The Îles-de-la-Madeleine, or 'Magdalen Islands', form a small archipelago in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence with a land area of 79.36 square miles (205.53 square kilometres). Though closer to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, the islands form part of the Canadian province of Quebec. Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine encompass eight major islands: Havre-Aubert, Grande Entrée, Cap aux Meules, Grosse-Île, Havre aux Maisons, Pointe-Aux-Loups, Île d'Entrée and Brion. All except Brion are inhabited. Several other tiny islands are also considered part of the archipelago: Rocher aux Oiseaux; Île aux Loups-marins; Île Paquet; and Rocher du Corps Mort. Although Europeans first arrived on the islands in the mid-1600s, Mi'kmaq Indians had been visiting the islands for hundreds of years, and numerous archaeological sites have been excavated on the archipelago. By the mid-18th century, the islands were inhabited by French-speaking Acadians, and administered as part of the colony of Newfoundland from 1763-1774, when they were annexed to Quebec by the Quebec Act. A segment of the population are English descendants from survivors of the over 400 shipwrecks on the islands. The construction of lighthouses eventually reduced the number of shipwrecks, but many old hulks remain on the beaches and under the waters. Until the 20th century, the islands were completely isolated during the winter months due to the pack ice that made the trip to the mainland impassable by boat. However, a new wireless telegraph station provided Magdalens with year-round communication with the outside world. In recent years, the pristine natural beauty of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, along with the archipelago's strategic geographic location in the heart of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, has made tourism an important part of the local economy. The well-preserved natural heritage, extraordinarily beautiful marine landscapes and exceptional coastline of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine offer visitors a unique opportunity to explore the area's natural splendour. The panoramic archipelago features dramatic red cliffs, rolling green hills, brightly-coloured houses, intimate inlets, hidden coves, and over 180 miles (290 kilometres) of honey-coloured and white-sand beaches; half of the archipelago's islands are linked by sand dunes. The Îles-de-la-Madeleine are also home to a wealth of diverse marine life, bird species, and flora and fauna to discover. The Îles-de-la-Madeleine offer a truly distinctive blend of Acadian, Madelinot, French and English cultures, traditions and communities that make this breath-taking archipelago a truly unforgettable destination. You can explore the people and history of the islands during visits to the many wonderful museums and interpretation centres, public areas and historical sites, art galleries, artisan workshops, archival centres, performing arts and theatres, industrial facilities, culinary and wine shops, charming boutiques, and cultural and gourmet festivals and events. The exquisite natural and coastal splendour of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine include a host of incredibly scenic and memorable sightseeing venues. Land-based excursions include picturesque nature hikes, walking trails, bicycling, bird-watching, horseback riding, golfing at the Club de golf des Iles, kite-flying, and flightseeing. The teeming coastal waters are ideally-suited for seal- and whale-watching, mariculture, canoeing, sea-kayaking, surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing, fishing, boating, sailing and Zodiac tours, snorkelling, scuba diving, and more. Private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Shore Concierge Office on board the ship.