In the brisk North Atlantic, situated off the southern coast of the Canadian province of Newfoundland, the remote archipelago of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon embodies a charming cultural amalgam. Covered in fragrant boreal forests and sometimes mystical layers of fog, the island chain is a French territory—it’s part of France, not French Canada as one might assume from its position on a map. As such, the currency is the euro and power outlets are European. The language is French, not French Canadian, and the islands are smattered with epicurean delights associated with the Metropole (meaning the motherland, and what people from the islands call France).
No trek to Saint-Pierre and Miquelon is complete without a visit all of the islands and traversing them is easier than one may imagine. Saint-Pierre, the most populous (with 6,000 residents), welcomes travelers by ferry from Newfoundland or by plane from various points in Canada (and one flight per week from Paris during the summer months). Nearby, the much larger Miquelon (which houses only 600 residents) can be reached by a 15-minute Cessna ride courtesy of Air Saint-Pierre or a two-hour ferry ride from Saint-Pierre harbor. It’s connected to Langlade, a scarcely populated island of astonishing natural beauty, by way of a thin, sandy isthmus. Île aux Marins (accessible by a brief ride on the Le P’tit Gravier ferry) is a gem in the crown of the archipelago. A former fishing village devoid of full-time residents since the 1960s, Île aux Marins stands frozen in time. Its museum is an enchanting attraction that breathes life into the colorful ghost town.
Everything in the archipelago should be booked in advance—from flights and ferries to Zodiac tours, car rentals (only necessary for sunset chasing), hotel stays, meals and museum visits. The tourism office in Saint-Pierre is a tremendous resource for anyone who needs assistance in securing reservations or further recommendations. Because of the archipelago’s northerly position and the fact that the islands rise where the warm Gulf Stream meets the chilly Labrador Current, there are only three months where tourism is encouraged: July, August and September. During this time, large-scale community events—like the DuneFest music extravaganza or the Basque Festival—often act as a cultural magnet. But one does not need a festival to appreciate the majesty of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. Anyone with a sense of adventure (Francophile or not), who values feeling far away, will be mesmerized by the bountiful offerings—not to mention the seals, puffins and the occasional passing whale.
Terrasses du Port
A new hotel with views of the Saint-Pierre harbor, Terrasses du Port pairs modern design with top-tier hospitality. Rooms are thoughtfully designed and comfortable. Staff is friendly and knowledgable. The on-site spa offers plenty of relaxation after a hike around the island or a brief stroll to and from downtown. Food is an undeniable highlight here, whether it’s their daily breakfast spread or the delectable dinner menu at the hotel’s restaurant, L’îlot. As rooms are booked up quickly in Saint-Pierre, both the Auberge Quatre Temps and Hotel Robert are superb options, too.
From its cozy environment to the refined cuisine, signature cocktails and thorough wine list, Le Select is an elevated dinner destination. Unsurprisingly, the menu includes French classics like escargot and andouillettes, which the culinary team deftly handles, but other dishes (like the hearty fish and chips) nod to the region and its history.
Connected to La Maison du Cadeau, a charming gift shop with local goods, the ROC Cafe serves coffee, tea, salads and desserts in a casual space that comes complete with a large back garden. Crepes are quite popular here (both savory and sweet) but the ice cream menu is sure to satisfy travelers with a sweet tooth.
A fascinating glimpse into the history of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, the Musée Héritage (aka the Heritage Museum) holds innumerable treasures. From Prohibition-era bottles (residents of the islands supplied bootleggers and speakeasies in the US when production was banned stateside) to dories from the years when fishing was the primary industry and even a historic printing press, the collection builds an informative world to explore.
A 75-minute loop on boardwalks and verdant trails lined with horses (they aren’t wild, they’re just grazing), the Diamant circumnavigates a picturesque corner peninsula of Saint-Pierre. Spectacular views include the ocean and nearby rocky shores. A short turn off one of the intersections leads to Savoyard Beach, a sandy patch used for swimming in the Savoyard Pond (which is warmer than the Atlantic). Altogether, it’s a quick drive from the center of Saint-Pierre and an ideal spot to catch a sunset on clear days or take a stroll at any time (and in any type of weather).
Cheese lovers will delight at L’Essentiel, an eclectic restaurant that serves elaborate shared cheese plates for dinner. Each artistic presentation features various types of international cheeses, along with fruits, jams, nuts, vegetables and baguettes of exemplary quality. The wine and beer list is meticulously paired to the cheese plates. Dozens of puzzles and board games are available to play while guests wait.
Bar le Rustique
With ample indoor and outdoor seating as well as a billiard table, Bar le Rustique is a convivial social center in Saint-Pierre. Behind the bar, a large selection of liquors can be transformed into classic mixed drinks by the friendly bartenders (or enjoyed neat). Curious visitors should also try Miqu’Ale, the flavorful local beer, which comes in a few styles.
Nature Interpretation Center
In the center of the small village of Miquelon, the Nature Interpretation Center is both a museum dedicated to the geography, flora and fauna of the islands as well as a destination where one can book a guide to hike the exquisite beauty of Cap de Miquelon or connect with a driving tour down into Langlade. The helpful staff, free WiFi and small cafe make this a necessary pit-stop for anyone hoping to access (or learn more about) the surrounding natural wonders.
An exuberant dining destination, The Mayou’Naise is one of the most talked about restaurants throughout the whole archipelago—and it’s worthy of its beloved reputation. Clever culinary collisions are served in an endearing, eccentric environment where outdoor seating is also an option. Portion size is substantial and, perhaps surprisingly considering it is a remote island, everything is very well-priced.
Au P’tit Kakawi
Au P’tit Kakawi, a five-guest-room bed and breakfast in downtown Miquelon, is a family-run establishment with a friendly and thoughtful host. Rooms are clean and comfortable; each comes with its own bathroom. The shared kitchen is stocked and breakfast is included with a stay. It’s a convenient two-minute walk to the harbor, the Nature Interpretation Center and the restaurants of Miquelon, as well.
Hero image by David Graver