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Discover the region > Our villages > Old Fort Bay Print this page
Old Fort Bay

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POPULATION: 347
WHAT TO KNOW

The eastern extension of route 138 begins at Old Fort Bay. The community has a long and intriguing history and lively cultural traditions. Protected by offshore islands and steep surrounding hills, Old Fort provided a perfect port for early European fishing fleets. Jacques Cartier erected a cross west of Old Fort at Baie des Rochers during his first voyage to North America in 1534. In the 17th century, Old Fort may have been the site of a major battle between the Inuit and the Innu. The village probably takes its name from an early trading fort built in the area by Augustin Le Gardeur de Courtemanche, who acquired extensive fishing and trading rights in 1702.

Wharf in Old Fort
Wharf in Old Fort

Early settlement of Old Fort began in the 1800s with the arrival of settlers from England, the Channel Islands (via the Gaspé Peninsula), and Newfoundland.  Today, many residents work in the fishery. Others are skilled guides in remote outfitting camps. Some residents still move to summer homes on nearby islands of the Old Fort archipelago.

Dog Island
Dog Island

THE LOST PORT OF BREST

Oral history indicates that Old Fort Bay may have been the site of the mysterious port of Brest, a place-name that appears on the earliest maps of North America. Breton fishermen made Brest the headquarters of their fishery in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the early 1500s. Presumably, they named it after the city of Brest, in Brittany, France. In his journals, Jacques Cartier records calling into Brest in 1534, where he secured a fresh supply of water and wood, stayed overnight, and participated in the first officially recorded mass in Canada. Over the centuries, Brest has been the subject of heated debates over everything from the significance and size of the port to its exact location on the Coast.

WHAT TO SEE Old Fort Island
Old Fort Island
  • Old Fort and Dog Islands: Contact a local boat owner for an unforgettable visit to Old Fort and Dog Islands, located 4-12 kilometres (2-7 miles) south of the village. These serene islands are perfect for taking in the local lifestyle, fishing at the dockside, digging clams, picking berries, collecting seashells, and observing seabirds, whales and icebergs. A shipwreck is visible from Dog Island, which was named for its resemblance to a sleeping dog.
  • Historic cemetery: A walk along the waterfront will take you past a recently-restored village cemetery
WHAT TO DO

IN SUMMER : Hiking and walking, bird and whale watching, iceberg viewing, boat tours, sea kayaking, berry-picking, salmon fishing, wilderness camping, ATV

  • Old Fort boardwalk: Take a stroll along the village boardwalk at the waterfront of this scenic village. The boardwalk will lead you past excellent views of the bay surrounding the community. It passes a recently-restored historic cemetery as well as interpretation panels.
  • Old Fort trails: Several hiking trails north of the village will lead you to a stunning lookout at Granny’s Hill.

IN WINTER : Snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, winter carnival, hockey tournaments

SUGGESTED ROUTES

Jacques Cartier Trail, Flavour Route and Best of the Quebec-Labrador Coast

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