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Special thanks to Québec Maritime who hosted our press trip to the Gaspé Peninsula and sponsored this post.

Sunset with Geodome Mont St Joseph

Why just sleep in a room when you can sleep in a story? That’s my thinking whenever it comes to looking for a place to stay, whether that means an historic inn or one-of-a-kind hotel, or something considerably more ‘out there’. So when Henk and I were planning our Gaspé Peninsula road trip, we found a few Gaspé accommodations that promised a truly unforgettable experience. How did those work out, you might wonder? Here’s how we spent our Gaspésie nights getting close to nature in a luxury Geodome, sleeping aboard a land-locked sailing ship, and floating on the ocean in a Mongolian yurt. (Or as we refer to them, the Unique, the Historique and the Rustique!)

Quirky Gaspé Accommodation #1: “Glamping it up” in a Luxury Geodome

Geodomes Desjardin on Mont St Joseph Gaspe Peninsula
The 5 Géodômes Desjardins take glamping to new heights on Mont St. Joseph

Henk and I are no strangers to glamping (“glamorous camping”), whether that means an East-African style tent while on safari in the Serengeti, or a luxurious spherical treehouse on Vancouver Island. But what we learned when we visited the Géodômes Desjardins at Mont Saint-Joseph in the Gaspé Peninsula is that the only thing better than glamping in the great outdoors, is glamping in the great outdoors with a million-dollar view.

The geodomes are a new addition when it comes to Gaspé accommodations, having only recently opened in late 2020, and no expense was spared in their construction. The domes themselves have a large footprint (about 16 feet in diameter) and boast a custom-built interior unit that takes multi-tasking to a whole new level, quite literally. On the main floor, the structure houses a well-equipped and fully stocked kitchenette that includes an induction cooktop, refrigerator, sink, and attached dining table.

Geodome interior kitchen unit Gaspe
Each geodome has a custom unit that includes a fully equipped kitchenette

There is a queen bedroom nook tucked just behind the kitchen on one side, and on the opposite side there’s a private bathroom with a dry toilet (so no 100-yard dashes at midnight to go the bathroom). The roof of the main floor structure serves as a platform for the loft level, which is accessed by a ladder like a ‘grownup bunk bed of sorts. Here there’s another queen bed and enough headroom for even Henk and I to stand comfortably.

Gaspe Geodomes Desjardins interior
Like a grownup ‘bunkbed’, there is a queen bed on the upper loft/platform

But the best thing about these geodomes is not what’s inside as much as what’s outside. Each dome is built onto the slopes of Mont Saint-Joseph just below its summit, offering absolutely unbeatable views over Chaleur Bay.

View of Chaleur Bay from inside Geodome Desjardins
The views from inside and out are what make these Geodomes so special

Henk and I arrived for our overnight stay in our dome well before sunset, so we had plenty of time to settle in, make dinner and then relax afterwards on our wraparound deck, drinking in the spectacular view (and a couple of adult beverages).

Gaspe Geodome Desjardins sunset
Wine sunset at Geodome Desjardins Gaspe
Nothing pairs better with a sunset than a glass of wine

After the sun went down the stars came out instead and provided the kind of dark-sky viewing only a place this isolated can.

Milky Way over Chaleur Bay from Geodome Gaspe
The Milky Way dipping behind clouds over Chaleur Bay

Waking up the next morning shortly after sunrise, I headed out onto the deck with my tea to take full advantage of the scenery. There was definitely a familiar cottage vibe to our dome, with its Muskoka chairs on the deck, water in front of me and a screened front door that ‘banged’ with that special sound that all cottage doors should make.

Morning light over Chaleur Bay

As I was enjoying the sounds of birds in the cool morning air, I heard a commotion just a few yards away: a gorgeous (and huge!) red fox had just leaped onto the path to our dome and pounced on a bird in the bushes! The bird managed to escape, and the fox and I locked eyes for a moment or two, our hearts both racing for different reasons. Then the fox turned and loped away nonchalantly to try its luck finding breakfast elsewhere, leaving me a surprised and delighted witness to his unsuccessful morning hunt. With a hot tea in hand, and a fox in the bush, glamping doesn’t get any better than this!

TIP: The Géodômes Desjardins are fully outfitted with made-up beds (no air mattresses here!) and all the kitchen equipment you’ll need to prepare your own food, including a BBQ. (Don’t forget your favourite drinks to enjoy on the deck.) And for those of you who may not like to wake up with the sun, the geodomes are conveniently outfitted with blackout curtains.

Quirky Gaspé Accommodation #2: “Camping it up” on La Grande Hermine

Morning light on Grande Hermine Gaspe Peninsula
The Grande Hermine is a ship-shape ‘ship/chalet’ on Chaleur Bay (say that 3 times!)

