The International Writers Magazine: Canada Travel

Charlevoix: QUEBEC’S Vacation Paradise
Habeeb Salloum

or three days we had gloried in Quebec City’s Summer Festival with its universal renowned musicians, street entertainment and fine food, all engulfed in an aura of exhilaration and joy. On the last evening of our stay we capped our visit by listening to Jon Anderson entertain his thousands of fans. However, as I listened to the clap of thousands of people, my mind was some distance away deep in thought about Charlevoix with its parks, whale watching and other attractions.

The next day I was excited as I stepped from our bus on the edge of a millions of years old crater in the Charlevoix region of Quebec. I felt fulfillment now that I had achieved one of my travel goals. I had read much about the region’s majestic mountain vistas and seascapes and I was thrilled that today I would be exploring the region’s splendour.

Located just 120 km (72 mi) east of Quebec City, Charlevoix, 6,000 sq km (2317 sq mi) in area, derives its name from Father François Xavier de Charlevoix – a Jesuit priest who was the first historian of New France. It encompasses charming villages with white clapboard homes, red roofs and green shuttered farmhouses nestled against slopes that run to the shores of the edging St. Lawrence River. The oldest resort area in North America, it is home to inviting fiords, islands, lakes, parks and wilderness.

Designated a world biosphere by UNESCO in 1989, it owes its breathtaking landscape to a crater formed some 350 million years ago when a 15 billion ton meteorite smashed into the earth. The 56 km (35 mi) wide crater whose outline can be seen clearly from outer space is one of the few inhabited on earth. It forms today the heart of the Charlevoix region – a rich farming and tourist area with charming villages and brooding mountains that some 30,000 inhabitants call home.

Charlevoix is the only one of the world’s biospheres that contains numerous towns, villages and rustic farms as well as many tourist establishments such as art galleries, museums, quaint inns and restaurants. However, these seem to fit neatly into the background ambience, enhancing the natural landscape
Even though noted for its undulating countryside, the main drawing cards of the region are its parks. The Parc National des Hautes is one of Québec's most beautiful natural monuments. Picturesque natural surroundings, and gorges with steep granite cliffs that soar above the RiviPre Malbaie, rival the Grand Canyon is their splendour.

Parc National des Grands-Jardins offer visitor’s taiga and tundra where at the heart of a black spruce forest one walks on a thick layer of lichen. The Arctic vegetation sustains herds of caribou and moose. For tourists, it is an easily accessible northern world that entices cross-country skiing enthusiasts in winter and kayaking and white-water rafting in summer.

Whale Watchers
For tourists, the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park is the most well known of the Charlevoix parks. Here, the salt waters of the St. Lawrence Estuary, the world’s largest estuary, mingle with the sweet waters of the longest fjord in Eastern Canada, producing exceptional oceanographic phenomena, that fosters biological diversity.

From May to October visitors take a cruise to view in one of the few places in the world where a wide variety of large sea mammals (13 species in all) come to feed. They are attracted by the river's wealth of shellfish on which they feast. For me, a pod of beluga whales sailing not far from our boat was a sight of wonder and delight.

Le Massif Region, located about one hour from Québec City, for winter lovers, is an unbeatable ski destination with abundant annual snowfall - some 600 cm (20 ft). It has the highest vertical drop east of the Canadian Rockies (770 m / 2,526 ft.). The Massif offers a beautiful setting above the banks of the St. Lawrence River and fantastic views greet skiers on their way down the mountains’ 36 runs.
As well from some of the 43 panoramic trails there is a clear view of passenger liners that ply the St. Lawrence River. Easily accessible from a road to the top, skiers can first stop to enjoy a fantastic view of the St. Lawrence and the eye-catching countryside before beginning their skiing.

When it comes to the fine arts, it is no exaggeration to say that Charlevoix is an artist’s paradise. Well before this area in Quebec lured tourists it attracted a great number of painters. Members of the ‘Group of Seven’ and other famous artists came to paint the spectacular landscape with its wild backcountry and charming villages. Today, the region is dotted with art galleried and home studios adding charm and beauty to Charlevoix’s reputation.

One painter who now calls Charlevoix home is Juan Cristobal – a Chilean who fled to Canada after the overthrow of Allende by a CIA organized coup. His wife, two brothers and mother, also painters in their own rights, have enriched the region with their works. In their three studios, they have given the Quebec art scene a boast – Chile’s loss has been Charlevoix’s gain.

No less important to the region’s appeal are the locally produced cheeses found in all food outlets. Some like Le Migneron, a soft cheese, have won national and international awards. Travellers stopping at the local cheese-producing establishments are offered tours and, at times, cheese sampling plates.
The various cheeses offered by the locals are the crowning jewels to the wide range of local products in their homes, restaurants or cheese-producing outlets. Some 800,000 annual visitors travel to sample these local products, glory in the regions summer and winter sports, sail to view the whales, visit the art galleries, and indulge in a simple but gourmet cuisine in Restaurants on the Flavour Trail where local farmers’ products are transformed into savoury dishes. No doubt, after enjoying some of these activities then staying in one of the region’s romantic auberges, most will return home satisfied with their vacation. It has always been so in this oldest resort area in Canada.
The saying that ‘staying in one of Charlevoix’s quaint inns hid amid the beauty of nature is like drinking all evening without a morning hangover’ has much merit.

Do Not Miss:
Maison du Bootlegger, located at La Malbaie (Sainte-AgnPs) and built in 1860, it gives one a peek into the underworld of clandestine activities during the Prohibition. It is now a tourist restaurant featuring fine food, entertainment, guided tours discovering a maze of fake walls and hidden corridors and bars. See website:
Two Good Places to Stay and Dine in Charlevoix:
Auberge des Falaises, 250, chemin des Falaises, La Malbaie, Charlevoix (Québec) G5A 2V2. Tel: (418) 665-3731. Fax: (418) 665-6194. Toll free: 1-800-386-3731. E-mail: Website: Rates of rooms vary according to season and there are numerous package deals offered. Also, there are 2 magnificent golf courses: the Manoir Richelieu with its scenic view, is known to be among the tenth best golf courses in Canada and Murray Bay, which is the second oldest golf course in Canada. Both are located within 2 miles of the Auberge. Rates range from $38 to $68/person including a cart.
Auberge des Peupliers, Renowned for its welcoming atmosphere and highly acclaimed cuisine, the Auberge des Peupliers graces a heritage village perched on a cape that offers a splendid overview of the St. Lawrence River and the surrounding mountains. 381, Saint-Raphaël (Secteur Cap-B-l'Aigle), Cap-B-l'aigle (Québec, Canada), G5A 2N8. Tel: (418) 665-4423, Toll free: 1-888-282-3743. Fax: (418) 665-3179. E-mail: Website: Rates of rooms vary according season and there are numerous package deals offered.
For further Information – re: these Inns and others in Charlevoix, check this website:
For Further Information. Contact:
Tourisme Québec: for complete tourist information Québec, call: (514) 873-2015 or toll free: 1-877-363-7777, or visit web the site: or

Habeeb is a freelance writer, author and member of Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC) residing in Toronto. E-mail:

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