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Iles De La Madeleine, or The Magdalen Islands, is a small archipelago of islands which lies in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and part of Canada's Quebec Province. Offering miles of inviting beaches, dramatic sandstone cliffs and some beautiful scenery inland, the Iles De La Madeleine are a popular tourist destination for both Canadians and foreign cruise ship visitors alike.
Though the Iles De La Madeleine archipelago consists of numerous islands, several are tiny and uninhabited. The eight major islands to be found in the archipelago are Havre-Aubert, Grande Entrée, Cap aux Meules, Grosse Isle, Havre aux Maisons, Pointe-Aux-Loups, Île d'Entrée and Brion. All of these are inhabited, save for Brion. Though the islands had long been visited by the area's indigenous Mi'Kmaq Indians before he arrived, French explorer Jacques Cartier was the first European to visit the islands in 1534. The islands came under French ownership and were colonised by descendants of Canada's first French settlers in 1755. The British subsequently expelled many of these settlers – known as Arcadians – from Canada, those on the Magdalen Islands were not touched. After being part of the Colony of Newfoundland, the islands became part of Quebec in 1774, with the advent of the Quebec Act.
If you're visiting the islands during the summer months, then you'll certainly want to make the most of the many beautiful beaches to be found there. While the islands are perhaps not the first part of the world you're likely to think of when it comes to sunbathing, in the summer they can boast temperatures of around 20C and are an excellent place in which to enjoy a stroll. The islands are also very popular with nature-lovers too, and are population by a number of seal colonies. In the late winter, baby harp seals are a common sight on the pack ice which fills the Gulf of St Lawrence, making seal-watching a popular pass-time for visitors. Watersports are a regular fixture throughout the islands, with sea kayaking, windsurfing and kitesurfing all popular choices with holidaymakers. Indeed, if you're an adventurous hands-on cruiser, then the Iles De La Madeleine are a great place are a great place for some water-based fun away from some of the more populous resorts you may be used to.
It won't come as any surprise to you that the Iles De La Madeleine are not the first port of call for shopaholics but that doesn't mean you won't be able to pick up an authentic souvenir during your visit. An abundance of local arts and crafts ensures the possibility of a hand-made gift, while local beers are a speciality, too.
When you consider how many Canadians wax lyrical about the islands' cuisine, it's no surprise that it is one of the destination's biggest draws. If you like your seafood, you'll enjoy some delicious choices made freshly with the local catch. Locally-produced cheeses are also popular, so expect these to feature in certain dishes.
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