“Arr, Matey!” It’s hard not to speak like a pirate when you first step aboard La Grande Hermine, one of the most unique Gaspé accommodations you’ll find at the Chalets de l’Anse-Ste-Hélène on the shores of Chaleur Bay. But when we learned a little more about this ship/chalet, the history behind the original that inspired it, and the man who actually constructed it, our experience onboard became less camp and kitsch, and more unique and historique.

The Real Grande Hermine History

historic drawing of Jacques Cartier's Grande Hermine
Jacques Cartier captained the Grande Hermine on his first voyage to Canada in 1534

The original Grande Hermine is a big part of the Gaspé Peninsula’s – and Canada’s – history, as this was the ship captained by Jacques Cartier on his first voyage to explore Canada in 1534. After landing first in Newfoundland, and then turning south towards the Magdalen Islands, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, Cartier sailed into Chaleur Bay on the south shore of the Gaspé Peninsula. It was here that Cartier anchored the Grande Hermine and exchanged goods with some of the resident Mi’gmaq people, making them the first indigenous people to make contact with European explorers.

The Replica Grande Hermine History

Morning La Grande Hermine Chaleur Bay

The Grande Hermine that Henk and I boarded was the brainchild of Laurent Landry, a local builder from the Chaleur Bay area who had always dreamed of constructing a replica of Cartier’s famous ship.

Laurent Landry building La Grande Hermine
Laurent Landry building his half scale replica of La Grande Hermine

Part tribute to the region’s history, part passion project, Landry’s Grande Hermine is a half-scale version of the real deal, but with just as much attention to detail and craftsmanship as in the historic original. In fact, the plans that Landry used were actually sourced from the Grande Hermine’s original drawings archived in Lyons, France, and took months to acquire.

Gaspe La Grande Hermine replica takes shape
La Grande Hermine takes shape *Photos from book inside the ship

Landry started the work in 2012 with the idea of creating something different that would draw tourists and give visitors a unique play to stay, as well as highlighting an important piece of Canadian history. More than six months and hundreds of man-hours later, the half-scale Grande Hermine was inaugurated on July 6, the same date that Cartier landed in Chaleur Bay.

Gaspe Grande Hermine 12,000 pieces of wood
12,000 pieces of wood went into the construction of the replica of the Grande Hermine

TIP: There is a photo book in the Grande Hermine that documents Landry’s construction, which is where we sourced many of these photos.

Nautical decor onboard Grande Hermine Gaspe

What’s it like to stay aboard a ship/chalet?

Sleeping aboard the Grande Hermine is not just comfortable with its cozy linens and queen-sized beds, it’s fun! Guests who book the ship have the entire place to themselves, including two ‘bedrooms’: a private cabin in the bow, and another bed located in the stern’s loft. Below that loft there’s a well-equipped galley and living area. In the centre of the ship is an open-air deck which guests can use like a patio, off of which is a full bathroom (that is also accessible like an ensuite from the bedroom in the bow).

Gaspe Grande Hermine galley
The galley of the Grande Hermine

Hand-crafted details in the ship are everywhere, from the curved interior cupboards that conform to the shape of the hull to the decorative windows in the stern which are copies of the ones inside Jacques Cartier’s captain’s quarters.

Captains quarters window detail La Grande Hermine Gaspe
The ‘captain’s quarters’ today serves as a loft with a queen bed and a great view!

And the contextual decor like the maps on the tables and the lanterns are a particularly nice nautical touch. Even the hammered metal sink, and the fact that the outside table is made of wood, not plastic, point to the fact that this was a labour of love for its builder.

Details on board Grande Hermine
Notice how the interior cupboard conforms to the hull shape

Kids would probably lose their minds – in a good way – at the idea of staying on a ship like this, and even as grownups, Henk and felt like we were having an adventure (although it would have been nothing compared to the adventure of Cartier’s Atlantic crossing). But even though Henk and I were landlocked and not on the ocean itself, we loved our stay here and could best sum up our experience aboard La Grande Hermine as…well, grand!

NOTE: Sadly, Laurent Landry died not long after completing the Grande Hermine. Today the Chalets de l’Anse-Ste-Hélène property is owned and operated by the local Mi’gmaq First Nation of Gesgapegiag whose Reserve and pow-wow grounds lie just on the other side of the river. Here you’ll find beautifully-decorated wigwams that visitors are welcome to visit and photograph (but please respect the signs and do not go inside them).

