Although Cartier explored the north coast of North America, France established its first official settlement much farther south, in Florida. There, French Huguenots started a few small colonies in 1565. The Spanish, who claimed the land and opposed the Huguenots for religious and political reasons, soon destroyed these settlements and drove out the French.
Religious wars in France delayed further French efforts to colonize North America. When the wars ended, the French established settlements in the north, where the explorations of Cartier and Samuel de Champlain had given France a claim to much of present-day eastern Canada.
In 1604 the French settled in a region they called Acadia, which included what is now Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and parts of Maine. There they established farming communities inland and fishing villages along the coast. One year later Champlain founded Port Royal on the coast of Nova Scotia. Champlain then explored the interior, including the St.
Lawrence River and the Great Lakes. He founded the town of Quebec on the St. Lawrence in 1608. He also explored areas in present-day New York and Vermont, where Lake Champlain was named after him.
The Great Lakes region proved valuable to France because of the fur trade. Europeans used animal furs, particularly beaver pelts, to make expensive hats. The French traded tools, jewerly, and cloth with Indians in exchange for furs, and then shipped back to France.