Canada's Kiteboarding Paradise; what you need to know about the Madeleine Islands

Updated: Jan 3

Magic. This place, Les Îles de la Madeleine. We didn't really know much about these small islands off the coast of Quebec; a couple of people had mentioned them to us and would just constantly say with a twinkle in their eye; you're going to love it there! Well, they were right.

This small group of islands (205 squared kilometers!), in the middle of the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence is part of the province of Quebec. It is an incredible place; almost mystical (especially on evenings where the sea mist gently covers the horizon and you're in the mist. in a cloud. and just, wow.) but maintaining that island vibe. And how could it not? There is literally water all around as far as your eyes can see. And we haven't even got into the kiting! We were so impressed with just the visual experience, that kiting there was honestly, just an added - very precious and loved - bonus. :)

The Maggies, as they're so fondly called by locals are known for having great wind in August and September. But August is "perfect" as we were told, because it's also warmer. Definitely an added gold star for warmth in Quebec.

I could keep writing for hours here but...

The kite spots. That's what you're here for, right?

What's so incredible about this island is that you can pick a different spot as your playground for the day depending upon the wind direction (and trust us, the wind blows in all directions!). We love to check out different spots, so if you're anything like us - you're guaranteed an amazing kitecation (kite+vacation, is that a thing?).

If you prefer a relatively flat water session, the lagoon can be your choice of the day.

Some fun waves? Martinique. Bassin. Corfu...

We checked out 11 spots during our time there - here's what we found! :)

(If you're curious for some extra info about the Islands, there is some more awesome information at the bottom of this post!)


Coordinates: 47*23'N 61*52'W - Canada, Quebec, Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine


How far: far. from Montreal international airport by car to Les Îles: 1414 km including a ferry trip of 5 hours.

Flights are also available - 6 flights per week during the high season, 2h 05m duration.


Kite Spots:

GROS CAP

What Really Happened Out There!

Gros Cap is quite a popular spot on the island. People head over to spend the whole day, chat with other kiters and enjoy the conditions of the spot. We went a few times - it was near the campground, Parc du Gros Cap, where we camped for most of the trip (in fact, only a few hundred meters away).

The kiting is fantastic and the view of the cliffs as you ride, hypnotizing. There are however, some things to be aware of.

There is only one place from which to launch and enter the water and near that one small access point there are electric lines. Ahhh, details. But really, pay attention - there isn't a huge margin for error :)

Also, it's worth noting that all the cars are parked downwind from the launch point and the water is very shallow for the first 200 meters from the shore.

Overall, this kite spot is definitely worth a ride. Besides the great session you're likely to have, it's also fun to see the kite community enjoying the wind and be part of the 'kite spirit' of the spot!


 

MARTINIQUE

What Really Happened Out There!

In Leona's words:

This long beach provides all you need for a fun session. The wind wasn't strong when I went, so I decided to downwind and enjoy what this place had to offer. I went alone down the whole stretch of beach, with the comforting knowledge that Bruno and N were following along in the car and would be waiting at the end of Martinique.

With no rocks all the way down the beach and plenty of space to launch or land your kite, Martinique is a must to go and kite. Even if there are other kiters around (which maybe we saw one), there is enough space and definitely no crowds in the water. Pay attention to non-kiters though, this is definitely a favorite spot for those who want to relax with a good book on the beach.

Other options:

Besides the downwind on Martinique beach itself you can also head towards Gros Cap (with the right wind direction of course). You'd cross a bigger section of water, so make sure that you're able to. (Yes, that's a disclaimer.) This downwinder is an example of what makes this island so unique. You have such varying beaches to go to and just enjoy.

Martinique is a sandy, long stretch of beach that makes you feel like you're in some South American paradise. Heading from that to Gros Cap, makes you feel like you've arrived at the beginning of the world. At least that's how I felt (The caves along the shore; perfectly marked condensed sand cliffs - marked by centuries of erosion and exposure. It's impressive!)