Mi'gmaq of Gesgapegiag Pow-wow grounds
The wigwams on the Gesgapegiag pow-wow grounds are illuminated at night, too

Quirky Gaspé Accommodation #3: “Sucking it up” in a Mongolian Yurt

The concept sounds so cool: spending a night floating on the waters of Chaleur Bay in a genuine Mongolian yurt! I had never heard of anything like this before until I discovered the Aventures aux 4 Vents company. The idea of a serene private island all our own seemed incredibly romantic, and since Henk and I had planned to spend a night inside a ship on the shore, we thought why not spend a night inside a yurt on the ocean?

Gaspe floating yurt sunrise views
Our yurt did offer serenity and lovely morning views from the deck
Gaspe View from floating yurt to lighthouse
The floating yurts are located in a sheltered natural harbour behind the long point with the Carleton-sur-mer lighthouse

That was the floating yurt dream. Here is the reality, (and a few tips)

1. A bit of paddling skill is required.

You can only get to the yurts by canoe (provided at the dock) and you’ll need to wear a life-vest too, but don’t worry if your canoeing or swimming skills are not Olympic-calibre: you won’t be in much danger of drowning since the yurts are anchored in only about 2-4 feet of water, even at high tide. So if you do fall out of the canoe, just stand up!

Gaspe Jane canoeing to floating Yurt
Canoeing out to our floating yurt at Aventures aux 4 Vents

2. Pack light.

Everything going to the yurt has to come with you in that canoe. There are no valets, no bell boys and no shuttles.

3. Leave your electronics on shore.

Even though the water isn’t deep, it isn’t tablet or laptop-friendly.

4. Ditch the hair straightener and makeup bag.

Since these yurts are floating on water, there’s no electricity, only candlelight in the yurts. And we all know everyone looks beautiful by candlelight. Right, Henk? Right?

Gaspe Floating Yurt candlelight
The yurts ‘run’ on candle power which are provided, thankfully.

5. Forget the tripod.

It’s a ‘floating’ yurt, remember, so not much chance to get a non-blurry photo of the stars or anything else requiring a long exposure. (Not much chance of sleeping in, either; if someone is moving around and rocking your floating world.)

Gaspe Floating Yurt platform and deck
The Mongolian yurts are the real deal, decorative doors and all.
Gaspe Bed in the Floating Yurt
The beds are real, too. (although there was an extra futon/couch which we all know isn’t a real mattress!)
Gaspe Floating Yurt interior
Our yurt was actually very spacious and wider than my first house!

6. If it’s raining, oh well!

Put plastic bags on your canoe seat to avoid a wet bum all night, keep calm and paddle on. It actually rained hard overnight when Henk and I stayed here but we were warm, cozy and dry inside.

7. Amazon does not deliver here.

Our advice is to bring a deck of cards or some other way to – ahem – pass the time during your evening.

8. Pizza places don’t deliver here either.

Do what we did and eat on shore. There’s a funky restaurant and bar operated by the company where you are guaranteed to meet an interesting group of fellow yurters or at the very least yurt-sympathizers.

9. Yes you can BBQ and cook at your yurt. But why?

If for some inexplicable reason you want to cook at your yurt, you’re going to have to cart food and all the fixin’s with you. And be prepared for a very rudimentary kitchen setup. Think one step above camping, but a very short step. Again, eat out.

10. Facilities?

There are full bathroom facilities on shore for guests, but on the yurt platform it’s basically an outhouse with a dry toilet.
A very rustic outhouse.
In this case, I usually employ my don’t-look-and-don’t-touch-much attitude. I would advise you do the same. (Spiders can swim. Enough said.)

A Yea or a Nay on the Yurt?

Sunrise view from inside Yurt Gaspe

At the end of it all, did our night on the water float our boat? Not as much as Henk and I had hoped. It was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience to wake up in a yurt on the water, and we actually slept very comfortably on our ‘rustic raft’. Plus we felt both close to town while at the same time isolated in our own little world, watching the morning fog lift off the mountain and cormorants sunning themselves on the railings of our neighbours.

But if we had to recommend this experience for any wanna-be floating yurters out there, I would suggest you first check which type best ‘accommodates’ your travel style and then decide:

Campers will love it.

Glampers will tolerate it as an experience. (Check.)

And Princessses? Well, they won’t even get out of the car.

Three Quirky Gaspé Accommodations to Remember

Most people don’t remember much about a hotel room, let alone talk about it. Especially if it looks a lot like every other hotel room everywhere else in the world. But a dome on a mountain? A ship on land and a yurt on the ocean? Those are experiences, not rooms. And as we discovered on our visit, the Gaspé Peninsula has no shortage of these one-of-a-kind places to stay – some boutique and some not-so-chic, but each with a story worth telling that definitely made these three
“Rooms to Remember”.


PINTEREST_3 quirky Gaspe Stays
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