On the northern shore of the St Lawrence River, Quebec’s Charlevoix region is known for its beauty, filled with fjords, bays, and mountains. One of the world’s first populated UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves, the region is named after the famous French explorer, François-Xavier de Charlevoix, who first traveled here in the 18th century. Ever since, Charlevoix has been a popular visit with America’s bourgeoisie, and a popular base while in the region is the upscale resort town and longtime artists’ enclave of Baie-Saint-Paul, 60 miles from Quebec City.
Popular year-round, in summer Charlevoix is known for hiking, biking, and kayaking opportunities in the region’s two national parks — Les Grands-Jardins and Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie. In winter it’s all about skiing, sledding, and snowboarding at one of the region’s many ski resorts.
Central Charlevoix is also known for its food producers who specialize in French favorrites like cheese, pate, and foie gras. On the Flavour Trail, which starts just outside Baie-Saint-Paul, you can visit more than 40 farms and breweries for tastings and tours. Upper Charlevoix has some of the world’s best whale watching opportunities. From mid-June to late-October, by boat or kayak look out for humpbacks, minkes, finbacks, blue whales, and belugas at the confluence of the St Lawrence and Saguenay rivers.
Given the region’s pastoral scenery, it might be surprising to find that much of Charlevoix’s landscape was sculpted by a crater formed from a meteorite over 350 million years ago. A series of glaciers and earthquakes did the rest of the work in creating this peaceful scene.
One of the most interesting ways to reach the Charlevoix region from Quebec City is by the Train de le Massif de Charlevoix, which includes onboard gourmet meals. A good base for exploring the region is Baie-Saint Paul. Thirty miles further north is La Malbaie, which hosts some of the region’s most renowned hotels.