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Old Fort Bay (Pop. 347)

Old Fort Bay has an intriguing history. It is believed to be the site of the mysterious port of Brest, a place-name that appears on the earliest maps of North America. Breton fisherman may have used this sheltered bay to establish their fishery headquarters in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the early 1500s. In 1534, Jacques Cartier stayed overnight in the port of Brest, and participated in the first officially recorded mass in Canada. In the early 1700s, Augustin Le Gardeur de Courtemanche was awarded extensive fishing and trading rights in the area by the King of France. He established a small trading fort here, earning the village’s name Old Fort.

Today’s Old Fort Bay residents are descendants of British and Newfoundland settlers. Like most of the communities on the coast, they still practice “transhumance,” moving seasonally between summer and winter homes. Families lived on the nearby islands of the Old Fort archipelago during the summer to be closer to the fishing grounds, and moved back to the mainland during the winter for shelter and to have easier access to wood. Even today, many families have summer homes on outer islands. For more detailed information about the communities of the Municipality of Bonne Esperance, please consult the Tourism Lower North Shore website.