From gastronomy to whale-watching, this scenic region offers a picturesque getaway for autumn
On the eastern edge of Charlevoix, just a short drive from Quebec City, La Malbaie sits at a geological precipice: on one side, the 735-metre Mont Grand-Fonds towers overhead, and on the other, the Malbaie River empties into the St. Lawrence, flowing out towards the great Atlantic Ocean beyond. Each autumn, the hills explode in vibrant colour as the leaves change, creating one of Canada’s greatest natural spectacles, and unforgettable views for anyone lucky enough to experience it.
With such dramatic scenery, it’s little wonder that visitors have been discovering the charms of this special region-within-a-region for centuries. Beginning in the 1800s, aristocratic families from Ontario, Quebec and the northeastern United States travelled to La Malbaie to spend their summers, drawn by the fresh air, natural beauty and charming local accommodations. Among these high-profile guests was U.S. President William Howard Taft, who summered there every season for 40 years (except for his term in office), even becoming president of the local golf club. In more recent times the region continues to prove its appeal, welcoming world leaders and heads of state to the five-star Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu during the 2018 G7 world summit. Today, the same spirit of warm hospitality is alive and well at La Malbaie’s many impressive auberges and cabin rentals, which offer a wide range of accommodations for all tastes and budgets.
Once you’ve arrived and settled into your home away from home, you’ll be ready to explore all that this fascinating region has to offer. First, you’ll want to get outside, taking a scenic drive to view the incredible fall colours bursting in flaming oranges, yellows and reds against the blue of the river. Fortunately, you also can enjoy these colours just as well during a game of golf or on a hike through the mountains. In season you can also take a whale-watching fjord cruise to spot the 13 species of whale that stop to feed in the waters of the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park near La Malbaie, often putting on a show for keen-eyed visitors.
While the region is best explored by car, La Malbaie also features a seasonal 14-km shuttle circuit, including 12 stops between the quay at Pointe-au-Pic and downtown La Malbaie. After a full day of adventure, you’ll likely be ready to enjoy a craft beer or cider from one of Charlevoix’s excellent local breweries and cideries, accompanied by some of the region’s famous cheese. As Home to dozens of producers who share the values of local, sustainable food production, the finest of these are marked with the special Certifié Terroir Charlevoix designation. After your aperitif, make your way to one of the region’s seasonal, farm-to-table restaurants – many of which are featured on the renowned Charlevoix Flavour Trail. If you’re up for a bit of excitement following your meal, freshen up and head to the Casino de Charlevoix, the biggest entertainment complex in the region, for an unforgettable night of gaming, culture and warm hospitality.
If you’re looking for a slower, more relaxing pace La Malbaie remains the perfect getaway destination. Book a session at one of the region’s world-class spas for a wide range of therapeutic treatments, or simply take a quiet walk through the La Malbaie’s endless riverside trails. Either way, it won’t take you long to realize why so many visitors have treasured this corner of Quebec for so many generations. Don’t be surprised if, once you discover the stunning beauty and charm of La Malbaie in autumn, you too become an annual visitor. You would certainly be in good company.
Start planning your trip today at tourisme-charlevoix.com/en/.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Tourism Charlevoix. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.