Known as the last piece of French territory in North America, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon is an archipelago off the coast of the Canadian island of Newfoundland. Many people find themselves asking, “what is the capital of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon?”
The capital of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon is conveniently named Saint-Pierre, which holds about 90% of the population of these archipelago islands. This area is a Territorial Collectivity of France, so it is part of the French government.
This unique branch of North America is riddled with cultural, geological, and historical history. In this article, we’ll explore this group of islands, a short record of its written history, and some of the best places to visit.
Where is the Capital of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon Located?
Saint-Pierre is a combination of the large southernmost island of the archipelago and several smaller islands off the coast. It is off the coast of Newfoundland, though it is technically a commune, or municipality, of France. Its citizens are French, its currency is the Euro, and it has rich cultural roots in French history.
This is the most populated commune of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, with 90% of the territory’s citizens living in this area. The commune combines the island of Saint-Pierre with a handful of smaller islands off the south and east coast.
Brief History of Saint-Pierre
Before Europeans visited the island, there is archaeological evidence of indigenous settlers using the island as early as 3,000 B.C. The island is rich in wildlife and contains fresh water, which was why so many early wanderers stopped on parts of the islands for thousands of years.
The first written discovery of Saint-Pierre was by Portuguese explorer Joas Alvarez Fagundes on October 21, 1520. However, it is widely believed that the island was already used by French fishermen before this discovery. The name Saint-Pierre comes from Saint Peter, the patron saint of fishermen.
In 1536, French navigator Jacques Cartier claimed the island as a French territory. However, over the next 100 years, the island would change hands between England and France on multiple occasions. This also led to the establishment and abandonment of colonies throughout the century.
The island was also a hotbed of smuggling activities during the 1920s. While American prohibition made the sale of alcohol illegal. Al Capone himself set up smuggling operations on the island and used to stay at Hotel Robert, which you can still visit today.
When did Saint Pierre become the Capital of Saint Pierre and Miquelon?
As an overseas territory, this question isn’t as simple as other capitals around the world. Technically, this is a self-governed territory that elects its own deputy to the National Assembly, the French Parliament has governors and mayors, and is relatively self-sufficient.
In 1941, the inhabitants of the island voted for a takeover by Free France and then became a territory in 1946. In 1958, the territory again had to choose between becoming a part of France, being a self-governing French Community, or remaining an overseas territory. It chose again to be a territory of France. The establishment of Saint-Pierre as the capital could have technically happened on any of those dates.
Why is Saint-Pierre the capital of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon?
The territory itself has a tiny population of about 6,000 people, with 90% of the population residing in Saint-Pierre. It is basically the only choice for the capital of the overseas territory.
Best Places to visit in Saint-Pierre.
1. L’Anse a Henry archaeological site & Cap du Diable
Saint-Pierre has amazing hikes and views throughout the territory. The Anse a Henry trail is an easy trail through almost 5,000 years of history. While you walk, you can find the ruins and remains of four cultural sites from 3000 B.C. to 900 A.D.
Continuing on the path will lead you to Cap du Diable on a beautiful eco-walk through the Pond of Cap au Diable. Along the way, you can decide which path to take, each leading you through unique, stunning views of the incredible landscapes of Saint-Pierre island.
2. The Île aux Marins and the Archipelitude Museum
A short ferry ride from Saint-Pierre, this small island offers a taste of Saint-Pierre culture. Dotted with the colorful houses common in this overseas territory, it also holds the Archipelitude Museum, a group of preserved historic buildings. Though you can tour the island for free on your own, you can also book a guided tour with one of the locals.
This island represents so many of the small colonies and settlements dotted along the Atlantic coast. Explore the history of this fishing slang, learn about the people and culture, and experience how they survived and thrived in this area.
3. L’Arche Museum and Archives
Discover the rich history, geological information, and cultural facts about Saint-Pierre and Miquelon at the L’Arche Museum and Archives. Designed to look like a ship blown ashore by bad weather, this museum presents rotating art exhibits, past collections, conferences, workshops, and other activities. If you are interested in local art, this place is worth a visit.
4. Guided tours of Grand Colombier, Grand Barachois lagoon, La Cormorandière valley, and more
The archipelago offers unique landscapes, beautiful architecture, and rich heritage. However, much of the island is difficult to traverse if you don’t know what you are looking for. The island offers tons of mom-and-pop style tours, where you will ride in the mini-van of locals.
You won’t want to miss the natural reserve of migratory birds in Grand Colomier, the breathtaking natural landscape of La Cormorandiere valley, or the hills dotted with wild horses in Miquelon. These are just a few of the things you can see with local guides. If you are planning a visit, be sure to book well in advance.
5. Marine Wildlife and other boat tours
If you aren’t interested in driving or hiking, or want to explore a different perspective of the islands in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, there are plenty of boat tours on offer. You can discover the islands on a sailboat, visit nesting puffins on the island’s cliffs, wave at sun-bathing seals, or simply admire the beautiful scenery of the coastline.