Everyone is familiar with French history. Explorers crossed the Atlantic in the 16th century and colonized a large portion of North America. New France extended from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains, Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. But the territory was constantly under attack. By 1763, France was forced to give up its land to England and Spain under the Treaty of Paris. Almost all of it, at least. To this day, the French still control a little bit of North American land.
The islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon sit in Fortune Bay, 16 miles off the southern coast of Newfoundland. The remote French overseas collectivity is home to about 6,000 people—mostly fishermen—thousands of seabirds, and always chilly temperatures. The language, the cars, the food, the wine, and the clothing (berets!) are French. The currency is the euro. The streets, lined with pastel-colored houses, don’t have names. Ice hockey is the sport of choice. And it’s just a quick ferry ride from Canada.
Most people live on St. Pierre, the smaller of the islands. The main airport, the cruise ship dock, and the ferry dock are all here. Larger Miquelon-Langlade is 28 miles away. Many ships have been lost in the Mouth of Hell, the water in between the islands. You’re lucky to have clear skies and calm seas when you cross.
You arrive in Miquelon, the island’s main town. Start at the Musée de Miquelon, a heritage museum, where you learn about fishing, medicine, and remote island life. See more old artifacts in the wooden church. Wander through the cemetery to find gravesites from the 18th century. Walk up the granite hill on the western side of town to the Cap Blanc lighthouse. The white, concrete lighthouse was built in 1883. Continue to Le Cap, the island’s northernmost point, where the views are breathtaking. Look for the steep cliffs, white-tailed deer, ravens, and even bald eagles. And take a moment to breathe in the clean, refreshing air.
Back in town, have lunch at Snack Bar-à-Choix. The seafood crêpes are surprisingly filling. Then head south to the Grand Barachois. Grey seals, ducks, and Arctic birds call the lagoon home. Beyond that, the Dune of Langlade, a sandy isthmus, connects Miquelon to Langlade. The mostly deserted island has more steep cliffs, small forests, and wild horses. You find a little chapel, the Lighthouse of Langlade, and miles of quiet hiking trails.
You almost forget you’re on French land on Langlade, though the food in St. Pierre will quickly remind you otherwise. The sweet smell of baking bread, éclairs, pain au chocolat, and macaroons fill the one-way streets. Snow crab, cod, and lobster are served in heavy butter sauces in the little restaurants. While the wine lists contain barely pronounceable names from Burgundy, Bordeaux, and even Champagne. And you didn’t even need to cross the Atlantic.