Curious Nature

Grosse île and the Irish memorial national historic site: a wave of emotions on an extraordinary island!

Roseline Houle
Updated on March 8, 2024

Come learn about the history of the Irish immigrants that left their homeland in search of a better life. With its original buildings, characters from the period and the guides, you’ll have an unforgettable experience!

Grosse-île - Montmagny - Enfants - Infirmière - plaisir
Grosse-île - Montmagny - Enfants - Infirmière - plaisir

My 3 personal favourites at Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site :  

  • The welcome from the characters from the period and the guides, before the boat’s even landed
  • Becoming a part of the game and undergoing a medical inspection
  • The famous big Celtic cross on the edge of the cliff

Upon departure from Berthier-sur-Mer , on the relaxing cruise wonderfully interpreted by Croisières Lachance , you’ll get a chance to see a number of islands, the coastal landscape of the south shore and the splendid mountains of the north shore.

Upon arriving on the island, you’ll be welcomed by the waves hitting the rocky shore, the period buildings and the friendly guides in period costumes. As soon as you set foot on land, you’ll instantly feela wave of emotions. With all this, combined with stunning scenery, entering this site is sure to capsize you!

Discover this island, that served as a quarantine from 1832 to 1937. Four activities are offered to discover the moving history behind a site steeped in history. These activities restart every hour and you can experience them in whichever order you prefer. You can arrange your own programme around your frame of mind of the moment. Everything is well planned so you can immerse yourself into each of the activities, while taking time to soak in the surroundings or enjoy a hike on the viewpoint path!

Even though you’re master of your own schedule, I would strongly recommend to start your visit with the guided tour of the hotel sector. This way, you’ll find out about the circumstances that led to the opening of the quarantine station and the conditions of the boat crossing. By then moving on to the Irish cemetery, you’ll learn more about the Irish famine and the tragedy of 1847, the year when Grosse-Île received more than 100,000 immigrants, the majority of them from Ireland. Out of these, 5,424 would
die on the island. In order to commemorate this human tragedy, a large stone Celtic cross was erected on the edge of the cliff. An impressive view from the boat and even more impressive from up close!

Grosse-île - Montmagny - Croix celtique
Parcs Canada, Grosse Île, Montmagny et les îles
Grosse-île - Montmagny - Croix celtique
Parcs Canada, Grosse Île, Montmagny et les îles

With all the history of Grosse-Île in your thoughts, I invite you to continue your visit at the disinfection building. This building, dating from 1892, demonstrates the evolution of medical treatment. In order to pass through the disinfecting shower, you first have to be inspected by the station’s medical personnel to ensure you haven’t been subjected to any diseases. All the immigrants had to pass through these steps before being allowed onward to the port of Quebec City!

Taking a ride on the small tourist train will give you a chance to visit the village, where the quarantine station employees resided. You can go into a few of the buildings, such as the Catholic chapel and the Anglican chapel. When you arrive at the end of the island, you’ll discover the asylum, the oldest building on the island, that served as a hotel during the Irish tragedy and afterwards as a hospital. You’ll no doubt notice the red room. This room had a certain utility for treating a certain disease. Was it cholera,
smallpox, typhoid? Why was the room painted red? Come find out!

Finish your trip to the island on the viewpoint trail, which is perfect for taking an inspirational moment and appreciating the beauty of the site! You’ll be plunged into a dense forest and get a breathtaking view of the river and the opposite shore!

Make sure to add Grosse-Île  to your must-see to-do list for getaways in Quebec, you’ll be amazed, but also discover a newfound serenity!

Roseline Houle
Roseline’s 3 personal favourites for the 19 Cultural Pleasures