Sept-Îles (French for "Seven Islands") is a city in the Côte-Nord region of eastern Quebec, Canada. It is the northernmost town in Quebec with any significant population. It is among the northernmost locales with a paved connection to the rest of Quebec's road network.The population is 25,686 according to the 2011 census, with an added population of around 3000 Native Americans living in the Uashat mak Mani-Utenam Indian Reserve located in the city.
The only settlements on the paved road network that are farther north are Fermont, Radisson and Chisasibi, the latter two in the extreme western portion of the province at the north end of the James Bay Road. The remaining settlements at higher latitudes in the province are mostly isolated Cree, Innu, or Inuit villages, with access limited to seasonal gravel roads.
Sept-Îles is by no means a big, cultural or historical city; it is, however, quite a paradise for nature lovers. Surrounding areas include a lot of forests, many sandy beaches, lakes and world-renowned rivers (notably for salmon fishing).
To get to Sept-Îles, one of the only options are to come by car. It is about 638 km from Quebec City, and 926 km from Montreal. The trip should take you 7-8 hours and 10-11 hours, respectively. The nearest town is Baie-Comeau, 232 km to the west (pop. 25 000), but there are some villages along the way.
Domestic planes leave from Quebec and Montreal, but they are ridiculously expensive (usually around 800 $CAN, a return Montreal-Paris flight costs around the same).
Relais Nordik operates a ferry between Sept-Iles and other villages to the east (which are not served by roads), and usually also carries goods to bring for those villages.
The same ferry in fact starts from Rimouski and goes to Sept-Îles, and then goes to the Lower North Shore. However, there is no ferry from Sept-Îles to Rimouski.
- Intercar . One bus a day leaves Montreal at around 6:00 am and reaches Sept-Îles at around 8:00 pm. You can also board the bus at Québec City and at many other towns and villages along the road 138.
Hitchhiking from Montreal to Quebec City is very easy; many people commute daily between those two cities.
Between Quebec City and Sept-Îles, there is only one main road (Road 138) going north-east along the shore of the St-Lawrence river. As such, hitchhiking is pretty straightforward. People traveling on this road are likely to accomplish long distances because towns and cities are few and far between. However, just going from Quebec City to Sept-Iles in your own car takes around 8 hours ; add the waiting time, and getting to Sept-Iles is likely to take you 2 days of hitchhiking. Wild camping is pretty easy during the summer months, but winter in Quebec is quite harsh and camping in winter is impossible without specialized gear (waiting for a ride at -30C is also quite dangerous). Nevertheless, if you leave very early from Quebec city (or east of there), it is possible to arrive in Sept-Îles in one day.
Car is the best way to get around the city. For places within the city, walking is quite easy, but if you want to go to the beach, or any place remotely outside the city, you will definitely need a car.
At the tourist office, you can rent bicycles for 10$/day. Helmets and bicycle locks are included.
Of course, there are also taxis. If you go out in the evening, a taxi is your only option if you don't want to walk.
- Shaputuan Museum, 290 boulevard des Montagnais, ☎ (418) 962-4000, . A small museum located downtown. Expositions are mainly about Innu (natives) culture. The inside exhibition will be closed for summer 2012, but there is a plan to make a sort of outside exhibition (with tipis, etc.) during the summer.
- Vieux-Poste, Boulevard des Montagnais, ☎ 418-968-2070. A fur trading post that was first constructed in 1661 and rebuilt in 1967. The guides on site will make you relive the time when the region relied on fur trading as an important economic activity. Very interesting and worth your time. Closed for renovation until 2013.
- Aluminerie Alouette guided tours, ☎ 418-964-7342, . 8:15 and 13:15. Aluminerie Alouette is an aluminium factory, very important for Sept-Îles's economic life. From mid-June to the end of August, free guided tours are offered from Tuesday to Saturday, twice daily at 8:15 AM and 1:15 PM. You need to make reservations in advance. Pretty interesting, if only to have the chance to see inside a huge industrial complex. And it's free ! Only caveat is that it's quite far outside the city center. You will need to get a ride from someone, hire a taxi (although this is not the best idea, because it will be expensive and you will need one to go back too), or you can also bike there. It's 32 km outside of town, so if you are able to do that kind of distance then by all means go ahead ! The local tourist office can also arrange reservations. Free.
- IOC Rio Tinto guided tours, ☎ 418-962-1238. Mon, Wed: 13:00; Tue, Thu, Fri: 9:00. IOC is a iron transformation plant. Iron ore is mined in northern Quebec, then sent by train to Sept-Îles where it is transformed and sent all over the world. The visit is done from inside a car; the guide drives you around the huge compound and explains how everything works (which is very impressive) but you don't get to leave the car. You need to go through the tourist office to arrange reservations. Free.
- Innu Apakuai, 1005, boul. Laure (Galeries Montagnaises Mall). Little shop in the middle of a mall that sells mostly artisan crafts made by native Innus.
In Sept-Îles, it is possible to eat very fresh seafood, and it is what many people are looking for when coming here. Truly, all restaurants offer fresh and tasty seafood; it is all a matter of what you are looking for (price and atmosphere).
- Chez Omer, 372 av. Brochu. Locally-renowned restaurant, famous for its fresh seafood. Budget backpackers, stay away from this place, as the food is quite expensive. It has the reputation of being the best seafood restaurant in town, however the quality has apparently declined in recent years.
- Casse-Crôute du pêcheur. Cool little fast-food place, located right on Sept-Îles's port. Offers standard fare (poutine, hamburgers, etc.) but also offers crab club sandwiches, and the like. There are picnic tables to eat outside, but they have a very unique interior eating space that is made like a huge lobster trap!
Sept-Îles being on the smaller side, there aren't that many places to drink or party. However, it is still possible to have fun.
- Edgar Café Bar, 490 Arnaud, ☎ 418-968-6789. Café/bar with a terrace near the sea, Edgar is pretty popular with young adults. The prices are average for a bar, maybe a bit on the expensive side. Serves fancy beer, nicely decorated. Good place to chill in the evening.
- Le Clandestin. Sept-Îles' most popular nightclub. Nothing very fancy or extraordinary, you go there if you want to dance and get drunk. No one shows up until around midnight.
- Youth Hostel Le Tangon, 555, rue Cartier, ☎ 418-962-8180, . The only youth hostel in town, therefore the cheapest accommodation too. The hotel is pretty great: good for meeting other travellers, very lively atmosphere. Dorms from $18 ($22 non-HI), private rooms from $26 ($30 non-HI).
- Wild camping. If that's your thing, and you have some mobility, you can go to any of the beaches, forests, etc. that literally surround the city, and simply pitch your tent there.
- Hotel Gouverneur Sept-Îles, 666, boul. Laure. Rates starting at $95 . Sept-Îles Hotel Gouverneur is a newly-renovated 4-star hotel on the North Shore. The hotel offers various packages, including tours of the National Park of the Mingan Islands or the Faunic Reserve of Port Cartier. The hotel offers 120 rooms and suites - 60 rooms in regular class and 58 rooms in business class. Plus, the hotel offers various services such as a business center, high-speed internet service, sports center, meeting rooms and a new restaurant - the Resto-Bar de l’O, which serves regional cuisine.