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These French Islands Off Newfoundland Are Magical

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Have you ever heard of these French islands off Newfoundland and wondered how to get there, or why you should visit? You’re not alone. Many travelers are intrigued by Saint Pierre and Miquelon but feel lost when it comes to planning a trip.

Growing up in Newfoundland, I’ve always been fascinated by the nearby French territory of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. I finally had the chance to visit with the Saint Pierre and Miquelon tourism board on a FAM trip after the Travel Media Association of Canada conference, fulfilling a lifelong dream. My insights will guide you through everything you need to know about visiting these remarkable islands.

Why are these islands worth visiting? Imagine stepping into France while surrounded by the rugged beauty of Newfoundland’s landscape. From charming French cafes serving authentic pastries to the colorful streets lined with buildings full of stories, Saint Pierre and Miquelon offer a taste of Europe right off Canada’s Atlantic coast. Check out the highlights in this video:

In this article, I’ll cover the history of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, how to get there, the best things to do, where to stay, what to eat, and practical tips to ensure you have an amazing trip.

History of Saint Pierre and Miquelon

A large mural on the side of a building depicts a historical scene with people working and transporting goods. A modern street and colorful buildings are visible in the background.

Saint Pierre and Miquelon have a rich and tumultuous history that adds to their unique charm. Initially settled by the French in the early 17th century, these islands became a strategic point in the Atlantic due to their proximity to the Grand Banks, one of the world’s richest fishing grounds.

The British and French fought over the islands for centuries, with control changing hands multiple times between 1713 and 1816. The French finally took permanent control in 1816, and the islands have remained a French territory ever since​.

The islands’ history is filled with fascinating stories, from its role in the North American cod trade to being a hotspot for rum-running during the Prohibition era. The complex history of Saint Pierre and Miquelon is best experienced through the Prohibition Tour.

This tour takes you on a walk through the town, where knowledgeable guides explain how the islands became a crucial point for smuggling alcohol into the United States during the 1920s. You’ll walk the same streets where infamous mobsters, including Al Capone, once conducted their illicit business.​

Getting to St. Pierre from Newfoundland

Saint Pierre and Miquelon might feel like a world away, but getting there is easier than you might think. Whether you prefer flying or taking a scenic ferry ride, there are several travel options to suit your needs.

Flights to St. Pierre

Air Saint Pierre offers several flights to the islands from four Canadian cities and even Paris. You can fly from:

  • St. John’s, Newfoundland
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Magdalen Islands, Quebec
  • Montreal, Quebec
  • Paris, France​

We flew from St. John’s, which was a quick 45-minute flight. The views from the small propeller plane were stunning, offering a bird’s-eye view of the rugged Newfoundland landscape and the blue Atlantic Ocean.

Travel by Ferry

If you prefer traveling by sea, you can take the one-hour ferry from Fortune, a small town on the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland. The ferry ride is a beautiful way to approach the islands, and it takes about four hours to drive from St. John’s to Fortune.

A lifebuoy labeled "Saint Pierre" hangs on a railing with a docked boat and clear sky in the background.

This route is especially great if you’re on a Newfoundland road trip, as the Burin Peninsula itself is well worth exploring for its scenic beauty and charming towns​.

Things to Do in Saint Pierre

You’re in France, baby! By far one of the best things to do here is to stuff your plate with delicious French cuisine and wine.

While I adore the local food in Newfoundland, it was an absolute treat to come here and indulge in French delicacies. And let’s not forget about the croissants and sweet treats you can get from the boulangerie (shout out to Danielle for giving us a healthy supply throughout the trip).

I’ve listed some of my favorite places to eat in the next section, but beyond that, here are some of the top things to do in Saint Pierre.

Explore Downtown Saint Pierre

Downtown Saint Pierre is a charming area filled with vibrant streets and European architecture. As you stroll through town, you’ll discover a mix of local shops, cafes, and historical sites. I loved walking around downtown and taking photos of the colorful homes!

