Province/Territory: Quebec

Stories of new beginnings, quarantine and survival

  • 35 historic buildings to explore
  • 43 nationalities passing through the island
  • 01 scenic ferry ride across the St. Lawrence River

Find out what life was like for new immigrants arriving at Canada's first quarantine station. It started with a grueling transatlantic sea voyage and the dream of a new beginning.  You disembark at Grosse Île, an island in the the middle of the St. Lawrence River, and enter a quarantine station, set up to fight infectious diseases from 1832 to 1937. Here, Irish immigrants were housed when they came to escape the Great Famine in 1847.
"Open your mouth and say, Aaaahh," instructs nurse Sarah Wade as she examines your mouth and throat. Next, the demanding disinfection process. Step inside showers that once sprayed a mixture of water and mercury bichloride on weary travellers. Don't worry, you'll stay dry! Visit the disinfection chambers and waiting rooms. Be touched by the powerful stories of Grosse Île, exploring the island's over 30 buildings that bear witness to human tragedy and the spirit of welcome and survival.

Why you should visit

• Hop aboard a ferry bound for Grosse Île located in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, arriving at a quarantine station, as immigrants once did, between 1832 to 1937.
• Feel welcome as you set one foot in nature, and one foot in history, taking in the moving stories of new immigrants to Canada and the island’s magnificent views.
• Depending on your departure point, enjoy a 45-minute, or 90-minute cruise then be greeted by a Parks Canada interpreter as you disembark at the quarantine station.
• Visit the hospital sector, home to one of the Island’s oldest buildings, the Lazaretto, built in 1847 and a witness to the Irish tragedy.
• Pause at the Celtic cross, erected in 1909, and breathe in the fresh St. Lawrence River air.
• Take a walking trail or trolley to tthe village and hospital sector.
• Enjoy additional guided or self-guided tours of the islands's many sectors, including the village and hospital, Irish Cemetery, Celtic Cross, and hotel that housed healthy immigrants.
• Spend a moment in silence as you tour the Irish Cemetery where thousands perished from disease.

Weather

• Summers in Quebec (late June to early September) are usually mild to hot. Grosse Île can be windy so dress in layers as tours run, rain or shine.
• Discover local weather information.  Research local weather patterns at Environment Canada's Canadian Climate Website.

Visitor information

• Grosse Île is open from mid-May to mid-October.
• Book your Grosse Île tour through cruise service providers, offering departures from Berthier-sur-Mer or Québec City.
• Tours available in English and French.
Admission fees include cruise and park entrance cost.
• On-site restaurant, gift shop and picnic area available.

When to go

• Nurse Sarah Wade experience is available in July and August.
• The expansive Grosse Île site is open from mid-May to mid-October.

Need to know
  • Depending on your ferry departure point, plan to spend from 3 to 6 hours for the crossing and touring the Grosse Île site
  • Site is partially wheelchair accessible
  • Advance booking recommended
  • Dress in layers and bring a windbreaker and rain wear in case of rain or heavy winds
  • Tour runs rain or shine; the majority of tour is outside
Getting Here

• Grosse Île is one of 21 islands making up the Île-aux-Grues archipelago, located 48 km east of Québec City.
• Private ferry companies provide transport to Grosse Île for a fee.
• Departures are available from Berthier-sur-Mer, 45 minutes east of Québec City or from the Old Port in Québec City.
• Boat services are offered from early May to mid-October.
• Reserve your flight to Grosse Île from the Montmagny Airport or by helicopter departing from Quebéc City.
• The closest airport is Québec City's Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB).