Bonne-Esperance is a community located in the Quebec’s North Shore. Bonne-Esperance is a calm community situated at the western end of the provincial 138 Highway beginning at the Quebec-Labrador border near Blanc-Sablon.
The municipality of about 900 inhabitants is composed of three historical villages:
- Old Fort Bay Village,
- Middle Bay Village
- St. Paul’s River.
Old Fort Bay was founded in the early 16th century by Basque fishermen. It was destroyed later by the Native, who clashed with the Europeans along the coast over traditional hunting and fishing grounds. Middle Bay is a small village of fishermen. St. Paul’s River is the largest of the three villages of Bonne-Esperance.
Local inhabitants rely on the fishing industry and on tourism. Many skilled people from Bonne-Esperance work as guides and cooks during the summer months in remote outfitting camps. Most of the population migrate to the islands of the Old Fort archipelago in the summer to practice fishing activities. It is said that French explorer Jacques Cartier landed at Port-Saint-Servan, just west of the present day Old Fort Bay, at the mouth of the Old Fort River and planted a cross.
This event was said to have taken place a full month before the now famous Gaspe landing, but it may be only a local legend. Also, the location of the 16th century Breton fishing capital of Brest is believed to be at the site as well. In fact, many artefacts such as weapons and bullets have been unearthed around corroborate many of the speculations regarding the first settlement and early Inuit and Montagnais confrontations.
A fish processing plant is a centre of the local economic life, as well as a wharf and public dock, located in Old Fort. At Bonne-Esperance, the Dog Island Cultural Centre is situated on the island bearing the same name. Tours can be arranged during the summer months. Jacques Cartier trail with information panels is located here. Vacationers like to hike, watch birds and whales, or go on boat tours and sea kayaking.
Berry-picking, salmon fishing, wilderness camping, ice fishing, cross-country skiing are also possible. In Old Fort, a large boardwalk invites to take a stroll along the village at the waterfront of this scenic village. The boardwalk leads past excellent views of the bay surrounding the community.
It passes a recently-restored historic cemetery as well as interpretation panels. Several hiking trails north of the Old Fort village will lead to a stunning lookout at Granny’s Hill. Besides, Bonne Esperance Island, or “Boney” as it is locally called, was the setting for the most revolutionary invention of its time, the Cod trap. It was also the setting for the Whiteley family manor, one of the most beautiful dwellings in the area.
The Whiteley Museum retraces the history of this family and the Cod trap. Boat tours are offered. Guests can visit many nearby islands and coves by boat with a local tour operator who can regale with the legends and mysteries associated with each. Flavour Route and Best of the Quebec-Labrador Coast Route are located near by.