Taste of Québec
Drive an hour east of Québec City, along the St. Lawrence River, and you’ll come to a region of shimmering water, ancient mountains, crafted cuisine and visionary artists. People flock to Charlevoix for the food and stunning landscapes and to get a glimpse of 13 species of whales that swim up the St. Lawrence River to feast in the rich, biodiverse waters from May through October.
The area is filled with untamed nature and charged with an energy that many attribute to the crash of a meteorite there 400 million years ago. Astrobleme de Charlevoix, the resulting 54-kilometre crater, is thought to be the source of positive, creative energy that attracts artists, epicureans and craftspeople. Follow the Flavour Trail and you’ll find that delectable cuisine and artisanal products are the passion of many Charlevoix inhabitants.
The 20 restaurants on the route include Auberge des 3 Canards in La Malbaie, with dishes such as scallop and fava bean risotto, L’Orange Bistro in Baie-Saint-Paul, known for fondues using local cheeses, and the
Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu restaurant Le Saint-Laurent where five-star dining
embraces the local terroir.
André-Olivier Lyra / Tourisme Charlevoix
Producers shine on the trail as well, with 25 stops featuring crafted ciders, beer, honey, garden products, microgreens, pickled mushrooms, prize-winning cheeses, wines, baked goods, organic meat, ice cream and chocolates. Cheese is a point of pride in Charlevoix.
At Laiterie Charlevoix there are soft, semi-firm and hard cheeses to choose from, including The Fleurmier de Charlevoix, a velvety-soft cheese with a bloomy rind, The Origine de Charlevoix, with mixed rind and melty centre, or 1608 of Charlevoix, a firm, buttery cheese with a hint of apple. The fromagerie also makes cheddars and packaged fondues and sauces.
At award-winning Famille Migneron de Charlevoix, cheeses include the gooey Le Secret de Maurice that comes from a Spanish recipe, and Le Migneron, a washed rind cheese that tastes of hazelnuts and cream.
Marjorie Larouche / Croisières AML
Whales are also attracted to the region for sustenance. The St. Lawrence River’s unique tidal flow of fresh and saltwater attracts a range of marine life, including cetaceans such as minke, humpback and blue whales, that comes to feast on the vast schools of krill (tiny crustaceans) and small fish.
In Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, you can see the magnificent creatures on a whale-watching cruise on a larger boat, or from a Zodiac. Sometimes you can even observe them from land, especially at the Centre d’interprétation et d’observation de Pointe-Noire.
Caroline Perron / Tourisme Charlevoix
To see the region by car, take the 78-kilometre, scenic St. Lawrence Route. As you travel from Baie-Saint-Paul to La Malbaie, you’ll pass through Les Éboulements and Saint-Irénée with panoramic views of the river, as well as the charming Isle-aux-Coudres. Another notable drive is on the Mountain Road where you’ll traverse valleys and see peaks unique in Québec as you wind your way through picturesque villages.
A relaxing way to enjoy the St. Lawrence River is to take the Train de Charlevoix that runs for 125 kilometres between Beauport in Québec City and La Malbaie with an additional stop in Baie-Saint-Paul. In the winter it also stops at the Le Massif ski area. If you want to slip into slow-paced island life on the Isle-aux-Coudres, take the free ferry from St-Joseph-de-la-Rive, a 20-minute drive east along the river from Baie-Saint-Paul. Isle-aux-Coudres is an easy, flat place to cycle, with many shops, galleries, cafes and restaurants. Not to be missed is Cidrerie des Vergers Pedneault, a family business started in 1918 that makes cider and other products. In 2003 they became an economuseum, sharing their expertise in cider-making with the public. They also run a bistro called Le Corylus and a cookie and dairy shop called Aux Fruits du Biscuitier on the property.
Louis Laliberté / Tourisme Charlevoix
In Charlevoix there are loads of outdoor activities to help burn off those delicious calories. Le Massif de Charlevoix is a four-season destination with mountain-biking, hiking, trail-running, canyoning and a gondola ride, plus a choice of accommodations. Another hiking spot is Mont Grand-Fonds which has three mountain trails with breathtaking 360-degree views. Outdoor activities in the region include golf and via ferrata (rock-climbing using metal rungs, ladders or permanently fixed safety wire).
Plus, you can explore two national parks in the Charlevoix Biosphere Reserve. Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Riviere-Malbaie has some of the highest rock faces east of the Rockies and l’Acropole des Draveurs trail offers a magnificient view of the valley and Malbaie River. Canoes, bikes and kayaks are available to rent. Parc National des Grands-Jardins is known for hiking and rock climbing, as well as its carpets of ground lichen and exceptional Arctic vegetation. At the top of the Mont du Lac des Cygnes trail there is a beautiful view of the meteoritic crater.
If you want to reconnect with nature while awakening your senses to new local flavors, the pull of Charlevoix is undeniable.
Visit tourisme-charlevoix.com to plan your visit.
This content was produced by The Globe and Mail’s Globe Content Studio on behalf of Bonjour Québec. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.
CREDITS: Concept and oversight by JESSICA ROBINSON; Editing by ELIZABETH HOLLAND; Art direction by JEANINE BRITO; Design and development by AASHISH ARORA; Illustrations by MAIA GRECCO