Rising in the heart of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the archipelago of Iles-de-la-Madeleine offers diverse wildlife and sweeping coastal scenery. The somewhat precarious location of these 12 islands, in the middle of the world's most immense estuary, means they have historically been something of a ship graveyard. The craggy red rocks that emerge suddenly from the waves here have gashed the hulls of countless ships in times gone by. A gang of six pretty lighthouses share the task of warning of the islands' treacherous waters, while simultaneously providing a scenic twinkle amid the copper-coloured cliffs and coastal archways.
Acadian French accents ring out on the shores and, despite their location, the Iles-de-la-Madeleine form part of Quebec's province. Historically cut off by thick ice, they have developed a distinct culture and character of their own. The 55 mile-long stretch of Route 199 provides the backbone of the island, tying the seven inhabited landforms together, along with a chain of undulating sand dunes. Each of the islands has its own character and profile to explore – offering everything from windswept beaches to sheltered lagoons and rolling emerald hills.
Whales cruise through the deep waters offshore, and you can sail up close and personal to the marine mammals, as well as the seals who are occasionally spotted lounging around on floating chunks of ice. Port du Millerand's flotilla of fishing boats reap the rewards of the location, bringing home vast hauls so local restaurants can serve up the freshest lobster, mussels and crab. With bird watching, coastal golf courses, water-sports and diving opportunities among the many recreations on offer here - this clutch of estuary islands has something for everyone.