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Navigating the Back Roads to Rimouski
Every summer I reserve a week or two for exploration. On one of my most recent expeditions, I discovered the Navigators’ Route (Route des navigateurs) in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of Quebec. The route, also known as Highway 132, runs along the south shore of the St. Lawrence between the villages of La Pocatière and Sainte-Luce. The route offers exceptional panoramic views of the river, islands and majestic mountains that line the north shore. My final destination was Rimouski to visit the Pointe-au-Père Maritime Historic Site to learn more about the Empress of Ireland, a large cruise ship that sunk in St. Lawrence River in 1914. Below are some of the exceptional discoveries I made along the way.
Parc National du Bic
Bas-Saint-Laurent has a wonderful natural playground in the Parc National du Bic. Picturesque inlets give way to extraordinary views of the widening expanse of St. Lawrence as this mighty river opens to the salty waters of the Atlantic. While traveling up one of its cragged trails, I stop to snack on wild blueberries as I survey the rocky inlets on the shoreline below me. Binoculars are a must on such visits, and I am fortunate to spot a whale and a trio of seals sporting in the river.
Resting at Rimouski
After a long day of exploring the natural beauty of Bic, I am ready for a rest. My luxurious accommodations will serve as the starting point for my much anticipated visit to the Pointe-au-Père Historic Site.
Of Ships, Submarines and Lighthouses
The Empress of Ireland Museum at Pointe-au-Père is only a short ten minute drive from my hotel. The great ship collided with the Norwegian collier, Storstad in a heavy fog during the early morning hours of May 29, 1914. 1012 passengers and crew perished. I enjoy the museum’s multimedia presentation, but it is the museum’s collection of items from the ship that resonates most with me.
After the museum, I descend into the depths of the Onondaga submarine, the only tour of its kind offered to the public in Canada. The Onondaga served the Canadian Navy for over 30 years. I get a good idea of what it was like for sailors to live and work in cramped conditions for months at a time. Feeling claustrophobic, I quickly make my way back to the top.
I end my visit to Museum by climbing the Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse. At 33 meters, it is one of Canada’s highest lighthouses. The extraordinary view from the top is well worth the arduous climb.
A Region That Leaves One Hungry for More
I am beat after that lighthouse climb, and now it is time for a little R&R back at the hotel. After a brief dip in the pool, it’s off to dinner. I have made some pleasant discoveries while traveling The Navigator’s Route. My thirst for the maritime history of this region has been fulfilled for the time being, but my appetite to discover more of this region’s charming attractions will soon bring me back again.