Following the north shores of the St. Lawrence River, the Charlevoix region is well-known for its beautiful topography of rolling hills. Its landscape is the result of a massive meteorite that crashed down 350 million years ago and created a deep crater nearly 34 miles in diameter.
Since we were in Québec City for only a week, we decided to take one day and venture north of the city to discover Charlevoix.
First Stop: Baie-St-Paul
From downtown Quebec, drive along the scenic 138 Highway towards the region’s main town: Baie-St-Paul. This quaint village nestled near the river offers a great variety of shops, numerous art galleries and is home to many artists.
For lunch, I recommend stopping at Micro-Brewery Le Saint Pub to try a sampler of their in-house brewed beer, but if you are a chocolate and bread fan, consider visiting Chocolaterie Cynthia and Boulangerie À Chacun son Pain.
Second Stop: La Malbaie and Nearby Villages
From Baie-St-Paul, drive one hour east along the scenic 362 Highway towards the town of La Malbaie. The town is famous for its castle-like casino, for its high selection of chef-run restaurants and for being one of the first resort towns in Canada.
Just before arriving in La Malbaie, I recommend visiting Les Éboulements and Saint-Irénée, two small villages with beautiful scenery and great places for a driving rest.
Carry These Maps With You:
A good map to have is the River Sector, detailing Baie-Saint-Paul to La Malbaie via Route 362. It offers great information about the area's scenic byway and the villages running along it.
- The Flavor Trail offers a long list of agribusinesses and restaurants open to visitors as they drive along the region. A couple of places we stopped by were Maison d'affinage Maurice Dufour for their sheep cheeses and La Laiterie Charlevoix for their amazing cheese curds.
If You Can Make It: The Fjord
Our final destination was the crossing of Baie-Sainte-Catherine to Tadoussac and the beautiful views of the area’s Saguenay River as well as the St. Lawrence. Since we were doing a day trip, we could not make the ferry journey: From La Malbaie it took us one hour to get to the crossing and from there, a three hour drive back to Québec City.
The route to Baie-Sainte-Catherine, is anything from boring and as you head east on highway 138, you can make a stop by the small village of Port-au-Persil.
One of the loveliest villages we visited in Charlevoix, Port-au-Persil, is a member of the 35 plus beaux municipalities of Québec and to reach it, you have to follow signs directing you along a small road towards a concealed cove.
There, you can park your car on a short pier and enjoy magnificent views of the village, the river and a gently cascading waterfall.
At Baie-Sainte-Catherine, the only way forward is by taking the Tadoussac–Baie-Sainte-Catherine Ferry. It crosses to the town of Tadoussac and travelers can relish the setting of the area’s vast Saguenay Fjord as they make this journey.
If you are short on time like us, at least make a stop at Pointe-Noire Interpretation & Observation Centre, facing the Saguenay Fjord. You will have stunning views of the Saguenay River, Tadoussac and the multiple ferries crossing back and forth.
Tip: During tourist season, Baie-Sainte-Catherine is a favorite of tourists that come in for whale watching and to cruise down the extensive Saguenay Fjord.
KEEP IN MIND
The Wrap-Up: Our trip to Charlevoix made us realize that there is much more to do in this region beyond a quick day trip from Québec City. It is a place to be explored for many days and I would highly recommend that you spend at least one night in the region to better enjoy it.