Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site

Grosse-Île Irish Memorial National Historic Site

The Celtic Cross

Quebec City has become a favoured romantic weekend getaway location for us over the last 4 years or so.  The Irish Memorial had been on my list of places to see, but requires a full day to visit, and it was only this year, with a 4 day trip to the city, that that was possible.We were lucky when it came to the weather – blue skies and 20° C.  It was still early in the season though, and the deep waters of the St. Lawrence River would not have had much of a chance to warm up yet, so dressing in layers was a must for this outing.  Be sure to bring your own lunch because there is no food service at this historic site.

Our drive to the marina was relatively straightforward (see Getting there below), and the signage was clear when we left the main highway.  We reserved by phone ahead of time, and allowed time for ticketing prior to boarding.

The 1/2 hour trip on the water was pleasant, even for a landlubber like me.  We were greeted on the dock at the National Historic Site by two guides who quickly split our group based on language preference.  The site is rich in history, and our excellent Parks guide, Vienna, was very knowledgeable and provided enough information at each of the sites for us to feel fully immersed.  The west end of the island was visited on foot and allowed a full hour for lunch.  The east end of the island was visited via tram, and allowed disembarking at multiple locations to visit certain key buildings.

Visiting the site can be moving on so many levels.  Stories of hope for the Irish who were trying to escape famine, and a new life in Canada, mix with those who were less fortunate and died while in quarantine on this island, just 45 kms away from their final destination (the dock in Quebec City).  I was lucky enough to have been born on this side of the ocean, and to not have had to undertake such a perilous journey.

A trip to this historic site is a worthwhile use of a full day while visiting this region.  The photo gallery at the bottom of this post tells the story of our experiences that day…

Getting there:

Two options figured prominently for getting there.  The favoured one, for its logistical simplicity, was Croisières le Coudrier – their boats leave from the port in old Quebec City.  During the planning phase of our trip, I had attempted to make advance reservations.  Unfortunately, the season had not commenced yet, and they were not taking reservations at the time.  It was too late to book our tickets for their cruise by the time I remembered again.

A very good second option is Croisières Lachance.  We took the train to Quebec City, so getting to their dock in Berthier-sur-Mer required renting a compact car at a nearby hotel, and a 45 minute drive.  The lower cost of 2 tickets for this cruise when combined with the rental car expenses is very similar to the cost of tickets for 2 leaving from the dock in Quebec City.  If you arrived in Quebec City with your own set of wheels, this cruise option will afford you a pleasant drive through the countryside surrounding Quebec City, and save a few bucks along the way.  The bilingual staff on the cruise was very friendly.  The captain’s narrative while en route spoke of the early settlers to the area, and human populations on the small islands nearby.  He offered to repeat the narrative in English, but having predominantly francophone fellow passengers made it somewhat awkward to request translations, and might have dampened the humour being dispensed by the captain (none of the few unilingual English speakers raised their hand to take him up on the offer).  A more bilingual experience might be had by leaving with Croisières le Coudrier from Quebec City with its strong tourist presence.

A map of the route to Berthier-sur-Mer can be found here.


Parks Canada Official Website


Categories: Quebec, Quebec CityTags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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