Situated at the entrance to the St. Lawrence, Gaspé became over the centuries the hub of the Gaspésie peninsula and has established a notable reputation as a major fishing and tourism center. The name Gaspé is derived from the MicMac Indian word Gespeg meaning “end of land.” The long and rich history of Gaspé, however, might suggest the opposite as it is here that Canada's official history began back on July 24th, 1534, with Jacques Cartier making his first landfall while searching for a sea route to the Orient. Although he stayed for just eleven days, there was enough time to erect a wooden cross and stake out France's and Christianity's claim to this new territory. With the arrival of the Jesuits who established the first seminary and the Ursulines, Gaspé developed into an important academic center for eastern Québec.
The peninsula has always been sparsely populated and poor, its remote communities struggling to make a living from the sea and the rocky soil. The population is predominantly and proudly Québécois, though there are pockets of English settlement and centers of Acadian culture, established in 1755 in the wake of the British deportation of some 10,000 Acadians from the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. However, neither of these communities has created visually distinctive villages or towns, and Gaspé looks as French as the heartlands of rural Québec.
The peninsula's interior is dominated by a chain of mountains and rolling highlands which provide some wonderful scenery of forested hills, deep ravines and craggy mountains tumbling to a jagged coastline. There are also two outstanding National Parks: Parc de la Gaspésie in the north of the peninsula and Forillon National Park, the jewel of the Gaspé, nestled between the St. Lawrence and Gaspé Bay.
Gaspé has something for everyone. The National Parks will delight nature lovers, and the historic sites will enchant history buffs. For those reasons the area in recent years has become a major summer holiday spot.