Charlevoix is a beautiful region of the province of Quebec in Canada. Famous for its idyllic topography of rolling hills and mountains along the St. Lawrence River, the landscape is actually the result of the impact of a massive meteorite that crashed down millions of years ago and created a deep crater nearly 60 kilometers in diameter.
Charlevoix attracts visitors because of its agritourism and regional farm-to-table cuisine, arts and culture, and scenic driving routes. In addition, the small towns that dot the region are lovely places to stop and soak in Quebec's history via the architecture and regional charm.
The 6,000 square-kilometer (2,317 square miles) region of Charlevoix, Quebec, begins an hour east of Québec City and continues along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, ending in the town of La Malbaie, just short of Tadoussac.
A drive from Québec City along the St. Lawrence River through the Charlevoix Region to La Malbaie makes for a memorable scenic drive. On the way, you'll admire the scenery and stop at picturesque riverfront villages.
Charlevoix attracts outdoors lovers, foodies, and those with an interest in history and architecture. Two of the region's biggest attractions are Le Massif de Charlevoix ski resort and the Manoir Richelieu, a stunning, historic Fairmont hotel overlooking the St. Lawrence River.
Isle aux Coudres is a romantic island in the St. Lawrence, a 20-minute ferry ride from the mainland. The island is known for its stone windmills, historic buildings, and coastline view. Many people bike the perimeter of the island, a lovely ride.
Other Charlevoix attractions include the farms, breweries, and local gourmet offerings of the Flavour Trail, the scenic drive along the St. Lawrence Route, the superb mountain scenery of the Mountain Circuit, whale watching, and beautiful provincial parks.
Getting to Charlevoix
Quebec City is a natural starting point for a trip to Charlevoix. From Quebec City, drive an hour and a half east on Hwy 138.
If you are flying to the region, there is a small general aviation (no commercial flights) Charlevoix Airport just south of Malbaie. The closest international airport is in Quebec City where you can rent a car or catch a bus.
Le Massif de Charlevoix Train, which runs in the summer, is a scenic railway trip running from Quebec City to Côte de Beaupré and Charlevoix's coastal towns and villages.
Charlevoix - Fast Facts
These facts provide a quick look at the Charlevoix are to help you in your trip-planning:
- Distance from Quebec City: 93 kilometers (an hour's drive)
- Distance from NYC: 950 kilometers (10-hour drive)
- Population: Just over 13,000
- Economy: Charlevoix' economy is based on agriculture, forestry, and tourism.
- Major towns: Baie-Saint-Paul, Malbaie, Saint-Siméon, Saint-Hilarion, Saint-Irenee, Les Eboulements, Isle-aux-Coudres
St. Lawrence Route, Charlevoix
The St. Lawrence Route (Route du fleuve) runs through Charlevoix along the St. Lawrence River on Hwy 362 between Baie-Saint-Paul and Malbaie. The St. Lawrence Route is one of Canada's most scenic drives.
If you want to go whale watching, the St. Lawrence Route is the most direct route to whale-watching destinations Baie-Sainte-Catherine and Tadoussac, but if you want to see more of the region's local food producers, you may want to head north on Hwy 138 which loops down again to Hwy 362 at Malbaie.
Manoir Richelieu Hotel in La Malbaie
As if the St. Lawrence Route drive isn't stunning enough, at the eastern end of it, you arrive in La Malbaie, which is home to the fantastic Fairmont Manoir Richelieu. The historic castle-like building with its luxurious interior and the manicured grounds set high above the St. Lawrence River make the Manoir Richelieu a unique hotel property.
Also on premise is a casino, pools, tennis courts, 27-hole golf course, observatory, and much more.
Whale Watching in Baie-Sainte-Catherine and Tadoussac
The region where Charlevoix meets the Saguenay Fjord is rich in marine life and one of Canada's most popular whale watching spots. Spring is the best time for whale-watching because minke, beluga, and humpback whales are migrating up from the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Baie-Sainte-Catherine has several whale watching operators that offer cruises, Zodiac or kayak outings. More whale watching options are just across the Saguenay River in Tadoussac. To get to Tadoussac, you must take a 10-minute ferry, which is free of charge, will accommodate your car, and operates 24 hours a day.
You can stay in either town but one advantage of staying in Baie-Sainte-Catherine to whale watch is that you don't have to bother with the ferry, however, your extra-curricular activities, lodging, and dining options are more limited than the more "bustling" Tadoussac (which still has a population of less than 1,000).