Visitors to Saint Pierre may think they are in France, although in reality they are only 25 kilometers from Newfoundland, Canada. In the capital city, the French blue, white and red flag flies high, authentic French accents are overheard in the winding streets and Gendarmes guard De Gaulle Square. The interesting mix of French and Canadian influences makes visiting St. Pierre a true delight.
The fascinating history of St. Pierre and Miquelon comes alive at the l’Arche Musée. Visitors go back in time to prehistory through the influential industrial fishing period by exploring archives and artifacts, including a menacing guillotine.
The well-curated collection at St. Pierre’s Heritage Museum offers more insight into the islands’ history. Housed in a century-old building, the museum’s permanent collection showcases life on the islands during the 19th century through ten different theme rooms. Highlights include a recreation of a typical classroom, a communications room stocked with antique cameras, radios, typewriters and records, a hospital room with a recreated doctor’s office and operating table, a fishery exhibit with an authentic dory and a collection of items detailing the prohibition era.
More everyday objects used in bygone eras are on display at the Archipelitude Museum. Visitors can better understand early 20th-century life on the islands by taking tours of the museum’s Grey House, school and kitchen, and the importance of the fishing industry on the local economy is highlighted in the main collection.
If you enjoy the arts, there is no better place in St. Pierre than the Cultural and Sports Center on the Boulevard de Port-en-Bessin. The center regularly sponsors film screenings, courses, plays, art exhibitions, workshops, readings, lectures and more to cater to the islands’ creative residents and visitors.
Ships large and small are guided into St. Pierre’s harbor by the Pointe aux Canons Lighthouse. Visitors are not permitted to enter the automated lighthouse, but the beautiful grounds provide a scenic backdrop for picnics. The nearby Pointe aux Canons Battery is also worth exploring. The battery is on the site of a much older fort that from 1690 to 1713 protected the islands from British raids.
The harbor is also the site of the Les Salines Fishing Stations. For centuries, economic life on the islands has revolved around fishing, and the stations continue to be used today by local fisherman.
The St. Pierre Post Office is one of the most eye-catching buildings in the capital. The early-20th century building is marked by a clock tower shaped like a praying monk. Général de Gaulle square is the post office’s next door neighbor, and locals often gather there to relax, socialize and enjoy people-watching on sunny days.
There are only a few restaurants in the city, and reservations are highly recommended. The local cuisine is heavily influenced by French dishes, but menus also regularly feature fresh seafood caught just off the harbor.