Be sure to visit the Heritage Museum, where you can dive into the island’s rich past. The Prohibition tour ended here, but it’s worth it to go in and take a deeper dive. The museum is owned by a local who has been collecting items from the Prohibition period since he was 15, and he has amassed an impressive collection!

Visit Île aux Marins

A visit to Île aux Marins (Sailors’ Island) is a must. This small, picturesque island off the coast of Saint Pierre is steeped in history. Once a bustling fishing community, today it has no permanent population, but some locals have summer cottages. 

The ferry trip to Île aux Marins is a quick and scenic 10-minute boat ride, and once there, you can explore the Archipélitude Museum, the old church, and cemetery, all offering a glimpse into the island’s past​.

The day we visited Île aux Marins was particularly windy and cold. Despite the weather, I loved exploring the island. I can only imagine how magical it would be on a hot summer day, perfect for frolicking through its charming colourful buildings.

Take a hike

For those who love the outdoors, joining a hike with Escapade Insulaire is a great way to experience the island’s natural beauty. They offer guided hikes around Saint Pierre and Miquelon, showcasing the stunning landscapes and unique flora and fauna of the island.

We did a 3-hour hike to Cap au Diablo, where the landscape is carved by ancient volcanoes and ice. Much like hiking in Newfoundland, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking.

Another hiking trail in Saint Pierre that’s easily accessible is Le Diamont Coastal Trail. We only had time to stop and take a few photos, but there’s a lovely boardwalk that goes along the ocean, perfect for a leisurely stroll and soaking in the coastal views.

Learn About Dory Culture with Les Zigotos

A small group of people travel in a green boat near a rocky, green-covered coastline on a sunny day.

Immerse yourself in the local maritime culture by learning about dory building with Les Zigotos. This organization preserves the traditional boat-building techniques of the region, offering visitors a hands-on experience in understanding this important aspect of Saint Pierre’s heritage​.

We went out for a dory ride to see the landscapes, passing by Île aux Marins and the stunning coastline. The trip ended with a visit to a huge bird colony with thousands of seabirds and puffins flying overhead. It was magical!

Boat Tours to See Whales

a whale on its side in the atlantic ocean with an arm sticking out

We were a bit too early in the season for this, but one of the best things to do is go on a whale watching tour in Saint Pierre if you’re visiting in the summer months. Throughout the summer season, the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon-Langlade are visited by many marine mammals.

Several species of dolphins, whales, orcas, and seals frequent the Atlantic coast, making it one of the best places for whale watching in the world. The tours offer a spectacular opportunity to see these majestic creatures up close, adding an unforgettable experience to your trip​.

Viewpoint l’Anse a Pierre

Aerial view of a coastal town with colorful houses, a harbor with boats, and islands in the background under a clear blue sky.

For breathtaking views, head to the viewpoint at l’Anse aux Pierres. This spot offers panoramic vistas of the island and the Atlantic Ocean, making it a perfect place for photography or simply soaking in the beauty of Saint Pierre​.

We went here early in the day and then came back for sunset because it was so beautiful. The changing light transformed the landscape, making each visit unique.

Visit Miquelon

Miquelon, technically two islands—Grande Miquelon and Langlade—connected by a narrow isthmus, is much larger in size than Saint Pierre but home to a much smaller population (about 600 year-round residents compared to Saint Pierre’s 5,500). The natural beauty of the island makes it an excellent destination for those who love exploring rugged landscapes and wildlife.

The ferry from Saint Pierre runs to Miquelon-Langlade town, providing access to this beautiful part of the archipelago. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit Miquelon on our trip, so it looks like I’ll have to plan a trip back to experience it firsthand​.

Where to Eat and Drink in Saint Pierre

One of the best parts about being in Saint Pierre is the French cuisine. The food culture here is vibrant and deeply rooted in French culinary traditions, with Miquelon serving as the pantry where they get many of their local ingredients. Here are some of the best places to eat on the island.


L’essential was our first meal, and it set the bar incredibly high. Natalie, who owns this restaurant, prepared us a nine-course meal that was absolutely incredible. From the seared scallops to rags seafood stew, each dish was so creative and thoughtfully prepared using local ingredients.

