Rivière-du-Loup: 209km (130 miles) NE of Québec City; Grand Métis: 358km (222 miles) NE of Québec City; Matane: 411km (255 miles) NE of Québec City; Percé: 765km (475 miles) NE of Québec City.

The southern bank of the St. Lawrence River sweeps north, then eastward, and then back in towards itself, creating a large thumb of land called the Gaspé Peninsula -- la Gaspésie in French. The Gaspésie is where Jacques Cartier landed in 1534 (officially "discovering" Canada) and planted a flag in the name of the King of France. The wind-swept region holds a special place in the hearts of the Québécois; it is heaped with aged, blunt hills covered with hundreds of square miles of woodlands. Over much of its northern perimeter, slopes fall directly into the sea.

The fishing villages in the coves cut from the coast are sparsely populated, with eagles and some caribou in the high grounds. Winter here is long and harsh; but sunny winter days are very rewarding, and winter tourism has been increasing steadily in recent years. Yet tourism peaks in the precious crystal days of summer. All that makes it the perfect place for hiking, biking, bird-watching, whale-watching, and fishing in legendary salmon streams.

A trip here will be a complete escape from the cities, and for most, the final destination is the village of Percé, at the easternmost edge of the province, along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It's here that you'll find Rocher Percé -- Percé Rock, in English -- the famed 470m-long (1,542-ft.) butte rising from the sea. It's an astounding sight that you should walk up to at low tide.