Escape to Charlevoix
It’s not too late to book an adventure for summer 2020.
If dreamy coastal drives, farm-fresh food, and scenic hikes are your idea of a perfect summer weekend, it’s not too late to book a quick late-summer getaway to the Charlevoix region of Quebec. In this picturesque area—north of the St. Lawrence River and less than two hours east of Quebec City by car—award-winning cheeses and notable distilleries are as plentiful as whale sightings and national parks. You could easily spend two weeks there, discovering the charm and wonder; but here’s what to do if you have only three days to explore.
Eats and Treats
Near the picturesque city of Baie-Saint-Paul, along the region’s so-called Route des Saveurs, progressive farmers and independent food makers offer world-class culinary delights in a rural setting. Even with some restaurants closed or offering modified service, you won’t regret making the time to visit well-known local producers such as Laiterie Charlevoix and Maison d’affinage Maurice Dufour. Next to fields of grazing sheep and pretty farmhouses, expect to find shops well stocked with superlative, hyperlocal takes on cheddar cheese curds, lamb sausages, artisanal charcuterie, and more.
Gather your bounty for a stately picnic along the shore of the St. Lawrence or in the peaceful Jardin de François before heading downtown to Saint-Jean-Baptiste Street to explore Baie-Saint-Paul’s many art galleries and boutiques.
In the winter, Charlevoix is known for its excellent downhill skiing—there are a number of popular resorts in the area, and an all-inclusive Club Med ski property is slated to open there next year.
Summertime visitors should head to Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie National Park, which has been partially open since June. Inside the park, the challenging Acropole-des-Draveurs trail is a must-do for adventurers, offering stunning views of the Malbaie River valley from its three summits; L’Érablière and Le Riverain trails offer much shorter experiences. The park also offers a riverboat cruise, canoe and kayak rentals, paddle boarding, bike trails, and day-fishing opportunities. Not really the tenting type? Book one of SEPAQ’s sleek Écho cabins, which offer amenities such as an indoor wood stove, simply equipped kitchen, and panoramic mountain views from almost every window.
The 58-kilometre Route du Fleuve (St. Lawrence Route)—a winding drive connecting La Malbaie with Baie-Saint-Paul—is worth a detour off Route 138. Along the way, there are several viewpoints, a public beach in the village of Saint-Irénée, charming farms producing everything from alpaca-wool knits to wildflower honey, and examples of historic local architecture as seen in some of the “Most Beautiful Villages of Quebec.”
At either end of the route, be sure to leave some time for cetacean sightings—in the area, there are a number of boat tours that leave from La Malbaie and Baie-Saint-Paul, although whale watching is a much bigger draw in nearby Tadoussac. But, if you’re short on time, keep in mind that during the peak whale-watching months between May and October, you might even be able to spot belugas, blue whales, and other marine mammals from shore. The only requirements? A great riverfront vista, patience, and a dash of luck.
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