 

PARC FRED JOMPHE

What Really Happened Out There!

In Leona's words -

What a place!! The kite conditions provided by this huge protected body of water made it an incredible spot without a doubt. Whether it's your first class or you consider yourself a world champion, you'll have fun here.

This is the place to come to no matter the wind direction. There is no current in the lagoon so upwinding can be easily achieved. The kiting area is huge so there is plenty of space to practice jumps, loops and transitions. The water level is not high (up to the hips mostly everywhere) which also gives you a safer session.

The lagoon actually has two access points available to the public and one private access through Aerosport Les Iles Kiteschool. We were lucky because Bruno taught at the school and we could kite from there.

Although one of the most popular spots on the island, the lagoon is big enough and once you're in the water, find your own line and just enjoy!

Every session we had in this lagoon was incredible. Bruno came back from a particularly strong windy session and said, it was probably one of the most memorable kite sessions of his life. And he's been to some pretty incredible spots...

Not only can you kite within the perfect conditions of the lagoon, but you kite to the other shore, walk a few meters and you're in the ocean. All in all, the lagoon is a kiter's playground. There are some things to be aware of though.

The entrance to the water at Fred Jomphe is extremely crowded with both kitesurfers and windsurfers so pay attention when launching or when you're ready to land your kite. The middle spot has less crowds but also has limited space for launching and landing. Again, once in the water there's room for everyone.

One more thing - and this is important :)

Inform yourself where you are allowed to kite within the lagoon. There are areas that are part of the nature reserve - enjoy your session with the beautiful birds around you, but respect their nesting areas and reserve limitations and stay away.


 

CORFU

What Really Happened Out There!

In Bruno's words -

This proved to be another challenging session. The spot itself is incredible but when I saw the island in the distance with the shipwreck behind it, I gave myself the goal of going around the island to see the wreck from close. Shortly after I started heading upwind towards the channel between the island and the shoreline, I noticed white caps - a red flag for potential rocks (or even a piece of the shipwreck) and decided to circle the island instead. That ended up proving to be a challenge because of the wind (which lost power when hitting the island) and I decided to turn back. It was a good reminder that even if you have a goal in mind, sometimes you have to change your plans during the session... to keep it going and to do it safely.

I didn't reach the shipwreck but got to see thousands of birds on that tiny island - and believe me, there were thousands and thousands of birds. Some arriving from the ocean for a rest, others fighting for a bit of space; their sound carried all the way to my ears. This spot left its mark - definitely worth checking it out!


 

PORTAGE DU CAP

What Really Happened Out There!

This session was extra awesome because it caught us by surprise! We didn't expect to spend the whole day kiting at this incredible stretch of beach. Joined by some friends, we even managed to have a session together while they watched N. The waves were perfect kickers for small jumps and even though the wind wasn't strong, I definitely managed to have some fun with our 13 meter. Bruno headed out with a borrowed surfboard to explore the views upwind from where we were. He came bike smiling ear to ear excited about kiting so close to the mountain that met the shore.

The spot was easily accessible with a parking lot for all types of vehicles; the beach perfect for launching and landing, (and for games of soccer and castle building with N.). And as an added bonus, there was also a hydrofoil demo happening upwind from us and it was great to see all the colorful kites and kiters enjoying the water.

Once again, the only regret is that we only got to kite here once...


 

BASSIN

What Really Happened Out There!


Luckily we had an camping reservation for 8 days in front of this amazing open sea. Really, is there anything better than rolling out of your tent and walking to your kite spot?

On the windier days we got to kite, on the less windy days, we got to play.

The beach was immense; we enjoyed kiting, biking and walking there on different occasions.

Located on the southern point of the island, the beach had that perfect 180º view of the ocean.

It's a good wave spot when the winds are blowing and a great starting point to head downwind towards Sandy Hook (when wind is NE). If you head towards the cliffs you're guaranteed incredible views and hidden beaches. The truth is, we loved Bassin. There weren’t many kites on this massive beach, we were blessed with the occasional glance from adorable looking seals and the beach is a perfect playground even if you’re not kiting. What’s not to love?


