Île Brion is characterized by its diverse vegetation and a multitude of different habitats. Wooded areas, grasslands, marshes, peat bogs, dunes and cliffs are home to countless species of plants. When Jacques Cartier dropped anchor here in 1534, he used these words to describe what he saw: "This Island is the best land we have seen, and twenty acres of this land is worth more than all of Newfoundland. We found it full of beautiful trees, grasslands, fields of wild wheat and flowering peas, as many and as beautiful as anything I have seen in Brittany. It looked as if it had been cultivated by the hand of man. There are quantities of gooseberries, strawberries and Provence roses, parsley and other sweet-smelling herbs." Today's explorers will still be amazed by the abundant vegetable life on the island.
Both the explorer Jacques Cartier and the botanist Marie-Victorin were astounded by the variety of habitats on the Island with perfect conditions for around 140 different species of birds and more than 200 plant species necessary to their survival. This is why, in 1988, the Québec government turned this site into an ecological reserve. The island can be accessed from its western extremity, where the old fishing station buildings are now used as a reception area. Wilderness camping is allowed near this station.
Since 7/8 of the island's surface is completely protected, visitors may only explore those sectors of the island in the company of a naturalist guide.
In the part of the island outside the reserve, we suggest that you take the forest path leading to the lighthouse and carry on beyond as far as Cap Noddy. On the reserve side, follow the path along the cliffs until you reach the Dingwell house. Walking time is approximately 2 hours.
Brion Island, sixteen kilometres from the wharf at Grosse-Île, is about seven kilometres long by two kilometres at its widest point, and it has been uninhabited for the last fifty years. It is one of the only two Québec ecological reserves that are open to the public. It is possible to take a boat excursion around the island and to land there. The time required for the trip varies according to weather conditions and the type of water craft used. Generally, with a Zodiac, it takes about half an hour to get there; with a fishing boat, it takes about one hour.
Wilderness camping is permitted for short periods under controlled conditions.
We suggest that you contact the Tourist Information Office for more information about the companies supplying this particular excursion or see the Nautical Excursions section.
Here is a partial list of birds that nest on the island's cliffs: Common Eider (Somateria mollissima), Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica), Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle) and Common Murre (Uria aalge). The Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea) can also be observed here. Small colonies of Common Eider and Leach's Storm Petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) are established in this area, as are Gray seals (Halichoerus grypus) and Harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) at the eastern end of the Island. The forest is mostly stunted pines inhabited by Passeriformes typical of the boreal forest : Swainson's (Olive-backed) Thrush (Catharus ustulatus), Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventris), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula), Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca), Blackpoll Warbler (Dendroica striata), Tennessee Warbler (Vermivora peregrina), etc.
Most people taking excursions of this kind leave from the wharf at Grosse-Île. To get there, you follow Route 199 as far as the village of Grosse-Île. Then you turn onto North Road and Shore Road to get to the port.
At the wharf, you are asked to park on the right side, close to the beach, and to be careful not to block access to the boat launching ramp.