After our sixth course, she brought out an incredible charcuterie board of cheeses, followed by two desserts. While I thought I was going to birth a food baby after, I couldn’t resist eating everything.

Le Petit Graviers

We came here for a ‘casual’ two-hour lunch of foie gras, lobster, and salmon to start. Oh, how I love the French! For the main course, I had cod with roasted potatoes, which was also fantastic paired with a local beer.

Le Select

A cozy restaurant interior with wooden floors, brick walls, and large windows letting in natural light. Tables are set with white tablecloths, glassware, and yellow flowers.

Le Select was a famous place to dance and dine during the height of the fishery. Today, it has a bright facade on the outside and a beautiful interior with a large dining area. I had the French onion soup and fish and chips paired with a local beer, all of which were wonderful.

Le Bar a Quai

A person stands behind a bar counter with potted plants in the foreground and a variety of bottles and photos displayed on shelves in the background.

Le Bar a Quai serves vegetarian and pescatarian meals with a daily changing menu. I had a delicious pear, goat cheese, and salmon appetizer to start, while some others had falafel, which was highly raved about (I tried some, and it was incredible). The chocolate cake at the end was so decadent and rich. The place has a lovely vibe inside with a changing menu, cute decor, and sometimes live music.

Bar La Rustique

Two women clink glasses in front of a neon sign reading "Stop Thinking, Start Drinking" at a bar with wooden walls and blue lighting.

There aren’t a lot of options for going out in Saint Pierre, but Bar La Rustique is definitely one of the best, attracting locals and tourists alike. They offer a wide variety of cocktails (I had a delicious coffee one), a large space, and neon lights that make for good photo ops.

Dining Hours and Reservations

In true French style, restaurant opening times are typically from 12 PM to 2 PM for lunch and after 7 PM for dinner. Plan your meals accordingly, as finding an open restaurant outside these hours can be challenging.

During the busy summer months, it’s best to book your sit-down meals in advance since you can’t always walk in without a reservation.

Where to Stay in Saint Pierre

You won’t find any big-name hotels here, and that’s all part of the charm. The accommodation options in Saint Pierre are mostly locally-owned guest houses and boutique hotels, providing a cozy and authentic experience. Our group was split between two wonderful places: Auberge Quatre Temps and Nuits Saint-Pierre.

Auberge Quatre Temps

Auberge Quatre Temps offers comfortable rooms with excellent water pressure, which is always a nice perk after a day of exploring. I really enjoyed the pastries at breakfast, and the family that owns the guest house is lovely.

They are from Reunion Island (another French territory) and treated us to a fantastic Cajun meal one night, using flavors from their homeland. The guest house is about a 10-minute walk from the main town, making it a convenient yet peaceful place to stay.

Nuits Saint-Pierre

I also had the chance to see inside Nuits Saint-Pierre, a lovely boutique hotel. The rooms here are a bit nicer than those at Auberge, offering a more luxurious feel. Plus, its central location in town makes it easy to explore Saint Pierre’s vibrant streets and local attractions.

Both options provide a unique and memorable stay, allowing you to experience the local culture and hospitality that make Saint Pierre so special.

Practical Information for Visiting Saint Pierre and Miquelon

A person sits at a picnic table on a grassy hill overlooking a coastal town and the ocean on a clear, sunny day.

Planning a trip to Saint Pierre and Miquelon involves some unique considerations.

Currency and Costs

Saint Pierre and Miquelon use the Euro (€) as their official currency. Be prepared for slightly higher prices compared to mainland France due to the islands’ remote location. Here’s a rough guide to costs:

  • Accommodations: Guest houses and boutique hotels range from €80 to €150 per night.
  • Meals: Expect to pay around €15-€30 for a casual meal and upwards of €50 for a more upscale dining experience.
  • Activities: Tours and excursions generally cost between €20 and €100, depending on the activity.


The primary language spoken in Saint Pierre and Miquelon is French. However, many locals and tour guides speak English, especially those working in tourism.

