Isle of Wonders
A tale of adventure on Anticosti Island
In collaboration with Marine Clément-Colson
In the beginning, the only thing I knew of Anticosti Island were its legends. A little chunk of land in the middle of the St. Lawrence River where thousands of deer roam free. An idyllic island that a nineteenth-century European chocolate-maker bought up with the aim of making it his own little piece of paradise.
The View from Above
The island gives off a unique aura, and I sensed it even from high above when I set eyes on it for the very first time. From the window of the airplane that had just whisked me across the St. Lawrence Estuary and the majestic mountains of the Gaspé Peninsula, it appeared beneath me. A huge island that, seen from the sky, seemed to consist of endless forests of fir trees, their trunks pummeled by the crashing waves.
The island is also characterized by something else that I had never experienced on any other island: sheer size. Kilometers of untouched wilderness as far as the eye can see. Forests in their most primitive, unadulterated state.
To imagine the vastness of Anticosti, picture the biggest island in Québec, some 17 times the size of the Island of Montréal, and bigger even than the entire Canadian province of Prince Edward Island. To put it into perspective for Europeans, Anticosti is comparable in size to Corsica, only its population is fewer than 300 as opposed to the 339,000 who call the French island home.
Even after reading these figures in advance, it wasn’t until a few days after arriving that I finally got a sense of the immensity of Anticosti. After several wonderful days exploring the northwest part of the island, I was ready to venture into its heart, to a very special destination. That night I would sleep at one of those rare places where the sunrises are as stunning as the sunsets! That magical guest inn is called Auberge McDonald.
I immediately fell in love with the place. For the breathtaking views. For the star-studded nights. For the sound of the waves as you drift off to sleep. And more than anything, for the warmth and hospitality of the people who welcome you into their lodge.
“Distances on the map can be deceiving here,” the locals would often tell me, knowing only too well that it wouldn’t sink in until I’d actually headed off down the Transanticostienne to points beyond. But to tell the truth, the beauty of an Anticosti roadtrip lies precisely in that feeling of losing all notion of time.
Cruising for hours through stands of towering coniferous trees, breathing in the invigorating fresh air, admiring pristine rivers, marveling at cascading waterfalls hidden away in the heart of the dense boreal forest. Discovering crystalline lakes, their water warmed by the sun. And, on a hot summer afternoon, cooling off in one of the deliciously ice-cold pools in the island’s rivers…
A Feast in Paradise
One of my fondest memories of the island is the time I stopped to admire the Jupiter River. Its emerald waters are so crystal-clear you can see the salmon swimming. Needless to say, it’s a favorite spot for angling enthusiasts. I was in luck that day as a group of fishers invited me to join them for a shore lunch—a treat I will never forget in a one-of-a-kind spot where the river spills into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Under the scorching sun, we enjoyed freshly caught trout grilled in maple syrup over an open fire, while the waves lapped gently at our feet. I felt as if I’d died and gone to heaven!
The Golden Island
On Anticosti, you can’t help but stop often to gaze in wonder at the view. It’s also a place where the golden hour seems to last forever, and where you can barely tear your eyes away from the magnificent hues of the sky.
I was amazed to see how in many ways Anticosti’s landscapes are similar to certain tropical islands. I know what you’re thinking… tropical landscapes in Québec? Come on! But it’s true! With its waterfalls and its cascading rivers and pools, Anticosti is like something out of an exotic dream—albeit one with northern vegetation—and it makes for a fascinating and unexpected scene!
Anticosti, the Unforgettable
That was something else I’d been told before I set foot on the island—I would be forever marked by my visit to Anticosti. But I didn’t fully realize it until I was in the air again, watching out the window as the island grew smaller and smaller in the distance, and a wave of wonderful memories washed over me.
Okay, I’ll stop before I get too carried away, but if we cross paths one day, be warned that I can talk about Anticosti for hours on end! By the way, if you head to Anticosti, I highly recommend you add the soundtrack of the film “Into the Wild” to your playlist. I guarantee you won’t be able to get it out of your head!
Oh, and one last little piece of advice: Make a point of getting up at sunrise, because 5 in the morning is when the most surprising encounters occur!
About Marine Clément-Colson
Photographer and documentary filmmaker Marine Clément-Colson has worked all around the world, and she is driven by a desire to immortalize the people who make our world such a wonderful place. From the islands of the Indian Ocean to those of the St. Lawrence River, she trains her lens on the everyday stories she encounters. In Quebec, her latest photo essay can be admired in the pages of Dînette magazine.