 

POINTE BASSE

What Really Happened Out There!

In Leona's Words -

This spot was different than all the others we had kited on the Island. Definitely not for beginners, it was surrounded by a high hill (mountain seems too big to describe it), a rocky cliff on one side and a rocky pier on the other. In the middle of the spot near the shoreline there is a small collection of rocks that was constantly in my periphery vision.

My session? The wind really kicked in when we came here - so I was a little overpowered the entire time... which made for some fun, high jumps! Because of the obstacles, the area where I kited was more limited and I had to be paying attention. There was definitely a sweet spot where the waves created a flat spot between them, but other kiters also had their eye on that so I had to wait my turn. :)

Point Basse was a welcome discovery - it was one of the windiest days we'd had to that point and with the waves, it became a great spot to push me to improve my skills or just using them as a playground :)


 

DUNE DE L'OUEST

What Really Happened Out There!

In Bruno's words -

The wind was definitely weaker than what we wanted and we got to the spot relatively late. The session started almost at 6pm and the original plan was that Leona and I would each have 30 minutes to at least feel the water.

When I went in, I realized it wasn't easy to stay upwind on the same line so we decided that I would downwind until the next beach, Corfu instead. I confess that I was a bit worried, and my heart was beating fast about potentially having to walk at some point. I calmed down though - walking isn't that bad when you are by the beach with the wind behind you. After calculating the risks, I put the phone in the dry sac and went for it.

In the beginning everything was fine even with the light winds, but the waves were pushing towards the beach, making the kite lose power when near the shore. So throughout the session I had this constant debate - go deeper into the water and risk the wind dying (and all that would entail..) or stay close to the beach with less power, but safe so I could get out of the water whenever I needed to.

Learning from past experience, I decided to stay close to the beach and avoid any situation that would take even more time to resolve.

After all, slow and steady wins the race. ;-)

I was sweating under the wetsuit and definitely felt my tired arms after an hour looping the kite, but was also quite happy to have ended the session with no surprises. Hopefully next time I'll have more time to play in the waves with some more wind... My only regret is that we didn't get a chance to kite here again because it was an awesome beach.


 

DUNE DU NORD

What Really Happened Out There!

In Bruno's words -

The experience of getting out with the kite and wheels allowed me to access so many places.

On this particular day, we chose a place to ride that was not easy to get to but definitely worth it. A sandy road with many puddles and bumps added to the incredible sensation of being out and exploring the wild.

Once we found the spot to stop the car and actually got out of the car, the warm air confirmed that there really wasn't strong winds that day. The ocean was a beautiful blue, the grass on the dunes, still. But we had the buggy on the car, and the trainer kite that practically flies with no wind, so... why not give it a try!

The huge flat area is a kind of paradise for buggies. You have no obstacles and the wind can be blowing in any direction. There was plenty of space to enjoy, the view was beautiful, the scene was ready in my mind... I just needed just a few extra knots. Still, I was happy with the session - if you don't lift the kite you'll never know!

(Note: Although there were very few people, the occasional pick-up truck and ATV did fly by us. It is an area where cars are allowed to pass so it's good to beware.)


 

L'ANSE AUX BALEINER

What Really Happened Out There!

In Bruno's words -

Whenever I get to a new place, explore mode is ON. At this spot, it was no different. I grabbed my kite and tried to discover the maximum that this beach could offer. There were many waves and the wind wasn't strong so it wasn't the easiest to pass the break point of the waves. Once I passed it though, the 13-meter rode well. On one side there were lots of cliffs and beautiful scenes of the grass and red cliffs. On the other side, a beach that looked like it went to infinity! (I'll come back one day to do this downwinder, that's for sure.)

Even though it wasn't a long session, it was super enjoyable and relaxing. Leona and N were at the nearby playground (an absolute MUST for anyone kiting with kids) so I was free to discover!


