, a nature that can’t be imagined before setting foot on the island. And now, fossils were recently found in abundance on the island. What a great discovery!
Voyages Coste, the cooperative for a sustainable tourism environment, and its members, invite you to Anticosti Island, by plane or by boat, either for a quick look, a day-long tour, or for as long as you want, for a most relaxing time, as you learn facts unknown to even most Quebecers.