Customs and Entry Requirements

When traveling to Saint Pierre and Miquelon, bring your passport as you’ll need it to pass through customs. The customs process is straightforward, but remember:

  • Brining back alcohol: You can bring back alcohol and cheese to a limit. Always check the current regulations to avoid issues. Be aware that customs officials may conduct secondary screenings upon your return to Canada. I experienced this myself, so be prepared for a thorough check.
Person jumps on a pier with a red and white lighthouse in the background, clear blue sky above.

Car Rentals and Transportation

Canadian insurance won’t cover your rental car here, so it’s best to leave your rental car in Fortune and travel as a passenger.

Saint Pierre is quite small, and you can easily get around on foot or by booking tours to explore the island. The only car rental company on the island is Autochrome, and they can drop off the car at the airport for when you arrive.

Data and Connectivity

There’s no data network in Saint Pierre and Miquelon, only call services. However, if you have a Canadian SIM card, you might pick up a signal depending from Newfoundland. WiFi is widely available, and there’s a free WiFi network in downtown Saint Pierre.

Time Zone Change

Saint Pierre and Miquelon are half an hour ahead of Newfoundland. Keep your phone data off to avoid it switching back to Newfoundland time, as this happened to me. It’s best to set your phone’s time manually.

Travel Adapter

Remember to bring a travel adapter, as the islands use the European plug (Type C and E).

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Saint Pierre and Miquelon is during the summer months. Even in mid-June, it can be quite cold, so be sure to pack warm clothing including hats and mitts (yes, we needed them). Summer offers the best weather and the most activities, making it the ideal season to explore the islands.

Bastille Day (Fête Nationale): Celebrated on July 14th, Bastille Day is a major event on the islands, featuring parades, fireworks, and various festivities that bring the community together. It’s a fantastic time to experience French patriotism and join in the local celebrations.

FAQ: French Islands Off Newfoundland

Do you need a passport to go to St. Pierre et Miquelon from Newfoundland?

Yes, you need a valid passport to travel to St. Pierre et Miquelon from Newfoundland.

Can I drive my car in St. Pierre and Miquelon?

It’s best to leave your car in Fortune as Canadian car insurance does not cover St. Pierre and Miquelon, but you can rent cars locally through Autochrome.

How long is the ferry ride to St. Pierre and Miquelon?

The ferry ride from Fortune, Newfoundland to St. Pierre takes about one hour.

Is St Pierre and Miquelon worth it?

Yes, St. Pierre and Miquelon offer a unique blend of French culture and Atlantic Canada landscapes, making it a worthwhile visit.

Is it safe to go to St Pierre and Miquelon?

Yes, St. Pierre and Miquelon are very safe for tourists.

Does anyone live on Saint Pierre and Miquelon?

Yes, about 6,000 people live on the islands, with the majority residing in Saint Pierre

What language do they speak in Miquelon Island?

French is the primary language spoken on Miquelon Island.

Can you use Canadian money in St. Pierre?

While the official currency is the Euro, some places may accept Canadian dollars, but it’s best to use Euros.

Do you need a visa to go to St Pierre and Miquelon?

Visa requirements depend on your nationality; Canadians and U.S. citizens typically do not need a visa for stays under 90 days.

Final thoughts: French islands off Newfoundland

Visiting Saint Pierre and Miquelon was a dream come true for me, having grown up in Newfoundland and always being fascinated by these nearby French islands. What made my visit truly special was the perfect blend of French culture and the rugged beauty of Newfoundland’s landscape.

From enjoying gourmet meals and strolling through the colourful streets to hiking scenic trails and learning about the islands’ rich history, every moment was filled with charm and discovery.

If you’re looking for a unique travel experience that combines French elegance with the beauty of the Atlantic Coast, Saint Pierre and Miquelon is the perfect destination.

Planning a trip to Newfoundland after? Check out these guides!


  • Lora Pope

    Lora is a full-time digital nomad on a quest to visit every country in the world and pet as many dogs as she can along the way. Over the last 15 years, she has traveled to 70+ countries and six continents solo. She currently calls Puerto Vallarta, Mexico home and enjoys ending each day with sunset and tacos on the beach.

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