 

PLAGE SANDY HOOK

What Really Happened Out There!

In Leona's words -

It was our last day on the island and also the last session so we were determined to get out and kite. Plus we had about 2 hours left to reach our goal of 30 hours for the Time to Kite challeng . We had heard amazing things about Sandy Hook, but hadn't managed to get there yet. Today was the day!

Bruno went first - the wind was just enough to play around and I watched him looping downwind towards the Île d'entree (Entry Island). As usual, he got on the board and immediately set off exploring. I waited and played with N while Bruno completed his hour and then it was my turn :)

The wind continued to be light when I started my session. I spotted a seal downwind of us and enjoyed an easy ride watching him peak his head up every once in a while (seals were a constant companion kiting around the Island. It's such a treat to kite with them). Just as I came out of the water to ask Bruno if we should try to find wind somewhere else, my kite lines got tighter and the wind started to pick up. And then... wow! What. a. session.

Besides the regular fun of kiting with the kite full power, I also found a section of waves in the middle of nowhere. It must have been a sandbank that created the swell to make these huge waves. Although they weren't breaking, they made for a really fun playground. I spent the whole session there getting comfortable and improving with every minute I was in the water.

I was really awake and absorbing the kite feeling during this session, as I knew it would be the last for for this trip! My last session of kite therapy for a while! so I really took it in.. From here we left to pack up our gear, tent and everything that had accompanied us. It was a perfect way to say good bye to the island and take a moment to be grateful for the past 36 days of the wild adventure that we came to know as Les Îles.


 
Extra info about Les Îles for your planning and well-being:

The island has a very lively camping culture and you'll find plenty of RVs (and a few tents) at every campsite. Maybe because 2020 was so limiting for anyone with a travel bug, but we got the feeling that Les Îles are just a popular summer destination, especially amongst Quebecers. (Speaking of bugs, make sure to bring mosquito repellent or find shelter during sunset hours. The mosquitoes were a force to be reckoned with!) We were told that the off season population of the island is 12.000 people. During high season (July-September) that number jumps to over 100,000! You don't feel the crowds when you're there if you're willing to explore all the magical spots scattered across the island. But, it is the kind of place where booking in advance (your ferry, a place to stay and even restaurant reservations) is a must. We were extremely lucky to have gotten campsites without a prior reservation. (Ok, we had to move 10 times in 5 weeks, but at least we got the spots!)



Services: hotels, restaurants, camping grounds, Kayak, SUP and equipment rental, kiteboarding schools, hospitals, ice cream stores, supermarkets - the island definitely has a full supply of whatever basics you might need. There are no superstores (like Walmart), but we really shouldn't be shopping there anyway :).


Accomodation : camping, b&b , albergue, hotel, tourists residences and non-traditional accommodations are all available at the island. Book in advance.


Food: there is a variety of restaurants around the island. Many of them are seasonal and most require a reservation. Grocery stores , Casse croute (small Burguer, fry and poutine stops) and convenience stores (epiceries) are also available all over. Note that the islands do get busy - during high season there was a lack of ice for coolers in the convenience store and butane tanks ran short towards the end of the month.


A few places that we visited and loved -


* À L'Abri de la Tempête - definitely worth a visit to this brewery to taste the great flavors of excellent beers.

* La Renaissance des Îles - check out their lobster poutine!

* Fish Shack - a delicious little spot with seafood straight from the port on the north side of the island.

* Fromagerie Les Baguettes a l'Air - variety of fresh goat cheeses and cheese spreads in this tiny little shop. Don't forget to pick up a baguette! Extra bonus? Hanging out and feeding goats for a few minutes. What could be better?

*Le Millerand - This spot was an incredible discovery. It had a Brasserie atmosphere, unbelievable cuisine (the chef is .. you know what? just go.) Plus, there's great music and overall good vibes.

I think this is enough to get you started ;-) Les Îles, we will be back.



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