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A Boat Trip To Bonaventure Island And Percé Rock

A Boat Trip to Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock

If you are a bird lover, then put the boat trip to Bonaventure Island on your wish list. The island is home to an astounding 200,000 seabirds, of which 116,000 are gannets.

The gannet colony on Bonaventure Island is one of the largest and most accessible in the world. On the boat ride out to the island you’ll also get a chance to get some photos of Percé Rock – likened to a “ship under sail from a distance.”

Percé Rock comes into view

Percé Rock comes into view

Unfortunately Mother Nature did not cooperate on the day I visited. It was a day of thick fog, rain, thunder and lightning. Still I’m very glad I had booked a day in my schedule to go.

Percé Rock in the fog

Percé Rock in the fog

The Boat Tour to Bonaventure Island

There are a number of companies in the town of Percé offering boat tours. Most take you by Percé Rock – a monster sized natural arch and one of the largest in the world.

Then they continue on a tour around Bonaventure Island – a four square kilometre speck of an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. You’re supposed to see (and we did a bit) thousands of birds nesting on the cliffs – and loads of grey seals swimming or basking on rocks – before being discharged on the dock of Bonaventure Island. Then you can take as much time as you like to explore the island – as long as you’re back for the last boat at 5 PM.

Gannet on Bonaventure Island -

Did you know gannets lay only one blue egg?

Our boat offered the chance to sit up on deck exposed to the elements or below where the rain couldn’t get you. I was looking for the whole experience and opted to enjoy what view I could. The entire trip is narrated in French and English with descriptions and names of birds given that you pass by.

Masses of nesting gannets on the cliffs

Masses of nesting gannets on the cliffs

Parc national de l’île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé

Once you get to the dock on Bonaventure Island a very different – almost civilized world greets you. Bonaventure Island was inhabited until as recently as 1971.

At that point the Quebec government evicted the remaining 35 families living on the island and in 1985 it and Percé Rock became Parc national de l’île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé.

This is what you see when you get off the boat on Bonaventure Island; cafe on the right and hiking info straight ahead

This is what you see when you get off the boat on Bonaventure Island; cafe on the right and hiking info straight ahead

What should you do once you’ve landed on Bonaventure Island?

Once you’ve landed on Bonaventure Island you have to decide how you want to spend your time. If it’s a nice day then perhaps one of the longer hikes might be in order. None are that difficult or require much hill climbing but you do have to be mindful of the fact that the boats return every hour on the hour.

"A description of the hikes on the island"

A description of the hikes on the island

"No matter what you have to hike across the island to see the gannet colony"

No matter what you have to hike across the island to see the gannet colony

Since I didn’t have a lot of time – and thunder was crashing overhead – I chose to hike the Sentier des Colonies, the easiest and most accessible of the trails. I ended up doing a round-trip hike in just over an hour – though I was moving. The trail takes you through lush forest on a gradual climb to reach one of the high points on the island.

You know you’re getting close to the gannet colony when …

You’ve arrived when you see a shelter and you can barely hear yourself think for all the noise the gannets make.

Stand behind a rope barrier, mere feet away from the gannets. It’s a magical place. I certainly felt privileged to get so close to the birds. If the weather had been better there would have been tremendous appeal in watching the comings and goings of the birds for an hour or more. As it was I enjoyed observing a bird with a six foot wingspan find a landing spot on a crowded piece of real estate.

Gannets have a six foot wingspan

Gannets have a six foot wingspan

Gannets are very handsome birds

Gannets are very handsome birds

"The miserable looking brown blobs are the baby gannets"

The miserable looking brown blobs are the baby gannets

It was pouring rain when I was in the viewing area so I didn’t linger. But by the time I got back to the area near the boat dock the rain had stopped. It gave me a chance to get my bearings. I was actually a bit surprised to see Percé Rock off in the distance.

While you’re waiting for a return boat, stop in at the cafe for refreshments. Finish your stay on Bonaventure Island, admiring the wildflowers, listening to the birds and enjoying the landscape. 

Masses of pink wildflowers on Bonaventure Island

Masses of pink wildflowers on Bonaventure Island if you visit in late July

The former inhabitants of Bonaventure Island sure had a great shoreline to enjoy

The former inhabitants of Bonaventure Island sure had a great shoreline to enjoy

Perce Rock comes into view from the boat dock on Bonaventure Island

Percé Rock comes into view from the boat dock on Bonaventure Island

Most of the boat trips in 2019 costs around $38 for an adult. While they can be reserved you can also arrange one when you arrive in Percé.

Did you know that Bonaventure Island is home to so many thousands of birds?

Further reading on mostly nearby places to visit in Quebec

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A boat trip to Bonaventure Island in the Gaspe to see the tens of thousands of birds

A big thank you to Quebec Maritime Tourism for a complimentary  boat ticket. 

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 28 Comments
    1. @Jackie I’m glad I went and considering the things I’ve done in the last few weeks I’ve been really lucky with the weather. But even 15 minutes of sunshine or no rain would have made my bird watching and photographing a lot more fun and easier.

  1. Hi Leigh, I have not heard of Bonaventrue Island. It looks so beautiful even in the rainy weather. I love your photos – the charming houses, the scenic landscape, the gannets, etc. I’m curious why the government evicted the residents – was it for their own safety or was it because the government wanted to make the island into a park?

    1. @Marisol I’m disappointed in my bird shots but it was raining so hard that I didn’t want to chance ruining my camera. The eviction was because they wanted to make the island a park.

    1. @Marcia I imagine getting kicked out of any place is really hard when it’s not your doing. It was all done to set up the park and ultimately protect it for future generations but that doesn’t make it any easier.

  2. whatever the weather it looks like a great place to visit. I have always liked the idea of living on an island – but I don’t think it will ever happen – sigh – oh well – I can visit through fabulous blogs like yours.
    Have a great week – thanks for the tour – and for stopping by my blog today.

    1. @Jill Bonaventure Island has a long history of human habitation starting with the Mi’kmaq who settled the land hundreds of years before the Europeans arrived. In the 1750’s Channel Island immigrants began arriving. The Acadians also came, British Samericans, Scottish settlers …the list goes on.

  3. It’s too bad you didn’t have the perfect weather but what a great adventure and trip. I can’t believe how many birds there are on the island. Did it smell with all the birds there? I’m glad you got some relief in the weather at the end to see the gorgeous coastline. I don’t think I’ve ever seen gannets before – they’re beautiful.

  4. That looks so wonderful. Makes me miss the east coast. We used to travel to eastern Canada a lot when we lived in NY. Would love to go back. Great photos.

    1. @Billie The bulk of the license plates I see are from Ontario and Quebec but I have met a lot of people from Calgary too and the off American though their visits are way down from what they used to be.

  5. What a beautiful and scenic place, those Gannets are quite striking.

    I would like to invite you to come link up with us for Travel Photo Mondays, the link is up for the whole week, hope to see you there next week.

  6. Bonaventure Island looks so mysterious in the fog. That’s an amazing number of birds! Love the photo of the restaurant – did you eat there?

    1. @Cathy There’s always a bright side to bad weather – and that is the mood and atmosphere that it lends to a landscape. I snacked at the restaurant and must say I liked the view from the place.

  7. Hello, thinking of going to do a boat tour and to see the gannets, and just wondering what company you took and if you would recommend?
    Thanks!

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