Affordable Travel Guide to Saint Pierre and Miquelon

Un Petit Morceau de France dans l'Amerique Nord

Saint Pierre and Miquelon

Lucky for the folks who live in southern Newfoundland, Canada; they are a quick boat ride to France, and they can do it in a rowboat, not an ocean liner! The main islands comprising the French archipelago known as St. Pierre and Miquelon are situated 15 miles/25km off the coast of Newfoundland and accessible to the general public (providing you carry a passport) via ferry from Fortune Bay. In minutes, you can be in France!

Only two of the eight islands in the archipelago are inhabited (although rumors persist that one of the smaller island has a sole occupant), settled by Portuguese and Basque fishermen from the old world in the early 1500s. The climate is rather inhospitable, but the modern natives of these stark islands are anything but; they are friends with the Newfoundlanders and welcome visitors to their unique little islands and seafaring lifestyle.

Straddling the Grand Banks, the most populous island is named after Saint Peter, patron saint of fishermen. St. Pierre is where local business and government is carried on, and is the site of the islands’ airport. Flights can be taken to St. Pierre from Halifax and Sydney (Nova Scotia), Montréal (Québec), and St. John’s (Newfoundland). Air Canada services St. Pierre and Miquelon; it also has its own airline, Air Saint-Pierre. The newly renovated and expanded airport can accommodate flights directly from France.

If you take the ferry from Fortune Bay, be prepared to leave your car at the ferry terminal. There are vehicles on the islands, but visitors find it best to leave their own car on Canadian soil.

Miquelon, a loose translation of the name Michael, is attached to a third island, Langlade (if you say it quickly, it sounds more or less like “England”) by a sandy isthmus. This is a region of rough weather and wild ocean, and is home to countless shipwrecks. Seabirds, seals and other marine life swim and play around the islands; it’s a nature-lover’s delight.

St. Pierre and Miquelon are rocky and rugged, and suffer a harsh climate, much like Newfoundland, so don’t go there looking for beaches and sunshine (July and August tend to be quite foggy). What you will find is French food, 6,000 friendly people, colorfully painted clapboard houses in the seafaring tradition, and genuine peace and quiet. And photography opportunities everywhere you look, from the steep shorelines to the towns and villages, to the inescapable draw of the sea. And there’s a great matter of curiosity: the streets have no names (maybe this inspired the U2 song!).

The locals celebrate heritage and culture with a number of festivals each year, a devotion (like their neighbors, Canada) to hockey, and a very French style of cuisine, based principally (and by default) on seafood like crab, lobster, mussels and many varieties of fish. Join them for the annual Basque Festival with food and music, or run along in the Les 25 de Miquelon, a 15-mile marathon held on the last Saturday of June. Of course, being French, the people of St. Pierre and Miquelon celebrate Bastille Day on July 14th.

When you visit, check out the lighthouse, the wharves and the docks that moor cruise ships. For details visit www.st-pierre-et-miquelon.com. It may not have Paris, or Saint-Tropez or Bordeaux, but this little piece of France in North America owns a charm and uniqueness like no other. Dress for cool weather, and be prepared for a litany of surprises. It’s not what you expect, and it’s more that you could have anticipated.

More in North America

Canada

Canada

One of the Top Travel Destinations, a Land of Great Contrasts